Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Bianca Pistillo
What They Say:
Ever wonder what it’s like to sell comics at a Japanese bookstore? Honda provides a hilarious firsthand account from the front lines! Whether it’s handling the store, out-of-print books, or enthusiastic manga fans, Honda takes on every challenge!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Disclaimer: I am not, and was not ever, a bookseller, which I have found to be anecdotally relevant. With that said…
I initially watched the anime of Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san from general praise on Twitter about it, and it turned out to be hilarious. In it’s manga form, it remains hilarious.
The premise is simple: A skull-faced bookseller named Honda-san works at a bookstore selling books, specifically manga and including U.S. comics, which is his specialty. It seems each worker here has their own books they’re responsible for restocking and keeping track of. His coworkers include someone wearing a plague mask, someone wearing a western armor helmet, someone wearing a motorcycle helmet, someone wearing a fox mask…and so on. The titular Honda-san, at the very least, is based off of the author, Honda. And the coworkers may or may not be based or have taken elements from his real life bookselling coworkers.
The manga itself is incredible. I can’t imagine what it’d be like to run into all these characters in a bookstore, but from what I’ve heard, it’s very similar to how the manga portrays it. I did my own front end store working, but I was working at a grocery store and the requests there are much less…esoteric than at a bookstore. Moments like when someone asks for a short shojo manga a man in his 40s can enjoy, but ends up with Berserk, are just highlights of a volume full of random in jokes to manga fans.
If this manga has any downside, it’s that it is incredible in joke-y. Most, if not all, of the references are partially censored (stylized in the text as a black circle over one letter in the title), and they’re easy enough to figure out what they are, but some are very niche. It can be hard to follow for someone who doesn’t either watch a lot of anime or read a lot of manga, but both are likely required. There’s one name drop of One Piece, Detective Conan, and Kindaichi Case Files—which the former two are very well known in the U.S. while the latter squandered with a not-very-popular-in-the-U.S. anime and that’s it—but the rest are things like Irregular at Magic High School, Hajime no Ippo, or yaoi titles I’m not familiar with.
Also, as I sort of alluded to in the first paragraph, I know this manga to be much funnier to someone who’s actually worked at a bookstore or similar retail store. But don’t let that dissuade you, especially if you’re this far into a review about it. It’s a very funny manga even to someone like me, who has never worked retail.
Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san was an anime that I was always looking forward to watching each week, and this manga just gives me more ways to enjoy it. It’s still super funny, and very digestible. I can’t believe booksellers live this life. Please be nice to the next bookseller you talk to.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 30, 2019