Anime Review

Anime Hajime Review: Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san

Original Run: October 8, 2018 - December 24, 2018
Number of Episodes: 12
Genre: Comedy, Slice of Life
Based on the Series Created By: Honda

***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san. Reader discretion is advised.***

Series Synopsis

As anyone who has done it will tell you, working in retail is unlike anything else. What more those people might say I will leave to their discretion. Whether it be clothes, food, or, yes, even books, products must be put on the shelves, inventory needs to be counted, and customers come in all shapes and sizes.

In Tokyo, the local bookstore is never too far away, and it is the place to go when the newest print releases go on the market. To help those looking for their next read is the veteran bookseller Honda (voiced by Soma Saito).

Even after many years at his position, Honda still runs into unexpected challenges. Sometimes his past experiences help guide him through difficult situations. Other times, he is as puzzled as can be. The ceaseless busy work which goes into keeping a bookstore operating can leave even the most ambitious drained of energy.

Honda would be the first person to tell you that if you think his job sounds right for you, maybe look into it a little more. Despite the challenges, though, Honda leaves every shift knowing he just put in an honest day’s effort.

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Series Positives

Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san (Honda-san) was so much fun. This series was a clear demonstration of how execution needs to go far deeper than the surface level to be effective.

Had Honda-san’s one selling point been nothing beyond filling a commonplace bookstore with odd-looking employees, then I doubt this show would have left an impression. Although it may have been its art style which initially caught my eye, I have long since learned a series cannot survive on visuals alone.

I’m happy to say Honda-san appeared to have a similar mindset.

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Accordingly, there is a word I refuse to describe this series as — strange. For you see, strange is nothing; any show can do it. I mean, Honda-san instantly became strange the moment it introduced its main character as a walking-talking skeleton. Being strange is the easiest thing an anime can be.

Something that’s a bit more difficult to pull off is charm.

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So, how do we define charm? That is an impossible question to answer universally. Therefore, in the case of Honda-san, its charm was getting me to stop realizing the main character was not a flesh and blood human by episode two. The titular Honda had a personality that was a lot more than his physical appearance.

To quickly sum him up, Honda was a mild-mannered bookseller who, despite the demanding nature of his work, enjoyed his job. He wanted to create the best, most rewarding experience for everyone who walked into his store. Although Honda might have grown flustered at the slightest hint of aggression — and his irate customers were everything but slight — he never ran away from a challenge. He squirmed and panicked like crazy, but he never ran away.

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Helping to get that point across, Honda, as well as his co-workers, were incredibly expressive.

Think about what I just said.

There was so much life and energy to Honda-san. That was an impressive feat given how everyone at the bookstore didn’t have a face which could emote. Nevertheless, this series found tons of ways to be — for the lack of a better phrase — highly animated.

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On the whole, Honda-san had qualities that went beyond the visual. Granted, we can’t deny the show’s art style allowed for a ton of ridiculous situations which were often quite hilarious. However, the full nature of this series’ brand of humor is something you should see for yourself. After all, how can a joke be any good if its punchline requires an explanation?

That said, based on what I’ve encountered, Honda-san’s depiction of the freak-out Japanese store staff have when assisting foreign customers was funny because it wasn’t far off the mark.

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To round off this section, I want to give credit to Honda-san’s most potent weapon – its voice cast. Everyone who acted in this show did an outstanding job. From a combination of talent, having a blast with the material – or what I hope is the case – both, each performance added to the entertainment value of this series.

To make a long story short: Honda-san was pure enjoyment.

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Series Negatives

What I have to say here has less to do with Honda-san’s implementation and more to do with the inherent nature of the route this series chose to go in.

Honda-san employed what I would call fast humor. Everyone talked, moved, and reacted quickly (often loudly as well). There is and was nothing wrong with this style of comedy. As always, it comes down to if a show pulled off this method well. Something this series absolutely did.

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The trouble that arises comes from the information which is being conveyed. In the case of Honda-san, its favorite punching bag was the retail/service industry environment (no big shock there). Specifically, though, the show’s target was Japanese bookstores.

Quickly ask yourself: If you haven’t personally worked at a Japanese bookstore, how many people do you know have?

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Forgive me for assuming, but I’m willing to bet the number of you who said “yes” is on the low side.

The good news to all this is, Honda-san provided plenty of context to where most of its jokes landed if you have spent time working in retail or are not a ball-busting customer by habit.

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Be that as it may, I know I got super lost whenever this series began discussing the rigamarole of dealing with publishers, marketers, and corporate trainers. I confess I know very little about what goes on behind the scenes at a bookstore. I doubt I’ve ever given more than five minutes worth of thought to how a book on a shelf got there.

Therefore, yes, there were a few exchanges in this show which left me clueless.

Did those one or two instances disregard the rest of this series that I found hilarious? Why on Earth would they ever? Honda-san was one of those anime where even after I tried forcing myself, there was little left to hate about it.

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Final Thoughts

Fittingly enough, if I were to see this series during one of my bookstore runs, I would gladly pick it up. I had that much fun with it.

On the surface, this show may appear simple and straightforward. In many ways, that’s because it was. Nevertheless, you might be surprised by how much you are enjoying yourself while watching. I know I sure as hell was.

Solid humor, a definite charm, and a phenomenal cast, this was a series that really knew what it was doing. What more can you ask for?

Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san did more than enough to earn a recommendation.

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.

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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.

1 comment

  1. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the book shop and the interactions with customers. A few of the skits didn’t quite land for me, but mostly I had fun with this last season.

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