Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Episode 3

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 3 of
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san ?

In its third episode, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san delivers another funny and informative take on life behind the counter. The first segment finds the store being set upon by sales representatives from various publishing companies. Although assertive types like Pestmask and Okitsune are able to lay out specific boundaries with relentlessly pushy reps, Honda-san, ever the people-pleaser, has considerable trouble saying no to their demands. This segment concludes with a guest appearance by Frederic Toutlemonde, one of the French manga world's most prominent figures. Despite having a far more agreeable demeanor than the other reps, Mr. Toutlemonde ultimately tries to push his luck and presses Honda to place his books next to popular titles, specifically One Punch Man. In the second segment, Honda puts his eagerness to please to good use when an elderly French man enlists his help in selecting a manga for his granddaughter. In spite of the man's very specific criteria (the book must be appropriate for an 11-year-old, sufficiently “Japanese-y,” and translated into French), Honda, with the help of his coworkers, sells the man on a French-language version of Chihayafuru and earns his immense gratitude.

In addition to featuring an assortment of funny gags and character interactions, both of this week's stories illustrate how vital a bookstore's employees are to the success of certain titles and publishers. They're not just responsible for stocking books and ringing up purchases—they can help make or break a book depending on the resources allotted to them by publishers and their own personal enthusiasm for a title or genre. This first story in particular provides viewers with a fascinating (albeit comically inflated) peek at the Japanese bookselling scene's close relationship between publishers and individual stores. While you'll occasionally come across a company sales rep while working retail in the U.S., you're unlikely to experience efforts that are this consistent or forceful. As usual, the demure Honda makes a reliable comic foil to the animated individuals that converge around him—particularly the overly pushy salespeople.

Like episode two, both of this week's stories strongly emphasize teamwork within the store. When Honda is left alone with the salespeople, he's a pushover. However, when more forceful members of the team get in on the action, the reps are less likely to have their demands met. In the same vein, when Honda is unable to think of a title that meets all of the elderly French man's criteria, the booksellers pool their knowledge to produce suitable recommendations. Nearly every retail employee has dealt with customers with comically specific needs, and it often takes stark determination and knowledgeable staff to send these individuals home happy.

Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san continues to use over-the-top characters, minimal animation, and awkward interactions to present a consistently entertaining portrayal of the retail experience. It's equal parts educational about the industry (in Japan specifically, though some things are universal) and laugh-out-loud funny, even with the chaotic nature of the first two episodes being somewhat muted this week.

Rating: B+

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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