Urano Motosu loves books and has an endless desire to read literature, no matter the subject. She almost fulfills her dream job of becoming a librarian before her life is ended in an accident. As she draws her last breath, she wishes to be able to read more books in her next life.
As if fate was listening to her prayer, she wakes up reincarnated as Myne—a frail five-year-old girl living in a medieval era. What immediately comes to her mind is her passion. She tries to find something to read, only to become frustrated by the lack of books at her disposal.
Without the printing press, books have to be written and copied by hand, making them very expensive; as such, only a few nobles can afford them—but this won't stop Myne. She will prove that her will to read is unbreakable, and if there are no books around, she will make them herself!
You’ve probably heard the phrase “knowledge is power”. One of the fundamental elements of power comes from books and even in our modern world today, that phrase remains as true as ever. Ascendance of a Bookworm attributes to a bookworm named “Myne” who is reincarnated into another world as she hopes to regain her ability to read.
With the amount of isekai anime coming out in recent years, it’s easy to paint this show as another clone. However, you should actually take a careful look into this anime and see it more of as a slice of life isekai. What does that mean? In some ways,
Ascendance of a Bookworm contains fantasy elements but also relies a lot more on realism than what people will realize. The first episode drops main protagonist Myne into a world of uncertainty. It doesn’t take long for her to adjust to her newfound life as she carves for books and love of reading. To her, reading books is equivalent to a life necessity and she would do anything to get her hands on them.
We shouldn’t judge on Myne too much. She’s a child who is eager to learn and explore. My impression of the show at first is that of a slow paced story to teach us about the person Myne really is. She’s an innocent girl who is staring a new life with a passion to collect books. On the surface, she is a kind girl who is also eager to make friends. Considering the difficulty to acquiring them in the new world, it comes to no surprise that she would have to use some creativity to further her ambitions. She experiments with inventing objects associated with books and begins to gain a reputation among their society. This is where a certain level of realism comes in. Throughout the anime, the show rarely relies on magic when inventions are made. Most of it comes down to trial and error in the hands of Myne’s ideas. Ironically, Myne seems to be suffering from a mystical mana related illness that often puts her into a weakened state. This happens often in the show where viewers may wonder if her life is at jeopardy. The main plot doesn’t devote too much time into this although it does limit Myne’s abilities to make books and inventions. Instead, we are treated with a show that focuses on the life of Myne and her character. Whether you like her or not, this is an anime that dedicates time into exploring the reincarnated life of a bookworm.
And as the starring protagonist, it didn’t take long for Myne to establish meaningful relationships in the show. Myne is highly protective of her family where in one particular episode, she shows a dangerous side of her after they were threatened. It’s the type of bond that translates into how much she values her family. Similarly, Myne makes friends with the locals including a young child named Lutz. As someone close to her age, Lutz often looks after her well-being and they forge a close relationship. While the anime doesn’t truly dedicate them as a couple, there’s some charming amount of teases that fans can imagine. Other close relationships Myne develops throughout the show includes Eva, Ralph, Turi, and others who realizes how kind and gentle she is. Even someone as stubborn as the merchant Benno sees her good side despite not showing it. However, I should say off the bat that most of the anime is focused on Myne. Most of the characterization is limited to our protagonist so it may disappoint some people if they wish to see more depth into the other cast members. Thankfully, the character chemistry among the cast is charming and often embedded to get us to understand Myne more.
I’m not going to lie though. Watching Ascendance of a Bookworm can be a bit of a chore sometimes due to its repetitive story nature. Most of the episodes revolves with the same concept of storytelling and recycled themes. With each passing episode, it’s easy to see how slowed pace the show is. Unlike most isekai, you won’t find much action. This actually feels more like a coming-of-age slice of life but taking place in fictional fantasy world. There’s a balanced amount of drama and comedy that shouldn’t be overlooked. The drama comes from Myne living her new life but often facing obstacles when she isn’t prepared for. Meanwhile, the comedy comes from Myne’s own imaginative mind that often takes the shape of cartoonish skits. I mean, she is a child after all and her imaginations are limitless. It’s often played for laughs but also shows how open minded she can be. For a bookworm, she definitely shows exactly why she loves books.
