Ascendance of a Bookworm
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?
After being appointed orphanage director last episode – a job which a random encounter with a blue robe this episode affirms is not a desired one – Myne gets to business quickly. In fact, the smoothness and alacrity with which it happens seems overly optimistic, but the upbeat nature of the proceeding clearly indicate that the clean-up (both figuratively and literally) happening is more important any gritty details about it.
The episode also shows that the process is at least as much a matter of will as it is means. Myne is using some of her own funds to provide food, which is something that the other blue robes no doubt were unwilling and/or unable to do, but just as important is having key personnel on board for her enterprise here. Fran helps administer the situation as well as keeping an eye on Myne, Gil shows that he's pretty skilled at rallying the younger kids when he sets his mind to it, and others among the gray robes are clearly buying in as well, if some more reluctantly than others. Last episode showed how much of a transformative difference positive reinforcement could have on those not used to receiving it, and a reward system for extra effort looks like it should soon shake things up as well; a bit of extra food may seem paltry as an incentive, but consider both how deprived these kids were before and how much even modern-era children can be manipulated with the promise of treats. Before everything's said and done, Myne is going to have a small army to manufacture her paper, and the orphans having even rudimentary reading skills (encouraged via the flash cards – yet another money-maker) will no doubt benefit them in the long run.
The other major event is the Star Festival/Star-Binding Ceremony. That the celebration means different things at the church and in town is interesting, but hardly unusual; consider holidays like Easter and Christmas, which have both religious and secular aspects to them. (This is partly because the early Christian Church made an active effort to co-opt traditional pagan celebrations by applying Christian religious context to them; perhaps that is also true here?) The throwing of tau fruits – which look a lot like tomatoes – is no doubt modeled on the La Tomatina festival made famous by Buñol, Spain, though throwing them at couples specifically is an amusing twist. What's not completely clear is whether this is just something kids do or something that adults participate in as well. Also the name “star-binding” is rather curious, as is its limitation to adults-only.
Another interesting detail to come out of that segment is the suggested relationship between tau fruit and trombe, the fast-growing plant which first appeared back in episode 8 and which has become a prime source of the fibers for Myne's paper. The first time Myne encountered the fruit that produces trombe, it triggered shortly after she touched it, and that incident now looks like it wasn't a coincidence. This suggests that tau fruit can become the trombe-producing fruits when they absorb mana and can be triggered when exposed to mana. Since commoners aren't aware of The Devouring, them not knowing about this peculiar characteristic also makes sense, but I have to think that nobles do know and, as Otto implied in the end clip, would not take kindly to their monopoly on absorbing mana through magic items being infringed upon. This is an item which feels like it could have big consequences for as innocently as it happened.
The last segment also reminds us that Myne is not the only person here on a learning curve due to new associations. Just as Fran misjudged his former master's intentions, so, too, did Head Priest misjudge Fran's concerns for being about Myne's health rather than pride (which would, admittedly, be the natural assumption for a noble). Among other random tidbits, Delia's comments to Myne about wishing she had arrived earlier are also interesting and make one wonder what happened to the other two girls in question. This is also the first episode in a while that Myne's family has appeared, though none of them have any lines, and the first appearance of the gray-robed Wilma (Vilma in some other translations); if I recall correctly from the promo video, she is the one who is going to teach Myne music?
Lastly, this episode used a much greater number of still shots than normal. That may not be cause for concern – this could just be normal production crunches – but we'll see.
Ascendance of a Bookworm is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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