Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 (Manga Review)

Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 (Manga Review)
Ascendance of a Bookworm: I’ll do anything to become a librarian! Part 1 (If there aren’t any books, I’ll just have to make some!!)
Honzuki no Gekokujou: Part 1
本好きの下剋上 ~司書になるためには手段を選んでいられません~ 第一部 「本がないなら作ればいい!」

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–> Buy Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 from Amazon.com

SPOILER Summary/Synopsis

A Japanese college girl named URANO Motosu is crushed to death by a pile of books during an earthquake. Her soul is transported to another world, into the body of a dying five year old girl named Myne, just as the little girl succumbs to a disease. Motosu instantly gains all of Myne’s memories, but retains her own memories from her life in Japan. She decides to accept this new life as a poor, little girl, providing she has books.

Motosu is depressed to learn that only the nobility can afford books and have easy access to them. Further, Motosu isn’t keen on how this medieval type world she lives in isn’t clean like Japan. As such, she attempts to make a simple shampoo from the oils of a local fruit. Myne’s older sister and mom are weirded out by Myne washing her hair, but the results have them more receptive.

Motosu discovers that Myne’s body doesn’t have a lot of stamina. One day, Myne is carried to her solder father’s office, where she discovers the cost of parchment is insanely expensive. However, Otto, one of Myne’s father’s underlings, agrees to teach Myne letters with a slate. In the meantime, Motosu decides that as Myne, she’ll attempt to make papyrus so she has something to write on. But in the meantime, she has to help Myne’s poor family make preparations for winter.

A Gem with a Dark Cloud

I don’t know how I stumbled across the Ascendance of a Bookworm franchise. (Long hours and lack of sleep hurts the memory.) But, I decided to give the series a try and eventually purchased Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1. The artist, Suzuka, does an amazing job of both general artwork and character designs. Seeing the young Myne on the cover of this volume tugs at the heartstrings a bit. And it conveys so much about the character in a single image.

As to the story by KAZUKI Miya-sensei, she really has done an amazing job at creating an isekai story that I find to be very compelling. I’ve enjoyed a number of isekai titles during my fandom (Those Who Hunt Elves; War on Geminar; No Game, No Life; etc.). They’ve all had a common theme of the protagonist(s) transporting to another world and having to save it.

With Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1, there’s no world to save, at least not at present. The actual start of the manga is kind of dark, with Motosu dying in an earthquake in Japan. Then her soul is sent to the other world where Myne is dying and her soul is departing. That was kind of rough, even if Kazuki-sensei doesn’t linger on it much.

While this first volume of the manga (which was adapted from the light novel of the same name) is dedicated to setting the table for this new world Motosu lives in as Myne, I still feel a dark cloud over this gem of a story. Myne is very physically weak, and has apparently been sickly prior to Motosu taking over her body. So I can’t help but think the real Myne’s death will play a role in the story. But I could be overthinking things.

Lost in Translation

In terms of adaptation, I think that J Novel Club did a fine job on being accurate but readable. However, they did strip out all Japanese honorifics. Having worked for Seven Seas, I understand the notion of wanting to strip out Japanese honorifics for stories not set in Japan. And Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 is set in a medieval, European-type, walled city.

That said, the story makes it clear when there’s a word Motosu says for which there’s not an equivalent in this other world, it comes out as Japanese. However, Japanese honorifics do not come out as unknown terms, meaning this world has perfect equivalences to the Japanese honorifics.

That said, one joke that gets lost in translation is the dad joke. Otousan is a Japanese term for dad. The character Otto has his name pronounced like “Oh-toh”. So when Myne addresses him as “Otto-san” in an excited, happy form in the Japanese, Myne’s real father is depressed. Why? Because Myne is addressing Otto as if he’s her real dad.

Still, I’m not going to gripe over the honorific loss. Were it me, I’d leave them in to provide the Japanese perspective. And this fictional world may not use Japanese culture, but they do use something identical to Japanese honorifics. But it is what it is.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

In the end, Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 was a good start to a manga series. I find myself very invested in the story from Kazuki-sensei. Suzuka’s art helps add to the charm of the manga.


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4 Responses to “Ascendance of a Bookworm Part 1 Volume 1 (Manga Review)”

  1. Gamen says:

    And another is added to the fold….

    I don’t know if they made it into the published version, but in the pre-pubs at least most of the honorifics attached to names were localized as Mr. and Mrs, and later on Lord/Lady and Master/Mistress, as appropriate…

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      I saw one “mister”. So yeah, the Japanese honorifics were scrubbed, even though this world has perfect equivalences to Japanese honorifics, which English does not.

  2. Gamen says:

    And I’m back from vacation!

    I think I understand your argument; that since in the original Japanese the honorifics that are used are not quoted like “hon” and “kanzashi”, the language the natives are speaking necessarily has something identical to Japanese honorifics… but I don’t see why that has to be the case. Most of the honorifics are used in words like kaa-san, tou-san, ojou-chan, zatsukaya-san, okizoku-sama, etc… Most of which have convenient equivalences in English like Mother, Father, Miss, etc. Though notably there’s no nee-san; Tuuli is simply Tuuli. IIRC the only names in this volume that ever have honorifics attached to them are Otto and Gerda’s, and only by Myne, and the latter never even spoken… In fact nearly all the honorifics are used by Myne, the exceptions that I know of being Otto using okizoku-sama, the shopkeeper using ojou-chan, and Tuuli using kaa-san and tou-san like Myne. But for instance none of the children use honorifics between each other at all. No -kun, no -chan, no -san. Just Ralph, Lutz, Tuuli, Myne, etc…

    I guess my point is, I can’t agree with you that anything has been lost by localizing the honorifics to their rough English equivalents, since they’re used so sparingly in the original Japanese, and I don’t think the native language does have an equivalent to Japanese honorifics since they’re not being used like Japanese honorifics.

    • AstroNerdBoy says:

      And I’m back from vacation!

      Hope you had a good one! 😁

      As to the honorifics, I appreciate the additional information. The “dad joke” around Otto and Myne’s father was the only real area I noticed an issue. This series, and Nicola Traveling Around the Demons’ World are two where I don’t really complain about the lack of Japanese honorifics.

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