I sat on this review a while because I didn’t want to hit cannonball with something I had significant issues with. I have one big issue with Ascendance of a Bookworm (Part 1 Vol 1) and it’s the heroine. The premise is pretty straightforward: Urano is obsessed with books (both as objects and for reading) and she’s about to graduate college and start a job in a library as is her dream. She dies in a book avalanche, and suddenly wakes up in the body of Myne, a sickly 6 year old in a vaguely medieval society as a member of a poorer family. She then has to navigate learning the new world and people, as well as figuring out how to feed her book addiction in a world where books are rare and beyond the means of people like her. Along the way she starts to investigate her mysterious illness and make friends etc etc.
When I say Urano was obsessed/addicted to books I mean it in a not terribly flattering way. If books are involved, she becomes a self-centered jerk to the people around her. She gets away with it because to her family and friends and acquaintances, she’s six, but she has the mind and spirit of a 20-something; an almost college grad should be at least a little more mature than that. She also has the unflattering habit of looking down on the culture she’s been re-incarnated into, and it comes off as snotty. Even when Myne figures out a way to recreate something from Urano’s world, like shampoo or pancakes, it would be a lot more entertaining if she weren’t internally gloating about her superior knowledge or perception.
Thankfully, all the other characters make up for the problems Myne presents. Her parents aren’t very developed as characters but they love their kids and want the best for them, her sister Tuuli is a responsible older sister to Myne, Lutz is a good friend, Otto is a good tutor, etc. They all are a little stereotyped but have enough personality that they’re interesting.
I’ve seen further into the story thanks to the anime, and I do think this is one of the few series where the books and animated versions actually add something to each other, since they don’t quite characterize or tell the story in virtually identical ways. For example, Benno’s theory of what’s wrong with Myne is introduced much sooner, as is Corinna in the book. Even though I know roughly where the story will be going, it’s still presented differently enough that it’s not a boring read. But again, in the book version, Myne just isn’t very sympathetic as a heroine, and it’s really too bad.