I’m A Spider, So What? is like a disgusting inversion of The Wizard of Oz, in which an otaku high-schooler descends by daydream into a nightmarish fantasy landscape, morphing into a spider that’s 10% chibi and 90% Erol Otus. Once thrust into the body horror and the metabolic insanity of level grinding by eating nauseating monsters, her gaming skills become life skills, and her introversion becomes a kind of an ‘eye of the tiger,’ though she is more prone to keeping an eye on her stat bar.
While I disliked the trace gaming elements in Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, the insertion of gaming into I’m A Spider, So What? is effective primarily because this manga quickly identifies itself as a ‘fish out of water’ comedy, giving a shy high-schooler fangs and dropping her into a dungeon to eke out survival. Which is not to say that I’m A Spider, So What? is a survivalist fantasy like The Walking Dead, or RPG tourism like The Sword and The Chain, but a celebration of existence, giving an ordinary girl an appreciation of her introverted day to day by steeping her in a spider’s slice of life.
However, and to use a gaming metaphor and a term from Mario, I get the idea while reading I’m A Spider, So What? that the protagonist isn’t so much trying to live as trying to find the continuance. When she gains a level, the commensurate regeneration of her spider body fills her with so much elation that the reader wants to clap along with her. While many in her situation would hasten on the end of the nightmare, hoping to find themselves in their own flesh, the protagonist of this manga clings to her cartoony, phantasmic life as if it was her own. The spider’s fear of soul annihilation is no less inspiring than watching a coin op arcade master pass dozens of screens in one life; in identifying with the alien fiction she also seeks to continue her consciousness, screen by screen, panel by panel.
Though So I’’m A Spider, So What is written with a light tone for a wide audience, like gaming itself it embraces universal themes of continuity of consciousness and the mutability and fluidity of identity. Unfortunately, this universality of theme does not make the manga perfect. When too many pages and panels are devoted to leveling up, the story is buoyed by the skill of the artist, Asahiro Kakashi, who sweetens this monotonous grind with the humorous expressions of the chibi spider. Because of Kakashi’s ability to gloss over the repetitious sections of Okina Baba’s story, I do recommend this manga, though mainly for fans of the virtual gaming genre who will no doubt consider it a parody, as well as for readers of the unusual and strange in manga.
So I’m A Spider, So What? Volume 1 arrived in stores on December 19th, 2017, and you can also order it through this list of online booksellers on the Yen Press website.
Yen Press sent the review copy.