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Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 1 & 2 Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
The life of an apprentice librarian in an isekai world is an interesting logline for a project

What They Say:
When a sickly young girl suddenly becomes obsessed with inventing new things, her family and friends are all puzzled. “What has gotten into Myne?” they wondered, never dreaming that the answer is not a “What” but a “Who”: Urano Motosu, a book-loving apprentice librarian who died in an earthquake in Tokyo who somehow found herself in Myne’s body! And since Myne’s world is still in a medieval stage, where books can only be owned by the elite, the new Myne intends to do everything she can to bring her beloved books to the masses in the time she has left. Unfortunately, that may not be very long, as Myne’s body is still failing, and she may only have a short time left to achieve her lofty goals!

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo with a new English language dub done in 2.0, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series is one that works a decent blend of action and dialogue throughout it so that the various channels get well utilized for the most part. The stereo mix works the forward soundstage well for both dialogue and special effects with how everything moves back and forth at times while there are some good bits of placement and depth as well during the bigger moments. The English mix bumps everything up a bit and it feels like it has a touch more impact overall but also just a bit more clarity in the mix from the English side of it but this is mostly just in how it’s a touch louder. Both tracks represent the show well and everything comes across clean and problem-free.

Originally airing in 2019 and 2020, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-six episodes and two OVAs are spread across three discs in a nine/eight+OVA/nine format that gives it some room to breathe overall. Animated by Ajia-do Animation Works, the series is one that has a lot of really good looking designs to it and some well-detailed backgrounds in addition to the character models and it certainly has some good color design going for it. The quality definitely comes through in the encoding and I really just loved the look of the world, its characters, and how it presented itself. The encoding brings it to life well in both the quieter scenes and the high motion pieces with the more fluid animation and the end result is a show that looks great and captures the original material well. It’s colorful, richly so in some areas considering the palette used, and the details hold up well throughout.

© Miya Kazuki, TO Books / Ascendance of a Bookworm Production Committee

The packaging for this release comes in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside that holds two of the three discs. The front cover goes with the main key visual that we had to kick the series off with as it features the large and expansive cast for it in a really good way with a lot of colors. The logo along the bottom has the right kind of hook to it with the style and full name while the upper right includes that it contains the first two seasons. The back cover works something that’s a lot more in-theme with its layout and detail with the framing as we get a good summary of the premise cover along with a lot more shots than we usually get, even of a few different sizes. The extras are clearly listed along the right and we get a good breakdown of the production credits for this as well. Add in a clean and clear technical grid that lays everything out accurately and easily finishes it all off. No show-related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for this release is pretty standard fare as we get the static screen approach that uses some good character configurations across each of them. It’s one that has some good color design to it with the use of the varying characters that populates it so it’s welcome when you get to the next disc to see which ones will be used. The layout works a standard approach with episode number and titles and submenus as needed for languages or extras where appropriate. It’s not the flashiest of menus but it gets the job done and loads quickly and easily with solid navigation that makes sense both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu..

The extras for this set on-disc are pretty straightforward as we get the clean version of the opening and closing sequences and the Japanese promotional videos.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Miya Kazuki, Ascendance of a Bookworm is a two-season TV anime series that clocked in at twenty-six episodes. The light novels began in 2015 with twenty-five volumes so far and has had a few manga spinoff adaptations along the way. The adaptation was produced by Ajia-do Animation Works with Mitsuru Hongo directing and it ended up with a pretty good look to it over the two seasons. I’m definitely impressed by the light novel side of things in that there are as many as there are overall as you can see the large world and cast of characters that Kazuki has put together that makes it easy to want to immerse yourself with overall.

