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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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

The People You Meet At The Bookshop

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode Review Title Image

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 8 Review

I’m forever wondering why Honda-San continues to work in customer service considering every type of customer seems to freak him out. This week we get a series of encounters that just more or less demonstrate how ill-equipped he is for dealing with other people including an encounter with a man missing part of a finger, a man buying lots of books, children, and yet more foreigners looking for manga.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 8

One thing I do like about Skull Face Bookseller Honda San is that it doesn’t talk down to its audience in terms of the manga references it makes. It assumes you know that the foreigners shirt isn’t a Natu** shirt and that you can draw your own conclusions from Honda’s single line rather than explaining it to you. While that means some references the anime makes will probably be missed by members of the audience, it also makes the references you catch that much more rewarding, and they aren’t overly obscure in the first place meaning anyone with a general knowledge of anime and manga will enjoy the odd nod to known titles.

Skull Face Book Seller Honda San Episode 8

I think where this anime is ultimately going to be forgettable is that other than the characters all having weird masks on and being named after their headwear, none of them have an overly distinct or memorable personality. They are strictly one-note and while they fit within the context and it allows for some reasonably amusing banter in the moment, they aren’t the kind of characters who leave an ongoing impression and there certainly isn’t a lot of value in revisiting them.

Skull Face Bookseller Honda San Episode 8

Still, for a morning watching the goings on in a bookshop, this anime certainly does provide enough entertainment and it continues to offer some insight into the daily life of a book store employee in Japan. Fun enough but eight episodes in and Skull Face Bookseller Honda San remains pretty average.

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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