Shizuka ItouHiroki YasumotoKimiko SaitoAkemi Okamura
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Also known as: Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2018
Director: Owl Todoroki
Writer: Shin Okashima
Original creator: Honda
Actor: Akemi Okamura, Aya Endo, Eri Kitamura, Hiroki Yasumoto, Kazutomi Yamamoto, Kimiko Saito, Kotaro Nishiyama, Shizuka Itou, Soma Saito, Toshiki Masuda, Wataru Hatano, Yoko Hikasa, Yuko Sanpei
Keywords: anime
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: 12 twelve-minute episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=21115
Website category: Anime 2018
Review date: 3 October 2019
Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda san
To be honest, I loved this less than I'd expected. It's both excellent and, for me, subjectively only okay. It's the day-to-day autobiography in manga/anime form of Honda-san, who works in a bookshop. He draws himself and his co-workers in disguised form (e.g. he's a skeleton), but otherwise it's non-fiction. This is done well. It's very detailed, very long-suffering and showing you angles on the industry you probably won't have considered even if you've worked in retail hell.
I'm torn. On the one hand, it's an honest, educational show and very relatable. On the other hand, though, it didn't really hit my funnybone. Other people have enjoyed it more than I did. It's basically just a bunch of anecdotes from someone who works in a bookshop, which is okay but dramatically static and even arguably kind of downbeat.
1. Books and bookshops are endangered these days. Honda-san's shop is busy, but he's still aware that the industry as a whole is facing an uncertain future. (This is just as true in Japan as it is everywhere else. Every time I visit Japan, there seem to be fewer BOOK-OFF second-hand stores, for a start.)
2. Honda-san is easily intimidated and definitely not an extrovert. In other words, he's in the wrong job. "Strangers scare me!" "I'm afraid of the phone! I wanna go home!" That said, he's a champ in how he toughs it out and does his best to help all the freaks, foreigners, rude and/or clueless people, i.e. the general public. (Ep.11 portrays the particularly unpleasant, creepy ones by entering a reality where everyone's a yokai.)
3. The language barrier. Lots of tourists come in and Honda speaks English. Ish. Sort of. "Let's! Bullshit English Time!" appears on-screen at one point. Some people think these scenes are among the show's highlights. Me, I found them a bit painful. (In an all-too-plausible, realistic way, of course.)
Unexpectedly, one of the show's big selling points is its visuals. It's a Flash-animated show with limited movement, but it's charming to see all the masks and disguises Honda-san gives his colleagues. Between them, they completely cover their faces with a paper bag, bandages, a Halloween pumpkin, a Japanese fox mask, a Noh omote mask, a cartoon rabbit head, a motorcycle helmet, a gas mask, a welder's mask, a kendo mask, the helmet from a suit of Western armour and a plague mask from the Black Death. This is cool. You'll never have any problems remembering who's who.
You'll be shown the world of retail and how it interacts with the often-eccentric Japanese publishing industry. Unsurprisingly, it's often hell. "We learned that movie adaptations starring idols wreak havoc on people's minds." Ep.4 sees Honda-san do smile training. You'll learn about the quirks of publishers and their salesmen, or perhaps the bookstore life-cycle of reprints and deathbed books. It's charming and interesting because it's true... but it's not really going anywhere and I can't imagine trying to marathon it. It might have dragged a bit if they'd given it full-length episodes. It's the kind of thing that could be fun and sometimes eye-opening if you just dipped into it every so often, perhaps. Twelve minutes a week. You could try that.
"Christmas: a demonic event that brings madness to all."