Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 3 Review

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Last time, on Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 2, Myne and Lutz get their job with the merchant, Benno. They use magic to sign a contract allowing them to mass produce paper and for him to sell it at whatever price he wants. Meanwhile, Myne also establishes a market for the shampoo and hairpin that she made for her sister, Tuuli. Myne meets the guildmaster’s granddaughter, Freida, and learns of the Devouring, the disease that she herself has. However, the cost of the cure is great, so she’ll need to really earn those fat stacks. Lutz finds out that Myne is possessed by another person, but it bizarrely doesn’t lead to any quarrels between the two. The two kids are taught valuable lessons about advanced economics, and things are overall looking great for their future. This is the perfect time for an arbitrary tone shift (i.e. Myne’s disease overtakes her, and Lutz is alone)!

I never understood why some feel-good, low-stake slice-of-lifes tend to have a sudden turn for the dramatic that ends just as suddenly. Bookworm proves to have no tension as Myne is immediately nursed back to health thanks to Freida. It is a temporary fix, but do you REALLY expect Myne to actually get killed off? Fortunately, Bookworm at least makes the Devouring itself a very important factor in the narrative for this arc, which is a pleasant surprise.

Speaking of important factors in the narrative, I must apologize and redact my statement in the volume 2 review about the magic being frivolous, at least in the case of the contract. The nature of the magic contract versus a regular contract is actually examined here and proves to be VERY valuable information in the story. I also must redact my statement of the side stories not being plot relevant, because the author states in the afterword, that the side stories (at least the ones that take up a WHOLE THIRD of this volume) WILL be plot relevant. This is just one of those consequences of doing a review volume-by-volume.

As far as character development does, Myne is kind of growing on me a little. I don’t think she’s fangush-worthy amazing, but I do like her, especially when she compares the culture of Bookworm‘s world to that of Japan’s. I guess you can call me out for being on the receiving end of pandering, but I literally have been researching Japanese culture very extensively lately. On the flipside, viewers who don’t know much about Japanese culture- or get the reference to a certain location in Japan- will probably find her commentary as boring as the usual exposition dump. But in my case, that particular chapter of the story would’ve been forty times more boring without it.

Meanwhile, Lutz is shaping up to be a real good kid. I’m not hemming and hawing over him, but I can definitely see why people in general would. He’s real devoted to his dream of becoming a merchant, in his own right, in that pure-hearted, childish, battle shounen protagonist way. I personally prefer a number of actual battle shounen protagonists over him, but I at least don’t resent him.

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Verdict: 7.6/10

This concludes the first arc of Ascendance of a Bookworm. It’s definitely much better than I expected it to be, as I’m not a big fan of these more low-key series. It’s definitely the characters. I don’t get the appeal of characters who feel like just regular ol’ Joes. I’d rather have characters with more bombastic personalities. However, Bookworm is still looking to be one of the better chill series out there.

However, I need to warn you. I only have so much money to buy books, and only so much time. The latter is the real issue. SO much crap is coming out from Kodansha, Yen Press, Seven, and some newer publishers such as Sol Press already, and J-Novel Club has just opened the door even wider, which I freakin’ LOVE them for. But, there’s only so much TIME to actually read stuff. If I have to pick and choose between what to prioritize, then Bookworm will be among the first to go. I can damn well try to cover as much stuff as possible, but I can’t promise anything!

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 2 Review

Cover of volume 2

Last time on Ascendance of a Bookworm, Motosu Urano is killed in a collapsing heap of books, and reborn as a frail child, named Myne, in a startlingly realistic fantasy world. Her family is poor, and thus without the ability to read, write, and own books. After a number of failed attempts to make some paper, she at least succeeds in making shampoo, and that lands her a job working for a bigshot merchant with her friend (read as: future love interest), Lutz. However, magic is in this world apparently? And Myne is slowly dying of some kind of magic deficiency disease? Wow, that came out of left field.

The story is at least picking up in this volume now that we’ve established all the major aspects of Bookworm. The series gains a Spice and Wolf-y atmosphere in this volume when she has to start negotiating with Benno, her new supervisor, and deal with her first clients. However, the economics course isn’t as… er… dense as it was in Spice and Wolf.

As opposed to volume 1, we have magic properly contextualized during this volume. However, this instance seems like the first real use of traditional isekai tropes. Most magic in isekai- and modern fantasy- is kind of just an excuse to justify having inconsistent world logic (I, for the record, am fine with that as long as the end result is entertaining). The issue with it in Bookworm is that it seems frivolous. Since this world has already been established as perfectly realistic, there’s no need to make a magic system in the first place. So far, the magic in this world is used to do various tasks that could be just as easily accomplished with the actual technology of the time, such as signing a contract. It seems to have been made just to look cool, and for shock value in the case of Myne’s affliction. Speaking of said affliction, it doesn’t take long for Myne to find out about in this volume, due to her meeting with a rich guy’s granddaughter, so Bookworm isn’t going to do one of those dramatic-irony-cringe things this time.

In other news, we get some interesting developments with Myne and Lutz. Lutz actually starts to notice that his friend is not actually the original person, but possessed by someone else. However, it ends up not being as big of a deal as it’s made out to be.

The last thing to note is that the side stories are so far proving to be wholly irrelevant. I never talked about the side stories in the first volume because of this. They show some other POVs outside of Myne, but a lot of them happen out of sequence from the main plot and are confusing, as opposed to Infinite Dendrogram or DanMachi where they actually introduce new, plot-relevant characters and actually effect the main plot. You can read the side stories if you’re really into Bookworm, but otherwise they seem pretty meh.

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Verdict: 7.25/10

Things are picking up now that we’ve established all of the ground rules. However, I still don’t see it as the “end all, be all” isekai. So far, it’s turning out to be a quaint, chill series.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Volume 1 Review

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.

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Verdict: 7/10

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!

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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?