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Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san Vol. #02 Manga Review

3 min read
I enjoy these characters, and how incredibly expressive they all are.

“why a skeleton?”

Creative Staff:
Story/Art: Honda
Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Bianca Pistillo

What They Say:
Whether it’s foreigners asking for “JAPANESE EROTIC MANGA,” navigating the tricky government definition of “morally harmful material,” or helping a customer who’s awfully “criminally organized,” there’s rarely a dull moment for Honda-san. The true stories of a Japanese bookstore employee can be stranger than fiction!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
It wasn’t until this volume (which I guess is only the second one so go me) that I realized that other people might know about Honda and that they’re (she?) is writing a manga about themselves and their experience in a bookstore. It feels like there’s such an absurd amount of manga where the main character writes their own manga and no one knows about it that I just assumed no one knew. It’s also much more personal and autobiographical than any of those, even if these situations are made anonymous. Perhaps I’m just thinking too much of standard manga hijinks instead of something like Nozaki-kun, where everyone in the immediate vicinity knows.

It’s not really acknowledged until this volume, though, that everyone knows around Honda that they’re writing a manga. Or at least I don’t recall any in comic recognition. Maybe those stories were from a time where they had not yet been published, as the publication stories happen in the back part of this volume.

But anyway, all that to say maybe my favorite story so far in this manga is about a drinking party with one of Honda’s sales partners where someone decries the manga as being too nice to wholesalers, while this person is saying he should be meaner to wholesalers. All while not knowing that Honda, right across the table, is the mangaka to the manga they’re talking down upon. Maybe it’s the drinks, maybe it’s their personality, but they only get more in Honda’s face when they learn that Honda writes it!! It tickled me to see this real world acknowledgment that, yes, Honda is both working at a bookstore and drawing a manga about those experiences at the same time. Maybe one of these foreigners who are looking for erotica or BL will find and read it, remembering that they were the influence for that particular chapter.

The rest of the volume is the regular humerus fare of Honda and their fellow bookstore workers dealing with customers. I’m especially a fan of the minutia I’d probably never think of (both being out of this particular fandom and not being a bookseller), like when Armor-san is talking about the various forms of BL and the difficulty selling them with the regulations.

In Summary:
I’m a big fan of Honda-san in general, but as a series of vignettes about bookseller life, it becomes increasingly difficult to write about with my typical writing style. What I really want to say is that I love every volume, and get at least a few good laughs out of them, but that doesn’t feel quite substantial enough. What I will say is that I enjoy these characters, and how incredibly expressive they all are.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 12, 2019
MSRP: $15.00

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