Can I just say, as a fully confessed bibliophile, a world without books is the scariest thing I have ever heard of.
What’s the Story?
Motosu Urano loved books, so much so that she was confident she could deal with any situation as long as she had a book to hand. That’s a theory that is put to the test when she wakes up in a world were books are reserved for the rich and powerful, and she is currently inhabiting the body of a sickly peasant girl. With no other option available to her, Urano, now going by Myne, decides she will just have to make books of her own! Of course making books is no easy feat, especially in a medieval society where a lot of modern technology is a far off dream. Still, Myne is obsessed and with a little help from her friends and family she might just make it, after a lot trial and error.
I love fantasy. For anyone that knows me that’s about as redundant a statement as I can make. I quite literally spend my days sitting around thinking up new worlds and characters, even as I work on something else there’s a section of my brain busy building (I know no one from my workplace is going to read this, but it would probably explain all those moments where I suddenly stop and stare out the window for a few minutes). Why am I telling you this instead of getting on with reviewing the series at hand? Well, because there is nothing I love more, outside of the actual characters in a work, than a fully developed world I can immerse myself in, and that’s exactly what Ascendance of a Bookworm gives me. I’ve had my ups and downs with Isekai, but this is absolutely the best Isekai that I have seen in years, and part of that is down to the world.
Now it’s not as if Bookworm’s world is some never-before-seen marvel, it’s basically your typical medieval society with little bits of magic sprinkled throughout. What makes this world so special though is how it’s built, we’re introduced to things one piece at a time, watching as the place is carefully built around us until its ready to reveal a little bit more and move onto to the next stage. There’s just so much thought put into this world, from the written language, to the economic structure and even some of the strange flora that can be found around the place. Each is a tiny puzzle piece that fits together to make a greater whole. Maybe there’s nothing here that will reinvent the fantasy genre, but the craftsmanship and level of detail put into this world just makes me want to give a standing ovation to the original author as well as all the team that worked on this show.
A story needs more than a rich world though, what about the characters? Well, that brings me to Myne (and I’ve chosen to spell her name that way because that’s how it’s spelt in the translation of the novel on Amazon, as well as on the wiki. Crunchyroll’s subtitles say ‘Main’, but it’s pronounced Myne by the actors, so I’m going with that). Now, I can see why Myne may be a bit hard for some people to get along with at the beginning of the series. She’s often bratty and frustrated with the lack of resources around her. Add on her book obsession, which often leaves her so blinkered she outright ignores the needs and wants of those around her, including her new found family, and, yeah, Myne can be a bit hard to love at times.
That being said, I do love Myne. I excuse her more bratty moments because I see it as part of her arc for this first season. Myne’s arc, much like everything in this series, is slow and methodical, it takes some trial and error, but she does eventually start to make progress. Myne needs to recognise that she can’t just go out and do whatever she wants, she needs to rely on others to get things done and, in turn, give something back in return. Of course it helps that Myne is surrounded by such an excellent cast of kind and caring people, everyone from her doting father to the merchant’s guild help Myne not only to make progress towards her goal, but also to become a better person. By the end of the season she cares deeply for her new friends and family, even as much as she does about books, and it’s the forming of these bonds that leads to some of the best and most emotional moments in the series.
There’s one other thing that I need to talk about with this series. As much as the world and characters make this series, there’s one other element that truly helps this show to ascend. It’s an isekai that actually makes use of that fact. As I said before, I’ve had my ups and downs with this genre over the years and my most common gripe is that the whole reincarnation of the main character often becomes a footnote, forgotten and irrelevant after a couple of episodes. That isn’t the case here though, Myne’s memories of her past life are the reason for her obsession with books, not only that, but her Japanese mannerism often cause social confusion and she obviously has a wealth of knowledge and understanding that is beyond her years, which often gets her into trouble. Her reincarnation is apart of her character and it even leads to some of my favourite moments as one character in particular pieces together there’s something really odd about Myne. It takes an idea and explores it to its full effect, that’s why I love this series.
Ascendance of a Bookworm is a wonderful series. If you’re after big action or a breakneck pace then this isn’t the show for you, but, if you like your fantasy worlds to be immersive and well thought out then this is definitely a place you need to visit. Its characters are all sweet and charming to the nth degree, even if the lead takes some time to work out her issues. The world is so well put together and this is hands down the best isekai I’ve seen in years. I cannot wait for the second season of this show. If you love fantasy, if you love isekai, check this series out.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.