Episode 35 – Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3

There’s a point towards the end of this episode of Ascendance of a Bookworm where Ferdinand walks into the halls of the cathedral to about the same effect as that memetic scene from Community of Troy walking in with the pizzas. Magic spells are being slung around, children and infants are being held hostage, poorly-reviewed legal documents have been signed – it’s a whole thing. And as beleaguered as Ferdinand is used to being in dealing with Main’s situations, this still comes off as a much more serious escalation, really sold by his reaction of struggling to come to grips with how the other characters involved even managed to get to this point . Thing is, despite watching everything leading to it unfold, I couldn’t help having shades of that reaction myself. Yes, this episode kicks off from last week’s cliffhanger of Main getting stuffed into a sack, but that actually gets resolved in a relatively quick, simple fashion, and coming up to that climactic cathedral clash involves a whole lot of swerves that might have landed better had they been afforded the breathing room Bookworm more customarily contributions to its content.

Many of the elements getting are ones that had some degree of previous setup; heck, this episode’s title immediately calls our attention back to Sylvester’s Chekhov’s Gun charm from a few weeks back. And of course the core of the confrontation between Main’s crew and Bezewanst and Bidewald at the Cathedral is borne out of the convergence of both Main and Dirk’s ongoing adoption storylines. With that, there is an arc to the action present in this episode; The first part drives up the tension as Gunther charges in to rescue his daughters, and we briefly see Tuuli threatened before Main’s magic manages to save her. It’s all actually a dry run for things that will pop up in the latter part of the episode, just with different characters and results switched around. It’s trading on the same story structure Bookworm has always used, keeping us reminded of key elements as they continue to be relevant in different phases of the story.

So the issue with the storytelling at this point comes in the form of just a few specific swerves that don’t harmonize as well with the show’s usual surgical attention to built-in details. Most particular is Delia unintentionally signing off baby Dirk into servitude on account of not reading the second page of a two-page contract. I understand the characterization at work here: Delia is one of the few people still naively trusting that Bezewanst has the best interests of anyone but himself in mind, plus she’s excited at being a good big sister by finding what she thinks is a happier future life for Dirk. But since Bezewanst and Bindewald have obviously gone full heel in their presented personalities by this point, the show could have more directly conveyed their duplicity in dragging Delia and Dirk into this scheme; Trying to cast the complications of this scheme at the feet of an (extremely obvious) mistake on Delia’s part just makes it feel like a perfunctory way to drive up her own dramatized reaction, which then has to whirl over to an escalated confrontation so we can take care of this plot before this season’s episode count runs out.

The other half of the major issues here, then, come out of Ferdinand’s aforementioned re-entry and his way of explaining/resolving the conflict, cliffhanger of itself that we end this episode on. Ferdinand has always been a stick-in-the-mud, but he at least felt like he could be a compassionate one, so him immediately siding with Bezewants in the confrontation and sentencing punishment for Main and everyone involved with her on the spot is a deflating downer. Yes it gets subverted a second later thanks to us finding out the true nature of Sylvester’s protective charm and the way it turns around Ferdinand’s reaction, but that only comes off like an even more abrupt addition. Much like this fight escalating as a result of Delia not reading the second page of the contract, the revelation of how the charm works feels like the story rules-lawyering a way for Ferdinand to get back on Main’s side after he was previously in full support of Bezewanst seemingly for maximum drama. Similarly, the conditions for fulfilling this – Main needing to declare her willingness to be adopted by Sylvester on the spot – is designed as pointedly abrupt in how it’s supposed to communicate her bittersweet separation from the family she’s continuously re-confirmed her love for. It’s a moment of tonal whiplash that works better compared to all the other wild escalations in this episode, I think, but it still contributes to the feeling of perfunctory pacing dogging many of this episode’s developments.

That doesn’t mean that this entry of Bookworm is ‘bad’ per se, just that its storytelling doesn’t feel as methodical as all the setup that went into it, resulting in a comparative sloppiness. It might be considered an even trade given the increase in action this all heralds, with the magic-slinging fight in the cathedral halls being a welcome escalation after so many weeks of characters standing around talking about adoption-law technicalities. And seeing the likes of Bezewanst and Bindewald getting owned via direct magical attacks to the face is absolutely cathartic after all that lead-up. And for all my gripes about the pacing, props to them for not finishing by the end of this episode, even as the rushed made me worry that’s what they were hurtling towards; Bookworm still holds onto enough of its deliberate efforts even as we’re thrown into what feels like a room with so many fires burning at once. Corroborated rumors have indicated that next week’s tenth episode will be the last one for this season of Ascendance of a Bookwormand if that proves to be the case, I feel like the way they’ve run up to the story has put it in a good place to leave off there, even if they seemed to be in just a little too much of a rush with this entry.

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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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