More levelling up and beating monsters than ever before!
This volume is definitely dividing its time between the spider in the labyrinth and the prince in peril. Honestly, it is hard to know who has it tougher in this book. While the spider has been levelling themselves up, they still face threat after threat and every day is a fight to live, fortunately they’ve got enough tricks and skills now to make a good showing of it. You wouldn’t think the prince’s life would be that hard except for the part where his older brother died and he suddenly found himself lumped with the ‘hero’ title that only one person can get. Not only dealing with the death of someone but also given a position that will probably get you kills isn’t exactly easy.
So the plot continues to bubble along in So I’m a Spider So What? and I’m getting more and more suspicions that they are deliberately blurring the timeline in this story. It will be interesting to see if I’m right or not when I finally get on to the next book
That aside, it is the characters who are driving this story. Mostly because events in the novel mostly consist of characters getting attacked by monsters or political conspiracies and escape attempts so while it works it honestly gets a little repetitive. However, some fairly solid first person narration with different characters narrating appropriate parts keeps this whole thing rolling along and largely keeps it pretty amusing and entertaining. There’s also enough twists and weird moments thrown in to keep the plot from ever becoming stale.
What has gotten stale, and I mentioned this in my review of volume 2, are the pages of stats. This book isn’t as bad as the second volume but it doesn’t take much page flicking to find an entire page covered in stat listings and levels. Why on earth would anyone want to read that? Just tell us the levels we need to know to understand why the character is freaking out because they are about to die and leave it at that. This is just padding and incredibly dull padding that gets a little bit more dull every time we see it.
However, I’ve had far too much fun with the dungeon roaming spider at this point to give up the story, and the new hero is actually kind of interesting and I’d love to see how his character progresses (assuming someone doesn’t kill him). Also, the fight scene at the end of this book was pretty impressive to read (I’d love to see it animated actually) so I’m on board for another volume of this series. It isn’t the best, but it has enough quirky ideas and personality to keep me going.
I’ve been wondering for awhile why so many trapped in another world stories have been using reincarnation as a vehicle for travelling between our world and another. The far easier option is just to throw the protagonist through a portal, summon them, cross over or whatever else is needed to get them there and then close the door behind them. Reincarnation creates a myriad of plot issues that a lot of the time just don’t need to be in the story at all and are seldom addressed in any kind of satisfying manner. So what are some of the problems I have with reincarnation as a story and are there any anime that get it right?
It Just Isn’t Necessary
Ernesti from Knight’s and Magicis a great example of a character who did not need to be reincarnated. He literally could have just been a born genius from the world he was on given the only bearing his past life had on the one we watched was that he was good at programming, and apparently designing robots. Both of these skills could easily have been acquired by a genius in the world he grew up in, and in point of fact given they offer an antagonist later on who isn’t quite at Ernesti’s level of over-powered brilliance but is still pretty good at developing mechs you have to wonder why they bothered.
Now I mentioned this in my review of the anime, but adding the reincarnation aspect does nothing for this story. All it does is eat up precious minutes of air time showing us a former life that will have no importance on the overall plot and isn’t necessary.
Ernesti brings no external knowledge of the world he is entering into the world. As he has been reborn in a new body none of his physical abilities have gone with him. He has no contact with anyone or anything from his former world where knowing who he was previously might aid the story. There is literally not reason for him to be a reincarnation and it is pretty easy to forget that this is the premise of the story.
And while I’m kind of bashing Knight’s And Magic, it isn’t the only story guilty of this.
Now if we look at something like Sailor Moon or Kyou Kara Maou, while the reincarnation is from their former life/world and into the modern one, the fact that the characters are reincarnated has an impact on every part of the plot. Neither one of these stories would be able to exist except for the fact that the main characters were reborn. Their former lives are completely intertwined with the events they are facing in their present life and the power they use is tied in with it as well.
Even In Another World With My Smartphone at least made use of his learned ability to use the phone and the fact that he chose to carry the phone with him into his next life. Then again, In Another World With My Smartphone created a whole other issue.
