Many isekai lately have been trying- and failing- to have genuinely dark undertones. The most successful attempt thus far is probably Torture Princess. But as much of a masterpiece as it is in its own right, it is essentially a typical wish fulfillment fantasy with a slathering of blood on it. J-Novel Club has just published a new Overlord wannabe called Her Majesty’s Swarm. Will it be able to handle dark themes well? Let’s find out.
Her Majesty’s Swarm stars an unnamed girl who gets summoned to an alternate world. This world, similar to Overlord, behaves like her favorite MMO, which has players build armies and conquer their enemies. This girl is the queen of the evil Arachnea, a race of spiders that serve her.
So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm seems to be how I described it in the beginning: an Overlord wannabe. Instead of immediately launching a merciless world conquest, she decides to build her army “properly”. She negotiates with locals and only kills criminals. Fortunately, the spiders all share their thoughts with her, so she has no need to be Ainz, who must pretend to be evil in case his loyal minions stop being loyal even though their programmed to be that way.
But all that changes around the one-third mark. Certain individuals attack other certain individuals that she cares about, and as a result, she declares an all out war. Suddenly, she’s building an army with the express purpose of killing, murdering, and slaughtering. While the writing in the fight scenes aren’t as good as Overlord, it looks like it will at least be more consistent.
But like Overlord, the characters have a lot of room for improvement in the everything department. The Queen is definitely meant to be the fan favorite. While she is a very smart and cunning leader when it comes to RTS, her shift from a sympathetic queen who buries and mourns one dead spider to a heartless queen who doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice thousands of them is VERY out of left field. She also has an existential crisis somewhat similar to Ainz, in that she doesn’t know if her ambitions are her own or that of the Swarm’s eroding her conscience, but it becomes a non-issue pretty quickly.
The only other character worth mentioning is Serignan, a special type of spider with a human torso (and a female one of course). She’s about as loyal and bland as any of Ainz’s minions, and comes off as a knockoff of Hina from Torture Princess.
The art in Her Majesty’s Swarm is lacking. And by that, I mean literally lacking; there are no illustrations in this thing! The only artwork we get is the cover and a bare-bones basic map. The cover art has a nice desaturated color palette, and the honeycomb pattern in the background looks cool (even though she’s with spiders and not bees).
So far, Her Majesty’s Swarm is a decent enough slaughterfest. The story can go either way moving forward, so I’ll have to give it another volume before I really know what to think. You can read it if you like edgy fantasies, but something like Torture Princess beats this by a long shot.