Tuesday, October 27, 2020

REVIEW: So I'm a Spider, So What?, Vol. 3 (book) by Okina Baba, illustrated by Tsukasa Kiryu, translated by Jenny McKeon

So I'm a Spider, So What? is fantasy, specifically isekai. It's licensed by Yen Press under their Yen On imprint. I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Spider MC continues her quest to find a way out of the Middle Stratum and hopefully out of the labyrinth entirely. Unfortunately, she has discovered one of the drawbacks of defeating the fire wyrm at the end of the previous book: she's now so powerful and fearsome that weaker monsters avoid her, making it difficult for her to find food. And even then, there are still monsters around who are scarier and much more powerful than she is, namely Mother (the massive spider who gave birth to her) and Earth Dragon Araba.

Shun, meanwhile, has inherited the Hero title after his beloved older brother's death. The Hero title isn't normally passed down to members of the same family, so Shun never expected to become the next one and doesn't feel like he's even close to being as amazing as his brother was. Unfortunately, some shocking developments upend his life even further.

My synopsis feels vague and formless, and that's in part because the book does as well. The first and second books in this series had a pretty clear setup. Book 1: Spider MC was born and struggled to survive in a world where everything wanted to kill her, while in the world outside the labyrinth, Shun and the others did human things. Book 2: Spider MC made it out of the labyrinth's Lower Stratum only to find that the Middle Stratum was practically tailor-made for her destruction. Shun and the others continued to do human things and learned some magic.

In case you can't tell, I was generally more interested in the Spider MC portions of the previous books than the human portions. Unfortunately, in Book 3 Spider MC's chapters felt less focused, and most of the story progression happened in Shun's chapters, even though I continued to be relatively uninterested in him. 

Spider MC grew stronger, to the point that she learned some things about this world that Shun and the other reincarnated students didn't know, and instead of doing something with that knowledge (the specifics of which readers were never told) she just continued on as she had been and then decided to face down some of the labyrinth's strongest monsters. Instead of being thrilling, Spider MC's final battle with Earth Dragon Araba was both depressing and unsatisfying. It didn't feel like she'd won due to improved experience and skills. It felt like she'd cheated.

Shun's portions of the book were filled with betrayal and drastic changes to his life. Unfortunately, Shun still came across as boring and relatively useless, despite his high stats. Part of it was the author's writing - Okina Baba's style works well for Spider MC, but it feels lifeless with just about every other character's POV. The other part of it was just...Shun. He's the most beige of heroes. Even his motivation for agreeing to move forward as the new Hero was tepid.

I finally got the Katia POV chapter I'd wanted since the first book, only for it to confirm that Katia's growing feelings for Shun were not, in fact, something she'd felt even back in her previous life, when she was a guy. Instead, living in a female body somehow affected Katia's soul and led to her falling in love with Shun even though she'd (or he'd) previously only been interested in women. It was disappointing, but not unexpected.

In Book 2, I realized that the chapters from Shun's POV were probably happening several years after the chapters from Spider MC's POV, and that the Spider MC of the series' present was likely an enormously powerful villain. Book 3 seemed to confirm those things, but the series' timeline aspects have been so confusing that I'm still not sure, and the author made things worse by including several chapters starring more mysterious unnamed characters. I really wish Baba would get to the point and clarify things.

That said, if I'm right about what's going on, I'm not entirely sure if I want to continue on with this series. Spider MC as a morally grey character trying to figure out how to function semi-peacefully outside the labyrinth could have been fun - there was even one chapter that showed the direction that kind of story might take. Spider MC as a murderous and conscienceless villain plotting the world's destruction sounds much less fun to me. 

I don't currently own any other books in this series and don't feel much of an urge to go buy more. The grimdark vibe it's taking on doesn't appeal to me. But who knows, maybe the author has plans up their sleeve that will turn things around?


A folded page with a couple full-color illustrations, black-and-white illustrations throughout, and an afterword by the author.

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