Ascendance of a Bookworm – 03

Bookworm Here! I’m just making nice baskets during the winter, failing at papyrus, inventing pancakes and crochet to make my older sister a pre-baptism hair ornament, and correcting math errors at the guard house! Everyone around me is starting to notice… how this is different from the Myne I was before but what evs? At least there was some character building around me this episode…

As generic Isekai go, Bookworm’s choice to show things being made, and explain process, elevates it from the mayonnaise-eaters at the bottom, but not by much? Coupled with Myne’s father’s miss-reading Myne’s feelings for Otto and the awkward conversation about marriage that followed, and the episode gets a pass. The framing and scene blocking were good too.

Better than Prodigies in a 6/10 sort of way.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 02 (Second Impressions)

Off to a rocky start, Mile settles on “It’s a family secret” as her default answer to Mavis, Reina and Pauline’s probing questions. This does not sit well with the other girls, nor does Mile’s attempt to lie about her backstory by telling them a tall tale… which turns out to be the narrative of the kingdom’s current best selling book. Fortunately, Mile is ‘saved by the bell’ and the quartet heads for their first orientation.

Mile continues to fail at her life goal of low-key living, while succeeding by every other measure. During armed evaluation, she one-hits her opponent for snarking on her flat chest. During magic evaluation, Mile intentionally mimics Reina’s fire spell, but at half-output… only for that to backfire too. Reina’s spell is a custom spell, and being able to cast it after only having seen it once, is beyond comprehension!

After an awkward tea-time interrogation, the girls choose to party-up for the first group assessment: kill 10 horny rabbits, the lowest level monster in the kingdom. To Mile’s consternation, this task proves difficult, as Reina and Mavis’ skills emphasize strength over speed and accuracy. Mile’s solution? Put on a turtle-house master beard, and go old skool dragon ball training montage on her team mates’ assess.

10 dead bunnies later (and a few surprise stone golems) and Mile’s team is the only party to clear hunter prep school’s challenge. What’s more, Mile’s fears that her secret re-life and genius skill rating would prevent her from making friends are proven unfounded. Mavis is inspired by Mile’s demonstration of human potential, Reina finds Mile’s practical examples quite helpful, and Pauline quietly takes note of magic x merchant-trade opportunities.

Little do they know, the B-Rank adventurers they beat last week have been sprung from prison and are will, no doubt, be looking for some payback later in the season…

As a specimen of the reborn in another world with great power (as a reward and not to defeat a global threat) Isekai sub-genre, WNwHdtIyn! further distinguishes itself by forcing Mile to face conflicts her broken power level cannot immediately resolve. Namely, making friends and overcoming her anxiety about being too good in the first place. It’s this anxiety, coupled with Mile’s slightly selfish touristy nature, makes her infinitely more interesting as a main character than other examples of the sub-genre.

Where Mile and Smartphone’s Touya both go out of her way to help and share her skills with strangers, Touya has no motivation beyond “being a good guy.” Toya literally jumps into a conflict between people in a dark alley without knowing what’s going on because… girls? At least Mile has met the inn keeper’s daughter, and formed a report, before being swept into the search for kidnappers.

TL;DR Mile’s character has faults, which grant her nuance. This makes her more of a person and less of an empty proxy for viewer escapism. Considering how played out Isekai escapism is at this point, WNwHdtIyn!’s choice is the right one.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 02 (Second Chance)

This week Myne rides an older boy while pondering being ridden by his younger brother. Also, she’s thinking about parchment and how to get her dirty peasant hands on some. Also she invents shampoo from an avocado fruit. Also she faints while a pig gets slaughtered for her winter sausage. Also she gets a fever again and flirts with the solider who works for her father that is teaching her to write.

Bookworm’s slice of life where nothing of consequence happens format plays out like a run-on sentence. It’s almost watchable, if I’m honest, largely thanks to ongoing character introductions and world building, but Myne remains a barely likable character. We did not learn anything more about her past this week, nor has she recognized the impact of hollowing out her host vessel, nor does she entirely care about anyone around her. She just wants her god damn books and, even though we know she will eventually get them, each moment we wait until she does, will feel like an eternity.

Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! – 01 (First Impressions)

12 years ago Kurihara Misato was a Japanese high school girl with good grades and no friends. She died pushing a younger girl out of the path of a speeding car cliché amd a god-character offered to re-born her in another world +plus give one gift. Feeling her grades contributed to her lack of school friendships, Misato opts for ‘being reborn with totally average powers.’

Misato’s final request is processed more literally than you might expect and “Mile” is born with power equal to her fantasy world’s mathematical mean. That is, exactly half way between the strongest living creature (elder dragons) and the weakest. To Mile’s mild annoyance, that pegs her 6,800 times more powerful than any other human…

Didn`t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! proudly announces what it is from the get go: a completely self0aware reborn in another world style Isekai, featuring a fourth-wall-breaking protagonist who is eager to share her absurd experiences via narration. From her amusement over the gimmicks of her new world (magic is actually thought translation via nano machines!) to screwing with the NPCs (pretending to get her hand eaten by a lifeless gargoyle) Mile and the constant monolog are there to explain the hours away. The result is oddly welcoming and a pleasant reversal of fish-out-of-water Isekai standards.

While you could be excused for groaning about a fifth Isekai running this season, this show is cute and chuckle worthy. Misato was no jaded Tanya the Evil, but there’s just a little snark to how she see’s her new fantasy world, and how she describes the characters living there in terms more familiar to us. (The fire mage is totally a tsundere) In purely Isekai terms, the vibe is enough to make it enjoyable to watch. Far more than Bookworm or Prodigies.

Ascendance of a Bookworm – 01 (First Impression)

Myne was a little peasant girl until she got a fever and God hollowed her out to make room for a recently deceased book enthusiast. Now Myne is a highly educated, book hungry, little girl living in a middle-ages Europe style ‘other world,’ and she JUST! CAN’T! EVEN!

While it’s kinda funny that the librarian was killed off camera by an earthquake/falling bookshelf, the whole indifference to ‘punting’ a little girl’s consciousness and New Myne’s disinterest in Old Myne’s family sorta sours the fun for me?

However, AoaB’s central failure is its utter lack of conflict. We know Myne will gain access to books – not just because, duh, anime – but because the story starts way ahead with a priest talking about her already having done just that! The fact that AoaB is a little wordy, a little slow, and the protagonist is a little hard to feel for doesn’t help. For a rebirth Isekai, I’m just not feeling it.

Youjo Senki – 12 (Fin)

The Gist: Topping all but the second episode, this week’s Tanya outing owns some lengthy, thoughtful and horrifying dialog. Despite what high command may think, the war will not be over and that is strictly because humans are too animalistic — too emotional — to follow the rational path and surrender.

The Republic rises in Africa, joined by survivors from the Kingdom and Alliance. The Kingdom mobilizes at home, and we see weapons of war rolling along the rail tracks in the Russian federation and in America as well. (Even Anson’s daughter has volunteered for service, yellow magic eyes and all!)

It all threatens to swallow Tanya and her fragile battalion. But Tanya is having none of it. In a fiery speech to her recently deployed African troops, she vows that the battlefield is no place for God. That her soldiers will put him out of work and that she will slice him into pieces personally and feed him to the pigs.

Back at home, among the frustration and angst of high command, the leadership has come to believe in her. She IS a monster in the body of a little girl and, no matter what, nothing will stop her from her goals.

Dun dun duuunnnnnn!

The Verdict: I have tremendous respect for this show ending on a largely talky episode, and in a so very Tanya-talky way. From her cold, calm, and horrifying explanation to high command on why they are wrong, to her frothing mad rant to her soldiers, it’s all very off putting and terrifying.

I do wish Serebryakova got a bit more screen time, and I do wish I had a sense of where any of this was going, or that it had gotten to this point 2-3 episodes earlier, but, if a second season will come our way, I think it will deserve your watching.

At it’s lowest, Tanya is a combat procedural with an unusual aesthetic. At it’s height, it transcends nihilism and delves right into an antagonistic relationship with God, and man’s own nature. Good stuff, that.

