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Review: ‘Giant Spider & Me’ Vol. 1

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Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale Vol. 1
Writer/artist: Kikori Morino
Seven Seas Entertainment; $12.99
Teen

Kikori Morino’s Giant Spider & Me is a manga series about a lonely young girl who befriends a giant mutant spider sometime after the end of life on Earth as we know it.

It’s a cooking manga.

giantspider1-cover-FRONTThat both of those things are true is, of course, a great source of the book’s appeal. The girl is Nagi, who lives all alone in a small house in the mountains. Her father has gone off, as he often does, although this time he’s been gone far longer than usual. The state of the rest of the world is only really hinted at in this volume, when we see a flooded city in the valley below. And then there’s the presence of that giant spider, which is unlike any species of real spider, and not simply in its titanic size.

Nagi is a talented cook, but she has no one to cook for, as we see when she makes breakfast in the first chapter, setting the meal out for two people and imagining her father across the table from her. When she goes out to work her little farm and finds a large pumpkin, she also finds Asa.

That’s the name she gives the giant spider. Something of a triumph of design, Asa is both horrible and cute at the same time—although I say “cute” as someone who doesn’t personally have an issue with spiders; I am curious about what the more spider-phobic might think of Asa. The creature, for whom Nagi uses they/them pronouns, is perhaps as big as a very small car. They carry themselves close to the ground on four pairs of big, thick, fuzzy legs, and their body is divided into two sections: a larger back part covered with leaves, and a huge, shaggy head. The face consists of eight huge, blank black orbs of eyes, all lined up in a row, and an even larger row of gigantic teeth. Extra limbs of some sort are tucked under their head; these are either a more versatile, longer form of leg, or a tentacle or…something; Asa uses these as their hands, and the limbs only emerge from under their head when they need to hold or manipulate something.

Not unlike the puppy they behave like, Asa follows the understandably terrified Nagi home and, when she notices their gurgling stomach—entomologists beware, this this manga is not 100% scientifically accurate in its depiction of spiders—she begins presenting them with food. Nothing will do, however, until she sets about making something from the large pumpkin they found together.

Announcing each step as she cooks, as if to Asa, she prepares pumpkin dumplings over the course of five pages, the final one mostly filled by a large splash panel of the finished dish, a more exact list of ingredients appearing beneath the image.

Having bonded over cooking and sharing a meal together, the pair become friends, and Nagi asks Asa to move in with her. Each following chapter also includes a recipe, more or less embedded into the narrative so as to feel organic to the proceedings: Nagi decides to take her new friend on a picnic and must thus prepare food for it, she makes them cafe au laits to perk them up in order to clean a particularly big mess (only to discover caffeine is a bit like alcohol to giant spiders) and, in the final chapter, a peddler arrives at their doorstep in a rain storm, and she makes him turnip soup to warm him up.

While there is a charming coziness to Nagi’s day-to-day domestic life, particularly after she adds her unusual new housemate to her household, there is genuine drama to the proceedings, born of Nagi’s father’s absence, the dangers of the post-apocalyptic world and a perhaps predictable but intense cliffhanger ending, wherein a stranger sees the two together and assumes the worst of Asa, judging them by their rather monstrous-looking looks.

Morino also manages a great deal of humor throughout. There’s not just the tension of the premise, in which a gigantic spider becomes something between a pet and a best friend to a little girl devoted to the domestic arts—although that never manages to get amusing throughout the first volume—but also Asa’s continual surprise and wonderment at Nagi’s world and the everyday objects within it.

The book likely won’t make a reader wish for a giant spider of their own, but it is a pretty eloquent argument for the value of friendship and a reminder that no matter how different two people might seen, all they need is to find the thing they have in common to unite them.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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