Ascendance of a Bookworm (seasons 3)
With the idea of Myne being adopted by a noble aired, Myne prepares herself for becoming Karlsted's adoptive daughter...and everything that comes with it. But things might not work out as easily as that, seeing as she is being increasingly noticed by other people, and not all of them good. Nobles have taken an interest in her huge mana reserves, while the ink guilds aren't just going to sit down and let her revolutionize the printing press just like that.
Tim: It says a lot about how different my tastes in isekai are versus the younger anime community when I was far more excited for season three of Ascendance of a Bookworm than when season three of KonoSuba and season two of Rise of the Shield Hero were announced. I was more invested in a seven year-old girl's journey to making her dream of making her backwards world a haven for book reading for herself than some plucky high school kid landing in another world and going on adventures of various levels of seriousness/wackiness. Granted, Myne started off to me as a bit of a selfish, even manipulative at times, pain in the ass, but considering how she spent almost the first five years of her new life bed-ridden (not helping that her previous life she had so many books at her disposal as well), I don't really blame her for wanting to get out more. And she's grown a lot as a character since then, both in terms of the scope of her work (by season two's end she had started making books, hair accessories, and even certain types of food) and her herself. So yes, the second season three was out, Stig and I immediately watched each episode for synchros barely a day after airing weekly, something we had NEVER done for an isekai before!
Stig: I can't stress enough how Ascendance of a Bookworm exceeded my expectations about how to do an isekai well. The idea of having someone from a modern society being sent back in time and throwing the oldtimers into complete disarray isn't even anything new, so it's to Ascendance of a Bookworm's credit that it takes this concept and really think about the consequences in a way that not a lot of shows do.
It's also telling how things we take for granted today were revolutionary at the time. It's actually amazing that we had to go to the third season to finally see some evidence of the kind of gender politics ancient times would normally have. Myne is, despite creating a ruckus wherever she goes, never told off for being "just a girl", except when her age was the part that got called into question (or maybe by that elitist douchebag who was clearly throwing his power and position around). Of course, by this point you should be aware how heavily political this show is. The structure of Ascendance of a Bookworm is both complex and terrifying, and by season's end, you are going to realize how much trouble Myne would be in if there weren't decent people around to protect her. This is partially on her Devouring, granted, but Myne herself has come a long way in knowing how to deal with it. That is, as long as her powers aren't running wild, which they also do here from time to time.
Not that we're any closer to the truth about Myne's powers, or exactly what makes then spin out of control, mind you. But as Myne herself rises in status, we do start to fill in the gaps in the lives of the less fortunate. Dirk is a baby that shows up out of nowhere in - let us remind you - a time where an extra mouth to feed could be potentially life-ruining for a family in the lower class. To make things even worse for him, he also shows signs of the Devouring. The fact alone that Myne greatly increases the standard of living for all the orphans does make things a lot more optimistic for the tiny baby, but that's only if he can avoid grabbing the attention of nobles looking for a convenient magical battery.
Dirk's not the only baby you'll get acquittanced with, though. Myne herself gains a new little brother in Kamil. Frustratingly for her, she doesn't really know how to handle babies, and he is fully aware of this, kicking up a fuss whenever Myne tries to socialize with him. The two babies serve as interesting mirrors, though; Kamil is part of a poor but loving family that could do preciously little for Myne as she was facing the worst part of her Devouring, while Dirk's future with a potential nobel would leave him in a richer one with a higher status, but would be stuck with people that use him for selfish gains.
But just as Kamil's life has just started, Myne's life has just restarted. We kid, but while she is still young, it's safe to say that she has a heap of troubles to contend with herself. While the Devouring is less problematic now that she has the status of a noble, she isn't in any way safe. In addition to making waves with her revolutionary ideas when it comes to inventing stuff - which makes some people want to get her out of the picture - her huge mana reserves are also making other less noble nobles want to add her to their collection of human mana batteries. As the first two seasons pointed out, and this season reinforces, mana from people can apparently be stored in items for further use, or even applied directly like a power adapter. These have to be magical items, though, so this ability isn't necessarily an option for the commoners of the world, hence why this is still a class based society.
