Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 35

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

This episode proved to be every bit as dramatic as the ending to last episode promised, just not entirely in the way that last episode suggested.

Rather than chasing down Main and Tuuli’s kidnappers being a major part of the episode, it turns out to only be a prelude to the episode’s even bigger confrontations. I was pleased to see Main’s father arrive on the scene and play a major role in disrupting the effort (though Damuel still had enough to do); Main also getting to weaponize her Crushing power in a more controlled manner was an additional treat. But that whole affair proves to be just the starter for one of the series’ most action-intensive episodes to date.

The confrontation with the High Priest and the foreign noble at the cathedral was inevitable, given how the story set things up to this point, but it did feel slightly rushed; I have to wonder if the adaptation is taking some shortcuts here. Still, the scene is a welcome one for being the first to show what a fight looks like in this world when both sides have magic-enabled individuals. Men that I’m assuming are Devouring soldiers can use their magic to bulk themselves up, though apparently they have not been trained enough in fighting to take advantage of it against individuals like Damuel and Gunther who have been formally trained; the only one of Main’s defenders who struggles against them is poor Fran.

The High Priest and especially the foreign noble are another story. This scene seems to reinforce an impression made by episode 13: that the High Priest is not at all a trained combatant, since he relies both on dirk and the black orb rather than fighting Main directly. Too bad for him that, even after experiencing Main’s “Crushing” directly, he’s underestimating how much mana she has. The foreign noble, for all his bloated look, is vastly more of a threat. He knows how to fight and has the mana to go toe-to-toe even with Main’s power when not caught off-guard. And they have some unexpected help, too, although Jenni’s predisposition to act this way was at least hinted at a couple of episode ago. Her words here seem to indicate that she’s still being taken advantage of like Wilma was, so it’s quite understandable why she’s bitter. (This also explains her apparent attitude towards Delia.) Meanwhile, Delia’s been hung out to dry here, and is perhaps finally understanding that she’s been playing for the wrong team. The irony here is that the High Priest also suffers for not heeding Delia’s efforts more.

That the epilogue explains why Ferdinand was not present until the last minute is a welcome touch, as without that, his arrival at just the right moment smacked too much of dramatic convenience. The bigger issue here, though, is that we finally get at least some hint about what the black protective charm – which Sylvester gave her and which the episode is named after – is actually supposed to do. Granted, nothing is explicitly explained here, but Ferdinand’s reaction to it, his past behavior towards Sylvester, and what he tells Main about how she can keep herself, attendants, and family out of deadly trouble by agreeing to an immediate adoption, points to just one reasonable conclusion: Sylvester is the Lord of Ehrenfest. By giving her that “charm,” he showed a willingness to adopt her directly if the situation warrants it, and presumably Main putting her blood on the stone is the effective equivalent of signing a contract. By accepting the adoption, she immediately falls under the lord’s direct protection, thus giving Ferdinand all the reason he needs to deal with the intruding noble (which he clearly was eager to do anyway) by acting on her behalf.

Wow. Assuming I’m right on this, that’s a heady development, but it also makes complete sense. Nothing has indicated that the lord couldn’t be a younger guy or a complete rascal, and it completely explains why Ferdinand – whom the knights recognize as being of high status – couldn’t control Sylvester, why Karstedt was along when he joined Main and Ferdinand on the Spring Prayers round (and initially didn’t try to interfere when he was teasing Main), and perhaps even why Benno was so flummoxed about whatever offer Sylvester made him back in episode 31. (Looking back, this presumably involved Sylvester becoming the restaurant’s patron.) He faked being a blue-robed priest so he could see for himself who Main is, what she’s capable of, and what she could mean for Ehrenfest, and saw enough to give her a charm that would protect her in a status sense rather than a magical sense. He recognizes, as Ferdinand does, her value, and power implied to be on a level with a high-ranked noble implies a need for commensurate protection.

I also found interesting Ferdinand’s comment about how The High Priest wouldn’t know about the change in rules because it happened at a “gathering of nobles” and what that implies about the High Priest’s actual status. Hopefully that gets clarified eventually, but next episode looks like it could be as loaded as this one was. Whether my claims about Sylvester are true or not, Main’s transition to being a noble is going to happen more suddenly than originally planned, and there will be consequences for that.

