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Light Novel / Ascendance of a Bookworm

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Myne with a book.
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All Urano Motosu has ever wanted to do is read as many books as she possibly can. After she finally manages to become a librarian, her greatest friend suddenly betrays her: During an earthquake, the stacked up books near her fall down and crush her to death. Her dying wish is that she can be reborn and keep reading more books. Well, she gets half of what she wanted: Rebirth, but as a poor, illiterate and sickly child named Myne in the medieval period.

Not only is Myne incapable of reading, there's almost no writing to be found. Books are a privilege of the wealthy as they have to be written or copied out painstakingly by hand and only the wealthy could afford such a thing. Fine. If there are no books, then she'll have to make them herself. Unfortunately, paper and ink are also much too expensive to get, meaning she'll have to invent them and anything else she needs. But Myne's read a lot of books in her lifetime, and has been doing crafts since she was a child (the first time around), so she knows what to do, and even how to do it sometimes. But her resources are limited and her knowledge isn't perfect, so that means a lot of trial and error. And a little help would be appreciated, which she gets in the form of a neighbor boy named Lutz.

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But her odd knowledge and apparent genius do not go unnoticed. Her rapid inventing and need for materials soon attracts the interests of those above her station. From merchants who seek to profit from her craft, to nobles and religious leaders who wish to exploit her for their own ends.

And there's another problem, too. Remember the part about being sickly? That's important. Not only is Myne weak, tiny and prone to fevers if she exerts herself or is exposed to bad weather, but she's also prone to a mysterious fever that will rampage through her body. A fever that seems tied to how determined she is. It can be kept at bay through sheer willpower, but this "solution" won't work forever. More than the books, if Myne cannot defeat this illness she will truly die once more.

An anime of 14 episodes produced by Ajiado was released in October 2019. A Second season was announced for Spring 2020 as is currently ongoing.

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This series provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Myne's parents and any adults closely involved with her life experience this.
    • For her family, they have to face the harsh reality that she might die from her Devouring and they are powerless to help her.
    • If Myne is abducted by nobles from another territory, neither Benno nor the highest ranked noble of their territory could do anything about it.
    • When Effa enters labour, Gunther's prays for it goes well since the family already had two miscarriages before Tuuli and Myne were born.
  • Aerith and Bob: Runs the whole spectrum from real world names like Otto, Mark and Ferdinand, names that sound like they could be variations on real names like Benno, Tuuli or Myne herself to full fantasy names like Bezewanst (the given name of the Bishop).
  • Anger Born of Worry: Pretty much any time Myne gets ill from not taking care of herself, her family and friends will yell at her. Benno is especially prone to yell at her due to her ignorance of social norms.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: It is hinted early on (and then seen later) that Nobles are above the law in this series. Tuuli is worried at one point that her parents would be killed as she was told that Nobles can have peasants executed for simply annoying them. Then when Myne visited the Church with her parents, the High Bishop's personality goes from nice to cruel when he sees he will be dealing with peasants, leaving Myne shocked and wondering if this is how nobles truly are.
    • What's worse, in volume 2, it is noted that the High Bishop isn't even a true noble - he had too little mana to be considered part of the nobility, and was forced into the Church. This is one of the reasons he has such resentment against Myne - she gets to act like a noble, because she has so much mana that only the High Priest, an actual noble, is the only one who can match her.
    • At the end of volume 2, a noble from another duchy plays this trope to the letter. He sneaks into the Church with the help of the High Bishop, and forces, what is effectively, a slave contract with one of the orphans who has mana, and attempts to do the same to Myne.
  • Art Shift: Myne's Imagine Spots are done in a chibi format, to differentiate from the reality around her.
    • Downplayed, but used in the anime, as characters who use Myne's shampoo formula with have hair highlights rather than flat colors to indicate the hair being clean. This shift usually happens after Myne finally befriends them.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Urano used to joke that the way she wanted to go out was crushed under an avalanche of books. Then one day it happened.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The head of the merchant guild and his granddaughter are very friendly to Myne, but they're also looking out for ways to exploit her knowledge. If she was in better health, they'd forcibly adopt her and take her from her family. However, it's later subverted in some side chapters: While Freida and her grandfather are both pretty greedy, they're also very concerned about Myne and Benno respectively but tend to alienate people.
