by Theron Martin,

So I'm a Spider, So What?

volume 6

So I'm a Spider, So What? volume 6
After agreeing to work with the Demon Lord Ariel, the spider (aka White, hereafter referred to as Hiiro) joins her as she travels incognito into the country of Sariella, with the baby Sophia/Shouko and her now-vampiric attendant Merazophis in tow. As Hiiro amuses herself with developing Sophia's skills and remodeling Ariel's puppet spiders, both Sophia and Ariel have their own thoughts on the matter and Ariel has meetings with an old associate about both Hiiro and the nature of the world. Meanwhile, a certain wizard seeks greater understanding of magic by hanging out with spiders, while Hiiro's Parallel Minds are swiftly developing a veritable horde of spiders with the intent of going out on a rampage against humans and demons alike. Of course, Hiiro may have something to say about that. . . if she can actually get herself to say anything at all, that is.

Volume 5 ended with a massive cliffhanger about the Shun timeline still lingering, but that scene doesn't get addressed or continued at all in volume 6. In fact, the way volume 6 plays out, the story may not get back to that timeline for quite a while.

Unlike all previous volumes, volume 6 focuses entirely on what we now know to be Hiiro's timeline. That doesn't necessarily mean that she gets even greater viewpoint treatment, however; in fact, this volume may offer less of her viewpoint than any previous one, with her five segments counting for well less than half of the 248 page count. That may partly be because her power development has peaked for the moment, and some additional viewpoints in that time frame are necessary to establish certain character motivations and take significant steps towards fleshing out the bigger picture; after all, despite her massive abilities, Hiiro's perspective is still too limited to understand much about the hows and whys of this world. With only two major action scenes in the volume – one involving the Parallel Minds contending with dragons in the Labyrinth, the other involving Hiiro dealing with her wayward Parallel Minds – such broadened perspective is necessary to keep the story from getting bogged down.

That doesn't necessarily keep the story from getting bogged down, however. In fact, it actually contributes to the problem. The parts involving the mage Ronandt are more a window into what the Parallel Minds are doing than anything substantive on their own, and the introspection by Sophia and Merazophis is angst-ridden enough to be annoying at times; yes, Sophia's reflections about her being the ugly girl to Hiiro's beautiful girl do put some things in perspective (including certain things that happen in Shun's storyline), but they are nowhere near as entertaining as Hiiro's own continuing ruminations, those of the Parallel Minds, or those of other figures like Ariel or the pontiff she meets with at one point.

Still, all these ruminations provide valuable additional insight. The stark contrast between Hiiro's vibrant inner voice and her utter inability to communicate with others gets reinforced so strongly that it suggests some kind of major social disorder, to the point that she can't carry on a conversation at all unless she's drunk. That raises the question of whether she might have deliberately been assigned to a spider body since she couldn't have communicated normally with other humans. It also reinforces her amoral nature; she's not specifically good or evil so much as she acts strictly on her personal whims whenever survival isn't the overriding concern. On other fronts, various scenes clarify that Ariel being the Demon Lord does not mean that she's a demon; she's something else which just gained the title because the previous one perished, much like the way we know that the Hero attribute gets passed on. That seems to suggest that Hiiro is being set up to be a potential future Demon Lord.

The novel also continues to leave a lot vague while either hinting at or outright revealing bigger truths. The revelation about the origins of the Word of God religion is rather interesting but also makes a certain amount of sense, as does why the Word of God religion is really going after the Goddess religion. A second reference to Sariel (who was mentioned briefly in volume 4) comes up, as well as further references to the “system.” A few other tidbits fly around as well. Again, the way Okina Baba tantalizes with these hints is one of the writing's strongest aspects.

This volume also has a feature that none of the previous volumes had: a very rough map. While this helps some in determining the relative location of some important locations, it frustratingly lacks details about where Shun's kingdom was located; all that's clear is that it was on the second continent, on the other side of the Labyrinth from Sariella. It is much sparser in its use of stat blocks and, like the last volume, favors character profiles at the beginning of chapters rather than monster profiles. However, the writing style, which favors free-flowing thought processes and short paragraphs, has not changed one bit.

More so than most light novel series, Baba's storytelling practically demands referencing previous volumes as you go along; several things that come up here have been mentioned before, though their importance at the time may not have been fully understood. That aside, I am curious to see how things proceed from here. Time-wise this volume does not make a lot of progress, so at some point Baba is going to have to greatly condense the events of the next dozen or so years in Hiiro's timeline. And that's with many significant events – such as how certain other reincarnations come to be associated with Hiiro and the Demon Lord – yet to be explained. Still, even as the weakest volume so far in this series, it provides enough intriguing details to press the story forward.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B

+ New viewpoints offer further insight into the setting, Ariel's greater involvement
Gets a bit bogged down in angst and excessive introspection at times

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Story: Okina Baba

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