So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 9

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.

This is definitely a book that has most of its important content at the back, saving its biggest scene for the final chapter and epilogue. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of other things going on here. White is learning good ways to regain more of her powers (get drunk); our ogre/oni is finally taken down and made somewhat sane again, and decides to just GO by Wrath now; our vampire has decided that she’s tired of being weaker than the rest of the group and decides to essentially bathe herself in evil to catch up, which works quite well – at least for this book; and probably most importantly, the demon lord arrives back in her domain and orders the war to recommence, despite the fact that the demons simply don’t have the manpower to win. She is not winning friends, though her extreme power means she’s certainly influencing people. Oh yes, and White goes to Japan. Of all the series to have a ‘return to Japan’ arc, this was not one I was expecting.

The entire series has sort of hammered this home, but this volume in particular wants you to realize how horrible most of the demon lord’s group is at communicating. Ariel is best of the lot, mostly as she has the Chatty Cathy part of Kumoko’s brain. The dissonance between White’s narrative voice and her actual outward expressions is well known to us, but here we see how it’s really causing problems, mostly as Sophia thinks that White is a lot more pissed off and angry than she actually is. Not that Sophia is any better, given her default mode seems to be ‘tantrum’. Really, this motley crew would get along with the cast of Overlord; they’re all basically broken evil people, and adding Wrath to the mix is unlikely to change any of that.

But yeah, the big part of the book is when White, who has realized how easy it is for her to teleport now, ends up going back to Japan. Fortunately, she arrives at the school in the middle of the night, and going home quickly finds D, who explains herself to White, who had figured out a lot of this already. I’m not sure the reader had; some of this was foreshadowed, but a lot of it was deliberately hidden from us, possibly to make the reveal that much bigger. The interesting thing here is White’s reaction to the fact that D not only manipulated her entire life, but did it for such a petty, vapid reason. White is justifiably furious… but also reacts the way a child would to their parent, feeling intense love just for the fact that D throws her a bone and says White can have “freedom”. It feels a lot like an abusive relationship, and I don’t think we’re supposed to love it, and it’s not helped by White’s hyperactive narration.

So I don’t know if this is a game changer (I doubt White will be acting any differently), but it’s certainly a startling revelation. In the meantime, we edge closer to war, meet some characters who I seem to recall getting killed off earlier in the series/later in the timeline, and are reminded once more that Potimas is the absolute worst. I’m still enjoying this, despite everyone being pretty terrible.

So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 8

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.

I’ve discussed before that the world that this book takes place in is a really horrible world to live in, but I don’t think any book to date has hammered that home quite like this volume, which shows us again and again the downside of “everyone is morally grey trending towards black”. On the surface, the plot of this book involves Ariel, White (Shiraori is used sparingly here, so I’ll stick with White for now) and company slowly moving towards the demon lands, only to be halted by the presence of an ogre/oni who is terrorizing everyone and everything in their way. White’s narration is seen less than ever before, and flips back and forth with the ogre’s narration, with cameos from Vampy, Potimas and a few humans. Those cameos are important, though, as they remind us that one person’s practical decision is another’s life-breaking horrible tragedy. And the reader may not agree with the practicality.

There’s actually a timeskip involved here: the book takes place two years after the end of the last one. Unfortunately for White, she’s no closer to being able to use any of her powers than she was before – she may be a God now, but in terms of fighting ability she’s as weak as a kitten. In her head, she spends most of the book whining and moaning about it. Of course, in reality she’s as silent as ever. Fortunately, by the end of the book she’s in enough of a life-or-death crisis that she’s able to regain a bit of her powers. This is the light part of the book, as, deadly danger aside, Ariel’s group is a lot of fun, and the danger they’re in never feels too lethal. It’s the slice-of-life camping trip part of the book.

And then there’s the rest of the book. The countryside is being plagued by a series of infants being kidnapped,l and as we’ve read the early books we know exactly who and what is behind that, but here we see how it’s affecting the families who are destroyed, and it’s heartbreaking. Ronandt, who was so much fun as a goofy old man obsessed with our spider, has been demoted as he’s lost all sense of what is harsh training and what is abuse. The adventurers in this book almost all die like dogs, and those that don’t ponder just giving up and going back to their farm. The ogre is a walking ball of rage half the time (we’ve seen him in earlier books as well, but here he’s getting his “official” intro) and the half that he isn’t is depressing and bleak… then horrific and disturbing. Lastly, Buirimas, the man presented throughout the book as a noble warrior who died without ever seeing his wife and infant… is also shown to have done something so mind-numbingly inhumane that I have no words. Again, when you don’t think of others as people, you lose the ability to make correct moral judgments.

So overall this was a good book, but the mood shifts are a pain in the neck, and by the end I was very glad it was coming to a stop. Next time hopefully they’ll hit the demon land, and perhaps another timeskip can put us closer to where we left off with Shun and company? Oh, and Potimas is still the worst. I really hate him.

So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 7

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.

(Note: This review, especially towards the end, gets more spoilery than usual as you can’t not talk about the end.)

I have to admit that “they battle a bunch of fighter jets in order to infiltrate a UFO with tanks and robots” was not really the plot I was expecting when I picked up the seventh volume of Spider So What. But, having finished the volume, I can’t say I’m too disappointed in it. We’ve seen robots and cyborgs in this series before, of course. It also helps to show off the true arrogant brokenness of Potimas, who manages to be an evil elf while at the same time being an embarrassed chuuni who can’t bear to see people using his old design specs that he made back in the day. There is not one moment in this book where you like him, and the relationship between him, White, and the Demon Lord helps to remind us that the “truce” between the later two is miles and miles ahead of the loathing and antipathy they feel for Potimas. They might even be… friends?

After accidentally freeing two world-killing pieces of tech from an underground bunker simply because of her insatiable curiosity, White and the rest of her merry band have to join forces to destroy it. Unfortunately, this means joining forces with Potimas, whose designs they’re based on, as well as the Pontiff and a group of local dragons. Most of the book is spent on the battle, with White’s chatterbox narrative voice, constantly belittling and mocking herself and showing self-doubt at every confrontation contrasting with how everyone ELSE sees her, which is to say an emotionless, morally ambiguous nightmare who is STILL GETTING STRONGER. There’s a lovely moment where White is in a fury and the Demon Lord wraps her in thread to stop her. White immediately teleports out of it, and while she’s calm again, she notes offhandedly the Demon Lord looks super surprised but doesn’t get why. This push and pull on her character is one reason this series works.

Then we get to the climax of the book, where the Demon Lord, Potimas, and White are faced with a bomb that is about to explode. There are really very few options that are available. Still, I suspect only White could come up with “swallow the bomb”, which causes a Daffy Duck-esque explosion but does not, remarkably, kill her off. Good thing too, as Vol. 8 is due in the spring. What’s more, she has now leveled up to the point where the “game system” part cannot help her anymore… she’s a god. “D” helpfully explains this, and decides to give her another name: Shiraori, which I will start using in future. (Notably, “D” does not suggest calling her “Wakaba”, supposedly her old name from Earth, and refers to her as “nameless spider”. This feels very much like ominous foreshadowing.) As a God, Shiraori as all the power she used to and more… but has to learn how to do everything without the “game world” help. Including walking on her new human legs. To her, this is very much “restarting from zero”.

So overall, a solid book of fighting, but the last fifth or so is dynamite (literally), with one revelation after the other. I can’t wait to see where things go next. (Also, when will we catch up to the other kids?)