by Lauren Orsini,
When you've got an anime that is literally about a bookstore selling erotic manga, there's a lot of low hanging fruit. Denki-Gai No Honya-San has a lot of opportunities to take the easy way out, which is why I'm pleasantly surprised that it continues to avoid a nosedive into the gutter. Take the introductory vignette in this week's three-part episode, “Panties in the Spring.” I cringed when I saw the preview last week, assuming it'd be nonstop fanservice. Instead, we're treated to Hio-tan's comic misunderstanding, an extended Dragon Ball Z reference, and some truly surprising discoveries about a genre that I figured was just a joke.
Thus continues my relationship with Denki-Gai. Each episode I keep waiting to be offended, but Denki-Gai is far too self aware to be offensive, because it never misses an opportunity to explore the reasoning behind whichever moe joke it decides to exploit. Denki-Gai's brilliance comes from the instances where it points an analytical lens at itself and pulls at a tired trope until it unravels into a revelation of the details behind manga readers' sexuality. For example, take this episode's discussion of “Schrödinger's Panties.” Sensei, like many newcomers to the panty genre, is pretty sure that it's all about seeing a glimpse of underwear. Nay, says Umio-kun, it's about possibility. Sensei soon decides that the most tantalizing panty shot is one that doesn't show panties at all, leaving them entirely to the imagination.
Still, Denki-Gai's "fanservice critique" could simply be a cover that allows it to go as crazy with fanservice as possible. Thankfully, the fanservice is so well rounded that this isn't the case. Every episode, we get something from the three major corners of the Fanservice Triangle—service for the men, service for the ladies, and satisfying progression of the canon relationships within the series. I'm spending a lot of my review on panties, but there was no shortage of shirtless Sommelier-kun as well. Not only did we get to see Sommelier more physically this episode, but also more intimately in personality, as his sentimental side comes out in a short, poignant silent film.
Speaking of relationship progression, this episode brings the first major roadblock to Hio and Kantoku's relationship, at least from Hio's perspective: Kantoku's ex-girlfriend! Tsumorin is a sweet and clumsy girl, basically a brunette Hio-tan, and only a rival in the shoujo manga sense of the word, as Hio worries about hurting her feelings. We know Hio and Kantoku are destined for each other, but I'm glad it's not happening too easily. Keeping their relationship undefined will lead to more entertaining flustered Hio-tan misunderstandings.
While you're watching this episode, be sure to pause and read all the text on the screen. The names and descriptions of the manga, when given, are downright hilarious. With analysis, satire, and just enough fanservice, this episode was a fun take on the hobby we love.
Denkigai no Honya-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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