Sunday, October 15, 2023

REVIEW: Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (anime TV series)

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is a comedy anime. I bought my copy new.


This series relates the real-life experiences of Honda's days as a bookstore employee. It's both humorous and informative, explaining how things work in bookstores as well as dealing more generally with the issue of customer service and the types of customers Honda dealt with.

It wasn't until I started working on this post that I realized that apparently Honda is a woman - in the anime, she is voiced by a male voice actor. I suppose, though, that Honda's gender doesn't really affect the overall story.

This was an impulse purchase. I was curious about it and decided to give it a try, knowing that it probably wasn't going to end up on my "rewatch" list. This is an extremely niche series, both in terms of its comedy and subject matter. I work in a library, so there's potential for overlap between my experiences and Honda's (particularly when it comes to people not always asking for what they really want), but bookstores and libraries really are very different. Their focus is on selling things, for one. Also, aside from a few titles that people are always interested in and things that have temporarily entered the spotlight due to current events or whatever, they're extremely focused on new releases and making room for them.

I don't know how much of the Japanese bookselling world overlaps with the US bookselling world, but it was still interesting to learn about, if perhaps not as funny as it might have been to someone living in that world. The more general customer service comedy worked much better for me overall. I particularly enjoyed the last couple episodes - Honda working the closing shift was amusingly similar to the experience of working a library closing shift, trying to herd people out, keep new people from coming in, and get all closing tasks done in time. The bit about the emotional effect of dealing with "saintly" customers soon after horrible ones was also pretty good.

I was surprised at how many scenes there were in which Honda tried to deal with foreign customers - I wonder if that's really as regular an occurrence as this anime made it seem, or if those moments stuck out to Honda more because the prospect of trying to speak coherent English was just that panic-inducing. I couldn't help but laugh at Honda's anxiety over how to explain to a clueless and handsome foreign gentleman that his daughter had sent him out to buy explicit self-published manga (although, considering that cover image, it should have been obvious).

Honda was in charge of the American comics and Western books areas of the bookstore. I laughed at the way those were depicted - more than anything, physically heavy, since they use better quality paper than Japanese manga.

If I had to pick a favorite employee, it'd probably be Pestmask (a female employee depicted wearing a plague doctor mask), if only because her introduction was hilarious.

I enjoyed this enough to watch it in one sitting, but it really was a very niche series - I don't know that I'll ever want to rewatch it, and I'd only recommend it under very particular circumstances. As an impulse purchase, it was decent and certainly low-stress, but I wouldn't call it a "must watch" series.

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of another manga similar to this series (but I don't remember the name), in which the male protagonist also has a skull face. The story begins when he and his friends (not normal people) unexpectedly pick up a baby to raise. Anyway, I still want to see how Honda tried to deal with foreign customers in this anime, though it is not a 'must-watch' series in your mind. Thanks for your review! I will download it on Crunchyroll to watch it later.