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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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!

~~~~~~~~~~~~

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?

Infinite Dendrogram Overview (Volumes 1-9)

Welcome to my first “serious” blog post on Weeb Revues. Today, I’m starting with one of the best and most underrated light novels on the market, Infinite Dendrogram, published in English by J-Novel Club. This is an overview of volumes 1-9.

Infinite Dendrogram is truly a case of not judging a book by its cover. At first glance, it looks like a shameless knockoff of Sword Art Online, complete with an overpowered protagonist and a harem. However, there’s actually a lot more substance and personality in Dendro.

The first thing that makes this no ordinary light novel is the concept revolving around the titular VRMMORPG, Infinite Dendrogram. The game is probably the most advanced application of VR ever; unlike what was essentially a JRPG but with the VR gimmick, Dendro is programmed to feel like a REAL world (in a way that’s more substantiated than in SAO‘s Alicization Arc). The NPC’s, called tians, have no idea that Dendro is an RPG, and the existence of human players- masters- is programmed into the game’s lore. The tians are all dynamically programmed to live and grow like real people, and actual history takes place within Dendro completely out of devs’ control. The other thing about tians is that they permanently die if destroyed. This isn’t like your JRPG where you can get that quest to find medicine for some girl’s grandma early on, forget about it, then remember 50 hours later and it’s all fine. In Dendro, that girl’s grandma is dead, and furthermore, that girl will hate you for your neglect.

The other important aspect of Dendro is the Embryo system. Along with the traditional job system of most JRPGs, you have Embryos, which are basically Stands from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in Dendro form. When Embryos hatch, their appearance, and abilities are based on the personality of its user and their preferred battle style. Unfortunately, the golden rule of Embryos is that there are no rules. This aspect will probably be a turn off to a lot of people. However, look at these positives: 1) No creative restrictions means an “infinite” variety of abilities and battles, and 2) The Embryos at least behave within their own individual rules once established… for the most part. Embryos also have several stages of evolution that can happen anytime and with unpredictable results. This system was basically put in to give the author several justifiable ass-pulls whenever the main protagonist is thrust into a scenario that they cannot power out of with what they have.

However, more often than not, the fights in Dendro are actually some of the most legitimate and “videogamey” out of any fights I’ve seen in light novels. The author’s prose makes them impactful and thrilling. Furthermore, fights rely more so on preparation and knowledge of game mechanics than good ol’ nakama power.

If there is any flaw with the writing, it is the fact that there are a lot of exposition dumps. In fact, a lot of them happen right in the heat of battle, and some of them are entire flashbacks of stuff. However, unlike SAO, these dumps are much shorter and more engaging, and actually, have plot relevance to the story, or at least explain characters’ abilities.

This is all well and good, but what keeps making me come back to Dendro is its surprisingly varied cast. However, the worst character is, sadly, its main protagonist, Mukudori Reiji, known in-game as Ray Starling. He’s about as Gary-Stu-Goody-Two-Shoes as it gets. Dendro tries to justify it by having characters make fun of him for doing things as stupid as trying to save a girl at Level 0; so weak that brushing up against someone almost killed his avatar. But even then, it gets old, especially after his reaction to an overly obvious reveal in volume 9.

The real color is in literally everybody else. From Ray’s pun-making brother, Shu, to his maiden-type Embryo, Nemesis, this thing has got some characters with great personalities. I don’t want to talk about anyone else due to spoilers, but they’re just so lovable. Dendro also does a great job of building up to characters. Most of the cast of characters are alluded to early on, as opposed to having them show up for the first time with no context while the main character gets chastised for not knowing about someone SO FAMOUS, which makes the world feel that much more organic.

The last aspect of Dendro is the art. I’m not going to be talking about the art much for light novels because it’s not that important; however, I can at least give a brief blurb about it. The art is neat and stylistic, but there is still better LN art elsewhere.
~~~~~
Verdict: 9/10

Overall, Infinite Dendrogram is an incredible light novel series, and I recommend it to anyone trying to get into light novels; EVEN Sword Art Online‘s critics.

This marks the end of my first blog entry on Weeb Revues. How was this first review? Sorry it was overly long, but there was a lot of ground to cover in this one.