So I'm a Spider, So What?
When an explosion tore up a classroom and killed everyone in it, all of them were reborn in a different world. But where almost everyone else got born into prominent families and having the opportunity to live great lives, Wakaba Hiiro was reborn as a spider. And not a particularly big and dangerous one, but... literally a spider baby, the lowest of low rungs on the food chain. To make matters worse, her location of (re)birth is the lowest level of a dungeon filled with all kinds of monsters whose only feeding option seems to be "other monsters". When she noticed her new life also comes with a somewhat complicated skill and levelling system, she resolves to take all of her loner shut-in gamer lifestyle expertise and apply it to surviving the horrors of the labyrinth.
Meanwhile, all her classmates has been reborn into the roles of various nobles and other important people. A young boy named Schlain is even groomed to become the hero, destined to fight the Demon King. The only other outlier seems to be Feirune, a girl who used to bully Wakaba Hiiro in the real world, and who now considers her rebirth into a tiny earth dragon pup as the karmic retribution for her actions.
I'm having some problems recalling exactly when just being an isekai was considered fresh and new. As with most storytelling trends, you have one aspect that becomes hugely popular that eventually has to branch out in an attempt to stave off genre fatigue, coming up with at least one reason why this isekai is a step above all the other generic power fantasies that paved the way for everyone else. Although I had a few aggravations with it, Re:Zero stands out as one of the more notable ones as of late, but maybe So I'm a Spider, So What? can also step up to the podium as one of the more memorable ones.
The key hook right out of the gate is Wakaba's situation. Reborn as a tiny, newborn spider, she literally pops out of the egg and into the big dinnerplate that is.... basically everywhere. Her siblings are already eating each other, which grosses our newborn spider with the reborn mind out, but she eventually realizes she has to join in the game if she's to survive, and from there, her life becomes a constant struggle of kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. That sort of thing. When the show starts, she doesn't really have a name, but the fandom has charmingly named her Kumoko -- Spider Girl, more or less -- and so shall I for the rest of the review.
Through her frantic scramble, she then stumbles upon this world's levelling system, and said system couldn't have been any more gaming-based if it had tried. Once she levels up, she is literally rifling through RPG menus, trying to figure out what to focus on for skills and abilities. And even when she's not, she's constantly keeping an eye on her HP, MP and stamina bars, and how her skillsets are influenced by their usage. And although she doesn't fight by choosing things in a menu, the RPG aspect continues to ring true when the info bars keep popping up, not only during fights, but also whenever other abilities are put to use. While it is indeed admirable of the show to just not give Kumoko everything from the start, the show gets a little too on the nose about that, as we shift between her situation and that of her classmates, almost all of which were born into the family of nobles or wealthy people in general. The first shot of her classmates literally takes place at a gala event, where the kids have the opportunity to feast on luxurious food (while Kumoko has to get by on gross-tasting recently killed monsters) and wear expensive clothing (while Kumoko is basically a butt-nekkid spider baby) while dancing the night away (while Kumoko has to dance for her life dodging attacks that would severely damage her at best.) And... yeah, you get the point.
I wouldn't be lying if I said I found the human part of the story.... well, honestly kind of uninteresting at first. Part of that is because it's just such a hoot to watch Kumoko's fight for survival as it unfolds, mostly because her commentary on her situation is usually always amusing. I don't really gel with frenetic comedy in the same way I used to, but Kumoko just sells her situation so well with her dry lines, courtesy of her voice actor, Aoi Yuki. I can absolutely imagine her getting on people's nerves, but I honestly found her take on everything pretty fun. Compared to that, the human parts just seems so slow; the conversations between the kids inane and uninteresting. But to So I'm a Spider, So What?'s credit, things simply aren't that... well, simple. Our main human protagonist is Schlain, the younger brother of Julius, the current hero of this world. As anyone with a fairly developed death flag radar will realize, this means Schlain will eventually inherit said title in a very dramatic moment, even if it can be hard to tell with how self-indulgent the human segments are at the beginning. This extends to the school some of the kids are attending, where they learn how to use magic, fight and generally being a responsible member of society. Magical aspects aside, it does actually mirror the isekai'd kids old life to some extent, even if not all of them are human anymore. Even if the show seems to use this to portray how good all of them have it compared to Kumoko -- being all nobles and such -- I imagine it must be quite the relief for the kids in class to reincarnate with their friends in a at least somewhat familiar enviroment, even if it's not particularly interesting to watch.
