Ascendance of a Bookworm – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: Avid bookworm and college student Motosu Urano ends up dying in an unforeseen accident. This came right after the news that she would finally be able to work as a librarian like she had always dreamed of. When she regained consciousness, she was reborn as Myne, the daughter of a poor soldier. She was in the town of Ehrenfest, which had a harsh class system. But as long as she had books, she didn’t really need anything else. However, books were scarce and belonged only to the nobles. But that doesn’t stop her, so she makes a decision… “If there aren’t any books, I’ll just create some.” (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (7 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Bookworm’s 1st episode was a tad wonky. Our introduction to Myne (Or Main as the subtitles spell it) didn’t really work as a way of sucking the viewer in. But we stuck with the series because despite an uneven first episode, Bookworm promised a unique take on the Isekai genre, one where Main’s goal isn’t to slay some demon king or survive as the villainness of some Otome game, but rather simply to feed her addiction to books and print media, by ultimately bringing mass produced books to this less advanced world. Ascendance of a Bookworm improves dramatically because of this focus, and by Episode 7 marks itself as one of the falls absolute top offerings.
Linny: Ascendance of a Bookworm is definitely one of the more unique anime to emerge this season and for more reasons than one. Not only does it have a female lead in an isekai setting, once an extreme rarity, now a growing trend, it also spends a lot of time focused on her very early years. 7 episodes in and our heroine isn’t even 7 years old yet! Not only that, isekai with female protagonists in manga and anime are usually about a girl finding herself in an otome game world as the villainness and then having to find a way to avoid setting off their death flag ending. But in this case, Main/Urano (her original name before coming to inhabit the body of a sickly young girl) is just the daughter of a lowly soldier whose one and only goal is finding a way to make books and literature more accessible for herself. While she does seem to have a male friend who might be nursing a soft spot for her, romance is the last thing on her mind.
Tom: Main’s efforts to craft books, or paper being the first step, form the backbone of Bookworm’s focus. Other elements and side plots crop up, like ongoings with Main’s family, a subtle romance plot, and even suspicions about Main’s true identity as friends start to wonder how this little girl knows so much. But the primary focus is on Main’s efforts to create a new age of mass produced print media, all to feed her bookworm tendencies. What’s great about this focus is how up and down her journey is, met with constant set back and redoubling of efforts to keep the light level of drama always surging along. Bookworm nails the balance between Slice of Life and the dramatic, keeping things easy going enough for fans of slower, calmer shows, without removing the drama entirely. It’s a tough balance to strike and too often series remove so much drama that only the most ardent of Slice of Life fans are still enthralled. Here the balance is perfect and makes Bookworm a fun and engaging series to wind down with, without degrading into pure, lifeless fluff.
Linny: The show does such a great job of setting Main up as a competent and smart lead, while also balancing her out with challenges and failures. This not only keeps the story interesting but makes her feel like a convincing and sympathetic character. Her extreme frustration and reaction to some of the failures she faces are never portrayed as unreasonable and are actually justified since the show takes the time to show us how much effort she has had to put into these things, only to sometimes then see her efforts ruined by those close to her.
Tom: Ascendance of a Bookworm does a remarkable job of blending Isekai with Slice of Life, managing to position itself as the most inventive Isekai this season, if not perhaps this year, while also acting as a Slice of Life that strikes that perfect balance between fluff and light drama. Honestly Bookworm is quickly becoming my top Fall anime, only challenged by Stars Align (More on that series next week.) If you’re looking for a new take on Isekai, with only a tinge of drama, Bookworm is perfect for you.
Linny: I have to admit I was extremely underwhelmed by the first episode of Bookworm and thus would like to ask anyone interested but turned off by episode 1 to at least give the show one more episode. Once we are past the somewhat lacklustre start, the story really picks up and treats the audience to a rather unique mix of isekai, slice of life and even semi-educational content. Yes, this is mainly about Main’s pursuit of bringing cheap and affordable literature and books into this medieval period town but the show adds a lot of flavour to her journey. I would also like to point out that the show seems to be intentionally leaving the true nature of Main/Urano’s reincarnation ambiguous. All we know for sure is that Urano woke up in the body of 5 year old Main one day. The show drops hints every now and then about how or why this happened and adds a layer of mystery to this otherwise slice of life like tale. All together, these various components come together to form a rather unusual show that’s definitely worth a try for anyone seeking a slow paced story with a likeable young female lead and a one of a kind premise.
Ascendance of a Bookworm is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.