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).
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.
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.
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!
- Episode 1 – Just Your Everyday Bookstore
- Episode 2 – Too Many Books in the Bookstore
- Episode 3 – Sales People and Recommendations
- Episode 4 – We’ve All Been There
- Episode 5 – Overcoming the Trials and Tribulations of the Bookshop
- Episodes 6 + 7 – What Happens When Our Skeleton Bookseller Leaves the Bookshop
- Episode 8 – The People You Meet At The Bookshop
- Episode 9 – Book-lovers Can Relate To The Pain in Honda-San This Week
- Episode 10 – Were You Considering a Job in the Bookstore?
- Episode 11 – Bored at The Bookstore? Just Add Monsters
- Episode 12 – Tis The Season To Be Jolly and Wear Funny Hats