Okay, so you thought the last thing I read was a little weird.
Let me tell you, folks, Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale might actually take the blue ribbon for weird.
Like, I don’t know, I was good with the idea of a quiet friendship with picnics and a whole lot of just living life in an ‘after the fall’ world, even when one of the friends was a giant hairy spider with a half-dozen eyes, creepy tentacles, and too many teeth—until I hit the first recipe.
Suddenly, I’m like, wait, wait, WAIT…. this is also a FOODIE manga?????
Then, I looked up from the book, clutched it to my chest, and whispered to myself: “This just got super-AWESOME.”
Here’s the bad news first: from what I can tell, no one is currently scanlating this amazing bit of weirdness.
I’m super, duper sad about this, because volume one ends on a serious cliffhanger. I’m going to ask my library to get this in the hopes that they will continue to buy the volumes as they come out (so I don’t have to. Admittedly, I just up an bought this one for actual money… it was kind of an accident? It was just that when I read the description of this, I was so enchanted, I HAD to have it.)
Okay, so what can I tell you about this manga?
Our hero is a twelve year-old girl named Nagi. Nagi lives on her own in a big house in the woods. Her father used to live with her, but according to Nagi, Dad has a bit of wanderlust and just leaves her on her own for months at a time. He apparently used to send seed back from his travels (they have a massive garden), but he… stopped.
Savvy readers are already thinking: Oh, Nagi. Your papa is DEAD.
But, who knows? I mean, after all, what happens next is that Nagi stumbles across a giant spider… and befriends it. At first, she sees this thing and thinks “Eek!” and tries to run and hide.
LIKE YOU DO WHEN YOU MEET A SPIDER THE SIZE OF A CAR.
But, you know, spider is kind of cute in its own way, and is clearly scared of her, too, and… a little lonely.
Spider follows Nagi home and she tries to feed it. At no point does she look around for a giant fly or anything like that, but instead tries all sorts of human food on it. The spider doesn’t much care for anything she has in her pantry, but when she makes pumpkin-stuffed dumplings for herself, the spider LOVES this… and her cooking.
Real spiders are scary enough. Did you have to add the extra row of internal teeth, sensei?
Such begins their lives together.
Nagi names the spider ‘Asa,’ because she met it (them, the manga uses they/them) in the morning. She spends some time reading up on spiders, trying to figure out how to communicate better with Asa. It’s all to no avail, but they clearly have a bond, anyway.
It’s the food.
We know from all of these manga about cooking and eating that if you take the time to make someone good food and then share it with them, that’s about the purest expression of love there is. Cooking and eating good food makes a family.
(I despair for any Japanese people out there who are terrible cooks. I mean, if I grew up reading these kind of manga and my parent or my partner was shitty at making food or too harried to anything but throw in pre-made, pre-packaged food into the oven, I might seriously think: YOU DON’T LOVE ME.)
Luckily, this is not Nagi’s problem. She’s an excellent cook, and she’ll happily talk you through any recipe you–or your mutant spider companion!–might possibly want.
Things go along like this until a stranger arrives at the door. The first person to show up is actually not scary, but then….
That’s where the volume ends.
The things I kind of love about this manga beyond the cooking and the recipes are: the mystery of what the spider is. When the kindly stranger shows up, he’s very, “Uh, are we sure your friend is a spider? I mean… extra teeth?????” and, okay, so even if this is a mutated regular spider there’s a kind of intelligence there you wouldn’t necessarily expect from an arachnid. And, then there’s how… lonely the spider is. Is it just another victim of the apocalypse that destroyed the cities–if so, why does the spider seemed shocked to see the submerged city? Why does it like homemade human food? Was it once human? Or… given the prehensile tentacle are we sure the “spider” is… shall we say, native? Perhaps the sudden destruction of humanity had some extraterrestrial help….
Which might explain the guy in the gas-mask at the end who calls Nagi and her spider-friend “monsters.”
We’ll see, because I’m definitely tuning in for more of this one.
I mean, if nothing else, for the recipes.