This is my first volume-by-volume review of a light novel series. Therefore, this review will be much shorter and simpler than the review of Dendro.
It seems you can’t be a member of an online anime community without coming across heated discussion over the quality of the isekai genre. Particularly the relatively new trend of fantasy isekai that have been the subject of controversy due to a one-dimensional, overpowered male protagonist, flanked by dozens of one-dimensional cute girls. A lot of isekai, such as Overlord and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, do try to subvert the established tropes of the genre, but end up falling right back into the rut. However, Ascendance of a Bookworm– published in English by J-Novel Club- might actually have succeeded.
The premise for this series is simple. A bookworm named Urano gets crushed under a collapsing shelf of books and dies. She is reincarnated as Myne, a sickly little girl living in- surprise, surprise- a fantasy world. The catch is that her family has no books because they’re poor, and thus she resolves to make books herself with what little resources she has.
Right out of the gate, it is impossible not to notice the almost complete lack of modern isekai’s tropes. I’ll list off some examples.
First, the setting is REALISTIC. Similar to actual ancient civilizations, commoners don’t just lack money, but also education and health. Myne is constantly getting sick all the time, plus nobles are the only ones who actually know how to read and write. I’ll admit that there really isn’t much consequence to being poor in most other fantasies; it’s just a means of mass appeal, if anything. But here, it’s the entire crux of the main conflict.
Second, the main character can fail. Although she is technically still overpowered due her retaining her modern knowledge, she has trouble trying to create makeshift writing materials. Plus, her frail body makes it all the more difficult.
Third, there is almost no sexualization at all. Almost. There is no fanservice or ecchi as of volume 1. However, Myne does have sort of a reverse harem in the form of these three boys that she’s friends with. Since they’re kids at this point, there is zero sexual tension between them. But zero sexual tension has not stopped any fandom’s overly active imagination before and it probably won’t now.
As far as the overarching narrative goes, there really isn’t much to say except for the epilogue. There is a development brought up in the epilogue that causes a huge tonal shift. Whatever it is, it seems like nothing more than shock value. But hey, this is only volume 1.
My biggest problem with modern isekai in general has always been the abundance of boring characters. I don’t mean one-dimensional, I just mean boring. That also includes characters who are very chill and behave like regular people. In Bookworm‘s case, that’s almost the entire cast of characters. Myne is the only exception. Due to Urano maintaining her teenage brain, she still has that sass when she’s reborn as Myne. She’s very driven and diligent, and her exasperation when things don’t go her way actually feels fun to read. The others, however, are very down-to-earth to the point of being wholly unremarkable. I can’t really describe them other than that they’re just normal, average Joes. There is appeal to characters like this, but they’re just not my type.
The art is pretty average too. It’ll probably be leagues better than the anime, as you’d expect, but most other light novel illustrators have this one beat.
Depending on how you feel about the isekai genre as a whole, you will probably know right away if you like Bookworm or not. Once I upload more reviews, you will see that I can enjoy “traditional” modern isekai at times. So… I feel a bit mixed about this for now. It’s pretty charming to say the least.
Although this one isn’t quite my cup of tea, I’ll at least finish the first arc of the story. However, before I do… if you’ve been following English light novel releases, then you know what just launched today. Expect a review of THAT to be dispatched this Saturday!
Anime Reception Prediction: Divisive
I’m new to this blog thing, so I’m trying stuff out. Since this light novel’s anime adaptation is coming out next month, I thought I’d try to predict what the anime community will think about the adaptation when it airs. Although I have no proof of the following claim, I was VERY accurate in predicting the reaction to Goblin Slayer after reading the novels.
Bookworm, due to how much the source material deviates from isekai tropes, seems like an anime that will be mostly ignored by the general community but loved by a small circle of people who resent a lot of the isekai that end up becoming the most popular anime of a given season. This will probably cause a bigger fight between the general community and critics than ever before due to how different it is.
What do you think about the idea of me predicting the community’s reception to upcoming anime? What do you think will happen when the anime airs next month?