Have They Actually Been Reborn?
By its very nature, reincarnation requires you to be born again with the same soul in a different body. And that creates some interesting juxtapositions if you choose to reincarnate particular souls in bodies that just don’t match them, though this aspect of reincarnation is seldom explored. Nor is the influence of the body on the soul, though a light novel I’m reading at the moment, So I’m a Spider, So What seems to be getting into this issue by exploring the impact of having a male soul reborn inside a female and human souls being reborn inside of monsters so I’m kind of enjoying that aspect of it.
In Another World With My Smartphone just skips the whole rebirth thing. God just sends Touya to the other world, fully clothed and still fifteen years old, with all memories and learned knowledge in tact but with all his abilities boosted. I’m actually fine with this concept given it means we don’t have to watch the tedious growing up process or see his confusion with his soul memories and body memories colliding (assuming they bother to address that issue) but it kind of shoots the premise of being reborn or reincarnated in the foot. They might as well have just said he would be sent to or transported to the other world given there really wasn’t a reincarnation process here.
Does Entering a Game Count as Rebirth?
Now this one gets tricky because we’ve had a lot of characters transported into worlds based on game mechanics with levelling up and the like. The question is, have they really been reborn or is their soul simply trapped inside the game character. And if they can’t leave and the world operates as a world does it matter that it uses game mechanics at all?
I think starting That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime made me really think about how reincarnation works in stories. The first episode spends a lot of time in our world (comparatively) setting up a character that the episode then promptly kills and has him reborn. What I wanted to know was would any of the story later on be changed if we simply start with him waking up in his new body, realising he’s no longer human and moving on. Is seeing his self-intro as an ordinary guy going to make this any more engaging to watch?
And it isn’t just reincarnation. There are a lot of premises out there that get used to lead us into stories and then seem to serve no purpose. While I get that archetypes and cliches allow us to cut over a lot of fluffing about, I really do feel that narratives need to put more effort in sometimes and really use their premise. Otherwise, they just have me wondering, what’s the point?
However, I’d love to know what you think of reincarnation in anime. What are some of the best examples? What are some of the worst?
While the game mechanics are still very much going wild, this second volume follows several of the classes reincarnated students through their latest trials and tribulations.
This is going to be really hard to review because mostly telling you anything about the plot would drop us face first into spoiler territory. While many things can be suspected early on in this volume, it isn’t until the end of it that critical reveals are made and that kind of changes a lot of how you feel about the story.
So I’ll start with my general impression of the book, which is it isn’t all that great to read. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting are actually quite interesting, but the heavy reliance on levelling and game mechanics really get in the way of the narrative. There are literally entire pages given to reading the main character’s current levels and statuses. I don’t even like reading those when I am playing an RPG and prefer to just guess where abouts I’ve currently levelled to. The last thing I want is the pace of a novel to come to a screeching halt to find out that Recovery Speed is now at LV4 and Cutting Enhancement is at LV2. When you couple those gripping pages with pages of ‘narrator’ dialogue telling the spider that various points are going up, you could probably shed about half the pages in the book without actually denting the story content.
Despite that, the story we get is really interesting and that just annoys me because it means I will read the next book when I can even though the writing itself is really not great.
Still, the spider’s exploits in the labyrinth are kind of fun. The setting varies sufficiently and there is enough detail put into encounters to make it worth the while. More importantly, the human characters on the surface get a lot more time in this book than in book one. Shun in particular is a far more interesting character this time around and… okay, we’re getting back into spoiler territory, but he’s a lot more noteworthy and I enjoyed his story immensely.
Still, this volume is hard to recommend as a read. There are plenty of isekai stories out there about humans in other worlds, being reincarnated as either human or not, and this one isn’t particularly great to read. I’d love to see this story shed of the gimmicky game elements and told with quite a bit more fluency, though perhaps there’s a reason those elements are needed further down the line. For now they just seem to be there because the writer couldn’t think of a better way to show character progress and that by itself is probably a big red flag.