Spy x Family episode 9

Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Of the episodes of this wonderful show which have aired so far, this is, by far, my least favorite one, and the one that comes closest to completely stumbling. Yes, the series gets some leeway because what transpired was still fully in character for the participants, but that doesn’t make it feel any less ugly.

The part I’m specifically referring to is the stunt that Twilight and his compatriot pull on Yor to test whether she can be trusted or not, given that Twilight is certain that her younger brother is Secret Police. (And he’s not wrong on that.) Being the consummate spy, Twilight cannot fully trust anyone, and the Secret Police connection understandably raises suspicions, even if neither Yor nor Yuri are acting one bit like Yor knows anything about it. Still, cornering her as fake but fully convincing Secret Police officers and threatening her with detainment over a trumped-up espionage charge seems a little much. The scene plays out much too seriously, lacking even a hint of the more light-hearted spirit which has characterized the series (and, indeed, even the first part of this episode) so far. Even the supreme irony that Yor really is guilty of a lot of crimes – just not espionage! – doesn’t detract from that. I do have to give Yor credit for standing her ground even in the face of Secret Police intimidation, and hopefully this will lessen the trust issues for now, because I’d rather not see this level of darkness in the series again.

The rest of the episode does better. Yuri’s siscon nature amusingly leads him to misinterpreting what’s going on in the opening scene, and that slo-mo slap and Yuri’s ensuing tumble were a nicely-animated sequence. Anya also gets a couple of neat moments, especially as she tries to process what “Secret Police” as applies to her “unkie” means and bluntly points out how not-so-tasty Yor’s cooking looked. The irony with Anya in this episode is that Loid is right about how kids can be surprisingly perceptive at times, even without telepathy. On the more serious side, both Yuri and Yor get practical advice a from a coworker and Loid, respectively, and both those scenes work well because they also drip with irony. Seeing the Forger family more settled at the end was a rewarding finish.

Next episode looks like the focus will shift back to Anya, and it’s about time; she’s had too little of a role in these last two episodes.

A Few Thoughts About Other Series

Date a Live IV episode 9 – This is a series that I have mostly been following for completion’s sake, but the movement to a new arc featuring fan-favorite character Kurumi makes the series a more enticing view than it’s been at any point this season. I’m actually looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

Love After World Domination episode 9 – This series, OTOH, continues to chug along merrily without the faintest hint of a slip. I may have to give this one a full review at season’s end, as even Spy x Family does not top its delightfully fun spirit or how utterly adorable Desumi and Fudo are as a couple. (Really, if someone makes a Desumi figma, it’ll sell. I’d absolutely order it.)

I’m Quitting Heroing episode 9 – This series didn’t seem like it was going to amount to much at first, but a surprising focus on character development and some unexpected twists have turned into a mild sleeper series. Might be worth checking out if it can finish out properly.

Demon Girl Next Door episode 8 – This series impresses more than any other when it comes to slyly working in world-building elements, and it does this while building solid relationships and an all-around fun story. It hasn’t lost any of what made the first series so great.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 34

Rating: 4 (of 5)

One of the truest axioms of security is that even the most robust security plans are still only as good as the people carrying them out. Get careless and the enemy will take advantage of the holes. Normally protagonists are the ones who benefit from this in anime series, but this time around a simple matter of instructions not getting properly passed on to a gatekeeper shift results in calamity for Main.

At least for the moment, anyway. The black stone necklace Sylvester gave Main back in episode 31 was pretty blatant foreshadowing of the very event on which this episode ends, and this is exactly the kind of circumstance that it was intended for. The Next Episode title also supports that we will see what, exactly, it does next episode and exactly how Sylvester can come to the rescue.

But while the cliffhanger on which the episode ends is certainly the episode’s feature scene, it is hardly the only thing going on in the episode. I continue to love how rich the world-building is here, as the content incorporates ideas brought up in numerous previous episodes and shows how they get applied. The signal that Ferdinand used back in episode 25 is shown here to be a standard procedure for summoning knights, including for nobles causing trouble at the city gates. (That raises the question, though, of how the gate guards make that summons if they, as commoners, cannot use magic themselves. They have a magic item for it, presumably?) That the High Priest would know what Dirk’s symptoms indicate is no surprise since the Head Priest also recognized them; presumably such a thing is common knowledge among nobles, since their own children doubtless experience the same. The tau fruit coming up again was also a nice touch, though I had to wonder if Main considered how much of a disaster it would be if the fruit overcharged and turned into a trombe in her quarters. Contrarily, the scene with Heidi seemed an unnecessary reinforcement of the previous commentary on how secretive painters are.