As someone who has read the novels, the 14-episode anime adaptations serves more as a baseline to get viewers into the franchise. Make no mistake though, there’s definitely more that I wish to see being adapted. But on the plus side, I do welcome studio Ajia-Do’s effort into making the show as colorful and vibrant as it can be. As an anime that doesn’t rely on magic, the show tells some surprising amount of choreography with the body language and character designs. In fact, characters looks like they belong in this setting with their simple clothing and everyday lifestyle. The most noticeable character is protagonist Myne. Designed with a frail and petite look, there’s no doubt people will see vulnerability in her character. Also, I would also give praise to the voice acting to her character as taking on the role of a child is no easy task. Yet, voice actress Yuka Iguchi is able to portray Myne perfectly. It’s exactly how I pictured Myne as a character bought to life in animated form.
If you’re a fan of isekai anime, this may be something unorthodox that you’re not used to. Rather than a decorating itself as a fantasy adventure, Ascendence of a Bookworm explores more of the mundane life of a bookworm. I can’t say it’s easy to recommend this show with the story’s slow pacing. But if you want a different type of isekai than what you see too often these days, then this anime might just surprise you.
To round off this year of abysmal drops in the bucket from the rusty spigot tapped into the vast ocean of low-effort isekai anime still waiting down the pipeline, “Ascendance of a Bookworm” hit me like a brief mouthful of ambrosia that I desperately desired.
There are only so many ways to frame an isekai anime nowadays, it’s like when Fox announces they’ve renewed The Simpsons for another 3 seasons and realizes, “Haven’t we already done everything?” In this regard, Bookworm isn’t exactly novel when you think about how it recontextualizes this tired concept. It’s not an original concept, but it’s one that recognizes the
charming beauty of its simplicity.
To put it simply, Bookworm is a tight and focused character-piece that neither preoccupies itself with empty flash or needless frills. It feels deceptively quaint and almost procedural compared to most high-concept isekai anime. Its scale is cleverly stripped back, its pace slowed to a manageable stroll, and its tone kept consistently light to taste. Bookworm’s centerpiece is Maine, a delightfully original spin on tired isekai protagonist tropes.
Maine incrementally and deliberately progresses through her world much slower than you’d expect of normal protagonists. She is thoroughly constrained by the fact that she is now a sickly young girl on the lower-end of the tax-bracket and social pecking-order. The only thing that Maine really has going for her is her vast retention of book-knowledge, but don’t expect her to go full Senkuu any time soon. Bookworm embraces the mundanities of plausible conflict. Maine is a child (one who frequently suffers from an otherworldly fever) and at that one who actively lacks the resources to overcome short-term goals because of her social class. Bookworm never feels overbearing despite this. It never beats you over the head with misery-porn or begs you to feel sorry for Maine's situation, not that there aren't occasional emotional beats peppered throughout its episode count. Instead, Maine is both intrepid and charming, taking her failures in stride with a childlike irreverence.
Save for towards the very end, I never really got the sense that the show was trying to hold Maine’s hand by introducing a plot-contrivance or hand-out that would get the ball rolling. Bookworm’s idea of trial and error is one of very gradual progression, and it makes those smaller victories all the more satisfying when Maine does clear her hurdles.
Bookworm was a consistently low-key and understated viewing experience. Despite the darker implications of Maine’s reincarnation, the show never makes it a point to become overtly shocking for the sake of creating a tonal dissonance. I’m happy that Bookworm both decided to address this detail and show a commendable amount of restraint by not playing up the melodrama. Bookworm posits the question, is this world better off now that Motosu Urano has become a surrogate for this young girl who perished under the noses of her family? Is it fine for this family to keep living under the pretense that the daughter they once knew continues to live under their roof?
