Never has a post-apocalyptic story been so fluffy.
GIANT SPIDER & ME: A POST-APOCALYPTIC TALE (Owari Nochi, Asanagi Kurashi), by Kikori Morino. First published in 2016 and first published in North America in 2018.
Not far from the ruins of a city lives 12-year-old Nagi. For the last few years, she's been waiting for her wandering father to return. She passes her days by gathering food and cooking, but she longs for company. She just so happens to discover a giant spider in the woods one day with a gentle (if skittish) nature and a taste for home-cooked food. She takes it in, names it Asa, and enjoy happy times until a strange visitor shows up at Nagi's door.
Despite what its subtitle might suggest, this is not a story about disaster. If anything, it's closer in both content and tone to something like Sweetness and Lightning. It's basically a cooking manga! It just so happens to be a cooking manga featuring a table-sized arachnid.
Like a lot of the more slice-of-life-style cooking manga, Giant Spider & Me is very gentle and rhythmic. Most the chapters revolve around a recipe (and like all good cooking manga, it gives the reader a recipe to follow). The only thing that changes are the events around the cooking. Sometimes the chapter is about Nagi gathering an ingredient; other times she and Asa are heading out to some location to eat. Even then, Morino makes sure to shake up that formula at times by intruding outside figures to Nagi and Asa's cozy little corner of the world. That being said, it is awful convenient that this apocalypse never seems to leave her wanting for things like coffee or olive oil. It's hard to say at this point if it's laziness on the part of the mangaka or something to suggest that the world beyond Nagi's doorstep isn't a Fist of the North Star-style wasteland.
Also like a lot of cooking manga, the cooking ties in to the larger themes of forging and maintaining relationships through food. With Asa around, Nagi is no longer lonely and bored. She has an excuse to go out into the world again for something beyond sustenance. She has something to focus on other than her daily routine and her missing dad. As for Asa, it's basically a giant pet (albeit one with a distressing large and point mouth) and it seems to be enjoying Nagi's company as well.
Of course, this idyllic interlude can't last forever. In the back of my mind, I sometimes wondered why Nagi continued to live alone instead of heading to the nearby village she mentions. She doesn't have to wander far to find the remains of "modern" civilization, and at the end of the volume we see how her trusting nature and innocence can get her in trouble (or at least a cliffhanger). Still, it's those darker elements that give this otherwise wholesome series its own unique flavor.
Morino's art adds to the gentle tone of the story. The watercolor art is soft and inviting. The same goes for Nagi's well-kept cottage and the woods around her, to say nothing of the dishes that Nagi makes. The panelling is simple and efficient. That being said, the real marvel here is Asa. It's no small feat to take something like a spider and make it cute, but I think Morino succeeds quite well. She makes it fuzzy to soften the harsher lines of its exoskeleton, to say nothing of Asa's foliage-covered thorax. Its legs are more rubbery than spindly. Its facial features are simplified and the large be-fanged mouth is certainly less daunting than your traditional mandible. Honestly, it reminds me of nothing so much as a Fizzgig, and who doesn't love Fizzgig?
This series is published by Seven Seas. This series is complete with 3 volumes. All 3 have been published and are currently in print.