Everyone has looked at a book and thought, “What a silly cover/premise, there’s no way this book is any good!” And I approve it; I did it once before but regretted it when I read the book. It was basically a Manga. So, having learned my lesson, I never judged a book by its cover again.
Later, when I came across So I’m a Spider, So What? I thought to myself, “Hm, an isekai (“transported to another world”) when the girl reincarnates as a spider? Unusual, but I’ll give it a shot.” I never imagined that this novel would completely oppose my expectations and become one of my favorites.
So, I’m a Spider, So What? is a Japanese novel series written by Okina Baba. The plot revolves around a girl who has been reincarnated as a dungeon spider and her fight for survival. The series has received a manga adaptation and an anime television series adaptation by Millepensee which premiered in January 2021.
The Isekai concept is the second in recent months to be released in English, combining the genre’s two most prominent trends: getting reincarnated rather than transported to another world defined by game-like stats and rules. These elements are so pervasive that some characters make self-aware observations about how they expect certain things to work based on what they’ve seen in other light novels. To put it another way, this genre is now actively feeding on itself.
The novel’s synopsis is “In a different world, a Hero and a Demon King are in conflict. A massive space-time spell misfired and hit a certain Japanese high-school class on Earth, killing everyone in it. However, guided by what appeared to be a miracle, all students were reincarnated into that other world. While a few were fortunate enough to become royalty, nobles, and other influential people, one girl was not so blessed. Being reborn as a spider monster of the weakest kind in a dungeon full of vicious beasts, she is forced to endure extreme hardship. Despite this, she continues to press on and survive against creatures far stronger than herself, armed only with her human knowledge and overwhelming positivity.”
So, this is the synopsis, and it’s apparent that it’s not very interesting, given that the protagonist is a spider. But I assure you that it is far better than your expectations.
The Plot, Storytelling, and Narration
The novel/anime focuses on the process of actually adapting to your new environment if you aren’t overpowered or face severe limitations, such as being too young to fully utilize your potential. Also, the main protagonist is female rather than male, and several characters have been reincarnated at the same time. This storyline makes this novel unique from other isekai novels.
The first phase of the novel consists of Kumoko trying to survive in the dungeon and leveling up, becoming strong to face challenging enemies. And it is very compelling! One of the things that keeps me hooked is the system of skills that serves as the base of this world. It’s really amusing and addictive to be curious about what will happen when certain skill levels increase! And then there are the evolutions. When certain creatures reach a certain level, they can evolve, which drew me in.
The change in point of view is worthwhile and improves your understanding of the world. On the one hand, there’s Kumoko and her dungeon survival journey. Schun, however, lives in royal surroundings. For me, these two points of view complement each other and enhance the novel. This isn’t limited to these two. Almost all of the main and secondary characters have point of view.
As mundane as this may appear, her actual process of experimentation, discovery, and action is surprisingly engaging. A breezy, stream-of-consciousness-style first-person narrative is largely to blame for this, combining her somewhat flippant attitude with relatable insecurities, light focuses of self-examination, and wide swings between comfort and panic as she sorts out her situation and connects her small advantages with knowledge from her school studies. Her narration also avoids many specific details about her actions favoring descriptive brevity, which keeps the storytelling moving along at a good clip without leaving the reader feeling like they’re missing important information.
The most important aspect of a book is its characters. The characters in this story are among the most enjoyable and likable I’ve encountered in a fantasy novel. What makes this novel so great is the clear progression each of the protagonists makes in becoming stronger and stronger and the exciting encounters with stronger and stronger antagonists. This is evident in the fights, which involve increasingly ridiculous skills and stats displayed when characters appraise their opponents, which gave me one of my favorite scenes in the novel with Kumiko appraising an opponent who outclassed her so severely that the author wrote pages worth of skills and stats just to show the level of power disparity between the two.
This improvement in the character’s abilities does not appear to be plot armor as in regular Shonen shows, but instead logically discovered. I dislike most action-oriented fantasy light novels and animes. After all, they make the main character never in danger because they are always protected by plot armor. What this story does well is telling the story of a character rising from the bottom of the power hierarchy to become strong in a logical way. In the case of Kumiko, we see the character train and grow as stats are displayed.
The supporting characters are difficult to describe. They are so incredible that only a few are flat. The majority are well-rounded with complex personalities and development. Since the story began with her soloing the dungeon, most of the supporting characters are neutral or enemies. And these supporting characters were used in a different timeline with their own point of view chapters and stories, making them the main character in their own universe. When it comes to their strength and intelligence, the supporting characters were not overlooked; they have their own personality and identity. They are growing out of their old habits and changing their perspectives on life.
Millepensee’s animation work in So I’m a Spider, So What? is brilliant. A mix of 2D and CG works well. It flows relatively smoothly, with CG used primarily in scenes with our protagonist to animate her spider movements and dungeon creatures. It is not as awkward or clashing as one might expect. The colors are also vibrant; the show has clearly been created with a lot of heart. Finally, Aoi Yki, who voices our heroine and sings the ending theme song in character, deserves special mention. Her range in this single episode elevates a great script and sells viewers on the journey of this heroine.
When it comes to high fantasy, I believe worldbuilding is a fair topic—another world, different creatures, and different social ethics. This novel creates a fantastic world with its own set of rules, culture, geography, and politics.
The system that rules the world is the best feature because it allows the writer to work freely. And the story behind it is one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
This novel employs an unorthodox novel writing style, in which the timeline and point of views are used in novel ways. The best part is that there is no excessive flashback, commonly used in most series to make the plot complex and understandable. There is no major issue with the technique. Still, if the reader cannot adapt to the author’s style, it is her/his own fault, because the use of multiple point of views and different timelines has become a signature literary technique of the novel. Only a few can do something like this.
The overall tone of the story is neither overly light-hearted nor all-out depressingly bleak misery, which is itself refreshing. There is also a great touch of black comedy and comedic sociopathy sometimes. Incidentally, the protagonist is far from a stereotypical hero. She isn’t an entirely selfless individual who assists everyone in need. Instead, she is often seen be selfish and vindictive as well.
This novel contains a lot of enjoyment and creativity that I haven’t found in other series. Despite having terrible chapters in the first half, the second half has more than recompensed for its flaws and outperformed many novels. This novel has become one of the favorite books I’ve ever read; the writing technique is innovative. Creativity has reached its peak. There’s an unpredictable setting while maintaining consistency, and there’s a lot of twists.
The characters were developed uniquely with depth. Only a few were used as plot devices; most of them have identities to remember. Most of them were given time to their own point of view in specific chapters, which provided meaning. The most fascinating thing here is the clever creativity of the novel and the character’s very interesting behavior. Even if it contains some flaws, it has a unique and original signature so that other stories cannot copy it.
Overall, if you’re looking for a creative story, this is the best you can get; however, keep in mind that this novel is unlike others; expect the unpredictable.