So I'm a Spider, So What?
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 8 of
So I'm a Spider, So What? ?
After watching episode 8, I am more certain of one thing than ever: if Kumoko isn't the initial frontrunner for Character of the Year, I don't know who from the Winter 2021 season might legitimately rank above her. She was already a joy to watch, but the punk rock riff and the introduction of the third and fourth Parallel Minds (thus completing the array seen in the opener and closer) just jacks up her frenetic energy even more. Director Shin Itagaki and his team have done an excellent job of adapting what was always one of the most fun aspects of the novels into anime form.
Of course, that's assuming that she survives until next episode, and at the end of this one things certainly don't look good. She has another fight which pushes her and all her newfound abilities to their limits, but this time her foe – a wounded fire dragon – is intelligent enough to counter her go-to move (i.e., stuffing deadly poison down the target's gullet). She's left in a vulnerable position with no real escape path. Obviously, we know in a meta sense that she does not die here, despite Oka's dramatic proclamation about Hiiro Wakaba being dead, so what will she pull out of her ass (and given that she is a spider, this could be meant literally!) to escape that fate? Also, what did this fire dragon encounter which shook the labyrinth and left the dragon with only half its HP, and is it still around? Only two creatures revealed so far are sufficiently powerful for both effects: the Earth Dragon Araba and maybe the mama spider. But what would either of those have been doing here?
On the human side, much of the time is taken up by a flashback showing the Japanese class during a park outing back in Japan. Part of the interest factor here is getting a clearer picture of what everyone looked like originally, but the more important detail is how utterly conspicuous this part is with showing off character names on uniforms. Some of these are names that anime-only viewers are familiar with, but some aren't. Shun and Kanata's mutual friend Kyouya has, I believe, been mentioned in passing before, but this is the first time we have seen how close-knit that trio was; the joke about Kanata liking boys seems suspicious and/or ironic, given that he ended up as a girl. Kyouya has yet to make an appearance in the fantasy setting, though. The most curious part is the also-conspicuous emphasis on Shouko “Spooky” Negishi, who also has yet to pop up in the fantasy world. (Or has she? There is one revealed reincarnation so far whose original identity we don't know yet, and she was quite adept at appearing seemingly out of nowhere.) She was described in the novels as being unattractive, and that comes through effectively here. Almost equally curious is that Hiiro – despite hiding behind her bangs and body language – appears to be quite the opposite. Neither of these will be an idle detail in the long run.
The scene back in the fantasy world provides more elaboration on the fallout of last episode. There are stronger indications that behind-the-scenes dealings are involved concerning how to handle Hugo (in an effort to prevent an international crisis, presumably), but Oka is also at least a little more forthcoming. Kanata and Shun seemed to miss Oka's expression before she admitted that Kyouya was alive and well in the fantasy world, and that combined with Oka's continued evasiveness suggests that he's probably one of the ones out of reach, and for troublesome reasons. If she “knows” that Hiiro Wakaba is dead, though, then that raises two big questions: how does she know that, and, if we assume that the human events are happening in a later time frame, does that mean that something happens to Kumoko before she gets in sync time-wise with the human story? Definitely some intriguing mysteries to end the episode on.
In terms of adapting the source material, the anime is at this point playing looser than ever before. It is skipping a battle Kumoko had with a fire wyrm and some minions at the end of novel 2 and thus prior to the fire dragon fight (which is early in novel 3), but I don't have a problem with that because, in retrospect, that fight is somewhat redundant even if Kumoko does gain some new abilities from it. Also, in the novel Kumoko knows exactly who/what is responsible for the dragon's state from looking down that pit, and the revelation about Oka believing Hiiro to be dead comes much earlier. The flashback scene is anime-original*, but I can understand why it was added in, as it clarifies better several things about the characters and relationships and introduces both Kyouya and Shouko, both of whom will eventually have important roles. (And original writer Okina Baba is listed in the Series Composition credits, so Baba may have had a hand in adding that scene.) This puts the human side behind the spider side for the first time, as the latter is still in novel 2 and on the cusp of a major novel-ending cliffhanger that it cannot skip. Will we see that development next episode? The next episode's title suggests that it will push the spider side ahead even further, but we'll see.
As a final thought: yeah, if there's one thing about the episode I have to be critical of, it's that dragon design, with the ribs exposed to suggest major damage. Had trouble buying that in a visual sense.
*Actually, this isn't entirely true; I have been told that the park scene was in the original web novel. It just didn't get carried over into the light novel version.
English Dub: Two episodes of the English dub are now available. On the spider side, Brianna Knickerbocker makes a valiant effort to capture the style and verve of Aoi Yuki's performance, but she's trying to replace what could easily be one of the most iconic performances in recent memory. It's not a bad effort by any means, but not on the same level. Contrarily, most of the human-side casting choices and performances are fine; Alejandro Saab makes a good Shun/Schlain, and that sounds like Cherami Leigh as Ms. Oka, which would be a good fit. The one somewhat questionable choice is for Katia, and that is more in the performance. Seiyuu Nao Toyama uses a huskier pitch more suggestive of a male persona, but no such effort is being made in the English dub. That will take the most getting used to in switching between the two languages.
So I'm a Spider, So What? is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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