  • Book-Ends: The last episode of Season 2 has Ferdinand giving Myne the linked artifact, linking us back to the first episode of the series.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In the anime, Myne finds a book at a merchant's stall around the end of episode 1. In the first OVA episode, one of the priests doing research on Myne comes across the same book, and ends up buying it roughly 2 years later.
  • Crapsaccharine World: A downplayed example fueled mostly by perspective. The Slice of Life of a peasant six-year-old often plays as simple and idyllic as any childhood, but as Myne reaches out to accomplish her goals, she runs into darker elements of the world around her.
  • Darwinist Desire: Due to the child's mana usually coming from the mother, Ferdinand states that when Myne comes of age, it is very likely a large number of Noble male suitors will be after her due to her very large amount of mana reserves.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The light novel and manga have extra chapters that are narrated from different character's perspective. In the anime, the OVA focus on characters other than Myne.
  • Demonic Possession: Lutz eventually figures out that Myne cannot possibly know all the things she does and demands she leave the original Myne's body. To his surprise, she agrees, but suggests they go home first...because if she lets the fever take her, all that'll be left is a corpse, not a living little peasant girl that had already died of a fever. After some discussion, he realizes she didn't want to be here in the first place and she's the only Myne he really knows, so he decides it's none of his business and that she should speak to her family.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: A common practice in the temple, where access to food works on a trickle-down system from blue-robed priests to their grey-robed attendants. Myne turns out to have been doing this to Gil by complete accident due to skipping lunch to have more time to read the temple's books before returning home. Fran and Delia were being properly fed by the temple higher-ups to whom they report information about Myne.
  • Do Well, but Not Perfect: Myne sells the formula she uses to make shampoo, which at one point contains the necessary step of filtering oil through a ragged cloth. When the buyer tries to use her recipe to make oil, she tells him that the cloth he's using is too high quality and won't work for making shampoo. She has to tell them an alternate recipe for shampoo instead, which does end up higher quality than the first stuff she sold them.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: The main skill of any Merchant. Thanks to Benno's training, Myne has gotten quite skilled at it, even getting a great deal out of Benno for exclusive rights to her hairpins.
  • Fantastic Flora:
    • The first indication that Myne was reincarnated in a fantasy setting is the Paru Tree, a strange tree made of ice that grows coconut-type fruit that can only be harvested in the early hours of the morning during winter. Once the sun gets too high, the tree flings its fruit an incredible distance and melts.
    • Another is the Taue, a fruit that swells with water during the summer, and is used by the people of the town as water balloons for a wedding festival. But if a person with Mana touches the fruit, it suddenly transforms into a Trombe, an invasive, mana-hungry, fire-resistant woody plant that grows extremely fast (as in, after the seed cracks, it immediately lays roots and grows almost a couple of feet in as many seconds). Lutz calls his brother and cousin to immediately cut it apart before it can keep growing, as its rapid growth sucks up all the nutrients in an area and, if it grows into a tree, ruins the soil in a large area for other plants afterwards and takes entire teams of knights to take down(it also seems to shoot off its seeds like the Paru). Said wood is also noted to be unable to burn. However, it turns out its bark is actually one of the best materials for Myne's paper.
    • Even cooking ingredients aren't exempt. A radish can scream or a mushroom dance.
  • Fictional Age of Majority:
    • Adulthood ceremonies happen around fifteen years after one's birth. The new rights acquired after the ceremony include no longer needing parental approval do to things and getting married. It's also the age at which people are expected to settle in their permanent workplace (vocational training starts at age seven) and graduate from the equivalent of a temporary employee to the equivalent of a full-time one if it hasn't happened earlier. Some trades require the person to have proven that they can bring money into their new workplace by completing a special order for a customer by the time they reach adulthood.