A classroom explodes in Japan and next thing our protagonist knows they are hatching as a spider in another world. Good thing for levelling up.
I’ll admit that wasn’t much of an overview, but to be honest, it probably didn’t need to be. The story presented in volume 1 of this series is that straight forward and more importantly it is a concept rather than a story. From beginning to end, this book is establishing its world and our character reacts accordingly to the various events that get thrown at them. But there is no grand quest or target here other than survival for another day. And while glimpses of other characters, also reincarnated classmates, suggest a much grander tale to unfold in future volumes, the plot in this one, judged on its own merit and without thinking about what might come later, is pretty lame.
It doesn’t help that we are once again trapped in a fantasy world that for some reason uses game based mechanics including menus, skills, levelling up, stamina bars and whatever else they chose to throw in. If we actually went through the book and removed all instances of discussing these things, observing them, or having announcements about achieving levels or targets, the book would be about half the size pretty much instantly. And while I’m not opposed to something being based on game mechanics, when it comes at the expense of story, or worse is used as the sole gimmick other than the protagonist being an arachnid, I really do have to throw a rock at it.
Yet, before you cast this one aside from any potential reading list I do have to note, that despite the plot, character, and gimmicky nature of the premise, this was actually fun to read. Okay, it didn’t do enough of anything and I finished the book feeling like maybe the introduction of a story was finished, and I really disliked the main character which is a shame because they narrate most of it, and yet the word fun still seems appropriate as a description of my reading experience.
So what did it do right?
From you normal point of view, very little. The narrative structure is barely present and really other than the character reeling from crisis to crisis with small moments of self-congratulations or loathing in between, there isn’t a lot going on. And yet, individually most of these moments are kind of fun. The spider learning to build a home, developing strategies for taking down prey, running from humans, fighting a snake, and even the final monkey fight (not that they are actually monkeys) were all pretty fun experiences.
There are also enough hints from the secondary story line with the Prince and the other reincarnated students that a larger story will eventually appear. However, this is one thing I don’t like about ongoing series when they don’t give you a narrative in itself that links to a larger story but simply give you a story fragment and expect that you’ll read on in order to be satisfied. While this certainly made me curious enough to read on, overall it makes it hard to recommend this first book because if you want to read a story, this doesn’t have one contained within.
That said, I do have to congratulated the writer on their pacing. We didn’t linger in any one part of the story for too long. Even the moments of self-loathing or healing that the spider underwent were moved through with sufficient pace that you caught the mood that was intended but didn’t feel like you were being dragged along by the writing. While a little more depth of character and tone may have been appreciated, I’m just glad at no point did I feel like nothing was going on and that I’d be better off closing the book and going elsewhere.
However, while pacing is nicely kept up, descriptions from start to finish are vague and perfunctory. Part of this is a byproduct of the gaming influence whereby the descriptions we get are the result of the spider’s appraisal skill and come out as a series of one word descriptors about species and status. The other issue is the narrator’s style and tone because a disengaged teenager does not make for the most observant or articulate of narrators and so vague comparisons are used and terrible names that the spider feels very smug about coining are used instead of decent descriptions of the monsters or settings. As a result, visualising anything that is going on becomes a bit of a chore outside of generic and vague because you are more getting a sketched outline of what is going on.
Right, I know it really sounds like this should be read and if you are after something that you might argue is a quality book, I’m guessing this isn’t going to be for you. But denying that this was entertaining and that, on reading the last pages with the inevitable cliff-hanger conclusion, I wanted to read the next book would be silly. I genuinely am interested in what this story does next and whether or not we will ever be told how the story of the previous hero’s death links to the classroom exploding in Japan and why these reincarnations have happened and why not all of the have ended up human. Basically, a mixed review all round and this is one that might entertain you or you might end up thinking is just a bit stupid. I guess you should judge by your reaction to the title. I kind of thought it sounded interesting and snarky and that was more or less what I got so I really can’t complain.