Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 2: Apprentice Shrine Maiden, Vol. 1

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

The fourth volume of Bookworm starts a new arc, as Myne has managed to cajole and finagle her way into being an apprentice shrine maiden – and a blue-robed one at that, the elite noble sort of shrine maiden. But things aren’t all magically wonderful, despite the fact that she can now read books. She has three attendants, all of whom dislike her to some degree, and she is not remotely used to talking and acting as a noble should. Despite having an outlet for her Devouring now, she’s still sickly and weak, particularly when she’s reading so much she forgets to eat. The temple has an orphanage that is a nightmare, and Myne has to deal with the fact that if she wants to do something about it, she can’t just half-ass it – she needs to be a benefactor. Can she overcome all this, plus the fact that every time she finds a “solution” to a problem, it creates five more?

Myne may have the knowledge from her past life, but even her past self tended to be a bit flighty, so one of the biggest roadblocks she faces is her acting the way that a normal kid would act – acting on something as soon as she sees it, without thinking of the consequences. This has always been a headache to Benno, but now it’s a headache for the High Priest as well. Honestly, things would go far smoother if she was to simply ask more “common sense” questions about nobility, but “tell me what I don’t know” is hard to answer. I was rather amused when, towards the end of the book, when trying to resolve the issues with Lutz’s family, she’s given a magic device that literally means no one else can hear her talk. Oh, if only this existed in real life.

As for the three attendants, honestly, Myne wins them over fairly rapidly. One is disturbed she’s not acting like a noble and also worries he’s been demoted; another is a bratty kid who’s just never gotten praise for good work before, and the third is the High Bishop’s planted spy, who is trying to stay on the one path available to her, even though “mistress to a noble” strikes Myne as not something to strive for. We also get the usual inventions and ideas from Myne, as we make pizza, create clothes hangers, and discover that the fruits used in a festival event actually can become the rare paper-giving trombes if mana is poured into them – something that could also have huge ramifications down the road, as now the commoners would have a way to fight the Devouring. Myne has to (once more) be sat down and lectured, as life is not as simple as “now no one will have mana poisoning!”.

Those watching the current anime know this is a slow-burn series, and this volume is much the same, despite Myne also becoming an orphanage director. At least she’s reading books… though her revelation that she doesn’t really retain anything she reads boggles my mind. It really is pure pleasure for her, isn’t it? This new arc is four books long, so I look forward to seeing how Myne makes everyone around her smack their foreheads in future volumes.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 3

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

Tempting as it is to have the series be 20+ volumes of Myne and Lutz sitting around and making paper, it’s no surprise that we’re going in a different direction. More accurately, the moment that Myne found out there was an easier way to get at books, she was going to go after it no matter what. Of course, Myne being Myne, she chooses the one thing that will upset everyone, as the way to get to books is to become a shrine maiden at the local temple… which is composed mostly of orphan children abandoned by society who are worked to death. No wonder the family is against it. But of course, this is the thing. Myne is weak. Even after a temporary cure of the Devouring (though it’s just putting it off), she’s still really, really weak. So honestly, provided she gets some leverage, shrine maiden might be a perfect job for her. Fortunately, finding leverage is what Myne is all about.

I will admit that I wish the religion had been given a bit more emphasis in earlier volumes. As it is, it feels like the Church comes up right about when the plot requires it to. It at least gets a bit of development, with a nice story about how the Gods work, and a prayer pose that unfortunately looks like a very popular Japanese meme image, causing Myne to lose it with laughter during her own baptism. (It also provided the inside color image, because really it deserved illustration.) On the same note, Myne finds out more information about The Devouring right when the plot requires it as well – there doesn’t seem to be a taboo on discussing it, so it’s a mystery as to why Myne just now finds out that it’s due to too much mana inside her. It is clever to show that the only reason she hasn’t died yet is due to the reincarnated memories, which allow her more adult brain to control it better.

There is, believe it or not, an actual action sequence in this very inactive light novel series, as when Myne shows up with her parents to the temple, the bishop has an attitude of “we’re taking your daughter forever now, goodbye”, and gets upset when both she and her family refuse. This allows her father to kick ass and take out several priests at once, in a sequence that would be ridiculous if it lasted any longer than the two paragraphs it does. Likewise, Myne had better start learning how to control her Devouring/mana, as in her rage she ends up nearly killing the Bishop for attacking her family. It’s a startling scene. That said, it does given Myne the leverage she was seeking out, and fortunately the High Priest is a lot more sensible than the Bishop.

So Myne is off to the Temple, but can still see Lutz and her family and innovate. Oh, and she gets to be treated like a noble shrine maiden, not a slave shrine maiden. And, most importantly, BOOKS! But will it really be that easy? We’ll find out in the next arc of Bookworm, which seems to be four books long.

Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll Do Anything to Become a Librarian!, Part 1: Daughter of a Soldier, Vol. 2

By Miya Kazuki and You Shiina. Released in Japan as “Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen” by TO Books. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by quof.

This was a stronger volume than the first one, which I already liked quite a bit. The reason for this is that Myne has essentially accepted this world and who she is in it, and thus does not spend quite as much time railing against her weak body and her fate of being in a world with no books. There’s still a number of times when Myne gets discouraged by everyone being faster/stronger than her, but it isn’t as exhausting this time. It helps that Myne is starting to succeed, and she and Lutz are managing to make their paper dreams come true, help create and invent luxury items for their benefactor, learn the ins and outs of trade, and even make friends with a cute nobleman’s daughter. Unfortunately for Myne, she still has THE DEVOURING, a sickness that seems like it will eventually kill her, and the cure is so expensive that even nobles think it’s super expensive. Can Myne survive?

The highlight of the book, easily, was Lutz confronting Myne about who she really is. Urano getting reincarnated in a weak, sickly girl (who apparently had dreams of living in modern Japan) is all very well and good, but there’s too much dissonance for a child who observes her as closely as Lutz has. He angrily calls her out, and it’s interesting – and a bit horrifying – too see Myne offer to essentially commit suicide to solve the problem… though that won’t get the “real” Myne back. Thankfully, Lutz ends up accepting the new Myne, but we’ll have to see how this goes going forward – Benno also seems to have figured things out, but Myne is not ready to open up to him yet.

The book also gives us a lot more detail about the world Myne is a part of, setting up what is a long series of books. There are other cities, but most residents will never, ever go beyond the one they live in. Marriages can be difficult as well – a side story tells us how Otto met and married his wife, and it involved the fact that she was about to be married off to someone that she wasn’t fond of but could not reject or it would impact their family and business. Fortunately, she and Otto seem to get along well. (Honestly, most of the women and girls we’ve seen in this book are pretty strong characters.)

One last thing to note – through two volumes, there’s not really all that much that I would consider objectionable in a standard light novel way – no hot springs peeping, casual lechery, etc. Myne notes that Otto’s wife has large breasts, but that’s about it. It is, in fact, a novel you could quite happily give to a young teen or older child and have them tear through – though it might not be exciting watching Myne make paper, there are a few action scenes here and there. Briefly. Ascendance of a Bookworm’s second volume is better than its first, and is a good read for anyone who loves books. I can’t wait to read the third book, which ends “Part 1” of Myne’s story.