© Miya Kazuki, TO Books / Ascendance of a Bookworm Production Committee

The premise for the series focuses on Motosu Urano, a young woman who is totally a bibliophile with the goals to be a librarian someday. It’s easy to get caught up in her energy at the start even though you know it’s an isekai show that’s going throw some curves at us. When the earthquake hits and she’s killed by the books falling on her, the final wish to be reincarnated as someone with the same passion for books is what sets things in motion. Her being sent to a new world under the name Myne, but where she has the love that she’s had, it’s not exactly the best situation at first. While the real world was one where access to books was incredibly easy as we all know, this new world is one where only the nobility has access to books and other forms of literature, making it very hard to get to. To make matters worse, her body in this world has another problem in that when she’s stressed or depressed her body gets sick, something that’s called The Devouring. So she’s got a few things working against her.

What Myne does is something that could easily cause problems as she decides to use the knowledge she has from the previous world in creating books through papyrus so she can spread the love of books across the world and to all the people she meets. That’s the focus of the first cour of the series as she works to craft the tools and style to do this with and to get the group around her that will join her on the journey. The idea of spreading books to the world where there’s limited access is definitely appealing to those who love books so it’s an easy draw into this series. It also doesn’t hurt that Myne is a cute and fun character and her passion for all of this drives it really well. The only real make or break thing I think for a lot of people is that it’s a very slow-paced work where it’s definitely taking the leisurely approach to what it wants to do. There’s not hard and fast investment in place to place and it’s not something filled with big action or constant craziness.

© Miya Kazuki, TO Books / Ascendance of a Bookworm Production Committee

With the light novels obviously going on still and a whole lot of them, there’s no real “end” to what we get here but the series does what I think it needs to do well. As we watch Myne go through things like an apprenticeship early on in order to expand her skillset at how to produce the things she wants, since knowledge requires training to actually create, there’s a lot of character material and exploring of the world. And it does it well with a pretty immersive piece as the seasons change and time passes. This isn’t something where it’s got the big action goal or taking over the world as its main mission. Its focus is on spreading the love of books and reading to the masses. If there’s an area of the series that doesn’t do much for me and leans into the isekai stuff more than it should is all the business with magic and mana. It’s something that just doesn’t feel wholly necessary here when viewed against Myne’s main goal and passion and at times feels like a distraction. Granted, it’s a path to dealing with the religious side of things and that’s always tied with nobility, but it was an area that just left me feeling like things are more complicated than they need to be.

© Miya Kazuki, TO Books / Ascendance of a Bookworm Production Committee

Myne’s progress toward becoming a librarian is definitely a lot of fun to watch unfold throughout it as she makes some good progress along with her other skill set. I do like that as it moves into the second season we see how things change for her as part of the agreement involves her being treated as a noble and keeping up on her paper studio, are things that almost feel in conflict with each other but allow for different areas to be tugged upon as needed throughout. Honestly, there were times where I’d just want to watch the whole paper-making aspect be the main thing. But the progress we get in the second season as she learns more of the land, nobility, and her place within it all while trying to achieve her core goal works well. It’s just something that plays out pretty slowly overall and there’s a welcome kind of comfort to that.

In Summary:
The life of an apprentice librarian in an isekai world is an interesting logline for a project and it definitely works well. It’s like having the main character end up as a side character and following them on their journey to make books and engage with the nobility and others in order to do so rather than following the swashbuckling characters on the hero’s journey with all the fanservice. Myne is a cute character that’s easy to engage with as she uses some of her knowledge from her previous life to get everything going and adapts pretty well to this world. It’s a slow and steady journey with small challenges along the way. I like the focus on the skill building and getting the training to do what it takes to make books into this world as well as the commitment to engage with the nobility on it. The whole mana exploration just felt like an uninteresting thing that was more a nod to an isekai world than anything else. With both seasons of the show here in bilingual form, we get a solidly tight package that brings it all together for fans that want to own it without relying on the ephemeral nature of streaming. It looks great with a strong encoding, clean picture, and clear audio presentation.

Japanse Dolby DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Promo Video, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 26th, 2021
MSRP: $89.98
Running Time: 675 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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