Other little details get thrown around, too, since as the stabilized colors being made reality by the fixing agent suggestion, Heidi earning what essentially amounts to a research grant, and the toy bell Main had made for her baby brother. Delia’s situation merits more attention; sadly, she has no idea how much of a naive tool she is or how disposable she is if the High Priest ever decides he has no more use for her. And now that her role as a spy is done, I have to wonder how far off that time is; I can easily see her becoming a tragic character.

But for now, Main and Tuuli’s safety are the more immediate concerns. That was a gutsy move, grabbing both of them so near to two armed and fit-looking individuals. I am curious to see what their escape plan is.

Spy x Family episodes 7-8

Rating (collectively): 4.5 (of 5)

If the last two episodes of Spy x Family show anything, it’s that the series functions just as well when things are transpiring that stress Twilight out as it does when he is being the cool, collected, and fully in-control master spy. Episodes 7 and 8 each tackle this in different ways.

In episode 7, Twilight takes on a variety of undercover roles at the school in a dizzying effort to emphasize to Anya the importance of her apologizing to Desmond and thus getting back in his good graces (after episode 6’s epic punch). While there has always been an absurdist factor to this series, this episode basks in it nearly as much as the spy-themed rescue sequence in episode 5, albeit in an entirely different manner; Twilight comes up with every way imaginable to remind Anya, while Becky, in her possessive friendship with Anya, unwittingly keeps thwarting him so successfully that he, for a moment, wonders if she’s doing it on purpose as some form of counter-espionage (which, given the age of the characters involved, is also absurd – or would be, if Anya wasn’t aware that she is part of an espionage mission). The utterly delicious irony of the whole scenario is that both Twilight’s efforts to remind Anya and Anya’s attempt to apologize may be wholly unnecessary, as the punch Anya threw metaphorically hit Desmond in the heart as hard as it physically hit him in the face. When I said back in the episode 6 review about how that punch might ironically work out in Anya’s favor, this was not at all the angle that I was expecting.

Though the situation is played for humor, this really isn’t a far-fetched idea. Some men are legitimately attracted to women who can challenge them, in part because having a partner who just passively goes along with everything gets boring to them after a while. (I tend to be that way myself.) This is especially true for particularly arrogant men, which is the direction Desmond is decidedly headed in. He’s too young to understand all of this himself, hence his outburst at the end of the episode, but he’s going to come around.

Episode 8 presents a challenge from an entirely different angle: the brother-in-law. Yor has pointedly shown before that most of what she does is for her younger brother Yuri, which Yuri is so thoroughly appreciative of that he’s become a veritable siscon – and, ironically, that means he’s going to every bit of the extremes that Yor is to make sure that the country is a good place for his sibling. In other words, he’s secretly Secret Police while she is secretly an assassin. The new irony here is that, as adept as he is at dealing with suspects, he has such strong blinders on concerning Yor that he accepts things which should be fishy about her explanations and her avoidances of certain topics at face value; the scenes showing a young Yor coming back home blood-splattered but Yuri forgetting all about that when presented with a treasured book were sputter-worthy delights.

The further delicious ironies here involve the way Yuri subtly goes on the attack against Loid for completely the wrong reasons. He’s using his Secret Police mentality to go after Loid in a “you’re not good enough for my sister” manner when Loid is, in fact, the very spy he’s been hunting. This results in Twilight wondering if his cover’s blown, when in fact Yuri only cares about showing that Loid really isn’t the perfect guy for Yor.

Episode 8 also proves that the series can survive for most of an episode without Anya. Even so, she gets in at least one or two good moments with her expressions over missing the fraction problem (this is rather early to be teaching kids about those, incidentally) and figuring out fractions using her spy cartoon.

While the series may not be functioning at the glorious heights of episode 2, it’s still rolling along just fine.

Special Review: The Devil is a Part-Timer novel series

Note: This review assumes the reader is at least familiar with the content covered by the 2013 anime series (i.e., the first two novels). It talks about the story and character development after that in a general sense and largely avoids major spoilers.

