The full title of this manga series is Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian Part 1 If there aren’t any books, I’ll just have to make some!
Whew! Even amongst all of the crazy-long titles that are popular nowadays, this one feels excessive. Going forward, I’ll just be referring to it as simply: Ascendance of a Bookworm.
This manga is based on a light novel series by Miya Kazuki, which I haven’t read, that was recently adapted into an anime, which I haven’t watched. I had heard quite a bit about the series from reading reviews of the anime, so I was somewhat familiar with the story going in, but this manga adaptation by Suzuka marks my official introduction to the Ascendance of a Bookworm franchise and I’ll be coming at this review with, hopefully, fresh eyes.
Urano Motosu was a young Japanese woman who loved books above all else and would read everything and anything she could get her hands on. She died in an earthquake, crushed under a mountain of books, and in her final moments she wished to be reincarnated into a new life where she’d be able to read to her hearts content. Miraculously, her wish to be reborn is granted and her consciousness awakens in the body of Myne, a sickly, five-year-old peasant-girl living in a fantastical alternate world. This gift soon begins to feel like a curse, however, as Myne discovers that her new home is a world with medieval-level technology, low literacy rates, a huge disparity of wealth and, worst of all, that books are rare and expensive items that are only accessible to the very rich. Since she’s been reborn into a poor family that’s barely managing to scrape by, books are a luxury completely out of Myne’s reach, but, no matter how hopeless the situation seems, she’s not about to give up. If she can’t buy or borrow any books, then she’ll just have to find a way to make them herself!
Ascendance of a Bookworm is a slice-of-life style manga, so the pacing is pretty leisurely. We follow Myne as she learns more about her new world bit by bit and begins to formulate a plan to make some books, starting with the basics: making paper. Because she had devoured any book she came across in her past life and had a mother who was very into crafting and do-it-yourself trends, Myne has a wide array of potentially useful knowledge to draw upon. I liked seeing her make full use of her mind and find ways to improve her situation in little ways. The explanations of how Myne manages to make rudimentary shampoo, and even show her current mom a superior method of making home-made candles, were also interesting to me and I’m looking forward to seeing if her new paper making scheme will pan out.
Back when I was reading reviews of the anime, a common complaint I saw about Ascendance of a Bookworm was that Myne was a really selfish and bratty character. I guess I can see how people could find her annoying, her love of books is obsessive and, as a result, she can get tunnel vision where all she’s able to focus on is how she’s going to get her hands on some books. That said, I really didn’t mind her as a lead character. Sure, some of her reactions are a bit over-the-top and seem childish for someone with the memories/consciousness of an adult, but I also found her struggles to adapt to her new world to be pretty funny.
Having lived a sheltered existence in her past life, Myne is horrified by a lot of things in her new life, such as: her family’s poor hygiene and seeing animals being slaughtered in the market. All things that I think I’d have troubles adjusting to myself, so I was able to laugh to her reactions. I think I’d be similarly melodramatic if I was snapped out of my cushy, modern life and dumped into a medieval time period. My favourite scene in this volume is when Myne is left in the care of an elderly babysitter and she becomes outraged with how the negligent caretaker lets the babies in her charge all just crawl around in the dirt, hitting each other and stuffing any filthy thing they can get their hands on into their mouths. You just have to laugh at how different this world is to what Myne, and by extension us as the readers, are used to.
Her family’s bewilderment at her strange new habits and outlandish requests is also hilarious. Lucky for Myne, they’re so kind and loving that they’re able to take her bizarre change in behaviour in stride, for the most part. Her elder sister, Tuuli, does express some concern about how Myne has changed in an extra chapter at the end of the book, but ultimately the family is so happy that their sickly youngest daughter seems to have more energy, that they’re willing to overlook a few oddities.
Myne might not be a heroine who’s to everyone’s tastes, but I enjoyed Ascendance of a Bookworm’s style of humor and the gentle pacing of it’s narrative. Suzuka’s art is adorable and I was impressed by the attention that was paid to little details, like how Myne, her sister and mother’s hair is consistently drawn to be shinier after Myne figures out how to make shampoo. I’d recommend this manga to anyone looking for a cute and humorous isekai story and to anyone who thinks it would be absolute hell to wakeup in a world where there were no books.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit J-Novel Club’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Are you a fan of the light novels or the anime? Let me know in the comments.
If you’re interested in reading more cute, isekai stories, check out some of these other reviews: