So I’m a Spider, So What?, Vol. 13

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 volume might be frustrating for some fans, as it is in many ways a recap of what happened in Books 3-5, only from the POV of the other side. I do not have this problem. For me, the recap is greatly appreciated as I can barely remember what happened in Book 12, much less nine books ago. More importantly is the fact that this is from the other side’s POV means we get a lot of White in this book, and she’s just as funny/terrifying (don’t delete where applicable, she’s both) as ever. She doesn’t care at all about many things that we cared a lot about, but she’s also very interested in things that had appeared minor or unimportant. Here we see her and Ariel finally making their plans to kill Potimas. Yeah, I know, I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, they’re even getting help from the Church! We also get a lot more insight into exactly how she and Ariel are trying to save the world, and how it’s still a gamble.

To no one’s surprise, White turns out to be the mastermind behind most of the baffling things that happened in the previous books, such as the downfall of Shun’s kingdom and his becoming Public Enemy Number One. Her matter-of-fact reasons for doing this are cool and logical and make you a bit ill, to be honest. That said, she is not without emotion… I was particularly amused at her observance of Katia literally blowing herself up to escape the brainwashing, and then Shun bringing her back from the dead. It was a combination of “Holy shit, he can do that!?” combined with “just fuck already!” that left me laughing. We do also get a look at White from other people’s point of view, particularly the Pope, who is well aware that Ariel may be the Demon Lord but White is the one who is changing the entire world.

As for the rest of the cast, it was nice seeing the humans again, if only from a distance – because this is mostly White’s POV, we barely get to talk to them. I liked the contrast between Shun’s “this is all I can do right now, why am I not as powerful as my brother” and White’s “HE’S GOT TOO MANY CHEATS CHRIST”, and indeed a lot of the plotting and scheming that she does is to try to plan for all the extra special hero stuff he can pull out of his ass. We also finally get a good look at Sariel, the goddess currently wired into the system and giving out all those game bonus stats. Not a pretty site, but at least it leads to the one big battle in the book, as White fights what are basically security robots and is actually challenged for once… mostly as if she goes all out it would destroy the system, which is what she wants but not like this.

So, a lot of setup, but it does promise that the next volume will finally catch us up to where the two sides left off in book… 5, was it? Till then, congratulations, there’s a lot of spider in this book.

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.