Have you ever overestimated something based on the popularity of the manga? I have. When I heard So I’m a Spider, So What? was finally getting an anime series, I thought it was an obvious move to make. Its quality is mostly rivaled by That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (TenSura) that it only makes sense for this series to be adapted.
Surely due to its perceived popularity it will be given a good budget and not rely on constant 3D animation right?
Regardless, is a fun isekai story enough to forgive obvious and gratuitous use of 3D animation? Can such a blatant sin be forgiven with the right justification? The answer might surprise you.
So I’m a Spider, So What?
Director: Shin Itagaki
Premiere: January 8, 2021
So I’m a Spider, So What? began as a light novel series in 2015 and has gone on to spawn a manga series in the same year and even a spinoff in 2019. So it’s hard to deny that there is an audience for the series.
The story follows a classroom full of students (and one teacher) who are reincarnated in a fantasy world. However not all reincarnations are created equal and some have the fortune to be reborn in the mature bodies of princes while our heroine hatches as a newborn spider in the bowels of a deep cavern system.
Though rarely called by name in the series Hiiro Wakaba has to subsist off monsters in the dungeon as she fights her way through. Her end goal being to level up, evolve, and be strong enough to stand on her own.
The anime tells the story in two sides, Wakaba’s point of view as a spider in the caves; and the story of her “lucky” classmates who have largely managed to meet up with one another.
By the end of the third episode, we only get a small look at the more normal students. Among the group, only one has been unlucky enough to be reborn as a monster; but even then at least it’s a young earth dragon and not a spider.
Either way, Wakaba is the main focus of the story and her scenes contain most of the conventional isekai themes. It’s her growth that we follow: the skills she acquires, the experience she gains, the level ups she receives. That’s where a lot of the interest comes from in this series, Wakaba’s growth as a spider monster.
For instance when she reaches level 10 she’s presented with a choice in her evolutionary path; a choice that is likely to come up again the next time she reaches level 10. Watching her make these choices and grow while overcoming difficult challenges is the core of this series.
There’s a lot of conventional isekai tropes here but with the monster spin popularized by TenSura. But with an anime featuring a skill-slinging spider, it’s a regrettable truth that it would be difficult to animate.
So let’s discuss the visuals of So I’m a Spider, So What?, and to put it bluntly they’re disappointing. The main protagonist is basically fully 3D animated, alongside most monsters. Exceptions to the animation are mostly humans and some background effects.
Which makes sense, Millepensee is the studio that did the 3D Berserk anime afterall. But being known for something that looks shoddy is not really an excuse for continuing the trend of shoddy 3D animation.
The 3D would be more acceptable if it was consistent. The studio tries too hard to simulate slime or texture. Wakaba has a fairly consistent shape and her 3D model doesn’t clash with the environment.
On the other hand, there’s frog monsters and a mature Earth Dragon who look entirely out of place. Their animations are low FPS and they look less detailed than the environment; as if they were expecting the design of the creature to compensate for a lack of quality.
What is 2D animated is passable, but unfortunately makes the 3D animation all the more jarring when contrasting with it. I’d almost sooner they did the entire show in 3D, because no matter how bad Millepensee can get; it literally cannot be worse than Crunchyroll’s Ex-Arm.
The visual effects of Wakaba reading her skill menus is nifty, but also goes so fast that I can only assume native Japanese speakers can read in Japanese faster than I can in English because some of these menus travel fast.
Admittedly, there’s some humorous use of the character models. One scene has Wakaba considering the frog monsters while she conjures a mental image of one dancing like a person. So even though the model is silly, it seems the studio is at least self-aware about it.
Moving onto the sound design, combat is filled with a bunch of stock sound effects but they’re used effectively to give impact to many of the blows. Especially the sound it makes when Wakaba bites into the throat of an enemy monster.
Speaking of Wakaba, Aoi Yuuki absolutely carries the show as her VA. Yuuki is largely known for her roles as Tooru in A-Channel, Tsuyu Asui in My Hero Academia, and Madoka in Mahou Shojou Madoka Magica among others.
Wakaba’s scenes are entirely filled with either fighting, or Wakaba’s internal monologue as voiced by Yuuki. It’s not a stretch to say that half the show is Wakaba talking to herself and Yuuki manages to fill that role without getting boring or tedious, every moment she sounds immersed in her character and involved in the scene.
The opening theme is Keep Weaving Your Spider Way by Riko Azuna and is a pretty catchy song once you get passed the heavy metal instrumental around the opening and the awkward pause immediately afterward.
The ending theme is Ganbare! Kumoko-san’s Theme (Kumoko is how Wakaba is referred to sometimes, using the kanji for Spider and Child). The theme is performed by Aoi Yuuki herself and accurately reflects Wakaba’s bouts of manic internal monologuing. It’s a fun and appropriate little song that captures the humor of the series.
Ultimately, So I’m a Spider, So What? is a series that will only really appeal to fans of the manga or light novel already. The 3D animation will alienate most isekai fans that would give it a chance, while its heavy reliance on isekai tropes will alienate other fans.
While the series is witty, well-voiced, and the 3D animation kind of grows on you, it’s ultimately too weird to really escape its niche in any meaningful way. If you like the manga, go ahead and give this a watch. If you haven’t read the manga, you’re better off reading that instead.