Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Episode 12

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 12 of
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san ?

Everyone's favorite bookselling skeleton bows out in an appropriately low-key fashion in this week's finale. Episode 12's first half finds Honda and company tackling the holiday shopping rush. Preparing enormous box sets of long-running manga series, assisting customers with vague yet specific requests, and providing professional-quality gift-wrapping services are par for the course for our heroes during the most stressful season to work in retail. Aptly titled “It's Time to Close,” the latter half documents the tribulations of the closing process. Working the late shift with the seldom-seen nighttime crew, Honda helps ferry stragglers out of the store, prepare the daily deposit, and get things ready for the day ahead. Before heading home, Honda takes one last look at the store and vows to work hard again tomorrow.

Both of this week's segments are appropriately timed, the former because it aired two days before Christmas, and the latter because it imbues the episode with a sense of open-ended finality. We know the bookstore will open again in a few hours, ensuring the continuation of the staff's misadventures, but for now, the cash has been counted, the customers have gone home, and Honda can enjoy some much-needed downtime. Since the stakes in this series were never particularly high—the store never faced the prospect of closure or anything—it's fitting for the curtain to close on such a relaxed and realistic note.

Aside from experiencing profuse embarrassment after accidentally allowing a couple of foreigners into the store after closing, Honda himself feels rather passive in this episode, particularly in the second half. However, this suits his character to an extent; he's an observer who becomes anxious when put on the spot or tasked with an impossible demand. (This is nicely illustrated by the anxiety he experiences when faced with the prospect of wrapping a ridiculously large box set.) Honda may not evolve as a character—or an employee—throughout the show's run, but for a series that's essentially a comically inflated account of a retail worker's real-life experiences, that's perfectly acceptable. As is often the case, viewers who have spent time in retail should find many aspects of this episode instantly relatable.

Although the show has often showcased customers with unreasonable demands, this finale marks the first time it's tackled the closing process. You'd be hard-pressed to find a retail employee who hasn't been bothered by customers coming in at the last possible second or felt awkward when shooing them away. Viewers with firsthand knowledge of life behind the counter are liable to experience secondhand panic when Yosetsu Mask's register comes up short—and secondhand elation when the error is corrected.

Skullface Bookseller Honda-san may not feature epic stakes or a fleshed-out supporting cast, but its quirky characters and relatable situations make it an endearing exploration of life in retail. With its rapid-fire humor and short runtime, it's a fast-paced watch that celebrates not just booksellers, but customer service employees in general. Even with an anthropomorphic skeleton as its lead character, Skullface Bookseller Honda-san manages to offer up one of the most realistic takes on the service industry in modern fiction.

Rating: A

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Amy is an author who has loved anime for over two decades.

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