Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
Episode 4

by Amy McNulty,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san ?

This week, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san takes the action out of the bookstore and sticks its titular protagonist in one of his most awkward scenarios yet. After being selected to attend a customer service seminar on behalf of his store, Honda finds himself at the mercy of a pair of perpetually upbeat and intimidating instructors: Hohoemi Bancho (Smile Boss; a woman whose face is obscured by a ghostly smile mask) and Assistant Manager Buddha-head (a man whose face is obscured by a rotating Buddha mask). Despite their seemingly cheer demeanors, both teachers push Honda and his fellow students to cartoonish extremes when instructing them on body language and customer interaction. The more over-the-top each student is in their demonstrations, the more praise the instructors lavish on them, much to Honda's continual shock. In a short epilogue, Okitsune is selected to attend the next seminar. Although she initially appears apprehensive, she quickly changes her attitude and cheerfully resigns herself to her fate.

Like the previous three installments, episode 4 should be instantly relatable to viewers who have worked in retail. However, this week's episode should also resonate with people who work in a broad range of other professions. Management coming up with new training techniques or bringing in showy third-party consultants to address a perceived need is something that most members of the rat race have dealt with at one time or another. As is often the case with seminars of this type, the information the representatives impart to Honda and the other attendees isn't anything that ought to be new to them, considering they all work in customer service. Always smile, maintain eye contact, and be upbeat—these traits can even put would-be thieves off-guard, the instructors claim.

Episode 4 adeptly illustrates the series' knack for presenting a comically inflated but fully relatable look at life in retail. Although Bancho and Buddha-head demand that each instruction being taken to the craziest possible extreme, their lesson is only slightly less ridiculous than a real-life retain training seminar. Ever the comic foil, Honda, who's arguably the most well-adjusted worker in attendance, is the only one who doesn't go all-in. While his friendly demeanor and obvious fear of Bancho prevent him from stating it outright, it's pretty clear that he realizes how ridiculous this whole exercise is.

As the first episode to have its runtime eaten up by a single story, this week's Honda-san drags in a few spots and lingers on certain jokes for a touch too long despite being mostly good. So far, the show seems to do best when telling multiple stories, and while the humor is still fairly fast-paced, episode 4 doesn't feel quite as sharp as the previous three. Still, this move helps add some variety to the format, and Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san is still as adept as ever when it comes to mining comedy from the most mundane aspects of working in retail.

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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