DENKI-GAI
Episode 11

by Lauren Orsini,

By episode eleven of an anime, I usually think I have the show figured out. Not so with Denki-gai no Honya-san. The show skipped on its breakneck whirl through the seasons to focus on an extended anecdote from Sommelier's childhood before wrapping up the half hour with several uninspired shorts.

The anecdote introduces a seemingly new but increasingly familiar character, an elementary school girl who catches her classmates, including Sommelier, reading erotic manga in a derelict shed. To keep her from telling the teacher, they offer her erotic manga and an invitation to join the club. It's not very realistic, but somehow, this works.

It might be uncomfortable and borderline criminal in the real world to think about elementary schoolers reading erotic books together, but since episode one, Denki-gai has established a setting where everyone is a fan of erotica, from grandparents to a family of four. Erotica is love, erotica is life. The theme of every other Denki-gai sketch seems to be about the ways that erotic books make people happy and enrich their lives.

Pornography has been a very hot topic in Japan as of late, especially child pornography, which was banned this summer. Episodes like this one appear to be in direct reaction to the government's tightening restrictions on photographed and drawn pornography. At one point in this anecdote, when young Sommelier thinks he is about to be punished for having an erotic manga with him at school, the teacher tells him he did the same thing at his age and that it's a perfectly normal thing to do. It's obvious that this is the creator's attitude about sexuality and kids' sex education coming through the mouthpiece of a teacher.

Anyway, the anecdote soon reaches hyperbolic proportions after Sommelier saves the elementary school girl's life and she bursts into tears not out of gratitude or fear, but out of misery that she wasn't able to save all the porn. In that moment, their relationship is a parody of what the viewer is expecting from a childhood romance—a riverbank promise at sunset to meet again one day, so they can share more porn with each other as adults.

The anecdote may have been entertaining, but everything else felt like filler. Once again, Tsumorin and Hio-tan decide to spy on Sensei over the course of a day. This “Discovery Channel” style gag started getting stale halfway through the first time they did it. After that was a bit of slapstick involving Sommelier and his diminutive love interest, Fu-girl. Even though they haven't confessed to one another yet (though it's obvious they're in love), the show is still trying to play at sexual tension between the two. I say it's too late for that! Go big or go home, Sommelier and Fu-girl. There's such a thing as dragging on a flirtation for so long that I no longer care if they're going to make something of it.

This episode would have worked better in the middle of the show, not as one of the final episodes of the season. By focusing on an extended flashback, it broke routine in a disruptive rather than surprising way, and the disappointing second half left me wondering if Denki-gai has simply just run out of steam.

Rating: C

Denkigai no Honya-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.


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