Bookworm’s real meat comes in the form of Maine’s identity crisis. Maine is fully cognizant of how she has essentially deceived everyone into thinking there’s nothing going on beneath the surface. This is a subplot explored through the character of Lutz. Being forced to sort of play along with Maine’s antics, Lutz begins to cultivate a deeper relationship than he previously had with her, as well as a suspicion for her true identity. This eventually culminates in one of the most cathartic and emotionally potent scenes I’ve seen in an anime in recent memory, but you kind of just have to see it to believe it. It’s simply wonderful watching this character accept both her new identity and her new family as her own. Looming fever aside, there’s always a sense of dread that Maine will have to confront her conflict of identity again and that it might just come crashing down on her. It’s an effectively simple conflict that I wish more isekai anime would take the time to explore.
Technically speaking, Bookworm isn’t all that impressive as it doesn’t particularly necessitate flashy action set-pieces. There are endearing gag sequences where the art-design will completely flip into a stylized chibi format but those don’t tend to last more than a couple of seconds and are mostly used as eye-catches to transition between scenes. The character designs lack the edge that you’d expect from an anime in this genre, although I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing. As always, Yuka Iguchi is excellent and characterizes Maine with her typical brand of saucy sarcasm.
Ascendance of a Bookworm is Dr. Stone for those who were let-down by its over-the-top antics and seemingly infallible protagonist. It’s pragmatic almost to a fault, and a show that I wouldn’t easily recommend to viewers not willing to get caught up in its slower pace. If you’re like me and have resigned yourself as an unabashed isekai garbage-eater, Bookworm might just be what the doctor ordered. Ascendance of a Bookworm was a classic case of a show far surpassing my expectations and one I learned to love more and more with each passing episode. Bookworm is as warm and comforting as curling up with a good book, and I’m sure that’s the sentiment it wanted to leave us with until its second season.
Honzuki No Gekokujou is a phenomenal anime. It has great characters, drama, story and pacing that is so perfect it makes you want to watch it all in one go.
When I started watching the anime I felt like this would be a boring Isekai from the first 3 episodes but I'm glad to say this was very far from it. What I thought was going to be a disappointing anime turned to be one of the best if not the best alongside Iruma-kun. This anime also has some of the best character development I have seen in an anime.
The characters in the anime
are great. We start with the main female MC who is a girl that loves books so much she can't live without them in a world with very few books in them and only available for the rich. She starts off as an annoying little girl but she gets such a great development that you can't help but love her even if you didn't at the start of the anime. We get introduced to her family who are so loving and kind people. We see the main lover interest who isn't just a random kid, it is a kid with a dream who works so hard to both achieve the dream and help take care of Maine. He also had great development later specially after knowing who Maine really is in one of the best episodes of the entire anime.
The plot of the anime and its pace were also great. While the first 3 eps may have been a bit slow, the story starts to make progress and you start seeing the drama settle in and more exciting stories, problems and characters start appearing everywhere. I really can't wait to watch the 2nd season.
The art, animation and overall sound were fantastic and great work to the voice actors who played a phenomenal role and fit almost every character that was introduced. I loved Maine's voice so much and how it changed based on how she was feeling and which character was talking.
Overall I would give the anime a 9/10. It was a hidden gem and it was extremely entertaining to watch.
I would recommend it to non anime fans if they want a great story with great characters in it.
Isekai Bookworm: the Isekai we needed but didn't deserve, and furthermore, the most underrated and least watched Isekai of the season, that's at least getting a continuation in Spring 2020 for its 2nd cour...like how great is that! It's almost like in the slew of all-too-familiar Isekai LNs that purge the same formula as if that's the ONLY way to make it interesting, that Ascendance of a Bookworm FINALLY saw the change towards that formula to forge and become its very own thing.