Youjo Senki – 11

The Gist: In a lovely bit of symmetry, Colonel Anson tears through Tanya’s forces, followed by a suicide self-destruct gambit when Tanya finally over powers him. Fortunately, the ever loyal Serebryakova is there to save the day and Anson is out of God’s game for good.

It’s a genuinely exciting fight, with vibrant colors, and remarkably effective use of space considering much of it is 3D models rendered over clouds. It’s also full of lovely details, like the Kingdom Mages, who ride steampunk brooms, reinforcements arriving ‘in 600 seconds,’ and Anson’s use of outlawed weapons.

On the emotional front, the battle reasserts an ongoing question in Youjo Senki: “Despite her name and actions, is Tanya truly any more evil than anyone else?” Given Anson’s shallow thirst for revenge, his use of illegal weapons, and the Kingdom troops’ indifference to the war, the answer seems to be ‘not much?’ for the time being…

Following the battle, we get a happy ending of sorts. All 11 of Tanya’s troops have survived, the Republic surrenders, and celebration awaits. At least, until Tanya realizes the Empire is walking into a trap that will cost them the war in the longer term…

The Verdict: despite a general familiarity with World War 1, I’m actually unclear on exactly what Tanya has realized (too late). However, the narrative implication that she now sees the Empire as doomed and, therefore, herself as well, are quite clear. Her faith in the one, logical institution she believes in is shaken and only Serebryakova knows it. What this means for next week, I have no idea?

That said, I see no coherent way for Youjo Senki to resolve itself in a single half and hour. Likewise, the first season has been sluggish enough that I don’t think it warrants a second season. Will it get one anyway? I have no idea.

Will I watch it if it does? …Maybe.

Youjo Senki – 10

The Gist: Team Tanya successfully wipes out the Republic’s forward command, which allows the Empire’s plan to unfold without a hitch. A massive explosion is set off under the Republic’s southern position, Empire tanks surge through the scattered survivors, and the Republic’s main force is encircled.

From inside their submarine escape vessel, Team Tanya has every right to pre-celebrate victory. However, little do they know, Colonel Anson and a boat full of Kingdom Mages is about to run into them, putting their lives, and indeed the success of the entire plan in question.

Following the credits, we flash back to Serebryakova being an un-wakeable weirdo sleeper on the submarine for some humor. Will the improved Anson finally match Tanya’s output? Will her team of 10 stand a chance against a full regiment of broom-riding mages? Beyond this battle, what’s Youjo Senki’s end game? Only a few episodes remaining to see…

The Verdict: Like the battles it features, this week’s episode landed a string of successes, with the caveat that things may go off the rails, structurally, by the end. The flow of battle and strategy was easy to understand and visually interesting, and we got a broader emotional range from Tanya and crew while on the submarine.

However, there’s an over arching haphazardness of editing throughout Youjo Senki. On one hand, it tries to cram a lot in per-episode but what it crams in isn’t always relevant or impactful. The Empire’s board meeting between government officials and the military didn’t really add to any tension over the success of the plan for example. Anson’s scene on the Kingdom ship reduced the surprise impact of his arrival at the end of the episode for another. There are plenty of other short moments in hallways and at tables where characters repeat information we already know too.

Combined, these little delays and wheelspin shave time off of other moments, not always for the better. In some ways, the opening attack from Team Tanya didn’t even feel like a scene in it’s own right, since it was so brief and the potential failure was so brief as to add no tension (It would have been far stronger to end on that in the previous episode, and leave us guessing what Tanya will do if her target was wrong to begin with).

Youjo Senki – 09

The Empire devises a plot lure out the Republic’s main-force, crush it, and end the stalemate in the Rhine. This involves railway logistics and a lot of leg work (flying work?) on Tanya’s troops’ part to deceive the Republican troops, and it looks like there are casualties amongst her unnamed ranks.

However, the big push is that Tanya and eleven of her troops will be riding V1 rockets behind enemy lines to launch a surprise attack against the Republic’s three possible command centers. If her team takes them out, which is likely, the war with the republic will be over in an instant.

