Aya UchidaHiroshi NakaTsuyoshi KoyamaAscendance of a Bookworm
Ascendance of a Bookworm: Season 1
Also known as: Honzuki no Gekokujou: Season 1
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2019: A
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2019
Director: Mitsuru Hongo
Writer: Mariko Kunisawa
Original creator: Miya Kazuki
Actor: Aya Uchida, Fumiko Orikasa, Hiroshi Naka, Megumi Nakajima, Mutsumi Tamura, Rika Kinugawa, Satoshi Hino, Sho Hayami, Takehito Koyasu, Tomoaki Maeno, Tsuyoshi Koyama, Yuka Iguchi
Keywords: Ascendance of a Bookworm, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Episodes 1-14
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=22255
Website category: Anime 2019
Review date: 23 January 2023
Ascendance of Bookworm
It's another isekai anime, but it's probably better seen as another "medieval economics" anime like Maoyu, Spice and Wolf and (to a lesser extent) Log Horizon. Ironically, though, that means it's one of very few isekai stories that actually needs to be an isekai for the story to work. It's gentle, slow and almost entirely action-free. Its heroine is a sickly five-year-old who needs help even to walk across town. I liked it a lot.
Our heroine is Myne. Since this is an isekai, she's a character from the real world who died unexpectedly and found herself reborn in a medieval fantasy setting. She even has superpowers! Unfortunately for her, these powers are:
(a) getting super-tired if she, say, walks down stairs
(b) a mysterious super-disease that will probably kill her
...and that's it. She's an often-bedridden five-year-old. She can't fight, or live on her own. She has two parents and a sister who are all completely ordinary people, but together at least earn enough to keep themselves alive. Her dad's a captain of the guards at the city gate (and comedically enamoured of his daughters).
What drives Myne is books. She loves books. She'd overturn this entire medieval society to get at a book... and that's what she's going to have to do, because this world doesn't have paper or printing presses. Instead, it has parchment. Books are insanely expensive and only bought by nobles. Fortunately, Myne was a knowledge-absorbing bookworm in her past life, as well as being so good at arts and crafts that it's slightly implausible. She knows a lot of information that should, hopefully, help her negotiate this new world and get what she wants.
This is delightful.
Myne is adorable. I love her. Apparently there are viewers who don't, which I regard as an incomprehensibly alien opinion from the planet Mars. Apparently she's more selfish and leeching in the original light novels... but hey. She's five years old and frequently crippled by her physical condition. Cut the girl some slack. How many selfless five-year-olds do you know? Besides, she's beautifully polite, respectful, obedient (up to a point) and really bad at being mercenary. Even after being ordered repeatedly to be more selfish in this dog-eat-dog world, she still keeps giving stuff away for free and being too nice for her own good.
The plot's about Myne's mission to get her hands on books. If she can't find any, she'll make some. If the necessary technology doesn't exist in this world, she'll invent it. Fortunately, she remembers lots of stuff from her old life and would be capable of negotiating on her own with merchants, craftsmen and suppliers, if she could just get her foot in the door.
It's a charming world... on the surface. Everyone loves Myne (who's cute) and she has a knack for making allies. In time, she'll acquire friends who worry more about her well-being than she does. However, this world has its not-so-nice sides too. Nobles can have peasants executed for talking back to them and are capable of making contracts to buy a six-year-old's sexual services in the future when she comes of age (exact date not yet clarified but is likely to be worrying if one goes by real historical precedent).
This series is perfect for me. It's about a polite, book-loving lead character with no weapon except her brains. She becomes a craftsman, a merchant and even briefly a teacher. (She misses a trick in overlooking the obvious place to go for literacy in a pseudo-medieval society, but that's more understandable for someone who's Japanese and in any case what she actually does is worthwhile in its own right.) The show's a study of how its society works, including gender differences, the seasonal cycle, the writing system and more. It's nice and funny. It won't be for those who prefer exciting action shows, but I could watch it all day.