Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Series Review

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 5

A Skeleton in A Bookshop? I Have To See That

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San is an anime series that has one idea and that is we have a skeleton working in a bookshop. Everything that happens after that is either delightful or groan inducing depending on your tolerance for situational comedy.

It’s kind of well-known that I’m not big on comedy anime. Or slice of life anime. So a comedy/slice-of-life short form anime shouldn’t have ever appeared on my radar and certainly isn’t the kind of thing I would normally follow week to week for episode reviews. Yet, Honda-San had two very important attributes that drew me to it.

Firstly, it featured a skeleton in a bookshop. Seriously. That idea never stops being visually amusing no matter how many episodes we have. And then episode 12 puts the skeleton in a Christmas hat and that image is just perfectly hilarious by itself.

Secondly, it is set in a bookshop. More specifically, a Japanese bookshop where our main character works with manga. Playing spot the reference is a delightful way to pass the time in this series and more importantly, what book-lover hasn’t thought at some point of working in a bookshop (until you remember that it is retail and working with customers).

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10

Both of these aspects were actually enough to carry me through the whole twelve episodes of this anime, even when some of the comedy didn’t quite hit its mark.

Part of the problem is that this anime relies very much on exaggeration, particularly exaggerated reactions from characters, as its primary form of humour. And while this works well enough and some of the facial expressions (although that isn’t quite right given all the characters wear masks) are fantastically done and the timing works beautifully. Other times, you just kind of sit back and wonder why the characters are freaking out so much. For instance, the episode where the characters were thinking about one of the workers who actually manages to keep their stock organised and how amazing that was. I just kept wondering why they didn’t all keep their stock organised and spend less time freaking out.

Skull face Book Seller Honda San Episode 8

The best moments for Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San are far and away Honda’s interactions with the customers. These can be positive, negative or just weird, but each time a customer came to the counter or approached Honda in the shop there was a sense of anticipation. These encounters were great mostly because there was a ring of truth around each one as anyone who had worked in customer service had probably encountered someone just like that at some point.

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 7

I am going to have to mention the visuals though. Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San is very much a basic anime in terms of its animation and visuals. There’s a heavy reliance on simple backgrounds or no background. Character reactions are repeated. The character designs, while distinct, are pretty basic and there is limited character movement. This anime stands out from others of its season and is recognisable, but it isn’t pretty, sophisticated, or even particularly well done.

However, the OP, “ISBN ~Inner Sound & Book’s Narrative~” is pretty distinct and fairly amusing to listen to. Likewise, for the most part the voice work by the characters serves its purpose and gets across the tone very well. They aren’t heavily nuanced performances, but given the material they don’t really need to be.

I’d certainly recommend giving this one a go. It gets a little repetitive as the season wears on and depending on how well the humour works for you will really have a big impact on your relative enjoyment, but this one is an interesting title from the Autumn season and one that has enough positives to recommend at least trying it.

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Karandi James
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Tis The Season To Be Jolly And Wear Weird Hats

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 12 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say. Voting closes on the 29th of December.

Well, we already knew Honda-san didn’t deal well with customers and Christmas is always an interesting time for those who work in retail. It seems fitting that this final episode deals with Christmas and potential New Year sales given when the episode aired and it does just bring an air of finality to what has been essentially an episodic affair. After the lame episode 11 I was worried that this anime was dead in the water but it managed to return to its strengths and deliver an amusing enough final episode.

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 12 Honda in Christmas Hat

Still, the humour is all of the to-be-expected kind at this point. Honda asked to wear a Christmas hat and the horror of potentially being banished to the children’s section to wrap books. It is all over the top silliness that anyone who has ever worked retail can relate to despite the exaggeration these are all situations people will have experienced.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 12 - Define Christmas

The final story really does bring things nicely to a close with Honda working the night-shift and helping to close the store. It is a simple device and yet the store closing feels like a solid ending to a series that really didn’t have an ongoing narrative.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 12 Honda

While I haven’t been thrilled by this one it has entertained enough this season and some moments have been pretty funny. I’ll get to a full series review soon.

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Karandi James
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Bored At The Bookstore? Just Add Monsters

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11 Review

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-San takes its viewers to an alternate setting this week for the first story where we see them selling books to yokai. Honestly, other than pushing the scenario to the extreme with one of them losing an arm to an angry customer, nothing seemed all that different to their normal day to day.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

All of this made me wonder why we were bothering, and then I realised this anime doesn’t really have anything left to say. From the start it has just been about the day-to-day of working in a book shop and the different scenarios faced by the workers as they do their jobs and interact with customers, and what became fairly obvious by the sequence in the yokai world was that any point that was to be made through this has already been made.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

That lack of new material became even more apparent in the second story where we did return to the normal book shop but we see Honda getting abused on the phone by an irate customer and then meeting a calming and healing customer who loves books and thanks him. Again, there’s no new material here and nothing more to be said.

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 11

With one episode left to go I’m actually glad this one has come to the end of its run as I’m fairly certain I don’t have much investment left in it. That said, in small bits and pieces this show has been fun, it is just that I’m not sure it ever had enough to carry a full anime season even as a short anime.

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Karandi James
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Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design
Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design

Were You Considering a Job In A Bookstore?

