Ascendance of a Bookworm
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?
For those who might have missed it, good news has come on the production front since last episode streamed: all episodes have been completed, so COVID-19-related delays on the rest of the episodes airing are unlikely. Frankly, that's some of the best news that I have heard in the last week.
Concerning episode 20 specifically, a problem that has been brewing for a while now behind the scenes has finally come to a head. Lutz's parents (especially his father) were initially strongly against him pursuing being a merchant, but when Lutz managed to apprentice to Benno's company with no further evident fuss about it, the matter seemed to have been settled. I did think at the time that things resolved there a little too easily, but apparently nothing was resolved at all. A hint about this was dropped an episode or two ago, when Lutz quickly diverted the subject when Main asked why one of his older brothers didn't seem to know anything about where Lutz worked, and now the truth comes out: his father told him to “do whatever you want” without specifically approving of anything. Things went passably there until Lutz needed permission to go with Benno on a trade mission to another town, and conflict exploded when Lutz's father put his foot down on that. Traveling between towns isn't the safest proposition in this setting (which is historically accurate for medieval Europe), so to an extent this was a legitimate concern, but Lutz runs off instead of trying to work this out.
In fairness, Lutz, as a child, didn't have the standing to argue a good case on his own. Myne wants to help, but there's a limit to how much she can or should do in the situation, even if she's not ill. So does Benno, but he does have some standing there as Lutz's master/employer. However, there's also a limit to what he can do without Lutz's parents' approval. The notion of him adopting Lutz to make Lutz his heir is a startling one at first, but also makes sense; adopting someone to be the heir to a business is not an uncommon practice historically, whether in Europe or Japan. What's surprising about it is that Benno was already impressed enough with Lutz to seriously considering the option. Hence that leads to what essentially amounts to mediation when the head priest decides to get involved. (Given the way things play out here, I have to wonder if this is far from the only time that he has been called on to mediate a dispute, due to the nature of his position.)
This is the first time that we have seen Lutz's father in a sustained characterization, and I like the way he was handled here. He wasn't just some cookie-cutter taciturn father; as a man of limited education who works in a profession where he's not constantly dealing with customers, he is also a man of limited ability to express himself. That, combined with his evident passion, means that he's done a poor job adequately communicating to Lutz. Lutz, as the child, ends up taking the blame for the misunderstanding anyway and is made to apologize for dragging others into a dispute, but Lutz's father is every bit as culpable for not making it clear that he expects Lutz to own his decision, whatever the consequences may be; at least he does seem to understand that afterwards. This yet another case of adults expecting children to understand more they have been prepared to, something which seems to be a recurring theme in the series (whether deliberately or not).
As a result of all of this, Myne gets sidelined for big chunks of the episode, but that's okay, as the situation with Lutz is compelling enough and something which has to be dealt with eventually. I am also intrigued by the magic item the head priest – whose name has now formally been revealed to be Ferdinand – used to communicate with Myne in a way that others could not hear. Using it to keep her from interfering was a clever move, but this also feels like some foreshadowing. How Myne learns his name is also interesting; a monogrammed handkerchief like that sounds like the kind of thing that a lover might have made for him. Bet there's a story behind that.
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