Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san ?
In his latest outing, the perpetually put-upon Honda has another relentlessly busy week. Episode 6's first segment is built around introducing two new members of the bookstore's staff: strong but soft-spoken Kendo, a kendo-masked young man who had previously worked in the chain's distribution department, and Assistant Manager Majutsushi (Magician), the distribution department's assistant manager, who's able to make popular titles materialize at the drop of a hat, aided by his sixth sense for which books are about to make a splash. The episode's latter half finds the staff scrambling to organize an in-store fair dedicated to promoting titles with upcoming anime and film adaptations. In addition to prepping his section for the event, Honda is forced to contend with irate customers who are dead-set on getting their hands on special edition bonuses.
Whether the newly-introduced Kendo, Majutsushi, and Yosetsu Mask will do anything past this episode is anyone's guess, but even if we never see them again, they've served their purpose in delivering specific types of jokes. To date, very few members of the show's massive supporting cast have received much time in the spotlight, with most of them functioning more as props than characters—and for this type of show, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It also helps add an air of realism for viewers who have worked in retail. When working at a large store, you're not always going to be sharing shifts with the same people, and the team members you interact with are likely to vary depending on the day.
Once again, the customer interactions offer up some of the episode's biggest laughs. Honda's uncomfortable encounters with fangirls in the market for very specific special edition bonuses are easily among the most awkward sequences the show has featured to date. If you've spent time behind a register, odds are you've come across patrons who are utterly impossible to please and people who fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. True to character, Honda is able to deal with these individuals in an unflinchingly professional manner, but episode 6 sees him becoming more worn down than ever before when he's repeatedly attacked over bookmarks.
Even when the customers are loud and unrelenting, Honda is more scared of them than angry with them. In a sense, he's the perfect customer service representative, never blaming patrons for their own greed and impatience—just preparing himself to deal with it. Luckily for Honda, things aren't all doom and gloom on the customer front this week. Honda's conversation with an elderly man buying Hakaba Kitaro in the wake of Shigeru Mizuki's death is the show's most heartfelt sequence thus far. Afterward, the thoroughly exhausted Honda getting his section ready for the upcoming fair is a satisfying moment of victory that feels well-earned.
In one of the series' best episodes yet, Honda details the trials and tribulations of keeping popular titles in stock, anticipating customer needs, and catering to unreasonable idiots. The jokes are sharp, the reference humor is solid, and the comically inflated portrayal of life in retail is as relatable as ever. If this level of quality carries through to the remaining six episodes, the back-half of the season should be a fun ride.
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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