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10 Review

Skull Face Book Seller Honda-San continues to do what it does. Honda starts off in a conversation about what makes someone suitable to work in a book store. We get to hear Honda’s perspective as well as numerous other workers. Like always, this is a remove the filter look at a job that is often romanticised by book lovers but ultimately requires a lot of work, organisation and stacking of things. They play it for humour and as normal it works well enough but that’s about all.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10

Interspersed is some shelf envy as the less organised characters marvel over someone able to actually keep their shelves, drawers and stock in order. Honestly, this seems like it would be an essential trait for all the employees but apparently some struggle with it. This joke didn’t quite hit the mark for me, because to be honest I just couldn’t see why they couldn’t just organise their stock, but I’m guessing other people will relate better and find the humour in it.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10

Lastly, we switch to the panic of characters potentially facing a section change. This leads to some remarkable observations about various manga publishers and if you’ve been playing spot the reference then you’ve just hit the jackpot with this section. I certainly enjoyed this part more than the rest of this episode.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 10

As normal though, Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San functionally works, is occasionally funny, and is fortunately short enough that even when it kind of flails about helplessly it is easy enough to watch. Still, this one remains strictly average in more or less every regard.

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Karandi James
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Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design
Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design

Book Lovers Can Relate To The Pain In Honda-San This Week

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 9 Review

Honda really can’t deal with people, and this fact has been the consistent source of jokes and amusement throughout this series. It becomes even more apparent this week when we first see him confronted by fans of a book who missed its release and now can’t find it anywhere. As a book-lover I know this pain all too well having spent many fruitless hours as a kid walking between bookshops for the latest Animorphs volume or whatever else I was into at the time.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 9

However, this then transitions into another teaching moment about what happens to books that aren’t selling and how they make room for new stock. The agonising the characters go through when looking at their shelves and deciding which books to go back is exaggerated just enough to bring a smile to the face without going totally over the top.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 9

What this show gets right is understanding people who love books. Seeing the character early on who yells at Honda-san for suggesting he get an ebook copy after coming to a book store… even readers who like ebooks will understand that when you’ve decided to go and buy a physical copy, an ebook just won’t do. Seeing the disappointed fans who couldn’t get the book they were chasing was just kind of perfect. But what really sold this whole idea was Honda himself and his genuine thrill and enjoyment on being able to get a copy of the book he was chasing at the end of the episode.

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 9

If things get a bit weird in the middle with a wrapped book talking to Honda while he tries to shove it into a shelf, then that’s a small quibble with an otherwise fairly enjoyable episode of this. Honda remains a watchable show and an amusing enough diversion, though there still isn’t a lot to this anime other than that.

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Karandi James
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Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda San (Anime) Intro/Outro Themes: ISBN – Inner Sound & Book’s Narrative
Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda San (Anime) Intro/Outro Themes: ISBN - Inner Sound & Book's Narrative

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 5: Overcoming the Trials and Tribulations of the Bookshop

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 5

Honda-San continues to confuse me in that I’m coming to the conclusion that the booksellers themselves in this story aren’t sure whether or not they actually want to sell books. On the one hand, they enjoy it when they set the books out and satisfy a customer, on the other hand, having plenty of sales, needing restocking, or an author doing a signing leading to potential major sales, are causes for panic. It leaves you wondering where they actually sit on the whole idea of making sales.

Honda5a

That said, it does make for some great comedy moments as we see Honda dealing with three situations in this anime, most of which involving customer inquiries or a lot of sales all at once. For a skull, Honda-san is pretty expressive. Still his freak out at the idea of an author tweeting which might lead to phone calls and yet more sales was kind of insane because you would think that it would be a good  thing for the visiting author to actually bring in more customers.

Honda5c

One thing that can’t be ignored though is that five episodes in and this one is already starting to feel a little repetitive. Certainly it is fun, but there just isn’t that much depth to the set ups and basically each situation ends up boiling down to much the same as every other situation. Honda also reacts the same experiencing very little growth so far as a character (much as you would expect from a short comedy but it limits opportunities for variety).

Honda5d

Still, with its short run time and fairly interesting take on book stores, this one is still worth a bit of a watch even if it isn’t a must see title. Hopefully it manages to keep adding enough variety to make it to the end of the season.

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Karandi James
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Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design
Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design

Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-San Episode 4: We’ve All Been There

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

One thing that continues to be a great draw with this anime is the fact that Honda-San is kind of a great stand-in for the average and everyday viewer who works a day job, probably as part of a larger organisation, and is generally not in a position of great power within said organisation. As such, it makes the events fairly relatable even though most of us probably don’t work in book shops.

Skull-Face Book Seller Honda-San Episode 4

This week particularly, takes Honda out of the books shop and sends him to training and I think I really finally clicked with this character as the sinking feeling he was experiencing on entering kind of matched a feeling I’ve felt many times before as I’ve gone into workshops and training sessions.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 4

It isn’t that Honda is resistant to learning, obstinate, or wanting to cause trouble. It is more the excessive enthusiasm with which the trainer’s take on the role of something as basic as smiling and the cringe worthy lengths they go to in order to impart some of their wisdom on their somewhat reluctant students. However, the anime also makes it clear that the actual concept of training in customer service isn’t actually a problem and the trainers aren’t actually evil.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 4

Still, eleven minutes doesn’t give a lot to work with so while the scenario is a nice snap shot and most of the audience should be able to really relate this week, the anime doesn’t quite go so far as commentary. There doesn’t feel like there’s any message here other than just one that observes the idiosyncrasies within corporate structures and the zany people you will meet along the way. Maybe that is enough but it would have been nice to see this one push a little further along.

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Karandi James
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Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design
Chara Cover Note Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san 01 SD Chara Chiribame Design