by Lauren Orsini,
Denki-gai No Honya-san has a lot of material to tap for humor. There's the Umahone bookstore where everyone works, which sells manga of an often questionable nature. There are plenty of seasonal events and activities and most interestingly, there are three burgeoning relationships full of potential for misunderstandings and sexual tension. However, most episodes center on one reliable source for comedy: embarrassing the characters as much as possible. This one was no different, focusing on Sensei's struggles, insecurities, and flaws until I was embarrassed for her too.
Not a moment of work got done at the bookstore this week. Everyone was too busy helping out with Sensei's manga deadline. It's been pointed out before that Sensei isn't the model manga artist we see so often in anime like Bakuman and Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-Kun—a hardworking, stoic character who meets every deadline at the sacrifice of sleep and without complaint. No, Sensei is a big baby prone to tantrums in her fatigue. Even the best support system won't help someone who can't help herself, which is why this episode made Sensei and her love interest and manga assistant, Umi-kun, even more compatible than before. Instead of babying her, he's harsh, and yet it doesn't come across as cruelty, only as encouragement for Sensei to become the strong woman Umi already sees in her. Too many anime portray exciting but unhealthy relationships. The romantic relationships in Denki-gai are far better models for how to treat the people you love.
The friendships, on the other hand, could use a little work.
As usual, Denki-gai is split into two barely-related stories. In part two, Sensei is strapped to a chair and forced to watch security footage—with the Director's commentary—of her two nights staying over at the bookstore against his rules. All right, that wasn't such a smart decision on Sensei's part, but the prolonged embarrassment that constitutes this joke made it a needlessly uncomfortable experience. As the footage shows Sensei cooking poorly, eating too often, and wiping her body with a moist towelette in lieu of a shower, the Director's voice-over becomes exploitative. At first it's funny to lovingly make fun of a character, but as Sensei began to squirm, I found my laughter becoming that of discomfort rather than enjoyment. The same joke—“Sensei is unladylike and unhygienic”—continued for half an episode, which is far too long. Who isn't guilty of some of Sensei's transgressions?
As always, Denki-gai shines most strongly during the ensemble scenes when the entire cast works and plays together. Sensei's friends aren't very good at making manga, but their devotion to the task at hand is enough to compensate. When disaster strikes, the waterworks turn on with a vengeance, once again reminding us that if Denki-gai is making a joke, it's almost certainly at another character's expense, and somebody is bound to start crying.
Denkigai no Honya-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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