Ascendance of a Bookworm Anime Series Review

Bookworm Review

Solid Supporting Cast and World Building Save the Day

My early reviews of Ascendance of a Bookworm (or Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen) were anything but positive. The protagonist of the story, Main, yet another reincarnated Japanese person in a fantasy world, endlessly moans and whines. Her disdainful attitude toward those around her really grated and made it hard to feel anything other than contempt toward her as a character which also made it kind of hard to get behind anything she was doing.

What kept me watching Bookworm initially was the world building going on and what sold me on the series at the mid-way point were the supporting characters.


Ascendance of a Bookworm is the story of Main (or Myne depending on which episode you are watching and who provided the subtitles – it changed at least twice during my watch on Crunchyroll) who wanted to be a librarian because she loved books. Then she died and was reborn in a world where books were incredibly rare and more or less out of reach for those who were not of noble birth. She sets herself the goal of making her own books though lack of funds, resources, and the fact that she’s a sickly child all get in her way.

That said, the plot isn’t really as important as the characters because this one takes a decidedly slice of life approach to an isekai tale. While Main’s goal gives it some direction there’s a lot of day to day life on the screen and to be honest those parts are actually the better parts of the story despite my lack of love for slice of life.

There are many isekai stories that choose to set themselves in a pseudo-medieval setting complete with walled towns and class distinctions. However, where most anime given the society of their world a very shallow look with maybe one or two episodes looking at slavery as an institute, the world’s they build don’t feel overly real or functional outside of the story itself.

Even That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime that spent a great deal of time with Rimuru building his town never felt overly real as everyone just seemed to be on equal footing and happily working away on the next project without complaint. Ascendance of a Bookworm breaks this trend by spending a great deal of time establishing the world that Main has been born into.


Main has been reborn as a soldier’s daughter and her mother sews or something along those lines. The children are expected to help with gathering wood in the forest and after their baptism to take on apprenticeships. Starvation in winter is a very real concern if they don’t all play their part to ensure they have enough supplies. As the season continues we learn quite a bit about the merchant class and the season ends with a brief (albeit fairly lacking in subtlety) introduction to the church and we’ve started getting hints about the state of the nobles in the city.

While a lot of this isn’t super exciting, it all works to create a backdrop for the story that feels so much more real. Main’s actions have consequences in this world and they don’t just effect her but have real implications for her family and her associates.

Ascendance of a Bookworm

While there are a lot of things I didn’t like about Main as a character, seeing her slowly interacting with more of the world and feeling like this really was a world that could be explored was definitely worthwhile. This is one aspect that will get me to watch the second part of this when it returns in 2020. I’d love to see more of this world and how it changes Main. Because the world has had an impact on her.

While at first she was so incredibly critical and disdainful of the world, she’s slowly gaining an appreciation of the people around her and their efforts and more and more it feels like she’s accepting her life in this world.

Which leaves us to discuss the supporting characters. Honestly, as much as I would complain about Main I would love to heap praises onto the supporting cast. Main’s family, Lutz, Otto and Benno are brilliant and all of them work to slowly chip away at Main until she becomes something resembling an actually decent lead character.

The moment Main realised she actually didn’t want to leave her family was a truly great moment and one that should definitely be experienced. Admittedly, it probably wouldn’t have had the same impact if Main hadn’t been such a turd in the first place but it was so nice to see her finally respect and even love the family that had fought to protect her and raise her. The tragedy of knowing their real child died before Main reincarnated into her weak body is one that underlies every interaction and makes Main’s acceptance of her family so much more profound.

The question of whether they will continue to accept her if they knew their real daughter was dead is one these episodes hasn’t explored but it will be interesting to know if the story ever goes there.

Maybe season 2 of Ascendance of a Bookworm gets into that.