Ultimately, this episode is yet another strategy and battle presentation, with an emphasis on setting up more battle for next week. We get a cameo from Tanya’s classmate and Doctor Schugel, and Serebryakova gets a little character development via Tanya’s lieutenants (who see her as bizarrely unflappable and charming amidst what should be horrifying, and what horrifies them) and there’s even a bizarrely lengthy joke after the credits, regarding one of Tanya’s men being removed from active service because he ate a rotten potato.

Unfortunately, the result falls in with Youjo Senki’s more mediocre offerings. It’s not bad, just a straight forward war and internal workings of an army storytelling. Without a focus on Tanja’s inner workings, or giving her agency over the intrigues of the day, or without learning more about God, that makes for a purely watchable experience.

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Youjo Senki – 08

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The Gist: Colonel Sue Anson wakes up in a Kingdom hospital, months after last week’s battle. He’s seen God and has orders to kill Tanya, and his eyes glow yellow with the power to do it. Despite this scene being tucked after the ending credits, and lasting barely 30 seconds, this is the primary purpose of the episode.

The 20 minutes of content leading up to this shows Tanya’s Battalion in the Rhine valley, where they must retake a city that’s being overrun by freedom fighters. The battle is fierce, as the resistance is backed by air-dropped mages of the Republic (the robot horse guys) and the tight quarters of city fighting play against Team Tanya’s advantages in mobility and ranged firepower. Also, because civilian casualties are guaranteed, it plays against her soldiers’ emotional stability.

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This is especially rough on a gung-ho second lieutenant who’s been trying to win Tanya’s approval. Specifically, after the battle is won and after hauling wounded bodies for hours, he’s ordered to eliminate the Republican mages providing cover for evacuating Civilians, in prep for a lethal saturation of artillery fire.

It’s not entirely clear if he’s more upset with Tanya’s logical explanation that the survivors will simply take up arms against him and the Empire, or if the truth of her words is too hard to bear (he can see a young man in the crowd glowering at him, as if telegraphing a thirst for revenge) or if he isn’t upset at Tanya at all but the war itself. Whatever the reason, however broken it makes him, it is strongly implied that he opens fire at Tonya’s command.

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The Verdict: Youjo Senki captures the horrors of war and the process of dehumanizing soldiers to the point that they act more as tools than thinking humans better than previous outings. However, minus Anson waking up, this was still a ‘war is bad’ episode, it still overly reliant on the ‘ain’t it cool’ factors of the show’s technology and Tanya’s badass war fighting skills. Again, without God or a greater view of the conflict from inside Tanya’s head, the tragedy of carnage isn’t especially compelling.

As for Anson waking up, it finally sets a narrative destination in motion, which is good. However, Anson was never developed enough to be a compelling opponent for Tanya in the first place. Sure, losing his country and being a dad give him the basis for conflict in dealing with Tanya, but we don’t see how his mind works, let alone have there been scenes dedicated to emotional conflict for him fighting Tanya.

This leads me to suspect a fairly straightforward combat focus to their conflict in the future. While that may be visually stimulating, it would be a letdown. Youjo Senki, at its best, can do better than that.

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Youjo Senki – 07

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The Gist: Tanya’s Battalion is the leading edge of a surprise naval invasion against the Alliance (alt-Finland). They paradrop on top of what was thought to be the perfect fortress and quickly obliterate all the coastal guns, paving the way for a quick defeat. They engage Colonel Sue Anson along the way and quickly kill him and all his men.

Outside of that event, we learn that Anson has sent his family away to the United States, that his daughter gave him a submachine gun that has his initials on it, and that’s about it.

Roll Credits?

tanyabAnson finally gets the POINT (but I don’t?)

The Verdict: If he’s dead, and that seems like a safe assumption, I’m not sure why Youjo Senki spent so much time with Anson? After all the build up, he presents no challenge for Tanya to defeat, and beyond having a daughter who is now in America, his only lasting impact on the narrative seems to be that Tanya kept his gun? (And his initials appear to be used heavily in the Youjo Senki branding)

There was a glimmer of possibility, when Anson began to pray, that something unexpected would happen, but there was no payoff. Worse, we haven’t see the rest of the world react to Tanya enough to get a sense that Anson is praying because Tanya prays before she slaughters. We certainly haven’t seen enough of Anson to know if this was a change brought on by an outside factor, or if he prayed normally anyway.