And if you thought Bezewanst (aka "Evil Santa") was evil when he ordered Myne killed for not being a noble, he goes full blatant evil here, inviting his evil buddies and making evil plans. He was the one to initially send Delia to make trouble for Myne when his "get my flunkies to kill her" plan failed. It's a little on the nose, sure, but if we can't expect people in power to police themselves, who can we trust? We can't go further into detail without spoiling everything, but yeesh, if you didn't loathe him already in the series, you will by season three's end.
Good thing that Ferdinand brings in some extra hands for team "Protect Myne". Meet Sylvester, a man who immediately starts antagonizing the audience by demanding that Myne squeal like a little pig, and he doesn't dial down the jackassery even when he does become her personal bodyguard. There is, of course, more to him than his frankly awful first impression suggests. Nothing he does is truly evil, but he does come across as a bit of a bully right out of the gate, and Ferdinand groaning over his antics isn't exactly helping his case.
Stig: It might be a cultural thing as far as I can tell, but all it does is remind me of the TV show concept where people visited shops undercover to act like the biggest Karen's ever, and the store clerks who put up with it the most were the ones who "won". So yeah, he does eventually kinda sorta redeem himself, but he is to this very day the main argument for "first impressions count for a lot", which is otherwise a stance I'm fiercely against. I wonder if that means Sylvester killed my standards.
Tim: To say I didn't like Sylvester at first impression would be an understatement. I already talked about in the earlier reviews we did of Ascendance of a Bookworm how long it took me to warm up to Gil and Delia, but they were orphaned kids living in an initially terrible environment, so their initial antagonism was justified. Sylvester is an adult man antagonizing a child. And he's like to this in near every encounter with Myne in season three. You only get one first impression, and Sylvester's sucks. He also tricks Myne in a way I can't talk much about without going into major spoiler territory, but needless to say it comes off more like a deux ex machina than a genuine sign of niceness from him. I still didn't like him even after that.
With only ten episodes this season, Ascendance of a Bookworm doesn't really get into the details of many other characters not around Myne and the temple. Lutz especially suffers from this, going from a main character in the first two seasons to just...kinda being there. Granted, unlike Myne, he already has a set path in life he knows he's going down, but it's still a little disappointing how he's more or less been replaced with Gil as the official escort Myne needs to walk around with. (Though Gil's newfound adorkable nature isn't without its charm.) Even Benno, the short-tempered but well-meaning merchant Myne has been working with financially, only makes a few scant appearances.
The big sub-plot of season three of Ascendance of a Bookworm is around ink. Well, two plots actually: colored ink, and the ink printers' bemusement of Myne's ideas. While the colored ink arc is actually told over several episodes - 30-90 vignettes mostly between episodes - the ink guild stuff is not. The eventual resolution is kept more up in the air here, as Myne's work on the printing press has just begun, and there's much more to do to fully embrace all the aspects of the written and printed word. Though granted, compared to Myne having to fight off being more or less sold off to a sleazy noble, ink color is the least of her problems.
The ending is also more than a bit bittersweet this season as well. Again without giving much away, it almost feels like a series finale of sorts at the end. Or you would think that, if not for the fact the anime only wraps up the second big arc of the light novels. The anime's only covered seven volumes so far; there's still 22 more as of this writing!
Tim: Ascendance of a Bookworm season three doesn't lose a beat over its previous two seasons. Considering how many isekai anime I've watched with Stig where the second season just doesn't hold up (we're currently on season two of My Next Life as a Villainess and not having a good time), it's nice to see one where the characters still continue to be engaging, likable, and rootable even three seasons in. I hope we don't have to wait long for season four.
Stig: I honestly just want to nudge this show up that last one star, because it's such a delectable show even at its worst. I'm just flabbergasted at how well it works its historical elements into this purely fantasy show, dark ages style, and the biggest mystery is simply... why haven't I bought this one yet?
Recommended Audience: There isn't that much direct violence in this show, but it's also not shy about showing or telling how terrible it can be to live in this world if you're unfortunate enough to suffer one or more of its class situations or potential diseases.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Partial (12/10)
Ascendance of a Bookworm (seasons 3) © 2022 Miya Kazuki / TO Books / Honsuki no gekokujou seisaki iinaki
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