Episode 33 – Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3

Main’s incremental, and often incidental efforts at revolutionizing this world have encompassed plenty of aspects both sociological and technological so far. But as of this episode, we’re visiting on the possibility of more direct, personal changes affected, something Main herself has even deeper ties to. As we might have guessed, the sickness afflicting baby Dirk at the end of the last episode is indeed the Devouring, meaning the confluence of events that led Main to her current lot in life have wrapped around to bring a new life, potentially set for the same cycle, into her hands. It feels like a fitting escalation for her to reach at some point, and even if Main herself is still pretty young for her own efforts, deep into the story as we are, it makes for a strong turn at this stage in the season. It’s a complete confirmation that Main’s life could, even longer-term, mean major shifts for how other children like her could be brought up.

We only get a taste of those possibilities in this episode’s entry in the story, of course. Things are first spent simply confirming that Dirk has the Devouring, before Main and Ferdinand further investigate to figure out just how much excess mana the kid has crammed inside of him. It’s here that the initial options for such kids are floated, confirming the status quo we know as well as really reinforcing just how harsh life can be in the world Main has wound up in. You know, in case all the clean Cathedral interiors and time spent playing around with ink might have made us forget. Because even as a baby, absent his own fault for the amount of magic juice he was born with, Dirk’s best option for survival is to live a life of confinement in a ‘contract’ with a Noble exploiting his profit for power. It intersects with Main’s ongoing anxieties about her upcoming adoption, even if her prospect is guaranteed to be more mutually beneficial than Dirk’s.

As with the possibility that Dirk has the Devouring, the potential ‘new’ solution also seems to be apparent to us as viewers a little before the arrive at it: Main could be the one to form a contract with Dirk to ensure his ongoing existence. This point (which you have to presume Ferdinand held back at first purely for a maximum dramatic impact) is honestly a pretty small element floated in the episode, but it lands as a big deal simply due to the massive implications the possibility carries. Main was already on the cusp of revolutionizing this world with the possibility of a printing press spreading the use of reading and writing. Were she to also kick off a reshuffling of the ability of Nobles to ‘care for’ and control mana and those that use it, that would also cause a serious social upheaval. Still a ways off, as mentioned, especially given the clear longer-term storytelling ambitions Bookworm has always traded in, but it still works well as an inclusion of a new plot element, especially with all the other components baby Dirk is motivating by now.

In fact, the baby is generally just being used as a direct illustration of Main’s capacity for change overall. It’s compounded with all the adjacent focus Delia gets in this episode too, of course. She’s become absolutely fixed on caring for the little lad, that even with all the other elements of contract-coordinating with Nobles being thrown around this episode, she doesn’t even mention becoming a concubine once! Concurrent with that is rounding back to Delia’s past issues with her experiences in the orphanage. Her drive to protect Dirk eventually causes her to charge in after all her traumatized hesitance, but then the point is also made: As with so many other shifts she’s incited, the orphanage isn’t the same place it was before Main’s revamping efforts. It creates a neat symbolic effort of her affecting change on both Delia’s past and future, with Dirk another possibility of that potential. Even if he’s also still an easy vehicle for episode-ending drama, with the Head Priest apparently set to adopt him out from under Main for this one’s cliffhanger. Out of the disease frying-pan and into the fires of the foster system, as it were.

That’s all a strong sequence of story elements, which is good, since the other part of this episode, the ongoing plot with the color ink, is decidedly more key. It’s still fine, Heidi is there, she’s still fun, but it amounts to little more than a repeat of her, Main and the others trying to troubleshoot the ink’s effects with transferring to different kinds of paper or mixing colors. It does allow for more of this show’s trademark worldbuilding interludes on the secrecy behind paint production, which is interesting enough. But really the most galling part is recognizing the blind spots Main was operating with once she finally does stumble onto a solution. Seriously, her mom previously worked in dying fabrics, Main wouldn’t have at all thought to ask her about this subject earlier? The revelation of the need to use a ‘fixing agent’ for the colors being something she was unaware of is at least more standard to this series’ ongoing appeal, and Main’s bringing in of her own cultural knowledge at the expense of her knowing about more ‘basic’ things from this world. It’s enough advancement on this part of the plot, but doesn’t feel nearly as essential compared to all the stuff revolving around Dirk.

Still, I think that baby business is enough to carry this episode. It’s a storyline that has contributed even more focus to this stretch of Bookworm, and as outlined at the beginning, I really like how it’s wound up tying even deeper into several other threads of the story’s building blocks. And as portents for further future elements, including rounding back to that scheme we know the Head Priest is party to at this point, it feels like it’s all coming together very solidly.


Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.

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