What I’m getting at is, battle aside, what was the point of all of this? So the Empire has de facto won against the Alliance, which moves the war along, but who cares? We know the Republic will fall in the Spring, followed by the Kingdom, but that’s just alt-history fantasy stuff that doesn’t carry any tension because no characters or sympathetic evidence has been presented to give us a reason to care. (In fact, from the Empire POV it appears these other powers were the aggressor in the first place)

For a show that’s halfway over, setting up long-game goals seems in order (developing characters, revealing another layer of mystery, or establishing a worthy opponent). Instead, mostly action sequences. Shrug?

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Youjo Senki – 06.5

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It’s recap week and there were no clever mechanisms or twists added to the material. At least it was presented in linear (non-eposidic) order, which makes more sense as a way to bring the audience in.

Less good, the way it was clipped and mashed into a single episode strips the Tanya/God conflict down in favor of maximum action and story-per-frame. Tanya’s inner motivations and emotional conflict with God is, really, the only reason to watch this show.

Curiously, I found ‘episode zero,’ which is a super deformed websclusive superior. There’s basically no animation at all, and 99% of it’s 120 seconds of bobbing along is empty chatter about not liking German food, but the end really nails Tanya’s character. God is with her every moment, keeping her alive and pushing her forward and she loves it. She loves it so much she will kill him for it.

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Youjo Senki – 06

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The Gist: Tanya’s Battalion is deployed to break the Alliance (alt-Finnland) and they arrive just in time to route a large multi-national mage force backed by Bombers. While it is more challenging than their first battle, Team Tanya cleans house without a single casualty.

Meanwhile, while searching for POWs to interrogate, Tanya gets another taste of God. This time she gets a shot in — a brutally quick one into the corpse of a pilot — but it’s barely enough to pause God’s presentation. God’s message is pretty simple: Tanya has a target painted on her back and the whole world is out for her heretical blood.

tanya6_4Soldier Dad is totally screwed… but not till next week

Elsewhere, the Alliance senior council tells each other they are on the brink of collapse, a Republic General hears a report, a Kingdom Colonel tries to get intel on Tanya but gets his observation post blown up in the process, and Anson (the guy with the scar who lead the failed attack on Tanya in episode 2) gets promoted and sent to defend the rear lines… which is where Tanya is being sent next.

Serebryakov and the rest of Team Tanya get screen time, and they all feel a little more believable as soldiers, leaders, and individual people for it. However, God’s visit is the most interesting aspect of the episode. My take on it is that God is not only trying to force Tanya to repent and/or spread God’s word but also share God’s own feeling of being ‘against the whole world.’

I could be reading too much into it, but I get the feeling God’s goal is less to do with Tanya’s humanity and humility, and more to do with shaping a counterpart. Perhaps making a literal devil to co-administer the world with…

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The Verdict: As with last week, your enjoyment of this week’s episode hinges on how much you care about Tanya kicking ass on the battle field verses how much unnecessary, content repeating, conversations amongst the various central and high commands of 5 nations you are willing to sit through.

Also like last week, we get one good visit from God that really highlights how much more interesting that concept is than loli-murder-machine and logistical conversations amongst military commanders…

While I’m looking forward to Tanya’s reunion with Alliance Colonel Sue Anson next week, and I’m digging the weirdly vindictive plot God is throwing at her, this episode can not escape the fact that those two points were it’s only two interesting points, and Anson’s 60 second scene only sets up potential for the next episode.

tanya6_2The scale, depth of field, and bomb dropping action was the best of any war machine we’ve seen rendered so far…

We’ve seen Tanya blow stuff up before. (though seeing Tanya take a bomber down with a hand grenade was pretty bad ass) We’ve seen that the Empire would already have crumbled without her participation.

We didn’t really need to see the Alliance senior council to confirm that they are also holding on by a thread — that they are relying on the Kingdom and Republic for support — because we see that on the battlefield, as evident by the uniforms and tech of those other nations.

We certainly don’t need to a Republican General all the way back in alt-Paris getting a report about the battle and the Alliance’s senior council’s status right after seeing those things. Unfortunately, that’s what we got.

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