Ascendance of a Bookworm
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 26 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?
Through its 26 episodes to date, Ascendance of a Bookworm has featured numerous strong individual scenes. However, if I had to single out one episode as the best of the lot, it might well be this one. By both resolving the arc about the knights and finally completing the prologue scene, it brings the two originally-planned seasons to a satisfying conclusion while still leaving plenty of room for more.
The episode begins with the completion of the trombe destruction mission. The blessing to restore mana to the land still needs to be done, and Ferdinand forcing Shichicoza to start it provides a fitting way both to start his punishment and the necessary demonstration for Myne, who finishes the job in glorious fashion. This is one of the finest individual scenes of the whole series in terms of audio and visual presentation; I can see myself rewatching it numerous times in upcoming months. It also represents the first time that Myne has fully released her mana in mostly-controlled fashion, and it clearly made the impression that Ferdinand wanted on the other knights present; no one will question now why Myne, as a commoner, was granted blue robes. That doesn't at all means she's safe, however; Ferdinand's comments to Kerstadt towards the end suggest that his comment at this point about “too much, if you ask me” means that Myne's display–and the clear fact that she could have done even more–might draw her too much of the wrong kind of attention.
The scene where she's flying back with Ferdinand is also important. I especially liked how her initial look at him was angled to catch the shadows of the sun; Ferdinand has never been very expressive, and that seemed to symbolize his mood as he apologizes to Myne. Yes, he did promise her father to look out for her, but he takes this as a personal failing as well. Propriety is an essential part of Ferdinand's worldview, and what happened to Myne was, to him, a gross violation of that. Myne is right that this situation was not easily predictable, but Ferdinand doesn't strike me as the type to let anyone off the hook that easily, including himself.
The scene when they arrived back and asked Myne if she had any requests about the discipline was also a good one. As expected, Myne advocated on behalf of Damuel, but asking for a replacement for her robes was a shrewd move. She certainly does need a not-inexpensive replacement, and under the circumstances, the request would be considered quite reasonable. Handling it this way also keeps her family out of the loop (though Lutz will know) and it gives Benno a chance to react to getting the order in a later scene.
With the knights matter resolved, the time has finally come to return back to the series' opening scene, the one where Ferdinand was preparing to look into Myne's memories to determine if her prodigious mana makes her a threat to the kingdom or not. That scene originally came off as a bit exploitable, but with the groundwork now laid, the need to do so is now perfectly understandable. The probe turns out to be a guided tour by Myne, where Ferdinand learns her ultimate truth. But he gets a bit more than he bargained for when Myne goes all emotional over seeing the mother she left behind. The scene afterward where Ferdinand finally relents on his standoffish nature and returns Myne's hug is another great one, as is the way he distracts Myne in order to get his headpiece back.
Myne's emotional reaction here is the one element in the episode that I feel could have been supported a bit better. After some initial sorrow, memories of her original mother don't come up again in the anime that I can recall, and her comments about trying to block out those memories don't excuse not building a firmer emotional foundation here. It's not a big problem, and seeing Myne thank her family for (from her perspective) replacing what she's lost is still a welcome sight. Meanwhile Ferdinand's suggestion to Karstedt about adopting Myne for her protection seems like a major thread for future developments, and somehow I don't see the knights' role in this story being finished at all.
As a final observation, the text excerpts shown in Myne's memory dive are not insignificant here. They are taken from The Sarashina Diary: A Woman's Life in Eleventh-Century Japan, an edited and annotated collection based on the original writings of Takasue no Musume, a well-connected woman of the Heian era; in fact, the first quote seen is her opening lines. The quotes fit the circumstances too well to have been casually chosen, and coming from a medieval source makes them all the more fitting.
The series ends with the note “The Story Continues,” which is vague enough to leave uncertain whether or not more animation will be made. I, for one, will absolutely be back if a sequel is eventually announced. The story may be condensing and skipping over content from the original novels, but even so, the world-building presented here has been a joy to watch and review.
Ascendance of a Bookworm is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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