I first heard of Giant Spider and Me through my comments section. The title really grabbed my attention, and I knew I wanted to read it at some point.
Unfortunately, as it tends to happen to older manga that aren’t super well known, it was actually very difficult to find. But I finally got my hands on the three-volume set so now I’m going to tell you all about it.
Why I Picked up Giant Spider and Me
Not only is the tile cool but I also found out that it’s a post-apocalyptic slice of life. For some reason, I have a soft spot for that particular genre.
A WEB OF FRIENDSHIP A young girl named Nagi and a giant spider make an unusual pair in this post-apocalyptic story, but living in the mountains is lonely, and they’ve managed to find each other. Join them in their strangely sweet domestic bliss as they spend their days sharing tea and throwing picnics, proving that love (and delicious food) can bring together even the most unlikely of friends.
My First Impression
Oh yay – there are recipes!
What I liked
This is a rather unique post-apocalyptic universe. We never find out what actually happened but at some point, the world as we know it ceased to be. It’s recent too. Nagi either wasn’t born or was too young to remember but her father remembers clearly the times of huge cities and modern conveniences. However, civilization hasn’t fallen. Nagi lives close to a village that has a marketplace, in later volumes, there’s even a very inviting café restaurant which I would love to visit. Money still exists, Nagi mentions that they once received government rations and they still might for all I know. This isn’t the chaos and horror we’re used to seeing. It’s more like a setback. But there also seems to be a lot of kids without parents…
To me, this setting had something unique. It creates an interesting thought experiment by presenting us with a more rational “end” of the world. And it also really puts into context the little things we value. Nagi and Asa (the giant spider in question) exist in a world that is past having to worry about survival but not yet available for luxuries. But they have all the advantages of coming from a once advanced civilization. Tools, cooking techniques are widely known. Everyone can read and write. I don’t have a better way of putting it. It’s just an interesting setting.
Ultimately Giant Spider and Me is a feel-good story. It focuses on friendship and leaves you with a warm feeling in your belly. But here are these little edges of pain. When the story starts, 11-year-old Nagi lives alone. She mentioned her dad went off exploring and that she has stopped receiving news for a long time now. Longer than ever before. By the end of the story, there is still no news. She meets Belle who is close to her age and makes a good friend. Belle travels with her dad but there is no mom around. Everyone in this story has lost someone. It’s not clear when or how but the loss lingers.
On top of that Asa remains an unknown. There are hints throughout the books that as they grow up (Asa is a baby) they could become dangerous or at least no longer be realistically able to live with Nagi. So she might lose her one companion as well.
I appreciate this mix of realistic grief and dreamy optimism. I just described the sad bits but for most of the book, Nagi is cooking delicious meals to share with people that care about her. Or they discover a mysterious guy in a boat who happens to think Asa is the cutest thing in the world. Somehow things work out for the best even when it seems like they shouldn’t. But the bitterness that is present in the story makes the sweetness come out.
Maybe because Giant Spider and Me is only three volumes and there’s a lot to establish in that time, I found that the characters were just not developed enough for my tastes. I never really got attached to anyone just because I didn’t get to know them all that much. It’s not that they seem incomplete or shallow but, with the story being both short and in a slice of life format, no one really gets a true character arc.
This is my only complaint but it’s actually a pretty important one when it comes to this type of storytelling. Without that attachment to the characters, my investment in the story remained surface level. And I’m not going to necessarily recommend it to everyone I meet.
There is an undeniable charm to Giant Spider and Me. I think it truly shines in its setting and premise. However, I feel like a lot more could have been made of it. If it was easier to find, I would encourage anyone who was intrigued by the premise to give it a read. After all, it’s only three volumes. But I wouldn’t recommend spending too much on it or putting in a lot of time.
If they ever adapt it to a short anime, I will be enthusiastically watching. I think it could be a visually stunning piece and I have a feeling the story would work a bit better in anime form.