Episode 36 – Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3

I appreciate Main’s long, drawn-out “What?!” early on in this season finale for Ascendance of a Bookworm, since that was pretty much my exact reaction to the central revelation of this episode. I’m honestly kicking myself for not catching on earlier, as so many of the other characters’ interactions with and reactions to Sylvester make a ton of obvious sense retroactively with the knowledge of him being the whole-ass Lord of the entire friggin’ country. Since I hadn’t figured it out the first time around, it should make going back and rewatching the other episodes with Sylvester that much more interesting by comparison. Though with that, alongside the revelation that he and Ferdinand are half-brothers, I only feel a little weird for previously suggesting they might be exes. I can only hope any readers of these reviews who already knew of the twist at least got a chuckle out of that at my expense.

Apart from reactions (both Main’s and mine) to this revelation, this tenth episode serves as an appropriate final escalation to close out this season, with the journey getting here feeling only a little rushed (mostly in last week’s episode) despite the meager episode count. It creates a situation that still feels climactic for the duration of the run-time, even as the epic magical battle that seemed to be just heating up is almost immediately dispelled by the arrival of His Lordship. It means that the dramatic events that do end up unfolding feel much more on-brand for Bookworm‘s established style of storytelling, which I can appreciate just as much as any wizard showdown.

More importantly, it provides a sense of narrative satisfaction simply by virtue of those opening revelations making so much of what came before click into place. Sylvester definitely came off as kind of a jerk, but now with the understanding that he was someone of such supremely high rank trying to surreptitiously walk amongst his people, some of his seeming personal disconnects make more sense. His kinder tendencies also shine through much more effectively alongside his craftiness now as well; he immediately sees through Bezewanst’s bullcrap, and isn’t shy about using the string of technicalities he set up with Main’s charm and the adoption mechanism to the advantages of the sympathetic side. It’s also amusing to think about how much guidance about the more ‘common’ way of life Sylvester needed during his time spent with Main, even as he was also planning like four steps ahead to safeguard her from his uncle’s machinations and get her into a safer , if more complexly limiting, situation.

The exact details of that adoption setup are the actual big dramatic setpiece of this finale. And it works better than the impromptu breakout action of the previous episode simply because this is what the show has been working up to all season. The possibility, the threat of Main being cut off from her family, even if it’s ultimately for her safety and theirs, has dangled consistently overhead, and as the newfound gravity of what being adopted by the Lord himself sinks in, we feel that pressure along with Main. It’s on the same level of my synched-up shock with the little bookworm over the revelation of Sylvester’s identity, but curated to ring meaningfully with anybody who’s cultivated complex, meaningful connections with a family.

The result is a bittersweet resolution for Main, her parents, and her siblings that’s probably as ‘happy’ as it could be while still facilitating her ascendance. It creates a nicely circular structure to close out the whole arc up until now, with Main effectively ‘dying’ again and being ‘reincarnated’ into a new family and life just as she did when this series started. The distinction, of course, is that she isn’t being completely cut off from her previous family, but there will be a difference in how they all have to regard each other moving forward. It’s a turnaround that manifests in Main’s big final display of power here: not some sort of attack on someone threatening her, but a wave of healing energy that helps everyone in her area. It’s a heartening sign of the heights she can reach, and the good she could do for everyone, as she continues her rise.

We also wrap with an indication of the more technical ways Main’s powers may be expanding with her new station. Even before all the adoption paperwork has been finalized, Sylvester is hearing her out on sparing Delia for her role in Bezewanst’s scheme. Part of it demonstrates how reasonable the Lord really is, but it also indicates him testing Main’s decision-making ability. That girl looks more and more to have real leadership potential. Appointing Delia to the orphanage as the new caretaker, including for baby Dirk, is another strong storytelling step that circles back on a lot of the concepts and themes that have been constructed for this arc. It’s a perhaps expected success for Bookworm‘s strongly-knit storytelling, but I’m going to appreciate all of it anyway after the slight stumbles of last week momentarily made for some concerns.

With this season having only been ten episodes long, that huge shift of a development does leave me hungry as a viewer to see where the story goes from here. But it still feels like a fitting, satisfying place to stop for now. There’s an appropriate symbolism to Main’s family having erected a fake grave as part of the cover for the adoption story, as they chipperly talk about how she’s doing and speculate about what might happen to her next—we’re effectively left to do the same thing about her as this phase of her life story comes to a close. Stories, in books and in anime, must always reach an end of some sort, and we can never be certain when the next stage might start things up again. But we can get a sense of where they’re going so long as the themes and ideas have been well-articulated, and take satisfaction when they’re crafted to finish at a natural-feeling point.


Ascendance of a Bookworm Season 3 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Chris is a freelance writer who appreciates anime, action figures, and additional ancillary artistry. He can be found staying up way too late posting screencaps on his Twitter.

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