Particularly as the story did go there through Lutz. Now Lutz deserves his own ballad. He’s there helping Main when she can’t walk, when she gets lost, when she over-reaches. He is clearly in love with her and yet stays beside her as a friend. That said, he isn’t an idiot and he isn’t a doormat. Lutz pulls Main up firmly when he needs to and he is the character who calls her out on not being Main.

This is something else that rarely happens in these stories of reincarnated characters (though normally they are reborn rather than taking someone else over anyway) Still, it was a nice touch and a moment that really made Lutz’s contribution to this story clear. He isn’t some patsy or the muscle at Main’s disposal but a real character with his own dreams and thoughts and he’s a brilliant shining light in a series that has a lot of solid supporting characters.


Visually, Ascendance of a Bookworm works well enough. The slice of life nature of the show means that there isn’t a huge amount of action to animate but what is there is done well enough and the character designs and settings are all functional enough. The music is fairly nondescript and forgettable though there are some fairly solid performances by the VA’s as they give the right emotional notes at the right times.

It took me a long while to warm up to Ascendance of a Bookworm but I am glad I saw the season through. Ultimately, the positives of the series outweigh the negatives, with my only real issue with the series being a personal dislike of the protagonist. That said, it is a slow moving story and not one that is overly thrilling unless you are into more slice of life and world building stories.

Still, I’ll be looking out for the continuation as I do want to know what happens next and I want to see more of this world. If you are looking for a slightly different kind of isekai to the adventure or parody ones that seem to permeate the genre then Bookworm may be exactly what you need.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episodes 12 – 14 Review

Bookworm Episode 12 14

Rash Decisions and Consequences

For every step Ascendance of a Bookworm takes forward it feels like it has to trip over its feet in the process. While the story, world-building, and support cast continue to work well, Main as the central character backslides as she finally gets to go through her baptism, finds a library and then recklessly asks to be made a priestess. It leads to a major conflict for the final episode of the cour but it felt incredibly unnecessary and almost as though Main had reverted to the girl we met back at the start who cared for nothing except books.


Fortunately, they do at least temper Main’s idiocy with some strong emotional moments with Lutz, some great moments with her family, and even Benno gets to shine as he gives her advice on negotiations (which largely end up being pointless given the church isn’t wanting to negotiate at first and then after things happen largely just cave in and give Main what she wants). As usual though, it is the support cast carrying the day and they are doing an excellent job of it. I really want Lutz to live a happy life though I feel Main is going to keep dragging him into messes.


These three episodes do tie up quite a few loose ends with Lutz confronting his mother and being determined to pursue the path of a merchant with or without Main and Main finally having a path to surviving the Devouring even if it does seem a bit thorny. However, as she’s just met the head priest and there’s a lot more to learn, that second cour which is apparently coming sometime next year is kind of essential. The story is really just getting going and we’ve come to a halt.

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The other problem with the episodes is the high priest who is clearly there to exhibit the worst attitudes of the nobles and the corruption of the church but he’s so blatant about the whole thing that it just feels fairly ineptly written. It does do what it needs to do in terms of character motivation and world building and yet there’s absolutely no subtlety to the situation or anything beyond the surface layer of class discrimination. It really feels like a lost opportunity to actually add some depth to the story (admittedly, they did a reasonably good job earlier in the season with Lutz).


It feels like this season of Ascendance of a Bookworm has been such an up and down ride. There are parts of this anime I’ve found really charming and touching, but overall I still dislike the central character and find myself rolling my eyes at her more often than not. These final three episodes were no exception as we went from sweet and touching moments to melodrama in the space of a few minutes and then back again. I’ll get to a full season review soon so I’ll have to get my thoughts in order.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episodes 10 + 11 Review

Bookworm Episode 10 11

Money Makes the World Go Round

Main and Lutz continue to learn about their role as apprentice merchants and earn some money, which becomes pretty important in this pair of episodes from Ascendance of a Bookworm. Main’s illness is incurable and she can’t even treat the symptoms without being able to buy a magical item that will at least take some of the fever away for a time. Fortunately, she’s made connections now and so when she does collapse with the fever she is taken care of, for a price, though she’s firmly warned that without further access to magical items (largely only available to nobles) she probably won’t survive another year.


