Ascendance of a Bookworm
Episode 22

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 22 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?

At the end of last episode, Rosina dropped the revelation that Wilma is fearful of men because of an incident involving a blue-robed priest taking her virginity. While dealing with the follow-up on that forms only a small part of this episode, it is easily the episode's weightiest content. Only one additional bit of elaboration – a single, briefly-flashed silhouette frame at the 11:30 mark – provides any further insight, but a lot can be read into that. The phrasing “gave her flower” last episode was rather vague, as it could have implied that she was seduced rather than forced, but that silhouette is not. It suggests both that she was forced and that it happened at a prepubescent age as well. That would fit much better with her being fearful men, and sadly, it probably also means that she's far from the only such victim among the gray robes. The orphans would have little to no protections against such things.

But again, for better or worse, dealing with that content takes only maybe two or three minutes total across a handful of scenes. The bigger focus is on Myne trying to work out the best way to carry out her picture book idea, and she investigates numerous aspects of that over the course of the episode. That she decided to run The Three Little Pigs – a decidedly Western fairy tale – by some orphans as her first proposed story is an interesting choice, and I am impressed that the writing actually considered a stumbling block on that tale that most wouldn't think of: orphans raised strictly within the church in a city might not know what pigs and wolves are. (We take so much general knowledge for granted these days that it's easy to forget how compartmentalized knowledge was in older times.) Opting to go with religious tales instead is a very pragmatic notion; in some respects, a picture book would be equivalent to the elaborate stained glass windows that medieval churches and cathedrals used to remind the illiterate congregations about biblical stories. That the practical-minded Ferdinand approves quickly is little surprise.

The rest is all about the mechanical side of the process, and like earlier in the series we get to se Myne go through several experimental steps. The procedure shown here is practically a recreation of the historical progression of wood block prints in Europe, which (as in this series!) closely followed paper production. The details here – including experimenting with ink and discovering how certain art styles are more conducive to the process than others – is fascinating. The book that Myne has Turi sew to bind at the end of the process was historically called a block book, which first appeared in Europe around 1430. They only remained in production until the printing press and movable type were invented a decade later, but this would still be a potentially revolutionary development by the standards of the setting, especially since something on the complexity of a printing press is probably well beyond Urano's arts-and-craftsy knowledge.

Other details here are also enjoyable. I am pleased to see that the trombe incident from a couple of episodes back hasn't been forgotten, and now it looks like Myne is doing it deliberately to harvest the fibers. The way Lutz, Otto, and Ferdinand all talk to and about Myne is also fun, as are her reactions when she's actually paying attention. Seeing that Ferdinand isn't being allowed to be a fool is also pleasing. As the conversation towards the end of the episode indicates, he is starting to piece together that Myne isn't just a prodigy; she is acting on a level of knowledge and education that should be impossible given what Ferdinand knows about the real Myne's background. In other words, the series is finally inching closer to its opening scene. I am getting increasingly curious to see how Ferdinand will react when (if?) he learns the truth.

Rating:

Ascendance of a Bookworm is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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