    • Children have their baptism around their seventh birthday. During that ceremony, children enter their local Temple for the first time and are officially made citizens of the city in which they were born. All children officially start their vocational training after their baptism. Getting orphaned or running away from home after one's baptism is also just slightly less painful than before it, as employers are expected to have housing space available for employees and apprentices with no other place to live. Working pre-baptism children are akin to child labor in modern times in that they're technically illegal by Temple rules, tolerated if they're children helping with their parents' business, and paid less than a seven-year-old just getting started. It's also mentioned that children aren't considered human beings by the Temple before their baptism. All of the above is problematic for Myne because she's still as small as a five-year-old long after her seventh birthday has passed, causing people who first meet her or only know her by sight to not realize that she has already been baptized.
  • Framing Device: The anime's first scene is the High Priest going back and examining Myne's memories. Presumably, this continues until the scene appears again at the end of the second season.
  • Gag Echo: In tha anime, after Myne gets the idea of making a picture book for a baby she knows to be coming, there is a montage of Lutz, Benno and Ferdinand all having the same bemused reaction to the notion of a picture book. Myne's reaction to Ferdinand's is the feeling she's hearing an echo.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Myne eventually starts moving up in status as she starts reinventing things, though she only makes them in passing because she needed them for something else. However, it's very difficult to even make things like paper, which keeps her invention making at a slow pace as she struggles with the trial and error necessary to make things.
  • Improbable Antidote: Myne stumbles on a cheap treatment for the Devouring by accident: taue fruits. Just handling one is enough to drain some of her excess mana off. Of course, the fruit then sprouts and becomes a dangerous trombe plant, so it's not a treatment that can be used casually.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Invoked; after Myne washes Otto's wife's hair, Otto asks if Myne has any reason she needs to leave immediately.
  • In Medias Res: The anime begins with a flash-forward to the Blue-Robed Priestess arc with the high priest using magic to check Myne's memories, at which point the story chronologically begins.
  • Little Professor Dialogue: A common criticism of the story is characters like Lutz and Tuli are only about six or seven at the start of the story, but often used much more advanced vocabulary than you'd expect for their age, which isn't helped by their high mental maturity and complex thoughts. Some of this can be explained by children being forced to mature more quickly in medieval times (such as being apprenticed to learn a trade or helping in the family business while still young), but not all. With Myne however, the fact that she does this in universe is intentional, and indeed becomes a plot point.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Not to an insane degree, but enough to avert The Main Characters Do Everything. Over time, Myne's activities expand into more and more fields, with each one requiring a couple new characters to oversee/develop/teach it.
  • Low Fantasy: Played with an ultimately Subverted. Magic is such an unimportant part of commoners' everyday lives that outside of the occasional Fantastic Flora, it takes a long time for Myne to even realize that it exists. It doesn't actually affect people's lives most of the time and is generally only used for important things like religious rituals. This may be just a matter of perspective, as the nobles seem to hoard the secrets of magic for themselves, so the use of magic seems to rise the higher up the social ladder you are. This is more the case for people in the city rather than the country, as some of the biggest rituals magic is used for are performed on the fields during planting and harvest.
  • Magically Binding Contract: Myne signs one with the Gilberta Company, assigning them various financial and trade rights to her innovations, and carrying similar guarantees for her. This is as much to her advantage as the company's, since as long as she is under contract, she can't be "stolen" by nobility or other highly placed people, which would otherwise be a real danger for her and her "creations".
  • The Magocracy: While it isn't generally known to the public, virtually all nobles are mages, with the primary duties of the nobility being to build, charge and utilize magical devices (those without sufficient magic to do so are cast aside). While there are common-born mages, having enough magic to be useful can be deadly to children if they can't discharge their power somehow, and the only commonly known way to do so is through the magical tools used by the nobility. Which means that most common-born mages die before anyone realizes that they have magic, and the rest end up pledging themselves to a noble house in exchange for access to the tools they need to survive.
  • Magitek: Registered merchants carry a magic-powered debit card.
