By Okina Baba and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?” by Kadokawa Books. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.
Ever since the start of the entire series, there has been a certain disconnect between what the fans want to get out of these books and what the author is giving to them. Let’s face it, if the fans of the series were in charge, we’d be seeing a lot more spider and a lot less of the human side of things. And those folks are really going to hate this book, because it’s entirely on the human side of things. Yes, White gets one or two appearances here and there, but this is the first book she gets no scenes as a narrator. Instead this book fleshes out Julius, the hero of humanity and Shun’s older brother, showing his hero’s journey, his doubts, his weaknesses, and his resolve, along with giving greater depth to the rest of his party. Of course, we’re still in the past, so we know what happens to that party. But that’s probably Book 12’s problem – this one is here to remind you that the humans are also in this narrative.
The book, as with most previous books, flits back and forth between several viewpoints. The primary one is Julius’, as he starts off, despite being the hero, being dismissed and protected by the soldiers around him, who are not all that thrilled with a 12-year-old being their chosen savior. Despite this, he ends up getting involved anyway as they try to figure out why children all over the land are getting kidnapped and who is behind it. (We, as the reader, know all these answers, of course.) He has a beloved mentor figure, who gets brutally murdered halfway through the book, in the best beloved mentor tradition. He has his best friend as snarky sidekick, and a priestess who is clearly head over heels in love with him, but he’s ignoring that for now. Things are going quite well… if only the world was not gearing up for a new war, started by the Demon Lord, who is apparently so awful demons are fleeing their own lands to get away from her.
Again, it takes an entire volume that is mostly away from their perspective to remind us that this is a “rooting for the Empire” sort of story, and that White, Ariel and company are the bad guys to most of the rest of the world. This isn’t really a funny volume in the series – the comedy comes from Sophia’s diary of her life in boarding school, which is, if I’m honest, not really that funny. We get various points of view of other characters in Julius’ party, giving them depth and backstories, and showing how they view Julius as opposed to his own mostly negative thoughts. I will admit, it’s hard to deny that this book is trying to flesh out what is otherwise going to be a bunch of “who cares?’ corpses in the next book, which promises to giver Julius’ last moments from his own perspective. It’s a necessary thing, though, to give the writing better depth.
This is not to say it isn’t frustrating, and I’m sure a lot of fans really, really want the past to catch up with the present (which we last saw in Vol. 6) pretty darn quick. Till then, enjoy this look at the evil spider and her evil demon friends from a different viewpoint.