Books, books, and more books.
Ascendance of a bookworm is a story about a 24 year-old being reborn into a pre-teen girl in an entirely different world. Yes, this is yet another isekai series but this is one of better ones out there.
The main issue with isekai series is that MC is often gifted with unimaginable powers. Some handle this really well (ex Overlord), but most of isekai series fall into a typical power trap where it simply gets boring.
This one is quite different in more ways than one. Please, read on.
Urano Motosu is a 24 year-old college student whose priority is books. She loves books in a dangerous manner where she really does prioritize books above all else. She is more than obsessed with books. Being obsessed is an understatement.
But her life ends on a short notice as she is crushed to death by the very thing she loves when a heavy book shelf in a library falls onto her.
When she regains her consciousness, she finds herself in a tiny girl’s body in a medieval-like world where books are so rare that her commoner family can’t afford to even touch it. What’s worse is that she is in a sickly body where she can’t even walk for few minutes without running out of breath.
Regardless, her goal in the new world appears to be simple in concept: get books.
This is how this series begins.
As Myne, Urano retains memories of her former life. Note that it is a medieval-like world. She is from modern Japan. In Myne’s world, papers are a rare thing. Cooking seems really barebone as well. What this ultimately means that she is able to “invent” a lot of things around her, creating seemingly revolutionary cooking recipes and greatly improving general quality of life by, again, “inventing” simple things. She invents even a simple hairpin that starts a fashion revolution.
Such inventions start to create ripples, and she begins to climb the ladder of social classes. By the end of the anime series, she is adopted by a high ranking noble. That is the end of part 2 which is just a beginning of a whole mess.
If you google book titles, the title of volume part 5 is “Incarnation of the Goddess”. So, yes, she is going all the way to the top and beyond.
Analog of our current world
Although anime viewers may not realize, this series has a very detailed world. This careful world building takes several volumes before it all starts to make sense.
I feel the deeper message of this series is a warning to our current world. Sadly, if you watch the anime only, none of this is irrelevant.
Myne is a commoner in a duchy of Ehrenfest within Yurgenschmidt.
And Ehrenfest, at the start, is one of the lowest ranking duchies out of 21 in Yurgenschmidt. It used to be 25 duchies, but a recent civil war has destroyed four duchies.
It is Rozemyne (Myne’s noble name)’s inventions that start to bring Ehrenfest into an upward trajectory.
However, as she brings waves of new trends to her home duchy, it soon becomes apparent that the people of Yurgenschmidt is gradually losing their connection to Gods because nobody reads.
It is revealed in part 5 of the series that, due to political infighting, those with knowledge of traditions that enabled to connect with Gods, thus providing mana to enrich their soils, have been killed off. What’s worse it is that they were seemingly killed off for silly reasons.
For a prime example, Yurgenschmidt zent (king) asks where his vassals where their allegiance is. Some librarians answer that they put Gods on a higher priority than their liege. Result: They are executed.
As people who read, thus know the old traditions, are killed off, there is barely anyone who reads when Myne is isekai-ed in their world. By time she starts to make impacts in their world, their world is already on verge of total collapse due to their zent (king) having lost an ancient relic that is required for kings.
A king without the said relic is not an legitimate king according to the people of Yurgenschmidt. Thus, political infighting for decades. They aren’t wrong since the relic allows a king to communicate with very important magical devices of Yurgenschmidt that allows proper administration of their country. Without the relic, they have been jerryrigging things but their world is getting worse every year.
They do want to find the relic, but nobody knows how. They don’t know how because they shun books.
Lack of people with mana due to civil wars, loss of important traditions because nobody gives a damn to books push the people of Yurgenschmidt to a cliff as their lands become less fertile year after year.
It ultimately falls onto Rozemyne to make them reconnect with the Gods because she reads. The girl loves to read. She puts reading above all else. It’s certainly not a healthy habit, but because of her insane desire to read whatever she can get her hands on, she ends up reading written medium about lost traditions and such.
Thus, she ultimately saves the world by making the people of Yurgenschmidt reconnect with their Gods.
It is an analog of our current world. Traditions are being lost. Not many, outside of education, read. There are technological advancements but at the expanse of the environment.
I couldn’t help feel that Ascendance of a bookworm is trying to tell us a strong message. Sadly, you have to go all the way to find this message.
Anime, manga and the source material, LN
Anime as of 2022 covers up to about part 2 of the light novel with 36 episodes.
It basically ends where things really start to pick up. Therefore, if you’ve watched anime and are still interested in the series, I am afraid that you will have to dive into the novel.
That is because there is absolutely no way that anime will be able to cover the amount of content this story has to offer. Part 1 and Part 2 where anime covers is basically prologue. And the amount of content the story has begins to shoot up in part 3 where I really don’t think anime would be able to cover.
The size of part 3 is about the same as part 1 and 2 combined. And the size of part 4 is about the same as part 1, 2, and 3 combined. Part 5 is slightly longer than part 4.
Meaning, for this series to be animated fully, there will need to be more than 250 episodes, and I don’t see that happening. At least, not with the current trend of what anime studios have been doing.
So, the light novel is the only reliable way to enjoy this series.
FYI, the novel has five parts.
Part 1 has 3 volumes.
Part 2 has 3 volumes. ( This is where anime ends. )
Part 3 has 5 volumes. ( The beginning of Myne’s noble life as Rozemyne. )
Part 4 has 9 volumes. ( Royal academy years. )
Part 5 has 12 volumes.
As for manga, it is alright, but it is not going to be as good as the light novel. It is also lagging badly behind. Thus, if you really would like to see this series in full, the light novel is the only way.
Similarities with Overlord
On surface, these two are entirely different. Overload is about an overpowered MC owning everyone while the bookworm series is about a girl trying to get herself a library and somehow ascend into Godhood.
However, while the MCs are totally different, the way both handle its prospective worlds is similar. Both series spend a lot of time building its own world which start to shine in later plots, meaning, for both series, its source material, the light novel, is the best one.
The major disadvantage is slow and careful world building is a slow start. Overlord counters this by having an insanely overpowered MC who takes a backstage role later. The bookworm series attempts to counter the slow start with inventions with its MC shining near the end.
Both series end up becoming insanely political near the end though. Both series also end up at the same point where both MCs become literal Gods.
Ascendance of a bookworm is easy to ignore at first due to its seemingly young cast. It may look like a children’s book / story at first.
However, it is anything but that. The story, after part 3, gets really political and its scope keeps getting bigger and bigger. Political marriages, assassinations, succession crisis, infighting, et cetera – it’s anything but a child’s story.
And Rozemyne does grow up to an adult later on.
Read the light novel because the anime doesn’t really do the justice. Sadly, manga isn’t even in the race.
I highly recommend this series but I do warn you that this is a slow burner. Once it starts to burn though, you aren’t going back. Among tens of light novels I’ve read over the years, this series sits on number 1 in my heart, especially from part 5 volume 6 to its final volume 12 is a fucking wild ride. It was an extremely intense and breathless ride. I read those volumes in one sitting, forgoing drinking, eating, and even sleeping. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to eat or drink. I completely forgot.
It’s very rare that a story shines this much near the end. It’s usually the opposite. Read this. I implore you. No, I demand it.