  • Medieval Universal Literacy: Averted. The story has a realistic level of literacy and Myne is reincarnated as one of the large majority of poor and illiterate people in the population. Add in that books are created one at a time by trained craftsmen plus both paper and ink being expensive, makes books rare and expensive. One book costs roughly what Myne's father would earn in 40 to 50 years. Myne does however retain her memories of reading and writing in Japanese.
  • Missed Him by That Much: In Side Story 1 "Eustachius's Incognito Operation Downtown", one of the head priest's assistants (and a second, mostly useless assistant) spends days trying to track down Myne. Twice he comes very close to seeing her. The first time was outside Benno's shop, which she had left seconds before. Later, near the end of his search, he walks right past her without noticing, because she's carrying a huge loaf of bread in front of her face.
  • Mundane Utility: Trombe, a malicious magical plant that grows impossibly fast and tries to ensnare humans, turns out to be ideal for making paper, if you survive the process of killing it (a freshly-sprouting Trombe can be cut apart by children with knives if they're fast, while a full-grown tree takes magic-wielding knights to put down). Benno doesn't take it well when Myne tells him about this secret ingredient.
  • Pent-Up Power Peril: This is the how The Devouring kills its hosts. Someone afflicted with this condition (like Myne) generates more Mana than he or she can release on his or her own. Once said mana overloads, it causes the sufferer to die. The severe symptoms include constant fevers, lethargy, hypersensitivity to harsh weather, and an ominously yellow aura with glowing rainbow irises in times of stress and despair. In fact, children with this illness are not expected to live beyond seven years old, at least in commoner households.
    • Another sufferer, Frieda, explains to Myne that it is possible to control the overloads so that they don't become lethal. However, this is largely unsustainable since the magical items needed to siphon the excess mana are rare, prohibitively expensive, and those available for sale to commoners tend to be damaged or defective ones that each works only once before breaking into little more than crumbs and powder.
  • Pet the Dog: Frieda and her grandfather, the guildmaster, are portayed as being untrustworthy at best. However, Frieda genuinely considers Myne a good friend and gives her one of the magic tools she herself needs, putting her own life at possible risk. While this is also partially motivated by self-interest, even that self-interest carries a note of "It's for her own good anyway if she feels indebted to us emotionally or literally since she'll need treatment only we can help provide."
  • Poor Communication Kills
    • Mark's first experience with Myne's collapsing without notice was due to Myne overexerting herself. Prior to that visit, Lutz asked Myne if she was able to get to Benno's. Myne thought the question was about if she knew the way. Lutz's intention was because of Myne's health.
    • Later Lutz ends up briefly running away from his family because he feels they aren't respecting his dream of becoming a merchant, are being too controlling and only thinking of themselves, especially his father. It's not until high priest Ferdinand steps in that he realizes that not only was his father thinking of him the whole time, but was even right about some of his concerns. He's just a gruff man who doesn't talk much about how he feels or what he's thinking unless forced. After that, the two finally get down to talking and figuring out a way to make things work.
    • The reason that Myne ends up involved in temple matters is that the people who know the cause of her Devouring never properly explained it to her until after she mentioned suffering from it to members of the temple. Benno should have realised that there was a good chance of her collapsing during the baptism ritual and that if that happened there was a good chance her Devouring would have come up. However, it was not actually the Devouring that caused her to collapse, and she did not mention the Devouring until later. It was a massive oversight on Benno's part to not see the potential danger of not warning her about mentioning the Devouring in the temple.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Someone might have been a bookworm who read countless books ranging from all different kind of subjects, but just reading about how something is done doesn't make you a master of making it. You will still need to practice before you develop the necessary skills, or use trial and error to work around the obstacles.
    • If you reincarnate somewhere completely by chance in a medieval setting, you'll probably be poor. If you're poor in a medieval setting, you're almost guaranteed to be illiterate. Hygiene was also... difficult in those times, leaving Myne horrified at how "disgusting" her family is.
    • People will start to wonder how a young girl who is usually bedridden by fever suddenly knows how to make so many things and use odd phrases. More so when she knows how to do something despite admitting she's never done it herself.
