By Okina Baba and Tsukasa Kiryu. Released in Japan as “Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?” by Fujimi Shobo. Released in North America by Yen On. Translated by Jenny McKeon.
This series continues, very deliberately, to be a book of two halves, albeit unequal halves. The main thrust of the story remains our spider heroine slowly ascending the dungeon and defeating stronger and stronger monsters while keeping up an inner monologue that sounds like she’s high on a dozen pixie stix all the time. The other half of the story is interspersed in between this, and deals with Shun and the rest of the reincarnated students having a far more normal isekai life… well, normal compared to the spider. The difficulty is that forward plot progression is entirely confined to the latter – a couple of the students have clearly gone a bit mad from the new world, Shun finds being a hero actually involves killing things, there’s a giant demon invasion happening as we speak, and oh yes, the demons are seemingly led by another reincarnated classmate. I want to know more about this. I have to be content with Spider Levels Up And Reads Her Stats.
Spider’s progress is the biggest strength of the book. She is hilarious, and it gets even better when she’s able to subdivide her brains so they can think about different things, and they start arguing with each other. She’s arrogant as heck except when she’s being attacked by killer monsters, and there’s an ongoing disturbing thread about her not realizing that she’s lost any moral or ethical sense – every time she reads about her taboo increasing and wonders why that is, you sort of smack your head. At the same time, spider’s progress is the book’s biggest weakness as well. There is endless discussion of her stats and skills, complete with charts (which are what pile up the page count), and she has to overanalyze all of them. Sometimes this is amusing, but a lot of times it can get very tedious, even with her excitable inner voice.
As for Shun and company, as I said, they’re pursuing a much more common isekai narrative. We’re introduced to Hugo, another classmate who seems to have gone completely insane and power mad, as well as Yuri, who has accepted God as her savior in a very over the top way. (Given that God in this work appears to not only exist but be the sysadmin, not too mad an idea, but she’s a pure “religious zealot” type, so will no doubt be an antagonist.) The most interesting thing going on here is Katia, who was a boy in Japan but was reincarnated as a woman here, and seems to be the ONLY one who’s not the same sex. She becomes very accepting of this, and is also clearly starting to have feelings for Shun, which everyone notices except her. It’s not, perhaps, as amusing as the author wants it to be, but it’s definitely interesting, and handled pretty well.
The book ends with a nasty cliffhanger for those on the surface, even as our spider heroine just keeps rolling along. I’m enjoying these books, but I really hope that the two plots converge soon, as I’m drawning in stats a bit too much.