Sho HayamiTsuyoshi KoyamaMinori SuzukiAscendance of a Bookworm
Ascendance of a Bookworm: Season 2 + OVAs
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2020: A
Also known as: Honzuki no Gekokujou: Season 2 + OVAs
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2020
Director: Mitsuru Hongo
Writer: Mariko Kunisawa
Original creator: Miya Kazuki
Actor: Aya Uchida, Chiyo Tomaru, Fumiko Orikasa, Haruki Ishiya, Kanako Miyamoto, Kiyono Yasuno, Megumi Nakajima, Minori Suzuki, Mitsuaki Hoshino, Mutsumi Tamura, Satoshi Hino, Sho Hayami, Sho Karino, Takehito Koyasu, Tomoaki Maeno, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Tsuyoshi Koyama, Yoshiyuki Ito, Yuichiro Umehara, Yuka Iguchi, Yuko Sanpei
Keywords: Ascendance of a Bookworm, anime, fantasy
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Episodes 15-26 + two OVAs
Website category: Anime 2020
Review date: 24 January 2023
Ascendance of Bookworm
I could watch this show all day. It's thoughtful and civilised. Its heroine, Myne, would lose a fight with a teddy bear and the show has almost nothing that could even be mistaken for an action scene. She's a bookworm who's been reincarnated as a sickly little girl in a pre-industrial fantasy world where ordinary people could probably be arrested for owning a book. (They're for nobles, who tend to be massive dicks who take offence at commoners even breathing the same air as them.)
This year, she's got into the church. (If you know medieval history, you'll have been waiting for that.) In one sense, this is huge progress for her. The church has libraries! In other ways, though, it's made her life much more difficult. When she was a nobody another other people with no status, everyone loved her and tried to help her. Almost everyone in Season 1 is nice (albeit mostly uneducated and sometimes stupid). The church and the nobility, on the other hand, are full of scumbags who openly sneer at Myne and don't see commoners as human. Not everyone's like that, but Myne's got a lot of learning to do. She needs to learn how to talk and conduct herself like someone from that world. It's a matter of survival for her. She gets given retainers and will be scolded for being too friendly to them.
She wins her battles, mind you. The books. The invention of a library classification system. The orphanage of zombies. There are people who criticise Myne and/or the show for using child labour in her business ventures, but that's overlooking the fact that official church policy is to lock up orphans underground and let them starve to death. Oh, and this is a world where grey-uniformed church workers can be sexually exploited by their superiors and where it would be unsurprising for an adult to be having sex with a seven-year-old.
Myne herself is still adorable, but one scene in ep.19 feels like a hangover from her less sympathetic portrayal in the original light novels. High Priest Ferdinand asks her why someone as indifferent as her is helping orphans. Her reply is rational and cold-blooded, which clashes with the more caring portrayal of anime-Myne. It's true, as far as it goes, but it's not her sole motive. (Maybe it's just the answer she chooses for Ferdinand?) She's an excellent manager and employer, being a natural at looking after and motivating anyone underneath her. (She's not soft, though.) She's particularly good at winning over anyone who's a self-proclaimed pain in the arse. I liked how she carefully listened to everyone in ep.21 (having learned from Ferdinand in ep.20), then even more liked how she handled Wilma in ep.22. Myne doesn't charge in to "cure" Wilma's problems (as you'd see in a lot of anime) but merely takes away pressure and gives her all the space she needs. She doesn't push. Wilma's free to take the first step in her own time.
Oh, and I recommend rewatching the start of ep.1 after watching ep.26.
If I'm watching anime at some ungodly hour and starting to drift off a bit with a more action-based series, this show would always wake me up. It focuses my attention. There's more going on to engage the brain. It's more character-based, with more subtleties and more layers to watch. At the same time, though, it can be funny and I'm charmed by the cast. I love how enthusiastically Gil takes to the traditional Japanese saying of "those who don't work shouldn't eat", for instance.
This second season was nominated for "Best Fantasy" in 2021's Anime Awards. The original light novels have over a million copies in print. I'm not surprised at all.