Approximately 420 minutes have passed since Myne collapsed at the end of the second volume from her existence-eating disease, and she wakes up in the third volume of the mouthily titled Ascendance of a Bookworm: I'll do anything to become a librarian Part 1 Daughter of a Soldier Volume 3 fresh as a daisy during the spring bloom. Also, she's got an expiration date stamped on her forehead for six to twelve months from now, so she rethinks her life and takes up the yolo mantra.
If you haven't read my review on the middle child of this part I trilogy, go ahead and read it because the lot of what's written there can be copy + pasted here. Myne's business dealings are mildly entertaining, hooray, but her primary objective of making books is dull as peeling paint, boo. It did occur to me this time that this series is in serious need of an editor, or one who knows what they're doing.
There's this commonly known rule in writing where authors should scrub away extra filler words like they're germs on a countertop, yet Myne, being the alleged bibliophile she is, has the habit of giving unnecessarily lengthy explanations about things we the readers already know about. For instance, she finally has her long-teased baptism, and a lot of stuff goes down, which results in her heading home with a letter. She needs to explain the trouble she got into to her family, but rather than summarizing it with “I explained to my family what happened” or doing it stylishly by flashing the letter and tossing it before her fam, she gives them a full beginning-to-end explanation of what we the readers already know, which grinds the pacing to a crawl, then her parents grind it to a halt as they intersperse her exposition with “Oh me, oh my.”
This is symptomatic of Myne's persistent issue with matching her prose to her personality, which is another copy + paste issue from my previous review. The difference is that I couldn't battle through the dullness this round and set this book aside multiple times to read more interesting material. I'm not asking for dragons to descend upon the city, but can't Myne find some way to liven up the prose? I know she's capable of this. On one visit to the Merchant's Guild, she has to get pulled away from a bookshelf, but rather than flatly saying, “I want to read those books,” she longingly moans, “The bookshelf is calling me.” There's so much more personality injected into that latter reply, yet Myne sees fit to be exact and wooden when detailing everything else in this series.
I'd like to take a moment to make a confession, one you may have already picked up on by now—I don't like Myne. In fact, I don't like any of the characters in Bookworm. I called Benno a love-him-or-hate-him-kind of character, and I really tried to split the difference and tolerate him, but I just can't stand the prick. He's nothing but rude to Myne, hits her whenever she makes a mistake, and has no redeeming qualities aside from being a good businessman. I get that entrepreneurs have to be thick-skinned or else they'll have an emotional meltdown when they're a dollar in the red, but what kind of grown man karate chops a six-year-old? Certainly not one I'd trust to also not swindle that same child when making business deals.
Benno's just the worst example. The rest of the cast is mean to her in some regard or tries to take advantage of her. Her child slave is mean to her. Her dad gets impatient with her. Her rich friend keeps trying to abduct her into her family's business. And I get the feeling her mother doesn't even love her, that she's just playing the role of mother because that's what society demands of her. Nobody's perfect, and they're more often than not trying to protect her from herself and her Devouring—which took only until the third volume to be capitalized, despite having been a proper noun since the first—but they're awfully quick to put her down and remind her of how useless she is at anything more physically intensive than lifting a pencil.
The worst part of all this rudeness from the side cast has to be Myne herself. She has no backbone and just lets everybody walk all over her. Do you have any idea how often I would've bitch-slapped someone if I were in Myne's place? Like, speak up, woman. Defend yourself. I'd be willing to give a pass on her skittishness if it were part of her character growth into a stronger, independent woman, but there's no hint of that, and I can't foresee this series developing anything that's not a chapter-length exposé on what people use in place of toothpaste.
Side stories make a return and in droves, which terrified me, given how poorly I received the quartet volumes one and two subjected me to, but I was pleasantly surprised at how middlingly acceptable this whole batch was. Some keep to tradition, just being somebody cooking or looking at dresses, but what schmancied my fancy was how they played Myne out to be an expert. Reading from her perspective, Myne's just going through motions, doing whatever plops itself in front of her, but taken from the other characters' perspectives, we see that they actually respect her and that she's a force to be reckoned with. It drums up just how overpowered, in some regards, she is in this world, but it also makes me wanna sit her on my knee and ask her, “Why the hell aren't you this competent for the main story?”
Easily the most worthwhile of the side stories is the one which takes place from the Guildmaster's perspective. It just features the old geezer as he sits in the office and grumbles about his sour relationship with Benno, but he does teach us that his intentions, not to spoil too much, aren't what Benno makes them out to be. But it's also on him why they butt heads the way they do, all because he acts without bothering to explain his actions. It makes me wanna sit him on my knee and ask him, “You know we have language for explaining things, right? Use it!”
For as bored as I got reading a sizable portion of this series, everything starting with Myne's baptism suddenly got me hooked. Stuff was happening, the plot was moving forward. Hell, she nearly kills a guy for the climax and actually starts talking smack. It legitimately got me wanting to invest in Part II of this series. But the rational blob of my brain knows that's only a psychological trap, because Bookworm is like a boring ex. It wants to get back together, promising me the moon and Mars, but I know that as soon as we hook back up, they'll just lounge around the house binging Netflix all day and talking about the weather.
That's not the worst of Bookworm, though. You know what this series is? A poser. It says it loves books to Voyager I and back, but it doesn't name one novel, doesn't reference one classic or contemporary. It doesn't even mention Osamu Dazai, whose name crops up in every other anime.
Wanna know a series which truly is passionate about what it claims to be passionate about? Hi-Score Girl. Its passion is for 90s video games rather than books, but its protagonist spends every waking moment of his day playing video games, gushing about them, or gushing about them while playing them. At no point while watching it did I stop and think to myself, “Y'know, I don't think this anime's that crazy for video games.”
I don't think Ascendance of a Bookworm is bad, but it is a disappointment. It does some things right but doesn't do those right things often enough for the habit to set in, so it reverts back to its boring, droning ways. I feel betrayed, having written how I like this series as like a fresh tangerine in a stand of produce past its expiration date, and conceptually it is. However, the execution falls on its face, then can't be bothered to get up, so it just drags itself along, and by the time it reaches the finale of this Part I trilogy, it looks up and sees me frolicking through a field, arms linked, with another series as my lover.