Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale Volumes 1 & 2
In Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale, Kikori Morino has assembled some never-fail elements — chipper girl surviving in terrible circumstances that are only hinted at, weird but adorable pet, charming domestic activities — into an odd, only-in-manga mix that brings out a smile.
The cheery Nagi lives by herself in the mountains. She says hi to the birds as she heads out to gather vegetables and dreams of what she can make from her garden. Then she encounters a giant spider — although it’s furrier and chunkier than what we usually think of as an insect.
It follows her home, and she feeds it, which is the beginning of their cohabitation. Her father had gone traveling, and it’s been a while since he’s been home, so she can use the company. Although Asa (as she calls it) isn’t verbal, there are signs of intelligence there, and it certainly appreciates her cooking. I appreciated seeing Asa help with the preparation, such as when it grates vegetables for her.
Each chapter is titled after an action and a recipe, such as “Unexpected Visitors & Warm Turnip Soup”. And Nagi narrates what she’s doing, such that a reader could follow along and make one of her homey recipes, which include ratatouille, pumpkin dumplings, and a cafe latte.
Morino does a wonderful job conveying the pastoral beauty of a lonely country setting. Nagi’s drawn a bit cartoony, which helps her match with her giant monster friend, who’s more cuddly than I expected. But there are reminders that Asa can be scary, and I was touched by the section where Nagi accepts all sides of her new friend, wanting to learn about the whole being and figure out new ways to communicate.
Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale volume 2 explores how others would perceive Nagi’s friend. She meets a peddler and his daughter, who initially tries to protect them from the monster. But neighbors end up helping each other, particularly once they’ve shared some tasty fried tofu.
Then it’s time for a visit to the market for provisions and seeking out skilled help for repairs. Of course, Asa’s presence causes quite the uproar, but a smart elder shares Nagi’s skill with bringing people together over a meal. Nagi has also developed a human friend, with the daughter, Belle, complementing her personality. Where Nagi is warm and trusting, Belle is prickly, cautious, and sarcastic. Together they make a good team.
Morino is good with the cliffhangers. Book one ends with the potentially violent confrontation with the new neighbors, while this volume concludes with Nagi in danger, making me eager for the third (and I think, sadly, final) book, out in December. I kind of miss the quiet stories in the first book, with Nagi and Asa alone, but as in life, any enjoyable time like that is necessarily limited.