Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san anime cover art
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san Cover Art

Overview

While not the best anime of the season, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is easily my choice for second best. The anime is 12 episodes long, but each episode is only half-length (11 minutes instead of 22). Further, each episode is composed of multiple mini stories which you can think of as skits.

The plot, if you can even call it that, revolves around the daily life of Honda, an employee at a bookstore. Throughout the series, we’re shown just how crazy and stressful it can be to work at such a store and have to deal with customers all day long, especially those who don’t speak Japanese.

While shorter comedy series such as this one don’t usually have the most dynamic animation, in part due to it not being necessary, Honda-san more than makes up for it with its crisp art style. The series is just so colorful and vibrant to the point that a lack of animation seems natural somehow, unlike Cromartie High School in which the lack of animation was part of the joke.

I also think this is a great series for anyone who’s had to work directly with customers before. The number of unreasonable requests Honda and his coworkers receive from customers is something I think most people can relate too.

However, if you’re also someone who sometimes struggles with customer interactions, then you’ll be glad to know you’re not alone. A number of the characters in this series are exactly the same way, and as Honda put it, “the easy customers are the scariest because they get your hopes up, only to be dashed by the next customer.”

But, where this series may truly shine is in the reference department. These references don’t come in the form of random poses or one-liners, but instead through the titles of the manga being sold at the bookstore. While these titles are all censored, likely due to licensing, it’s easy to figure out what they’re talking about.

For instance, if Naruto was being referenced, it would be called “N*ruto.” While some might find these more explicit references to be less entertaining than a random pose or one-liner, I thought it was fun to see how many titles I recognized in each episode.

Characters

As the title implies, Honda, the main character, has a skull for a face. In fact, unlike the rest of his coworkers who all have various head wear or heads (which sounds strange to say), Honda’s entire body is that of a skeleton, not just his head.

Throughout the series, Honda is the employee in charge of the American comics section of the bookstore, although he had absolutely no knowledge of American comics when he was first assigned to this section. That said, he also helps customers with their requests even if they don’t pertain to his section.

Of all the employees at the bookstore, Honda is one of those who struggles the most with customers, partially due to his inability to properly communicate with them, and partially due to their many requests, few of which he has an actual answer for that isn’t made up on the spot.

One thing I really enjoyed about this series, and Honda’s character in general, is that he’s the author insert character. The stories which we experience through Honda are all things which the author of the manga went through while working in a bookstore himself.

Further, in the series Honda is also the author of the series, which gets pretty meta when the series references itself. One such scene I enjoyed involved Honda’s publisher (I think), who was depicted as a Koala, asking Honda if he could be drawn as a Koala in his series.

Houtai and Honda wearing Santa hats from the anime Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Houtai and Honda wearing Santa hats

The one character who seems to have more trouble with customers than Honda is Kamibukuro, who has a paper bag for a head. However, in his case it has more to do with his fear of and inability to talk to the customers than anything else.

In the same boat as Honda and Kamibukuro are Houtai and Armour, although these two are higher up on the ladder than Honda and Kamibukuro (at least Armour is). While they’re more professional on the outside in public, behind closed doors they break down into panic.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are those who make up the dream team, Full Face, Gas Mask, and Yousetsu Mask (all pictured in the bottom left corner of the cover art). While Gas Mask and Yousetsu Mask are simply competent all around, Full Face specializes in being extremely organized, something his coworkers admire him for.

One of the employees who appears to be on the same level as Honda is Rabbit Head. While he’s energetic and fairly competent, which are good qualities to have at a bookstore according to Honda, he was unfortunate enough to be placed in charge of the gaming section.

Although Honda was worried about the American comics section because he knew nothing about them, the gaming section is the one place no employee want to be stationed because the customers of that section always know more about the books than those working it.

The final character I’ll mention here specifically is Majutsushi. He isn’t seen frequently around the bookstore and is more of a legend among the other employees than anything else. Somehow he’s always able to get any products restocked even if the rest of the employees fail to.

Other bookstore employees I skipped over include Kendou, Koomote, Lantern, Okitsune, and Pest Mask, who are all pictured on the cover art. The only employee not pictured on the cover art is Majutsushi, but for reference, he has a cloak hood which obscures his face.

Conclusion

Now, before I get to my rating of this series I also want to briefly bring up both the OP and ED. I liked the OP because it was both funny and catchy, especially the part where they’re saying numbers in English, and both the numbers and incorrect words for them are being shown at the same time.

For example, when it shows “4” it says “Force,” and when it shows “9” it says “Knowing.” I thought this was a great addition to the OP considering Honda’s lack of experience when it comes to dealing with English-speaking customers.

However, the real winner between the OP and ED was the ED. The simplified art style, simple story, and relaxing song all made for the perfect end to each episode.

In the end, I gave Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san a 7/10, although I almost gave it an 8. I would have really liked this series to be made up of full-length episodes, but I can understand why a series like this may be better off with the half-length episodes it got. I’d also really like to see a second season.

So, have you watched Honda-san yet, and if so, who was your favorite character (besides Honda of course)? I think Armour was probably my favorite of the other bookstore employees simply because of how she would break down once out of the customers’ view.

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