Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
by Amy McNulty,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san ?
This week's Honda-san once again proves that the show is strongest when customer interactions are front and center. Aside from the final minute or two, the entirety of episode 8 is built around Honda helping an assortment of quirky (but very believable) customers. From the affable yakuza to the Naruto-obsessed father-son duo from the U.S., each exchange features pitch-perfect comic timing and elicits an amusing reaction from the eager-to-please Honda. Honda and Armor's conversation about dealing with children dredges up some interesting revelations about both characters, with Honda admitting to always being dead inside when helping customers. In a brief segment toward the end, Honda's editor Azarashi (Seal) attempts to sell him on a live-action adaptation of his manga, suggesting that the original plot remain intact but Honda be played by a handsome actor. But Honda has a hard time picturing his personality being implanted into an easy-on-the-eyes hottie.
Although the theme of loving bookstores loosely ties these various skits together, episode 8 is primarily geared toward showcasing as many customer interactions as possible, and the results are consistently hilarious. As is often the case with the show's strongest installments, the bulk of the action is limited to the bookstore this week. While learning about the ins and outs of the Japanese bookselling scene can be both funny and informative, the series' most memorable material generally stems from Honda's dealings with quirky patrons. Even though overeager foreigners are becoming a tad redundant at this point, the Shonen Jump-loving father and son are two of the funniest examples of this particular archetype. Likewise, the extended encounter with the good-natured yakuza is equal parts uncomfortable and fascinating—particularly if this interaction was lifted directly from the real-life Honda's experiences.
The segment in which Honda discusses his approach to children in the store is endearing and illustrates a side of Honda he's largely kept hidden. From the way he tells it, kids seem to be the only patrons he genuinely enjoys waiting on, as they represent a sense of whimsy and innocence that's absent in many of the adults he deals with. He's not the only employee who finds children paying with exact change or making sincere efforts at politeness adorable, as Armor reveals herself to be even more enamored by their presence. Strangely enough, none of the workers share any stories about misbehaving or unsupervised kids this week, although we see multiple children innocently wander into racier sections of the store.
Honda seems to think that bookstore lovers are a dying breed, but the success of this show's parent manga may serve as a sign that he's wrong. The episode itself provides numerous examples of bookstore loyalists—like the man who carries 90 books home rather than ordering them online or the imprisoned yakuza who yearns to visit the store upon his release. Featuring some of the show's best customer interactions to date, episode 8 is Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san at the top of its game.
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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