The stunning revelation last December that action/comedy/drama series The Devil is a Part-Timer is getting a new anime season after nine years off is bringing the franchise a well-deserved second wave of attention. After all, it was one of the funniest series of its year, and its reverse-isekai construction put a big twist on a genre which was just starting to gain major traction at that point. It was clever in the way it poked fun at fantasy tropes while also establishing interesting characters, lively interactions, and hints of a bigger story at work. That story plays out over the course of the next 19 volumes, leading to a conclusion in volume 21 that has received mixed reactions. Now that the final volume is available in English, I can see what all of the fuss was about, though I am ambivalent on how I feel about it myself.

Without getting too much into specifics, the angel Sariel is far from the only angel from Enta Isla that Maou, Emilia, and crew run across in Japan, and other demons eventually pop up as well. Other powers also come into play, and their presences help explain one of the biggest conundrums left hanging at the end of the first anime series: who, exactly, the apartment manage Mikitty is and how she seems to knows about Enta Isla. (It always bothered me that none of Maou, Emilia, or Alciel ever questioned that more in the wake of the Lucifer/Olba incident.)The presence of the baby shown in the novel cover above is also explained very early on; in fact, she might debut in the first episode of upcoming season 2, since she will be a driver for the plot in the first half of the content likely to be animated. That is also the point where the story’s bigger plot starts to take shape, which eventually leads to the revelation of what exact machinations the angels are actually up to.

However, don’t expect the truth of that to come up in any new animation, as the full story about that gets spread out all the way into the later stages of the final volume. In fact, the series as a whole takes frustratingly long to play out major plot developments, instead spending a lot more time on the minutiae of how Maou, Emi, and crew are managing their day-to-day lives and all of the new challenges they face at their workplaces. Granted, some of this can be quite entertaining, but the middle volumes in particular can be a slog. Even a plotline involving Maou and Emi both temporarily returning to Enta Isla – which should be a highlight – stretches out longer than it needs to. A few short stories also get thrown in along the way, but I have less objection to those, since some of them (especially a flashback about Emilia’s first days in Japan) are quite insightful.

The main complaint about the final resolution of the series has been the way the romantic developments shake out. One additional character does become at least a minor romantic player concerning Maou, but she also clearly has no real chance with Maou, a point which even she acknowledges herself. Despite arising in the later stages of the story, she is not a factor at the end. There is one other jaw-dropping development on the romantic front, but it also doesn’t concern the core of the story, so the romantic entanglements – as has been implied since early on – come down to only Maou, Chiho, and Emilia. The story tries its best to leave the final resolution vague until the last few pages of the last volume (despite the last volume being regularly interspersed with “the status quo three years later” bits), but quite a few fans have been unhappy that the resolution doesn’t go the direction that they thought the story seemed to be pointing for a long time.

I don’t have a major problem with how that all plays out. I always felt the story was pointing firmly in the direction it ultimately went despite some attempts to obfuscate that, and frankly, I would have been unsatisfied if it had fully gone the other way. I have a bit more of a problem with how certain compromises were handled in the end, but the relationships in the series were always too messy and multi-layered for any kind of clean, simple resolution to happen.

Will this be it for the franchise, or will it take the Spice and Wolf route and continue to pump out follow-up short stories and spin-offs? While there have been a couple of manga spin-offs – one which transplants the cast into a high school setting and another that’s a food-focused collection of short stories – nothing equivalent to what Spice and Wolf is doing has come out in the nearly two years since the publication of the last novel in Japan, nor do I expect any such development. More could maybe be done with the way things stand at the end, and there are still at least one or two significant loose ends. However, everything which drove the plot and character developments throughout the story is settled, and circumstances at the end necessitate that any further developments would be far more mundane. The story feels finished at that point.

Despite the way the overall story stretches things out, the overall story is still an entertaining-enough read, and the 2-3 volumes likely to be animated for the upcoming anime sequel in July is one of the series’ strongest runs past the first two. I heartily recommend continuing with it if you have seen the first series.

Overall Rating: 3.5 (of 5)

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 33

NOTE: Due to me being away at Anime Central this past weekend, I am behind on everything else that has aired since Thursday. Hence I am skipping covering episode 7 of Spy x Family separately and will instead include it with episode 8’s review next week.