    • Many of the products we have now are only cheap commodities because of the complex infrastructure we have. To people living in medieval times, where everything has to be handcrafted on the spot, things like shampoo and hair clips are extremely high-end luxuries.
    • The clothing of Commoners in medieval times generally are for utility, not for show. Myne end up making her family stand out a lot with the decorations she made, which would have normally been seen as a frivolous thing for them. This becomes a minor plot point where the Temple Priest assumes she's wealthy.
    • This universe's locals aren't immune, either. Lutz's romanticized idea of the traveling merchant life is shattered when Otto explains that it's a difficult and dangerous career, one which no one in their right mind would take up unless they were very poor and lacked citizenship (Lutz was born in this town, so even though his family is poor, he automatically becomes a citizen when he comes of age). And even if you wanted to do it anyway, the routes traders take are a closely-guarded secret.
  • Sexual Euphemism: Within the temple, women (and girls, including very young ones) serving as concubines are said to be "offering flowers".
    • The term "goddess of water" is commonly used as a term for lover.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The ridiculous-looking prayer pose used by the priests is a reference to (of all things) a specific billboard advertisement for Glico, a Japanese food company, which has been on display in Osaka since 1935.
    • When throwing out Trombe seeds, Myne usually calls out "I choose you!".
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Once Myne and the High Priest get to know each other long enough, a lot of their private conversation devolve to this.
    High Priest: I would rather not see your face more than once a day, you know.
    Myne's internal retort: ..it's not like I'm coming here to see you either.
  • The Social Darwinist: How nobility run their succession process, even more extreme in this world due to children being born with different mana capacity. Blue Priests are actually children disqualified from inheritance for having too little mana.
  • Supernatural Elite: Only nobles have easy access to the means to handle the Pent-Up Power Peril that manifests as the Devouring to which children born with magic are prone, and a child's mana level depends mostly on their mother's. Commoners who do get mana usually die of the Devouring before age seven. This results in magic use remaining something only found in nobles. There is a way to survive for non-nobles, but it boils down to pledging to become a noble's slave in exchange for an excess mana-absorbing item. Before the arrangement gets actually made and if the noble changes their mind, the alternative is to pay a lot of money for a defective or broken mana-absorbing item that only works once, overall making the option available only for people who already have a lot of money and connections to nobles.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Averted. Lutz assumes that the current Myne is actually the disease that killed the original Myne and took over her body. The current Myne makes it clear that she is not.
  • Translation Convention: The people of Myne's current world are actually speaking a completely different language that Myne is unable to understand until she gets her body's original memories back. For convenience, the audience hears or reads people speak in our language.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: The whole "starting apprenticeships at age seven" practice includes High-Class Call Girl type jobs. This results in the story showing no less than two different girls whose ages are still in the single digits talking about how they are going to be someone's mistress or concubine later. As someone who knows what those positions entail only because she's essentially an adult trapped in a child's body, Myne is quite disturbed by this.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Played with. The women in Myne's family have naturally good looks, but there's really only so far that can get you when you don't even have access to things like regular bathing or indoor toilets. However, just a little shampoo gets Myne's mother looking wonderful even without any of the fancy clothing and accessories a noble would have.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Benno actually likes arguing with Myne quite a lot since few people can keep up with him. It also seems to remind him of his deceased fiancée.
  • Wham Episode: Part 2, Vol. 4 — The High Bishop makes his move on Myne, forcing Ferdinand and the Archduke to accelerate their plans, meaning Myne has to be adopted immediately and separated from her family.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lutz is quite pissed when he figures out Myne was lying from the start when she said she would just rest after walking to the forest for the first time. It meant she broke a promise to someone who was only worried about her well-being.
  • With Friends Like These...: The merchant guild's granddaughter sees herself as Myne's best friend, but that doesn't stop her from prying information out of her that can be profitable.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Many people in this world all have very bright hair colors. Myne and her father have blue hair, her mother and sister have green hair, and her only female friend's hair is bright pink. Myne notices this as soon as she reincarnates, implying that her original world was not like this.

Alternative Title(s): Ascendance Of A Bookworm

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