Ascendance of a Bookworm

Ascendance of a Bookworm

Ascendance of a Bookworm anime series cover art
Ascendance of a Bookworm

Overview

Ascendance of a Bookworm (Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen / 本好きの下剋上 ~司書になるためには手段を選んでいられません~) is an isekai anime based on a light novel, if you couldn’t tell by the insane length of the Japanese title. It’s also rated extremely high on MAL for whatever reason.

My best guess is the same people who liked TenSura and Dr. Stone are the ones who also like this series. But even that doesn’t make much sense. Sure, they’re all isekai about someone creating things, but Ascendance of a Bookworm doesn’t have any of the action the other two series have.

This time around we have a female main character who has been reincarnated into a world without books. And, since she loves books more than anything else in the world, she decides to make her life’s goal finding (or creating) books to read.

That’s basically the entire premise of the anime. It introduces some other potentially interesting concepts, such as mana which manifests as dōjutsu like in Naruto, but so far that hasn’t really been explored. But even if it is eventually explored, I don’t see why it really matters.

Mana was basically introduced into the series as a way to push Myne, the protagonist, along her journey to find books. However, she was already on that path, so mana doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It felt more like there was mana just because the series would have been too plain without it — but it still doesn’t add anything.

Oh, and despite this being a fantasy world, there are surprisingly few fantasy elements. There’s mana (barely) and some sort of fantasy plant, but that’s it.

Characters

Looking at the character list, this series actually had a lot more characters than I was thinking. However, most of them simply play support roles, like Myne’s entire family.

Myne is the main character of the series who was reincarnated in this bookless world. However, to say that she was reincarnated isn’t entirely accurate. Yes, she died, but she wasn’t reborn, or even really transported into this other world. Instead, she awoke within the body of a young girl who had recently died in her sleep.

This also means that Myne isn’t really the main character’s name. For all practical purposes it is, because Myne is the name of the girl whose identity she’s taken over, but her original name was Urano Motosu.

And, this body which now belongs to Myne (Urano), is very sickly. The previous host of this body died due to her illness, and it appears that Myne could share the same fate.

Myne and Turi being carried by their dad from the anime series Ascendance of a Bookworm
Myne and Turi being carried by their dad

The other major character is Lutz, Myne’s best friend. I don’t think their ages were ever stated, but Lutz is either the same age as Myne or just slightly older. However, what’s interesting about that is they’re about the same size, despite it being stated that Myne is small for her age due to her illness.

Lutz comes from a family of craftsmen, but his dream is to become a merchant. This dream isn’t something his family supports, because as they explain it, merchants don’t have a set home. The goal of most merchants is to make enough money to open their own shop and become a craftsman.

Are There Books or Not?

Ascendance of a Bookworm is a bit strange in how it handles the existence of books, and writing in general. When Myne first enters this world, there’s actually no writing at all, let alone books.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate; there are books and writing, the series just makes it seem like there aren’t. Within her family’s home there’s no writing to be found, and her family doesn’t even know what a book is. Further, even when Myne goes to the market, there’s no writing in sight.

However, it’s also in the market where Myne gets her first glimpse of a book. And this is when she learns that books are extremely rare and valuable in this world — only the nobles can afford them.

Chibi Myne from the anime series Ascendance of a Bookworm
Chibi Myne

Now, I’m not saying that the fact that books are relegated to the noble class (and the church) is strange. That actually was the case back when books were made of vellum and not paper. No, the issue is the fact that at the beginning of the series nobody seems to understand what writing and books are.

As I mentioned, Myne’s family doesn’t know what books are at the beginning of the series, and I’m pretty sure they were oblivious about writing as well. However, we later learn that Myne’s dad is an officer with the town guard, and all soldiers are taught how to read and write so they can make reports.

In fact, despite reading not being a requirement for the majority of people in this society, it turns out there are actually a lot of people who can. So why was writing such a mysterious thing at the beginning of the series? Was it just to set up the idea that Myne is going to have to work for her books?

Conclusion

Despite what the aggregate score on MAL will tell you, Ascendance of a Bookworm is actually a 5/10. The beginning of the series is extremely slow and doesn’t have much going on, so I originally had it down at a 3. But as the series progresses and we meet more characters and learn more about the world, it becomes bearable.

As for the OP and ED, they’re not the best. The OP song did grow on me over the course of the season, but the visuals aren’t really anything special. And the ED song and visuals are both just alright.

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I’ve started doing weekly episode reviews of Ascendance of a Bookworm season 2. My review of the first episode is available here.

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