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Due to a combination of her difficult personality, opportunistic nature, and continued spying on Main for the High Priest, Delia has always been one of the least easily likable of the series’ recurring characters. However, the production team has always been careful to show that she does not act out of malice; she is guided much more by survival instinct, or perhaps more accurately, her interpretation of it given the circumstances of her world’s realities. As a result, watching so firmly latch onto Dirk over the course of this episode is less a case of character redemption and more a case of her merits finally showing. As last episode and this episode have demonstrated, she’s clearly a natural at handling the infant (especially compared to Main!), and she’s seriously starting to care about him as well. This is the kind of experienced that can transform a person in the long run. But how long will that experience last when Dirk needs to be adopted?

That sets up the main not-really-surprising plot twist of the episode: Dirk also has The Devouring, and while maybe not as strongly as Main, he still has it pretty strongly. (That certainly raises the question of whether that might be connected to him being abandoned.) His situation is more precarious, both since he does not have the advantages that Main does and because he’s a boy, so the concubine option is off the table. He still needs to be adopted by a noble to survive, and it looks like his two options are essentially to become either a kind of mana battery or perhaps eventually one of those Devouring Soldiers. Main eventually contracting with him when she becomes a noble is also an option, though more of a long-term than immediate solution. Seeing how that all plays out, and how much secrecy has to be maintained about Dirk’s condition, provides another nice bit of world-building for the setting.

So do the ongoing efforts with the colored ink. The business about how paint-mixing formulas are closely-guarded secrets is a quite interesting one, and one that I have not seen previously brought up in anime or in my own historical studies, but I have no doubt about its veracity. Certainly the results of experimenting with different combinations shown here and in last episode show how complicated a process this actually is. I especially liked how her mother contributed with the suggestion about fixing agents, as it reinforces one of the show’s underlying themes: that solutions to seemingly-complicated problems can sometimes be simple, practical ones.

Lastly, the epilogue once again cannot be ignored. The first two seasons used those primarily for comedy relief, but this season has used them more to inserting extra background/world-building tidbits. This time comes the explanation for why Main’s mana is so high and how mana can be “compacted” to make it more controllable if one has a lot. Really, I wonder if the production team isn’t just using these bits to work in relevant details that are in the novels but do not fit well into the flow of the animation.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 32

Rating: 4 (of 5)

The potential threat to Main from forces among the nobles has been growing since the late stages of last season. With this episode, the scheming kicks into higher gear by finally introducing some of the nobles behind it, as well as finally revealing the name of the High Priest: Bezewanst. (And he has an elder sister, too, though why that might be important enough to reveal here is unclear at this point.) That whole opening scenes raises some mechanical questions – such as how a noble from another domain can effectively buy Main, and whether or not the High Priest’s displeasure with Main outweighs her critical role as a mana resource – but those are questions to be resolved another day. That whole sequence feels like just a set-up for more major plot developments to come in the season’s second half.

The main focus of the episode is instead on babies. Main is understandably glowing about her new little brother Kamil, while Benno is also getting an earful from Otto and Corinna about their new little one; I get some of this at work (several of those I work with have had new additions to their families within the last 3-4 years), so as someone who’s not enthralled with infants and toddlers, I can sympathize. But another young one has also come onto the scene: a baby boy abandoned at the cathedral by his mother. As the official in charge of the orphanage, his care falls under Main’s purview, which leaves everyone scrambling to take care of the tyke; even Delia seems to be making a connection here, while Main (perhaps not ironically given her singular focus) seems unsuited.

Frankly, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. Given the ages shown so far for the orphans, the orphanage probably gets at least a handful of newcomers every year, yet this is the first time we’ve seen an addition. (And sadly, this is hardly a rare occurrence even today; one town near me has become noteworthy for having three newborns anonymously turned in at fire station-based safe havens within the past month.) Nothing shakes up the status quo like a new baby, especially when said baby seems to be having a negative reaction to something, most likely in his diet. That provides a more immediate challenge for next episode.

The third branch of the episode involves Main’s newest technological quest: the development of colored ink. As the latter part of this episode shows, this is a more involved process than it might seem, especially when the chemistry behind how combining different ingredients produces certain colors is not understood. At least Main has an enthusiastic ally here in the science-minded Heidi, who works with her husband to make Main’s ink. The way she can practically bowl over Main with her enthusiasm makes her a neat character, one whom I hope we will see more of as Main sorts out the colored ink-making process.

Mix in additional scenes which show that Delia is still trying to play her cards with the High Priest (though how effectively is another story) and we have another busy episode which mostly relies on appreciating all of the small details for its entertainment value. But anyone who doesn’t find that enough reason to keep watching probably dropped this series long ago, didn’t they?