*Spoilers be warned*
In the sense of realism, Isekai Bookworm retains the fantasy that the genre is all but known for, but with the
twist that this is actually more of a slice-of-life than the fantastical elements it bargains at the beginning, and all but perishes it right from the start, as evident from the MC Maine (or Myne as the manga/LN states). Originally a girl named Urano Motosu who has substantial interest in books and literature with a dream to be a librarian one day, her life was cut short but not without hoping to see the dream be realized in her reincarnated afterlife. When fate strikes her a chord, she awakes into a 5-year old girl living in the Medieval era town of Ehrenfest, except that body that her soul is tugged into isn't as healthy as she'd thought. The body, frail and weak from an occurring disease, can only be cured if her passion is kept reeling in a.k.a books and literature, and so that dream she had from before, becomes her conquest to make and create modern things in old times.
First things off the bat, Isekai Bookworm is unlike similar brethrens out there trying to play the Hero counterpart to defeat evildoers, but rather, focuses on the one element that keeps it going: to find books in primitive times, because paper isn't common at all. Furthermore, the sole reason for Maine's purpose to find paper can even be referred to as a kid's struggle in trying to find something of interest in a world that the word "invention" doesn't really ring a bell towards its citizens. To make matters even worse, Maine's "upbringing" in a poor family doesn't make things any better for her as materials of paper and even books are only available for the wealthy, not to mention the ancient language that she supposedly has a hard time settling into at the start.
To counteract all this, Maine would befriend many of the character cast, starting with the family who has it rough to always take care and watch out for her flailing health: father Gunther, mother Effa and elder sister Turi, who were the first people to notice Maine's progress in both her wellbeing and inventive innovations whilst prepping her for the medieval world's terms and conditions. Along with Gunther's friend Otto's help to teach Maine about the ancient language, and Lutz, Maine's childhood friend shows up along the way when she decides that her paper-making process (that he has witnessed) be turned into a for-profit business, all looks set for the plan to be in motion. And whaddya know, his dream of being a merchant coincides with Maine's interest of selling her stuff, much to Otto's rejection being an afterthought, the two decided to cooperate, and taken to Merchant Benno, who'd supervise their business and lay off others who'd want a slice of their business for ulterior motives. And you know the intricacies of mere 5-6 year-olds in business where Maine literally has an adult's mind that shocks even the most seasoned merchants, but could still potentially be cheated due to the aggravating giveaways of her weak health. Regardless, this character cast, especially MC Maine is what hooks me onto this show for reasons.
Probably what will turn people off from this anime is the entire slice-of-life regime that is flushed all around, but trust me, that same regime is what draws me into this show with awe and fascination, at how the world could be different for what it is, going back to being children and solving problems with mistakes and failures that aren't offset from growing human life. Maine makes no attempts to sweep her failures under the rug, as her experimentation allows her to know what does and does not work to make her paper-making business flourish, and along with her "secret stash" of modern-day knowledge and education to teach the others and be wowed by such items. If you don't get what I'm trying to infer here, is that everything is damn wholesome and educational that I can't shift my eyes away from it to see what would Maine's next step forward is gonna bring onto the table.
Ajia-Do Animation Works' visuals are just perfect for this anime, the art being reminiscent of one being very light and a great mix of color palettes along with the many Maine-chibi forms of educational explanation content that are easy to watch and have fun alongside it. On the animation side, I'm just glad that there was just the right amount of animation, given that there are still sprinkles of the bits and pieces of low-budget work that exist within the anime, but are not glaringly noticeable that it affects the overall quality. Music-wise, lots of lightheartedness (and some serious notes) with the world and its worldbuilding established from the setting that it does mimic so well, and same goes to the cheery atmospheric and lovely OST by both Sumire Moroboshi and Megumi Nakajima.
For one, I'm sure that this isn't the end of Maine and her world-building shenanigans, as we'll have to wait until the 2nd cour to flesh out more of what's to come of her sickness and how that affects the people she abides by. But as much as this Iyashikei of a feeling this anime has, it's certainly one to take on a chill ride. It's very personal too and it never stops being intriguing to see things through, if that is ever anything to win hearts by.