Story: Okina Baba
Art: Tsukasa Kiryu
Translation: Jenny McKeon
What They Say:
Being reborn as a spider has zero upsides. The food is terrible, everything is trying to kill me, and I’m pretty sure there’s no cable. But at least I’m making progress on getting out of this massive labyrinth. The only problem is this new area, which is a magma-filled hellhole! Just hanging around here makes my HP go down, and my ace-in-the-hole spider thread keeps burning up instantly, which means…my butt is LITERALLY ON FIRE!! And is that another dragon…?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I could not be more on board with this idea of pushing the isekai genre as far into the realm of total silliness as possible. Sure, arachnid-as-heroine is already pretty far out there, but we can go further; we have the technology. I’m getting psyched for the inevitable upcoming blockbusters, So I’m a Rock, What’s Your Problem? and I’m a Can of Cola, You Wanna Make Something Of It?, but in the meantime, I guess we can tackle this little spider adventure.
The first volume of So I’m a Spider, So What? was very reminiscent of That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime, and that continues in volume 2. However, instead of moving on to bigger and better things, Spider sticks with the atmosphere from the very beginning of Slime, where our man Rimuru was just a weak little monster on his own. Our nameless protagonist is gaining skills and levels like crazy, but she’s still a relatively weak creature stuck in a labyrinth filled with giant monsters. Because the deck is stacked against her, she has to make smart use of her abilities to win battles, and seeing her think her come up with clever strategies on the fly is entertaining. This volume has plenty of intense, satisfying action scenes.
It also has a lot of information about stats and leveling up, which I enjoy in general, but I could see it being a negative for some readers. I’m not sure what percent of this book is text announcing level-ups, new skill acquisitions, and skill proficiencies, but it’s significant, and that kind of content, by its very nature, is repetitive. If this seems like filler (which it sometimes does, even for me), that makes this series less tempting. For $14, you can buy a different light novel with much less filler.
Still, even with the stats overdose, the dungeon-bound chapters are by far the most compelling part of the book. There are other characters besides the spider, but to be brutally honest, I don’t really care about them, and I was annoyed whenever the story left the labyrinth. There’s a fundamental error here: A whole classroom full of kids was reincarnated into this fantasy world (including our plucky spider), but we never got much of a chance to meet them before they died. I think, in theory, we’re supposed to be interested in seeing who-was-reborn-as-what or wondering who’s going to show up next, but the problem is we barely know these people. In fact, there are several characters where we only learn what their original personality was like after we’ve already met their reincarnations, so we don’t have a sense of them ever having been different. I think this would have worked better if Volume 1 had spent more time fleshing out the kids before the mysterious disaster that killed them all, but maybe it would be better if they just weren’t in the book at all.
To be fair, the “non-spider” chapters do start to bring up some genuinely interesting ideas as they go along, but it’s kind of like you’re reading two different books: the tale of a tiny, weak monster becoming a force to be reckoned with through savvy and sheer grit, and another story that has political intrigue, love and betrayal, and so on. In game terms, it’s kind of like you’re playing a hardcore dungeon-crawler, only it periodically turns into a JRPG with an obtuse plot and long cutscenes. Whatever merits this other story has, it’s unwelcome because it takes you out of the action you signed up for.
Ultimately, I think the two sides of the story will integrate in future volumes and the shifts between settings will be less jarring, but for the time being, it’s an annoyance. I mean, I never thought I’d be thinking “Who cares about all these stupid people, give me my spider back!”, but here we are.
I love the spider’s approach to problem-solving, and I think we can all learn something from her can-do attitude. Honestly, I like the protagonist so much, I’m tempted to give this volume high marks just for that. Still, the fact that the rest of the cast feels like a downright nuisance at times is a serious problem that can’t be brushed off. I’m looking forward to the next volume, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I expect to be skimming through parts of it.
Some pretty epic, dungeon-crawling fun is brought down by a snoozer of a B-plot. It’s likely this will improve in later volumes, but for the time being it’s like you’re reading two books, and only one of them is any good.
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
MSRP: US $14.00/CAN $18.50