I'd really like to talk more about the characters, but there are just so many of them; a whole class got isekai'd, after all, and it would be difficult to give everyone equal billings. Yeah, Schlain and some of his now closest friends, like Feirune and the now genderswapped Katia (who used to be known as Kanata in his old life), get a bigger focus than most of the others. As does Hugo, who takes on a more villainous role as the show progresses. The plot thickens when we also learn that some of the classmates being reborn has sided with the demons, the most prominent being Sophia -- earlier known as Negishi -- who is now a vampire, and an incredibly strong one at that. On a more ambiguous note, there's also the class teacher Kanami Okazaki, now being reborn as an elf named Filimøs. And not just any elf, but the daughter of the leader of the elves, Potimas. The general, almost stereotypical haughty nature of the elves in this show hasn't exactly endeared them to the other races, which makes everything even more difficult for half-elves, who are about equally hated by everyone else. Which is not to say the humans are in the clear, because there is a lot of questionable behavior even among them. And lastly, we have D, who introduces herself as an administrator of this odd and unsettling RPGish world Kumoko and the others have found themselves in. The anime is still a bit ambiguous as to what she does and how this system works, but she takes an interest in Kumoko just out of sheer morbid interest, and doesn't care one whit whether she lives or dies. As long as she's entertained, everything goes.
People who have read the novels are definitely having an advantage here, because So I'm a Spider, So What? is dense as heck with plot. Judging by the animation quality, it also doesn't look like the creators -- or whoever bankrolled this show -- had the best of faith in their product here. The main issue I have with So I'm a Spider, So What? is that its CG work is.... not the best, and I don't mean that in an "it's average" way. So I'm a Spider, So What? hits the ground running and dodging and jumping, and to be fair, a good chunk of the start looks nice, even if the CG work has this weirdly glossy look to it. This just makes a lot of the monsters look weird, never mind the times the show uses CG on humanoid characters. That being said, a lot of the fights at the beginning -- when Kumoko has to try to get by, or even just stay alive -- has some nice fight direction to it, and glossiness aside, looks pretty nice. But for the rest of its runtime, So I'm a Spider, So What? is on a bit of a downwards slide. The last part in particular has pretty dreary fights and generally doesn't impress as thoroughly as the beginning does, which, coupled with how the show has a lot to say without actually letting its audience in on what's going on, really starts to get on one's nerves.
Full disclosure: because I suspect there will be no more of this animated, I went and spoiled me on some future events just to get some context to what was going on in this show. To the franchise's credit, it can and will throw its audience for quite a few loops, but you kinda have to go with the jaded mindset the show will eventually start going on about. For all the luxury a lot of the main characters gets to indulge in, the world is not a nice place to be for the lower classes to be in, and that's not even going into the ploys of some of the characters in here. Even when Kumoko gets to escape the labyrinth she was reborn in and seems to settle in quite nicely as a nearby town's local deity, she can't really completely escape being caught up in the political aspect of this world, and that's not even going into the fact that mommy spider is still very much out for her. And even if Kumoko would be able to defeat her, the person creating her will clearly not take that sitting down. There is a veritable iceberg of plot here, and what you get to see in the first season is just the tip of the iceberg. Now, in my opinion, So I'm a Spider, So What? could have given us more to chew on rather than spending its last few episodes throwing out more plot hooks that are going to create more questions than they answer. I've often said that earlier one-season shows based on longer novels or manga has found themselves nice stopping points when they eventually choose to round it up for the cour, but So I'm a Spider, So What? does the exactly opposite of that. It plays out like a nice season ender to be sure, but like a buckshot of cliffhanger ending plot hooks, you're just about literally dying to know what happens next.
And here's where I stand on all of this; I'm not sure I like where this show is heading. I don't know if the show will take a pragmatic path or just a plain cynical one, but I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy what was going on here, at least so far. I will definitely watch any potential sequels to So I'm a Spider, So What?, but the quality of the show at the end doesn't exactly fill me with confidence that it'll happen. I can only hope that I'm wrong.
Good show with a lacklustre season ending and an animation quality at that ending that just makes me sad. Its future is very much up in the air, I guess. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The "kill or be killed" mentality of the dungeon makes the show quite violent, and it doesn't really ever deviate from that course. It's not ridiculously graphic or anything, but the show doesn't skimp on the red paint either. (Or green or whatever other colors the innards of the various monsters have in this show.)
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (24/24)
So I'm a Spider, So What? © 2021 Millepensee, Crunchyroll.
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