Thoughts on Other Series:

I’m Quitting Heroing – Never expected much from this one, and for the first four weeks or so it was only a half-hearted view which I maintained mostly because little else debuts on Tuesdays. However, it has gradually started to assemble into a more involved examination of business dynamics and how interpersonal skills relate to them than expected. It has also thrown out some unexpected twists about the true nature of the “hero” and his personal strength. That, combined with some surprisingly appealing characters from the Demon Army ranks, has made this an interesting enough series that I now feel I could recommend it to others.

Spy x Family episode 6

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Anya is now formally into Eden College, so the first phase of Operation Strix is now complete. However, the second phase looks to be every bit as problematic – and for this part, the weight is falling much more heavily on Anya. However, this part is not entirely about her, as all three come to realize just how treacherous a venue Eden College is to navigate.

For Loid and Yor, this means coming to realize not only that Eden College students can be targets, but also that getting in on merit rather than money can leave a student low in the social pecking order. Hence Anya has her work cut out for her to get in the good graces of Desmond, the second son of Twilight’s target, and thus get her “parents” invited to the social events the target attends. The problem here is that Anya is integrating what she’s learning from different sources about what she needs to do about as thoughtfully as one could expected even a precocious six-year-old (who might only be five!) to do. And between her mind-reading and inspirational sources, she’s not about to take any of Desmond’s bullying crap. Still, of the series’ three protagonists, she is the one who would be least expected to send someone flying with a punch – and a punch that was anything but girly at that.

As mortified at the Forgers are about the state of things at the end of the episode, this whole scenario also shows that everyone – from oldest to youngest – should only underestimate Anya at their peril. Even if all of her effects weren’t intentional, she is well on her way to eventually becoming a master manipulator. She was keenly able to play punching Desmond off in a way which got her in the least amount of trouble and gained her further respect from the old gentleman, and she has clearly won over at least one admirer/probable friend from a well-connected family. That delightful smirk of hers may not have been what she was aiming for, but it still utterly threw off Desmond even before that epic punch. Now he really won’t know what to do with her, and I don’t doubt that Anya so capably defending herself made an impression on others. Though it gets her in trouble short-term, it may ironically prove to have been her best move in the long run. And for all of this, we can still delight in her young-kid cuteness over the way she shows off her uniform to people in the park.

Almost lost in all of this is how much Yor is falling into the role of Anya’s mother almost despite herself. Foiling the kidnapping attempt isn’t the first time that she has reacted more like a true mama bear than someone just faking the role. The whole sequence with Anya comforting her after lamenting about the wasted groceries both gives the episode its requisite touching moments and reaffirms that one does not have to be a traditional mother figure in order to actually be a good mother; caring matters more. Besides, in Anya’s (admittedly a bit skewed) perspective, a fighting mama is a perfect one.

Overall, this episode shows that the series will not slouch at all as Anya becomes more the center of action – not that such a consideration was ever in any doubt.

Ascendance of a Bookworm episode 31

Rating: 4 (of 5)

One of the many things that I adore about this series is the very studious way that it examines the potential wide-ranging consequences of its titular character’s actions; that’s something that far too few isekai tales do. Yet that is a major point in this episode, and hardly the only important thing going on in yet another packed episode.

The examination comes about as a result of Ferdinand and Sylvester finally taking a look at what, exactly, Main has been doing with her studio. (Presumably this is part of security precautions.) Even given what Main has already showed him for finished products and what he know about her isekai nature, he is still utterly underestimating what she is capable of and how much he’s going to have to rein her in. Claiming that Main could disrupt the fabric of society in her new world if left to her own device is not an overstatement, and she’s even more dangerous because she has no idea (or at least has not set down and thought out) the full ramifications of what she’s doing.

Thankfully, the much more worldly Ferdinand is thinking about it. Putting the whole book-copying network out of business with her printing press development is not a trivial matter, as people tend to get nasty when their livelihood is interfered with. Such is always the case throughout history when new technologies change workload burdens, and Main in her book-making glee is utterly unprepared to deal with that fallout. Main also isn’t wrong in her answer to Ferdinand’s questions about the impact of the printing press in her world, though she may even understate the impact. Printing did allow the more ready dissemination of both news and scientific (and especially mathematical) knowledge, but it also fueled radicals. For instance, witch hunts were not entirely dependent on printed materials for their propagation, but the explosion of them in Europe in the late 1400s heavily depended on printed books. They can also be credited with enabling the Protestant Reformation and spreading the philosophical though which eventually developed into the American and French Revolutions. So yes, in the long term Main absolutely is not exaggerating in what she tells Ferdinand.

