Reviewby Theron Martin,
So I'm a Spider, So What?
In the Great Elroe Labyrinth, the spider's efforts to survive the Middle Stratum and make her way back up to the Upper Stratum finally reach a climax. She even makes additional contacts with humans – some peaceful, some not. As she levels up and accumulates new skills, she starts setting her goals far higher – namely, tackling the earth dragon who once nearly killed her and even poking at the Queen Taratect who is her mother in this world– while also endeavoring to finally reach the surface and find some proper, tasty food. Meanwhile on the surface, Shun struggles to deal with what will be his new role as Hero, but that and the potential encroaching demon army, which paid a steep price for its victories, aren't even his biggest or most immediate threats. That distinction instead belongs to Hugo and his troublesome new ability. Also meanwhile, the godlike Administrators of the world are starting to get more directly involved and some of the truth of the world is starting to spill out.
With its third volume the story shifts gears a bit in a plot sense while still maintaining the overall style and approach that it had in previous volumes. In the process it also finally starts to reveal some of the world's Big Picture, building on the tantalizing teases that it gave about the administration system last volume.
That the admin system actually exists gives a lot more credibility to the world structure, as it allows the game mechanics that everything is based on to make a certain amount of sense. After all, theologians in our world have debated for a long time where the world isn't just some grand game that the deities of respective religions are playing, so it's hardly a stretch to accept that one of these game mechanics-based worlds actually is exactly that. D, the entity who eventually confronts the spider, implies that the whole thing is just for the amusement of the admins, but I don't fully buy that. There are enough implications that this whole scenario is serving some grand purpose, and frankly, that guy comes off as being at the very least a maverick, if not entirely full of crap. But what is the extent of the truth that the spider learns which gets her so pissed off? The way she became cognizant of the truth, and the safeguards built into the system to make it unlikely that humans will ever discover the truth, are a clever touch, although to an extent they also echo what Reki Kawahara has done in his Alicization storyline for Sword Art Online.
But much, much more than that is going on here. In reviewing the previous volume I did not give enough attention and weight to the suggestions that the time frames between the spider and surface stories might be out of sync by as much as 15 years, and this volume greatly clarifies exactly how crucial that is to the story. It alarmingly reinforces the possibility that the spider eventually becomes the Demon Lord of Shun's time frame, and I am now very curious to see how that plays out; it's not like this volume doesn't end with the first signs of her developing that degree of ruthlessness, after all. Of course, that if that is true then that raises all sorts of questions about how becoming a Demon Lord has anything to do with what she's discovered about the world.
Oh, and she also gets her fair share of power and tactical development, too. Watching her grow in power and figure out new tricks with her skills/abilities is still quite entertaining, and the effectiveness with which she is maximizing the way her powers interact is almost a little scary. She's still not so overpowered that other creatures fail to pose a credible threat; her mother is still awesomely powerful, and her feature fight with the earth dragon Araba is every bit as tense and intense as her earlier battles; if it gets animated right then it could be one of the epic battle scenes of (presumably) 2019. By the end of the novel she's so powerful that I'm concerned about this balance being maintained for future volumes, but Okina Baba has proven amazingly capable at handling the power creep so far, so we'll see.
For the first time what's going on in the human world is also starting to be interesting. Shun has been gradually getting set up as the archetypal isekai harem lead, but that progression gets disrupted a bit when some of his potential love interests fall out of his orbit and he's forced to get clever himself rather than just power through things. Even with all of the betrayals and twists going on there, and the indications that the reincarnated teacher has a better idea of the overall picture than anyone else, the most intriguing development is how Shun's former male friend is coming to reconcile that being a girl may well mean that he's going to have to accept being attracted to guys – namely, Shun. While that could easily have been intended as a perfectly innocent character development device, the way it happens opens up all sorts of potential interpretations involving a statement being made about gender identity.
On the technical front, Baba's distinctive writing style continues apace, with the new development being a number of conversations where the speakers deliberately aren't identified. Sometimes who they are can be determined from the context of what they're saying, but sometimes they remain a mystery, at least for now. The massive sets of skill lists for both monsters and the spider only grow, sometimes taking up an entire page or more in the latter stages of the novel, and the profiles of various monsters as chapter heads continue. The novel opens with a dual-fold color glossy, but additional black-and-whites beyond the creature profiles are sparse. A rather inane two-page Afterword wraps the 262 pages of story.
At three volumes in, So I'm a Spider, So What? is still among the strongest entries of its genre. With an anime production already in the works, can a mobile game adaptation be too far off? I can't see this quite having the franchise potential of, say, a DanMachi, but this one isn't fading into the background anytime soon.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : C+
+ Sharp battle scenes, well-managed power creep, improved story on human front
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