Which for once she seems to take seriously. I somehow doubt the Main we met 8 episodes ago would have cared one way or the other. She might have sulked about it but I don’t think we would have had the same experience that we had over these episodes. The Main we know now has friends, has clear goals, and has connected with her family. That was probably the best part of these episodes of Bookworm; seeing Main actually acknowledge the importance of her family to her.


So having spent her savings in order to buy just one more year, the question becomes ‘what will Main do now?’. I somehow doubt her family or Benno are going to just let her die in a year’s time and I know Lutz has no intention of doing so. But what can they do? I felt like they were running low on time so I checked the episode count and apparently Ascendance of a Bookworm is going to have 14 episodes which probably gives it time to resolve this in some form.

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One thing I am appreciating a lot about this series as we get more into the merchant side of things is how sensible Benno is. When Main asks him if selling baskets would work, he doesn’t tell her no but suggests instead that she sell consumable products. He’s aiming for ongoing sales rather than one off purchases. It’s a small and rather insignificant point but when combined with other small details there’s this ongoing sense that this world Main has found herself in is actually a functioning world rather than a set-piece for an OP character to bounce around (not that it isn’t fun when we get that kind of story but the world building is frequently lazy).


It took awhile but Ascendance of a Bookworm has definitely won me over and I’m enjoying it. I still won’t say I like Main as a character but there’s a lot of charm in this series overall, the world building has been fairly solid, and it really feels like the story and emotions have built up fairly naturally to this point which has fully engaged me. I’m kind of glad I didn’t drop this one earlier though I also somehow doubt I’ll ever rewatch it.

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Images from: Ascendance of a Bookworm. Dir. M Hongou. Ajia-Do. 2019.

Ascendance of a Bookworm Episodes 8 + 9 Review

Bookworm Episode 8 9

Moving Forward in Ascendance of a Bookworm

Lutz continues to be an outstanding character in Ascendance of a Bookworm and through him we actually get a moment with Main that for once makes her sympathetic rather than obnoxious. It is a great moment and one that only exists because of Lutz’s presence. He isn’t a scene stealer and his personality isn’t out-there or particularly noteworthy, but his solid presence and the logical build up of his suspicions has made him a definite asset to an anime that I’ve been fairly on the fence about.


Episode 8 brings the situation the forefront and directly addresses Lutz’s concerns, how Urano/Main feels about being in Main’s body, and even raises the question of what about Main’s family? Given the lack of focus these concerns had been given prior, it was fairly satisfying to see the anime finally tackle them in this way. While Main still comes off as relatively selfish, here it understandable rather than bratty as she really didn’t mean to take on Main’s body and, as she correctly points out to Lutz, there’s no way some one would choose a body so weak if they really had a choice.


However, it isn’t as though episode 8 put the brakes on the story in order to dig into this matter. The whole time Main and Lutz continue their progress toward producing the paper prototype and their foray into becoming apprentice merchants flows naturally into episode 9 where they are making more of Main’s hair pins to sell to the guild master’s granddaughter.

There’s the ongoing very practical look at the world with the kids learning about coins and money, getting registered in the guild, seeing maps, and so forth. All of it makes this particular isekai world feel a little more grounded than so many others as it actually kind of looks functional as an actual society. While that doesn’t make it the most fascinating of viewing, it certainly helps keep me interested in what is a fairly slow building story around a character I didn’t particularly like from the beginning.


