Ascendance of a Bookworm

Tagged: TV

Japanese animated tv series (2019-current). Original title vt Honzuki no Gekokujō. Based on the Light Novel by Miya Kazuki. Ajia-do Animation Works. Directed by Mitsuru Hongo. Written by Mariko Kunisawa. Voice cast includes Show Hayami, Yuka Iguchi and Aya Uchida. Fourteen 24-minute episodes. Colour.

A Head Priest (Hyami) uses matching circlets to view a puzzling young child's past. We next see that child, Myne (Iguchi), on the verge of death: she recovers yet seems different, more mature – but her family are just glad she's alive. Myne now has the mind (see Identity Transfer) of Urano Motosu, a librarian from modern-day Japan, who finds herself a child in a medieval City (the soundtrack suggests Celtic).

As Urano, Myne was a shy young woman who loved books: in this new world they are rare and expensive – there is no printing press – and her new family is poor. Myne is determined to make her own books: the price of parchment means she first tries to manufacture such historical alternatives as Egyptian papyrus, Mesopotamian clay tablets and Chinese wooden tablets, but they prove dead-ends. She then fabricates paper using plant-fibres: a merchant, realizing the commercial potential, makes Myne his apprentice.

Myne also successfully introduces items such as shampoo and woven baskets to the city – but her illness, called "The Devouring", worsens. Though ultimately fatal its effect can be tempered by Magic – but this is only wielded by the nobility. Myne's friend, Freida (Uchida), a merchant's granddaughter, has The Devouring too: she receives treatment by agreeing to be a Noble's concubine when she comes of age and suggests Myne do the same. Delighted to discover the city's Cathedral has a staff-only Library, Myne applies to become an apprentice Priestess (see Religion), in doing so learning more about the Politics of this world and how The Devouring is a form of Mana which can be absorbed by one of the Cathedral's Grails.

Early episodes recall Timeslip tales of the type popularized by L Sprague de Camp, where attempts are made to introduce Inventions ahead of their time; but gradually magical elements are introduced: for most of the season these only serve to avoid a mundane alternative – such as Myne being unable to enter the library not because a door is locked, but because there's a Force Field. However this changes in the season finale: the High Priest, a Noble, threatens to execute Myne's family: Myne becomes possessed by the Mana and nearly kills him. The more sympathetic Head Priest, previously met in the episode-one prologue, calmly resolves matters.

This low-key but enjoyable slice-of-(medieval)-life Anime explains early methods of publishing and mercantile Economics. Its tone is generally light, though the city's Nobles, within whom political power resides, are clearly signalled to be a malign influence. The forthcoming second season is likely to cover Myne's ambition to become a bookseller who prints her own books, plus conflicts with the Noble establishment and the nature of The Devouring. [SP]

links

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.