Her point back about how “that’s not necessarily how it will happen in this world” is a fine bit of world-building, though. That the health of social structure and even land is dependent on the mana supplied by nobles introduces bedrock elements which could interfere with anything too radical happening; some system to replace the mana provided by priests would have to be developed before anything too major could happen. (This raises the interesting question of whether the current system developed out of necessity – and thus is the reason why nobles are nobles – or whether nobles constructed the system to make commoners dependent on them, but I don’t expect the series to get into that anytime soon.) Even so, stability depends on people carefully considering the consequences of any major development.

The episode also throws out a ton of other little details. “Devouring soldiers” is tossed out as a thing but, frustratingly, not followed up on; it seems out of character for Main to not pursue that one further. Of course, Ferdinand is stonewalling her on how he knows/is related to Sylvester, who is clearly someone pretty important among nobles, but at least Sylvester seems to be on Main’s side. The exact nature of the offer Sylvester gave Benno which has left him so flustered also makes for a good added mystery. And by the end of the episode Main’s a big sister, too! The details at the end, where chibi-Main is talking to her father in the after-credits scene, also are interesting; her parents in this world had three other failures with children both before and after Main and Tuuli, so their overall success rate so far is only 50%. Sadly, that’s about the norm for the medieval era, where half of children typically didn’t survive past age 5.

The episode covers all of this and still throws out an additional plot hook as well: a noble is coming to the church who is going to have a big interest in Main. Will be interesting to see how quickly that plays out, since the next episode’s title suggests a different focus. Still, it’s all good for how the series is currently progressing, with even little details like Wilma being nervous around Sylvester being attended to and suggestions that the High Priest’s servant Jenni might be a potential source of eventual conflict as well. Keep it coming, Bookworm!

Spy x Family episode 5

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Despite the episode’s ominous title – “Will They Pass or Fail” – Anya getting into Eden College was never in doubt; Master Henderson’s evaluation gave them an edge if even if plot necessity didn’t mandate it. The slight drama over this does allow for an amusing opening sequence about our featured family experiencing omens of bad luck on the way to learning the results, and for Yor’s finely-depicted scene where she contemplates murdering someone to force a withdrawal to get Anya off the waiting list (liked the color contrast there!), but all of it ends up just being an excuse to give Anya a really elaborate reward for her hard work in contributing to this key event happening. So of course that means acting out a scenario from Anya’s favorite spy cartoon.

In other words, this is easily the most absurdist episode to date, and boy, does it get played to the hilt! Twilight’s curly-haired contact seems to take a perverse glee in setting up and acting out the scenario; guess a spy’s gotta have fun when he can, right? And what better way to act out a scenario based on a cartoon than to have the whole thing operate on cartoon logic? Forget practicalities, like how the mask Loid gets cornered into wearing wouldn’t hide anyone’s identity, how this is an abusive waste of time and resources, or how all the other agents buy into the belief that this farce needs to be played out because either A) the elite spy Twilight would never do something so unprofessional, B) it’s an opportunity to go head-to-head with the nation’s legendary spy, or C) both of the above. Anything which keeps things entertaining – and especially makes Anya happy – is justifiable here.

And that includes manipulating circumstances so that Loid and Yor get their first head-to-head fight scene. The whole second half of the episode is an action extravaganza, with a number of low-danger-level, slickly-animated action sequences; a personal favorite was the one where Loid dives onto the balcony and rolls. Out of all that, though, the highlight is unquestionably the completely soused Yor losing track of the fact that she’s supposed to be just play-acting and going after Loid for real. That’s a sequence that I expect to se GIFs of and people still talking about come to the end of the year, as it’s not at all clear that Loid could have beat her if she hadn’t passed out in the middle of it.

In the end, the series once again nails its overall formula: mix in quality action with lots of fun, more good Anya reactions, and the occasional tender moment between Loid and Anya. Maybe not the best episode to date, but it still works and primes Anya to do her best at school, which will apparently be the focus of next episode.