Ascendance of a Bookworm isn’t going to be a favourite anime of mine any time soon, but I certainly appreciate the show more now that we are at episode nine than I did back in the earlier episodes. It continues to build on its strengths and the more focus the support cast get the more interesting Main becomes as a character as we spend less time in her head listening to her whine and more time seeing her learn to value others.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episodes 6 + 7 Review

Bookworm Episode 6 7

Let’s Hear It For The Supporting Cast

Main and Lutz finally meet with Otto and Otto’s friend Benno regarding Lutz becoming an apprentice merchant. However it very quickly goes from being a discussion about an apprenticeship to an actual business deal as Main barter’s the recipe for shampoo for the tools and resources she needs to make a paper prototype. Still, Main isn’t what kept me interested this week (nor did I particularly dislike her this time around) as between Otto, Lutz and Benno there’s plenty of solid support character work going on across these two episodes.


I do have to admit, Lutz and Main are too adorable together. He manages to knock a lot of her rough edges off (plus she isn’t as insufferably smug toward him as she is to her own family so the time they spend together is incredibly pleasant). However, he’s also coming into his own as just a solid character and his gradual realisation that Main isn’t all she seems is a great development and I can’t wait to see where it goes. While he doesn’t press her on it I liked her observation that he’s stopped calling her by name which makes it pretty clear he does know even if he isn’t willing to put it all out in the open just yet.


Otto as usual remains a good supporting character facilitating the connections Main needs. Earlier in the series it was supplying her with writing implements but now it is links to the merchants. While such a character could easily have little to no personality, Otto comes across as a fairly well-rounded if somewhat ordinary guy and his presence is always appreciated. However, I did notice that with the introduction of Benno, there were a lot of shots this week of either the grownups literally looking down on the kids or the kids staring up at the adults. It definitely gave a sense of how young Lutz and Main are but just felt a bit weird given Otto is usually sitting at the same table as Main while they work.

Incidentally, Benno’s introduction and the new connection Lutz and Main have is also appreciated as for the first time you can kind of see Main actually achieving one of her goals. She isn’t going it entirely alone this time and is being actively supported by someone who is seeing potential profit in her creation. The likelihood of success, and the inability for her to just ditch this idea and move on to the next one as she’s now signed a contract to produce something, means that a lot of the issues with the previous attempts have now been dealt with. Furthermore, he’s the first character who has seemed to take any interest in actually figuring out what is wrong with Main other than just being ‘sickly’.


However, with all this going on Main’s family have been pushed to the sidelines with her father only really making an appearance to assume she didn’t succeed at becoming a potential apprentice merchant and then to scold her for getting sick. Admittedly, I definitely wanted to cheer him on when he suggested grounding her indefinitely if she let herself collapse again.


Honestly, I still don’t like Main, but these two episodes put me overall in a more positive frame of mind about Ascendance of a Bookworm overall. The supporting cast are really selling it and with progress being made on the whole paper creation as well as potential answers about what happened to Main it all just feels like things are actually coming together.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episode 5 Review

Bookworm Episode 5

It’s All Too Hard

For the first half of this episode, Ascendance of a Bookworm managed to convince me we’d moved on from the pathetic and whine-riddled Main who was unbearably smug and just plain unlikable. Turi’s baptism send off was a lovely family affair and even if Main did scold her father for not going to work, it was a reasonable and fairly cute family interaction. If only more of the story could be like this.


Even after the baptism as we see Main get given a knife as she’s now expected to go foraging in the forest, Main is remarkably more enjoyable as a character. Sure she’s plotting to make wooden tablets now rather than actually foraging but she’s actually being a fairly decent part of the family and watching Main and Lutz together is just fun.


Unfortunately, on finding out her mother has set fire to her drying wooden tablets (you know they did just look like firewood), Main has a hissy fit including full glowing eyes before collapsing. She then lies in bed and sulks coming to the conclusion that if she can’t make a book she might as well not be there. And this is why I find her character fairly repugnant. She’s attempted three things to make a book at the age of 6 and while they haven’t worked out she’s learned from them. Deciding to throw the towel in at this point is nothing short of ridiculous, not to mention, what about her family who were so overjoyed that Main didn’t die and now the girl inside Main’s body is just welcoming death.

