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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JAGGED ALLIANCE: RAGE!
JAGGED ALLIANCE: RAGE!

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Fruits Basket Series Review

Overview:

Honda Tohru’s mother died and she went to live with her grandfather. Unfortunately, he needed to move in with other family members and while the house was being renovated Tohru was asked to stay with a friend. Rather than troubling her friends, she moves into a tent. Then, one morning she comes across a house where the Prince of her school lives, Yuki Sohma. It turns out her tent is on Sohma land. After a landslide destroys the tent, Tohru finds herself living with Yuki but the Sohma’s have a little bit of a secret.

Review:

Alright, if you don’t like sweet, slow shows or fairly effeminate looking guys, you are probably going to pass on this one from the outset. However, if those elements aren’t going to make you walk away, you will probably find a really charming anime to watch filled with interesting characters who are all just a little bit (sometimes a lot) emotionally damaged and you can watch them grow closer together, or turn into animals. Then you can suffer from the absolute lack of resolution given by this series.

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It is one of my pet hates when anime just stop without finalising anything. While one small bit of Kyo’s story is resolved, the greater mystery surrounding the Sohma’s is still completely a mystery, as is the vast majority of what is motivating some members of the family to act the way they do. And we don’t even meet all of the zodiac. For a story where members of the family are possessed by the spirit of the zodiac, to not introduce them all and not to continue the story is just purposefully leaving us hanging. As a result, this is one of the very, very, very few anime where I did go and read the manga after watching because I just couldn’t stand leaving the story where the anime dropped us. That said, I didn’t completely finish reading it. I read enough to start piecing together some of the mysteries that were bugging me and then cut my losses – still, the announcement of a rebooted anime series has got me very excited.

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So with that said, how do I review Fruits Basket? It’s adorable.

Visually it kind of looks dated even for 2001 with very simple backgrounds and character designs that would look right at home in the 90’s, but it works well enough for the story unfolding here. However, be prepared for a lot of stillness on screen.

From a character point of view, Tohru is an air-headed protagonist who pretty much functions in ‘be sweet and don’t annoy anyone’ mode while voluntarily cooking and cleaning because she quite likes it. I really wonder if this is actually a thing in Japan where teenage girls actually enjoy cooking and cleaning for others who seem to be completely inept at living or whether this is a not so subtle message to the youth of Japan that typical gender roles should be maintained. Either way, it is something that generally irks me when watching anime, particularly in characters that don’t have much else to offer.

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Fortunately, Fruits Basket as a whole offers more than what our protagonist brings to the table. Her two best friends are fantastic. Yeah, they are equally stereotypical (one is a standard reformed delinquent and the other the weird girl who senses vibes) but the balance they offer and their interactions with Tohru work really well. They also offer some of the more comedic moments during the school scenes.

Fruits Basket

The Sohma’s are also pretty interesting as a family. Individually, they all have scars from being part of a cursed family. Scars because of the way others outside the family deal with them and scars because of the trauma inflicted by the family. It’s interesting to watch and in honesty I would have preferred more focus on this at times. It was also this aspect that pushed me to go read some of this series because there’s a lot going on with the family and I am definitely hoping we get more of it in the reboot.

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Tohru’s mother also needs a mention. For someone who is dead prior to the start of the series, she has a definite impact all the way through. Whether it is her lingering advice to Tohru about how to live, the inspiration she gives Tohru and her friends, or just the way characters who have never met her begin responding to her because of their interactions with Tohru, she’s a tangible force that moves the characters and plot. Not bad for someone who is dead and isn’t even appearing as some sort of spirit. It does however give the whole series a very human feeling as the loss of a parent should leave lingering traces.

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The opening theme is fantastic. Admittedly, it is slow but it sets the tone for the show and if you aren’t finding the theme engaging and sweet, while just a little bit wistful and nostalgic, you probably aren’t going to be the right audience for the show in the first place.

All and all, this was a great anime to watch but there just is no excuse for the lack of ending. If you are watching it just for the characters, you will love every minute of it. If you are hoping for the overall story with the curse of the Sohma’s to go somewhere, forget it.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Fruits Basket Mini Shikishi Collection BOX (Set of 8 pack)
Fruits Basket Mini Shikishi Collection BOX (Set of 8 pack)