Saturday, August 8, 2020

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 1 (book) by Okina Baba, illustrations by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is yet another isekai (basically, portal fantasy) light novel. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

This review contains minor spoilers.


A battle between a Hero and a Demon Lord in another world somehow results in a spell entering our world and killing off an entire Classical Literature class in a Japanese high school. Every single person in that class is then reborn in another world. This book's primary protagonist (who thus far has not been given a name, unless I missed it) is reborn as a spider. Specifically, as a Small Lesser Taratect, a type of monster.

This new world is set up like a fantasy RPG. Literally. Everything anyone does gradually levels up their stats and can potentially give them special skills and titles, just like in an RPG. Unfortunately, Spider MC (the name I'll be using for the book's heroine) has no game guides she can consult - it's all trial and error in a quest to survive, because she's unfortunately stuck inside one of this world's biggest underground labyrinths with a bunch of other beings who want to kill and/or eat her.

There is a certain light novel style that I've become resigned to, a very spare first-person POV that can be annoyingly lacking in descriptions. So I'm a Spider, So What? definitely fell into that category, but surprisingly it was actually pretty good, even though I tended to forget what the various types of monsters were supposed to look like due to the general lack of detailed descriptions. The sections from Spider MC's POV were very light and breezy, despite all the monster killing and eating. She adjusted to her new life extremely quickly (she'd never been attached to her old life, with little emotional connection to either her parents or her classmates) and seemed to enjoy living in the moment and puzzling through her new world as best she could, so the immediacy of her POV worked pretty well.

Spider MC spent much of her time either level grinding, eating, trying out any new skills the Divine Voice (a voice in her head that let her know when she leveled anything up or gained new skills or titles) told her she'd acquired, or desperately trying to survive against either very strong or numerous opponents she accidentally attracted. Some of the grinding was a little boring, despite Spider MC's cheerful and occasionally macabre sense of humor, so it was a bit of a relief that she wasn't the book's only focus.

Remember how I said that the entire Classical Literature class was reborn in another world? Well, they were all reborn in this same world, although by the end of the book Spider MC still hadn't realized that. Sections from Spider MC's POV occasionally alternated with sections from another reborn character's POV, as well as a few other characters I'm assuming weren't part of the reborn class. 

The other reborn character, a boy named Shun who was reborn as Schlain Zagan Analeit, fourth prince of the Kingdom of Analeit, had a completely different experience than Spider MC - a different view of how the skills and points worked, differently allocated stats, and a different set of knowledge. It was interesting to see how the world worked from his perspective rather than Spider MC's, and I'm looking forward to the moment when their paths cross and Spider MC is potentially able to learn more about all the things she can currently only guess at. Assuming that Shun and Spider MC don't kill each other, considering that he'd view her as any other monster while she'd view him as a human who'd try to burn her alive if she let him.

One thing I'm really hoping that future volumes will deal with more: the issues involved with being reborn into a body that doesn't match your sense of self at all. Unless the reality is that the characters' new bodies really do match their inner selves, in which case that could be interesting as well, depending on how the author chooses to handle it. Crossing my fingers that Okina Baba doesn't opt to just completely ignore this aspect - I'm particularly thinking of the potential issues surrounding Kanata's rebirth as Katia.

There was so much focus on setup and getting Spider MC leveled up that not much happened in this particular volume, so I'm hoping that the next volume has more forward movement beyond "Spider MC enters a new area, kills and eats things, and gains new skills." That said, odds are looking good that I'll be reading at least a few volumes of this. I bought this first volume on a whim and was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.


A brief afterword by the author (whose voice reads exactly like Spider MC's), several black and white illustrations throughout, and two full-color illustrations on a folded sheet. I wasn't really a fan of the illustrations, but they were often the best guide I had to what many of the monsters might look like.

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