However, she does at least remember that she promised to do something for Lutz and for now at least she’s stopped throwing a pity party long enough to sort out a meeting between Otto and Lutz. I hope Otto can help Lutz get a job that he is interested in even if it isn’t a travelling trader. Lutz is lovely and every scene with him in it is significantly better just by his presence. Okay, it is also because Main isn’t anywhere near as tiresome when Lutz is around.


Anyway, I guess we’ll see what happens with Lutz and Otto and also, now that Main’s made pencils (kind of) out of soot and clay I wonder what she’ll find to write on.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episode 4 Review

Bookworm Episode 4

For Future Dreams

While there’s still the occasional moment of Main being unbearably smug, particularly early in episode 4 of Ascendance of a Bookworm, this episode had a much nicer feel as Main actually listened to her parents, worked to overcome her shortcomings and when all else failed there was Lutz to make her realise that she wasn’t alone. All and all a much better tone to the show and if Main keeps going she might even become a nice-ish character with an outlandish dream rather than a selfish one that only whines.

This expression though mostly made me annoyed at her.

Spring has finally come along and Main desperately wants to go to the forest to gather clay to make tablets to write on. However her sister and parents sensibly object given she can’t even walk to the gatehouse without getting exhausted. And then Main’s father comes through big time and organises for Main to work with Otto as he teaches the young soldiers to write and to help with his tasks with the added bonus that once she can walk back and forth from the gate house she can go to the forest. What really surprised is that Main was actually grateful and didn’t whinge about any of this or even complain too much about the delay and she genuinely tried to help Otto teach the other kids.

She’s so cute now that she isn’t whinging all the time.

On their many walks home it becomes pretty clear Lutz isn’t just looking out for Main and I’m curious as to where the relationship between the two will go, but he certainly gets points for being the best character so far. Not only is he sweet and helpful to Main when she needs to rest, but when she clearly lies when they go to the forest the first time he tells her off, and then helps her anyway.

I’d like to know what happened when Main got angry the first time the clay tablets were destroyed but I assumed it will come up later in the story. For now though, it is probably enough to know that once again Main’s imperfect knowledge of the creation process did not result in actual clay tablets. She got a little closer than she did with her last attempt at weaving but still does not actually have a book.

Lutz is definitely the best character.

I wonder what her next attempt will be. Still, I really liked that Main encouraged Lutz to follow his dream. It seemed like most people have told him he’s being silly or dismissed it before because he was surprised by her reaction. I wonder what these two will gt up to as they get older?

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episode 3 Review

Bookworm Episode 3

Basket Weaving and Making Pancakes

I was fairly sure episode 3 was where Ascendance of a Bookworm and myself would part ways. The first two episodes were decidedly unimpressive and Main, our protagonist, annoyed me. Yet here we are at the end of episode 3 and while the first half seemed more of the same, Main ignoring what her mother and sister wanted to do her own thing and then whining at her sister every step of the way to help her before quitting, the second half of this episode seemed to finally find its feet.


Then I realised why I enjoyed the second half of the anime so much more. Main put aside her quest for paper and was actually just engaging in the slice of life winter behaviours with her family. While she was bringing in her knowledge from her former life she wasn’t fighting anyone or whining. It is odd that I say a story is at its best when it isn’t pushing toward something, but letting go of her immediate obsession with making paper and spending time helping her sister make a hair ornament or cooking pancakes was actually the best this anime has been and actually pretty enjoyable.


It was also kind of nice seeing her back at the gate house and practising her letters before helping out with the maths. In this case she hadn’t demanded it, but was unable to be left at home alone and so it makes sense that she is entertaining herself while waiting for her mother and Otto is a fun character as he seems to be the only one really paying attention to just how clever she is for a five (six?) year old.

Unfortunately it isn’t all sunshine and roses as this episode gives us a firm reminder that the real Main is gone. I thought at first the father was being really harsh when he said he didn’t care if Main was acting strange but he followed it up by explaining that with all her fevers he was just happy to see her up and active. It was kind of a heart-breaking moment when you realise the little girl he wanted to see up and active isn’t there anymore.

