So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 12

By Okina Baba and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

With this volume we have almost, but not quite, caught up with Shun’s “present” that we left off in the 6th volume. This book is the huge human/demon war that led to Shun becoming the Hero, with huge casualties on both sides. The book is essentially a war diary from various points of view, showing off the various battles going on around the world. We see the demons use revenge monkeys to completely destroy one fort; another demon army wiped out by Ronandt’s long-range magic; the cute childhood friend couple from Japan being a cute childhood friend adventurer couple here; Sophia saying “well, well, well, if it isn’t the consequences of my own actions”; Wrath basically winning easily; and the big final battle with Julius versus several demons, including Bloe and Agner, and White trying to cut the thread (so to speak) by bringing in a Queen Taratect to ruin everything. Which it does, but not quite in the way that she’d planned…

I talked about this last time as well, but I think the author has been trying their best to make sure that the reader cares about the human side and the demon side equally, and from what I’ve seen, that’s just not happening. In fact, honestly, the readers don’t want to see the demon side EITHER. The readers want spider. Lots of spider. Sorry to say, White is still a minor character in this book. She gets cute little sidebars explaining each battlefield in her usual hyperactive way, and we see her interactions with the demon lord, Bloe, and Sophia and the 10th unit. None of them really see White as we know her, though I think the demon lord is starting to figure it out. She’s also getting far more talkative and better at actually explaining her actions. Basically, White is maturing. This will be handy when they inevitably run into the giant pile of reincarnations we left off with ages ago, but can be frustrating right now.

The battles are well handled. As you might guess, this is mostly tragedy… with one exception. The story of Sophia’s adventures at school, complete with her version of the handsome jerk and the class president, are absolutely hilarious, especially given they all end up in the same military unit anyway. I hope we see more of them being absolute bitches at each other. And as I hinted above, everything about Kunihiko and Asaka’s relationship is adorable and heartwarming, and I don’t THINK they’re dead yet… (crosses fingers). But there’s lots of depressing stuff we knew was coming here, as all but one of the hero party gets wiped out, and it also takes out several major parts of the demon party as well. What’s more the demon lord and White didn’t even achieve their main objective – the one-kill anything sword is still around, and can now be used by the new hero against the demon lord. Annoying, that.

This is an excellent book, but the overall impression I get at the end is “can we PLEASE get back to the main storyline we started in Volume 1?”. Recommended for those who like war memoirs and cute lovesick girls getting crushed to death by giant spiders.

So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 11

By Okina Baba and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

Ever since the start of the entire series, there has been a certain disconnect between what the fans want to get out of these books and what the author is giving to them. Let’s face it, if the fans of the series were in charge, we’d be seeing a lot more spider and a lot less of the human side of things. And those folks are really going to hate this book, because it’s entirely on the human side of things. Yes, White gets one or two appearances here and there, but this is the first book she gets no scenes as a narrator. Instead this book fleshes out Julius, the hero of humanity and Shun’s older brother, showing his hero’s journey, his doubts, his weaknesses, and his resolve, along with giving greater depth to the rest of his party. Of course, we’re still in the past, so we know what happens to that party. But that’s probably Book 12’s problem – this one is here to remind you that the humans are also in this narrative.

The book, as with most previous books, flits back and forth between several viewpoints. The primary one is Julius’, as he starts off, despite being the hero, being dismissed and protected by the soldiers around him, who are not all that thrilled with a 12-year-old being their chosen savior. Despite this, he ends up getting involved anyway as they try to figure out why children all over the land are getting kidnapped and who is behind it. (We, as the reader, know all these answers, of course.) He has a beloved mentor figure, who gets brutally murdered halfway through the book, in the best beloved mentor tradition. He has his best friend as snarky sidekick, and a priestess who is clearly head over heels in love with him, but he’s ignoring that for now. Things are going quite well… if only the world was not gearing up for a new war, started by the Demon Lord, who is apparently so awful demons are fleeing their own lands to get away from her.

Again, it takes an entire volume that is mostly away from their perspective to remind us that this is a “rooting for the Empire” sort of story, and that White, Ariel and company are the bad guys to most of the rest of the world. This isn’t really a funny volume in the series – the comedy comes from Sophia’s diary of her life in boarding school, which is, if I’m honest, not really that funny. We get various points of view of other characters in Julius’ party, giving them depth and backstories, and showing how they view Julius as opposed to his own mostly negative thoughts. I will admit, it’s hard to deny that this book is trying to flesh out what is otherwise going to be a bunch of “who cares?’ corpses in the next book, which promises to giver Julius’ last moments from his own perspective. It’s a necessary thing, though, to give the writing better depth.

This is not to say it isn’t frustrating, and I’m sure a lot of fans really, really want the past to catch up with the present (which we last saw in Vol. 6) pretty darn quick. Till then, enjoy this look at the evil spider and her evil demon friends from a different viewpoint.

So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 10

By Okina Baba and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.

(There are spoilers in this review for the previous volume, so make sure you’ve read 9 first. Or are spoiled.)

I seem to be eating crow a lot in my recent reviews, usually as I read what I said at the end of the last one and realize that no, it went counter to all my expectations. And last time I said that I felt that White’s encounter with D would not likely change her all that much, and boy howdy was I wrong. It’s not perfect, and only with alone with the Demon Lord is she starting to be “herself”, but the days of “White Can’t Communicate” are coming to an end, as she now… talks in sentences! Expresses emotions! Thanks people! I’ve gotten used to her main character trait being the dissonance between her chatty inner monologue and her deadpan outside self that I was not expecting that she would finally bridge the gap. A lot of this is likely due to D, and the big revelation from last time of who her real self is.

The Demon Lord gets a lot accomplished in this book, firstly by taking out a major rebellion against her (which White actually gave her all the details on), then by meeting with the pontiff and making a deal with save Miss Oka and a group of elves that were part of the rebellion (at White’s request) in return for promising to kill off all the Elves at a later date (we do see some of this in earlier books). The Demon Lord also finally hears about what’s really happening with this world,. again thanks to White, but does not hear how much sacrifice and deaths it will take to fix things, again because White does not tell her. The Power Behind The Throne has never felt more appropriate, even as everyone continues to attribute this to the Demon Lord being just that brilliant. Oh, yes, and White can now actually cause physical pain to Ariel as well, though this is passed off as a gag.

I will admit that I do appreciate the gags, because let’s face it, this series has gotten about as dark as Overlord, which I dropped for being too dark. So White being all embarrassed is funny, as is most everything about Sophia being a massive spoiled brat. And then there’s D, a totally awful God, who is still finding the idea that the new God of this world is really a tiny spider that she swapped roles with so as to get away from being found after being reincarnated. The other reason the series is still good to read is the occasional heartwarming moment. I liked White trying to save Ms. Oka, and the flashback back to the classroom where we see why: Ms. Oka stopped the class killing the spider, and hence White herself, before they all got exploded. I also liked the ending with White taking Ariel to meet the legendary Sariel, and we see how she’s suffering for the entire world. It gives “saving the world” a face.

Still, there’s no denying this series is pretty damn dark – lots of slaughter in this book as well. That said, the best thing about this volume is White really starting to come into her own and take over as THE protagonist once more.