After the premiere episode for this season of Ascendance of a Bookworm laid out the setup for the new status quo of the series moving forward, the next episode is able to move on from that and get right on…continuing to lay out the setup for the new status quo. Look, Main’s only barely moved into the cathedral, and there’s still a whole winter season coming that she’s going to have to stay through. There’s going to be an adjustment period, and the struggles therein are what we’re currently following along with all the structural shifts affected by our titular tiny bookworm. The show’s presentation and explanation of so many of those worldbuilding elements are as considered and thoughtful as ever. But there might be something of a balance issue in its focus on those elements alongside the more emotionally-affective material of the 28th episode.
Coming off the evocative depictions of Main’s homesickness from the very end of the 27th episode, the 28th continues to utilize that vibe to great effect. There’s a mildly montage-based feeling to the snippets of Main’s days as she misses her family, taking what moments of affection she can from interacting with Lutz or getting to entertain a brief visit with her sister Tuuli. But it works anyway because the ennui, the melancholy of those days passing by, is exactly what this series is trying to hammer home. It’s not simply the situation of being apart from her loved ones that’s getting to Main; it’s the sheer amount of time spent like that which increases that lonely feeling. Presenting things in that aforementioned montage style does an effective job of communicating that passage of time within a relatively short portion of the episode’s runtime. Bookworm generally has a good handle on getting a lot of different stuff to fit into its episodes efficacy, and given that this is basically the emotional core of the story at this point, it’s important that it lands so well.
It’s also important given that it’s basically the only thing carrying the audience’s engagement on any personal level, as the other aspects covered in Episode 28 are pretty much all business. That’s another component that’s come to be expected from the Bookworm experience, of course, so we get details like Main’s crew pivoting to prioritizing game production since they can’t make paper in the winter, or dealing with the logistics of things like picking out a chef for her stay in the cathedral. That highlights another issue Main’s dealing with: having to remain as isolated from outer elements of the Church’s structure as possible to protect her from interlopers like the Ink Guild (the point of which gets more information later in this episode, and I will touch on that in a minute), which only exacerbates her lonely, disconnected feeling in this whole affair. Though we also get to see Main prioritizing teaching writing as the next phase of her education efforts, providing plenty of opportunities for her cute little chibi literary fantasies, so that lends some lighter characteristic content as well.
But then there’s the other major thrust of this episode, as Benno sits down with Ferdinand so they can discuss what’s actually going on with the Ink Guild’s pursuit of Main, and how that speaks to the broader goings-on of the story. There are a few more funny little chibi asides from Main here, but much of this still comes off like housekeeping. The concept here is solidly well-thought-out: The point that Main’s isekai-displaced knowledge and massive mana pool makes her a desirable asset for various factions and forces out there. And I can mostly buy that this was an aspect that Main herself was blissfully unaware of before now due to her being occupied with her own efforts (which ironically resulted in the very reforms that got these peoples’ attention), and that Ferdinand had previously held off on telling her about it.
It can feel like a take-off on the way so many isekai stories end up with their world revolving around their protagonists. Main’s efforts at revolutionizing this world may have been borne out of her simple desire to bring more books into it, but you don’t affect those kinds of seismic shifts without bringing about a bunch more changes and getting the attention of higher powers most affected. So I appreciate the ultimate realization that, in this case, the isekai protagonist having all this attention and focus on them by the world is very much not a good thing. But it can also come off like a sudden dumping of massive importance onto the tiny shoulders of this girl who was already working just fine as the focal character for the show, and the exposition in getting there can feel as rote and dry as Bookworm can ever be in delivering these kinds of details, brief chibi interludes notwithstanding. There’s almost a sense of tonal imbalance, like the emotional core focusing on Main’s homesickness should have been closer to the actual center of this episode’s story.
Thankfully, Episode 28 is able to restore that balance with more of an emotionally-focused idea at the end. With the possibility of being married/adopted into a noble family as a manner of formal protection for the pursuits of interlopers, Main has to steadfastly reiterate her dedication to her family. Her confrontation with Ferdinand here effectively springboards off the interactions with her memories from the end of the last season, reinforcing the point that her sadness at not being able to see her pre-isekai family anymore has only deepened her attachment to her ‘new’ family in this world. It helps connect things back to that homesickness element that drove things earlier, making the thematics of this story feel a little more like a closed circle. Not that it’s completely finished here, as the writing still definitely wants us to consider the question of whether Ferdinand is trying to manipulate Main’s move into nobility by saying she’d be putting her family in danger otherwise, or if he actually has a point. Ascendance of a Bookworm Has always been a story with an eye firmly on the long-term, so we’ll likely be considering that for a while yet. And even with the sheer amount of infodumping in these opening episodes, they still do a good enough job also seeing the emotional through-lines we’ll be following for the time.
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.