Oh, sad.

Still, this episode did enough to keep me watching and it would be nice to see Main develop into a character that doesn’t set my teeth on edge. It really was a lovely moment when we realised that she put all that effort into making Turi’s hair ornament as a thank-you for Turi helping her earlier. It made some of what happened earlier in the episode a little easier to swallow. Now if we could see Main think outside of herself a little more often then I could probably get behind her and her quest to be a librarian in a world with very few books.


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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episode 2

Bookworm Episode 2

A Paper-Thin Character

Episode 2 of Ascendance of a Bookworm and I’m already more or less over listening to Main’s litany of complaints and feelings of despair that she can’t read a book right before she gets all giddy and excited over whatever it is that next catches her interest. Shampoo and a slate this week I think.


I don’t know if it is because of the script and the lack of actually enjoyable dialogue, but Main’s VA is really grating on me. There’s a tone she hits when she whines that is worse than finger nails on a chalk board. Normally not so great voices aren’t a huge issue for me (unless they happen to be Asta from Black Clover) but in this case there’s so little else to pay attention to you are more or less stuck listening to Main the entire episode while she washes her hair, gets tired walking down stairs, blushes over a boy telling her that her washed hair smells good, and then gets all excited because she has the chance to write her name.


It isn’t exactly riveting viewing. I’m guessing the slice of life aspects may appeal to a different audience but for me this one has so far been a disappointment and hasn’t given me a lot of reason to keep going, other then I kind of want to see how she tries to make paper.


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Live a Live – RPG Game

I’m going to give Ascendance of a Bookworm one more episode before I decide but if the third episode is similar to episodes 1 and 2 I’ll probably be calling it quits then. Honestly, it isn’t that Bookworm is actually bad, it just isn’t my type of story and the main character has so far not impressed.

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Ascendance of a Bookworm Episode 1

Bookworm Episode 1

All she wants is a good book to read.

I thought going in to an isekai story about a bookworm finding herself bereft of books that I would finally find a protagonist I could really connect with. That’s on me for having expectations before something starts but the usual standard is a high school male character getting transported to other worlds and gathering a harem and while I do enjoy a lot of their stories I’m not connecting with the protagonist. So once I realised Ascendance of a Bookworm was delivering a character I didn’t connect with, despite their love of books, I started wondering what else this anime had to offer and I came up a little low on the positives from this first episode.

Like I just stole the body of a 5 year old. No big.

Admittedly, it is a first episode and still establishing that the main character did in fact come from another world and does love books. My do they love to remind the audience that she loves books. It is her one and only personality trait so far outside of a disdain for pre-industrial revolution hygiene.

I know I mentioned this in another first episode review for another isekai (though I can’t remember which one) but the lack of subtlety in establishing the character trait or gimmick in these shows is becoming more and more detrimental. They are so desperate to declare that their character is going to be different that the only thing they do is show us that one aspect, over and over again and the end result is a character that is just kind of dull.

It also didn’t help that the episode was framed as a flashback. We start with a priest using some magic headband to see our protagonists’ past in order to figure out why she loves books and a bunch of other odd things about her. That alone kind of established the premise but let’s go through it all step by step.


The reality is this episode is slow moving and pretty dull. Throw in visuals that aren’t exactly compelling (and there’s little animation to comment on) and while this isn’t broken it has nothing to really hook you into watching. The one question I’d like an answer to is what happened to the girl who our protagonist is now inside of and when they shared memories did they share aspects of their personality or can the other girl take control? I don’t think that is the case but I’d probably be more interested in the story if she could.


I went in wanting to like this but mostly found myself bored by episode 1. I’ve definitely said it on my blog before but I would rather watch something that is terrible but in some ways entertaining than something that is functional but boring. I’ll give this another episode or two but if I’m still getting lulled off to sleep by it I’ll let it go and maybe use the time to catch up on reading a good book.

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