So I'm a Spider, So What?
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 1 of
So I'm a Spider, So What? ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
So I'm a Spider, So What? ?
Notes: Because the protagonist is unnamed as a spider, she is commonly referred to as Kumoko in fan circles. (“Kumo” = spider and “-ko” is a common suffix for female given names.) I will use that name throughout these reviews so I do not have to keep calling her “the spider,” but that is not the character's official name. Also, to keep things simple, I will usually refer to characters by their current-world names except in cases where their former names in Japan are relevant. The exception to this is Ms. Okaa, who is almost never referred to by her elven name of Filimøs and whose identity as the former teacher is regularly relevant.
While having read at least some of the source material for a series I wind up reviewing is not so unusual these days, this is the rare case where I have actually read well beyond the content that is likely to be animated. (I am through novel 10 – which is the most recent volume formally released in English at this time – and the current consensus among novel fans is that the series will adapt the first five novels.) Having seen where the series goes in the long run makes re-experiencing this early content quite the interesting experience, as some of the jaw-dropping later revelations are vaguely foreshadowed even within the content of these first two episodes if you know what to look for, and in details that will register as innocuous when you first see them. This strongly suggests that original writer Okina Baba had a long-term plan for the story from the beginning, and the way the anime version is already dropping certain hints makes me wonder if plans are already in place for adapting more than just two cours. We'll have to see first how successful these first two cours are, though.
After seeing the first two episodes – especially episode 2 – I don't think there is much to worry about on that front. Episode 1 got some mixed reactions in the Preview Guide, with some not taking well to Aoi Yūki's frenetic performance as Kumoko. Some also found the human side to be boring and plain by comparison, and at least early on, it will be. This was deliberate on the part of Baba, both to establish a contrast between the spider and human side and to make a statement about the cookie-cutter nature of too many isekai titles out there.
However, the human side parts in episode 2 are already starting to show at least a little potential on their own. Fei, the small dragon, laments the fact that she was a bully in her previous life and wonders if her being in a pet form this time is karmic justice, before deciding at the end – like Kumoko did about being a spider in episode 1 – that if she must be what she has been reborn as then she's going to own it. The second episode also implies a stronger connection between the two, as it all but outright says that Kumoko was, in her previous life, Hiiro Wakaba, the girl with the long bangs that kept to herself and was bullied by Mirei Shinohara/Fei. Interestingly, based on their current personalities, Fei seems more impacted by it than Kumoko. That is somewhat of a hint towards later developments, and not the only one in the classroom scene; Ms. Okaa's evasiveness in her response to questions about Wakaba suggests that she is somehow at least partly aware of where or how Wakaba reincarnated. Hugo's demeanor in this scene and jerkish behavior in the first episode also suggest that he could be trouble later on. (He is, in fact, shown fighting Schlain in the opener.)
Still, for all of the developments and foreshadowing in the human scenes in episode 2, Kumoko's scenes are what make or break the series at this point, and in that regard episode 2 is a resounding success. Protagonists in isekai series all too rarely have to truly struggle in order to achieve greateness, but that is a focal point here. Kumoko is not strong yet – something that even her status does not let her forget – and as a spider, she is not built for head-on battles. She gets damaged a lot as she grinds for food and level advancement and sometimes even flees, but along the way she is also actively working to develop strategies to compensate for her overall lack of toughness. She has speed, she has webs, and she has poison fangs, so how can she use those best? That ultimately leads to a thrilling fight against a giant snake.
The source novels are among the best light novels that I have read at painting truly exciting action scenes in words, and I am pleased to say that director Shin Itagaki and studio Millepensee have done a fantastic job of translating that to the screen. (Given that Itagaki also directed Ben-To, another series with exceptionally dynamic fight scenes, this probably should have been expected.) While the snake is still obviously CG, it works plenty well enough for menace factor, and the staging of the fight shows how tough and dangerous it is while also showcasing Kumoko's tactics: dodge around and limit the snake's ability to attack back with webs, then go for the poison, even if that means taking a pounding in the process. Kumoko's shout of triumph at the end is viscerally satisfying and well-earned. The earlier parts of the episode also showcase better her antics in her lighter moments; this will hardly be the last time she gets that silly, but that she can be that silly despite her dangerous circumstances is part of what makes her such a fun character.
Oh, and let's not forget about the egg, either. The anime is skipping some early set-up scenes on the human side (which I suspect might still be flashed back to at some point) which would have made this more obvious, but at least some supposition can be made based only on the anime content:
- Kumoko identified it as an Earth Wyrm Egg.
- Fei is an Earth Dragon (or at least some pre-evolution version of it) that is about the same size as that egg.
- The egg was shown being retrieved by a human soldier.
Coincidence? Probably not. If Fei was, indeed, in the egg then Kumoko trying to crack the egg open to eat her is a wry bit of irony, and would an opportunity like that be missed in the storytelling? It would also raise some serious questions about how the timeframes between the human and spider sides compare, but we do not have enough evidence yet to make a judgment on that.
I could also say a lot more about the direction choices being made so far, but this is already extra-long as it is, so I will save those comments for next time. Overall, the second episode lays out even better than the first why I love this franchise so much.
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