Ascendance of a Bookworm
by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 13 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?
How would you rate episode 14 of
Ascendance of a Bookworm ?
The first cour of Ascendance of a Bookworm closes out with the consecutive airing of episodes 13 and 14 separately rather than as a double-length episode. While the latter format probably would have worked fine here, getting through episode 14's content before going into a seasonal break was unquestionably a necessity, as the end of episode 14 rather than the end of episode 13 is where a proper break point should be. In every sense this feels like the conclusion of the first stage of the story and the set-up for the next stage.
In that vein, episode 13, while it has interesting content of its own, is really just the set-up for episode 14's highly dramatic events. Still, it's a necessary set-up for fully understanding why things happen in episode 14 the way they do. It lays out much more fully than episode 12 how the Church in this world is set up and what its reputation is, a point which episode 14 eloquently hammers home with one additional line: the church is basically a dumping ground for people rather than an institution to aspire towards. Commoners who enter the church are typically orphans and wind up doing the grunt work of the church; nobles who are “extras” or not wanted/needed are also consigned there. (The latter in particular is not much different from how the Church operated in our world for centuries.) In a utilitarian sense it's actually an efficient arrangement, as it allow a way for those who wouldn't get recommendations for apprenticeship through family means to actually have a life and for the extra nobles to be useful, though why this would engender a negative opinion of being part of the Church is also obvious. While I had noticed the blue vs. gray robes before, I had assumed that was more of a internal hierarchical rank matter, but it's also a sign of class division in this world. Hence why Myne's family would be adamantly against her apprenticing as a priestess is completely understandable.
Just as interesting is the revelation about how The Devouring fits into things. It turning out to actually be a coveted trait for the Church – as they need mana to empower certain magic items – is, in a meta sense, the “out” that was required for Myne, but it's also a logical one. That Myne is benefiting from political troubles that reduced the number of nobles who could provide the mana (as otherwise commoners wouldn't have value) is maybe a little too convenient but still explains Myne's desirability in a way that doesn't stretch logic one bit. That Myne never realized The Devouring was mana was a bit surprising, but upon reflection, that word never was actually used in her presence. That having mana would make her even more prone to victimization by nobles isn't a surprise, nor is it that Benno's concern for Myne goes beyond just business arrangements, despite what he might claim.
And then we have episode 14's dramatic meeting between Myne and her parents and the High Priest. Turi's concerns about her parents' safety becoming justified is the one place where I've found this series to be heavy-handed, even if it is in line with established historical behavior across many cultures. However, it does allow for the introduction of the Crushing, an ability that sufferer of the Devouring can manifest when sufficiently riled up which can basically (as it looks like) overwhelm a target with the force of your mana. It seems like a potent and dangerous ability if one could learn to control and manipulate it, though not widely practical because you have to have the condition in order to use it. We've seen the mana manifest in times of stress before (and her parents were not apparently oblivious to it after all), so her being able to do something like this isn't a big surprise; that the High Priest had no defense against it is. I don't entirely buy that the Head Priest is going to be able to sweep it all under the rug, but this also, finally, shows that he's a decent guy and will quell misgivings about him that have arisen because of his actions at the beginning of the series. More importantly, it allows Myne and family to walk away clean with the deal that's best for her. We'll see, I guess, if this proves to be too good to be true in the long run or not.
I was also impressed that the story was able to keep Lutz involved (even if not directly most of the time) or that it finally found time for Turi again. Taking time to acknowledge Lutz's concerns was, I think, important, as was keeping Myne's family in general involved in events; we just don't see that much of that in anime, and it makes a nice counterpoint to the norm for the Church. Finally, the range of Myne's expressions in these two episodes only reinforces her visual adorability.
While this series hasn't been perfect, it's done plenty enough right so far that it's a shoe-in both for my pick as the top series of the Fall 2019 season for my Top 5 of the Year list. It's been a delight to watch, and I eagerly look forward to its return in April.
Rating (both episodes): 4.5
Ascendance of a Bookworm is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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