Is this a bad time to mention I suffer from Arachnophobia?
What’s the Story?
You know how it is, one day you’re just sitting in class doing your usual thing, then suddenly there’s this giant explosion and you wake up hatching out of an egg as a spider monster. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Well you’ve got way more important things to worry about at the minute, like not being eaten by all your horrifying brothers and sisters, or the multitude of monsters that inhabit the labyrinth you call home. Meanwhile, on the surface, the rest of your class have found themselves reborn in cushy human lives, though they may not remain so cushy for long. War is coming and, if the history of this strange land is to be believed, the world is dying too. Well, no one said life was going to be easy, did they?
One of the hardest parts of writing, for me at least, is finding the right place to start. Whether it’s a review or a story, pinpointing the perfect opening that sets the tone for what’s to come is a torment worthy of Sisyphus and I hardly ever feel like I get it right. Of course that task is made ten times harder when I just don’t know how I feel about a series, even after watching twenty-four episodes. That brings me neatly to So I’m a Spider, So What?, because, honestly, this series mystifies me. There are elements of this show that fascinate me, and the reason I stuck with it to the end, but then there are others that had me grinding my teeth down to their gums. If you told me you loved this series I’d believe you, and yet at the same time, if you said you hated it with all your soul, I’d completely understand. This show is such a peculiar mix of frustrating decisions and bad presentation mixed with a genuinely depth-filled and well thought out world that it boggles my mind.
Let’s start off by talking about the bad first and that brings me to the so-called ‘animation’. I’ve no idea what happened behind the scenes in the production of this series, but looking at the end result I can only imagine it was a nightmare. That’s not to say this is the worst animation I’ve ever seen, no that honour still goes to Ex-Arm, but there are moments when this show comes close. Terrible framing of shots, awkward movements and characters swapping between 2D and 3D models seemingly at random at times. It’s not good, and yet there are moments, brief as some of them are when this show actually looks decent. I’m assuming a fair chunk of the budget got poured into the spider battles and the early episodes because that’s really when this series looks its best, you know when there’s not a mountain of text clogging up the visuals.
Okay, let’s talk about our spidery protagonist for a minute. I get the impression from Crunchyroll’s comment sections that this is the aspect of the series that people love the most, but I’m sorry you can count me in the exact opposite camp. I mean the whole split narrative of the series is a problem to begin with, one half following the spider, the other following the rest of the reincarnations. On paper it’s a fine idea and I like the way it’s constructed and all fits together, but the tonal whiplash it creates is something else. One minute we’re listening to the zany fantasies and delusions of our main protagonist, the next we’re dealing with fantasy politics and legitimate drama on the surface. I will admit that the spider section would be so much harder to get through without the protagonist’s sheer strength of personality and gags, heck by the end of the series I was actually enjoying her shtick. My main problem comes down to personal taste. I’m not much of a gamer any more and even when I was grinding levels and reading through stats where my least favourite part of any game, and that’s exactly what the spider sections of the anime are about. Some of the fights she gets in are cool, but I’d much rather be spending time with the human characters.
Enough of the complain train though, let’s get on to what kept me watching this series to the end, the world! The construction of this series just fascinates me, not only running two separate plot lines, but setting them at different points in time and still having everything fit together and make sense? That’s skill right there. Plus this is an isekai where the fact that our protagonists have memories of their prior lives is actually important and a central part of the plot! I never thought I’d see the day. True, there are a lot of standard fantasy tropes in the human sections of the plot, and no one has as much personality as the spider, but I was captivated by watching how everyone reacted to their situation and the political manoeuvring of the factions that was going on in the background. Of course the biggest lure for me was the continual teases about what’s going on, with little tid bits of information laid out like breadcrumbs that I happily followed all the way to the end. Unfortunately the series ends before we get the full history of this world and what’s actually going on, but I’ve seen enough to have a pretty good idea. If only the present-day plot line didn’t end on such a massive cliffhanger!
In the end, So I’m a Spider, So What? Is the definition of a mixed bag. There’s plenty to love and plenty to hate throughout the series. The animation is decent at best, but more frequently it’s just plain bad and the way the narrative is split between the main protagonist and everyone else is likely to give you a severe case of tonal whiplash. On the more positive side, the protagonist has a lot of personality and some of her antics can be a necessary breath of fresh air, especially in the later half of the series. A wealth of thought and planning has gone into the world and the way the plot has been constructed, which as a writer I can’t help but admire. I’d say the series is worth a shot, but I don’t think I can really recommend it with how all over the place it is.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.