Translation: Amanda Haley
Lettering: Bianca Pistillo
What They Say:
When you work in a Japanese bookstore like Honda-san, there are a million and one things to keep track of. Managing new releases, accounting for the revival of titles from the grave, understanding the unique(ly maddening) quirks of each manga publisher—it’s enough to leave anyone bone-tired!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Apparently volume three was to be the final volume of Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san, but an anime adaptation dictated more content, so it got extended to a volume four. This is somewhat to Honda’s chagrin, as they (I think the author is a she, but the anime messed with all of us by having a male-sounding voice, so I’ll play it safe) had already quit the bookselling gig between chapters 17 and 18. All this to say, about volume three, that I am still very much looking forward to volume four because I want to see where this story goes and how it ends for real.
As it is, the final proper chapter (chapter 20) of this volume is called Closing Time, thus the “Closing Time” lyrics at the top, and it is a fitting end to the series as a whole. I, like Honda, am quite sad that that wasn’t able to be the ending, since it deftly provided this experience that happens every day, but I don’t think had been shown as extensively in the manga thus far. Maybe another closing time is in order for the fourth volume, but I also think it’d be kinda funny if Honda just went back to the bookstore after quitting too.
These manga volumes, and the way the anime integrated all the material into its 12 episodes, confuses me frequently while reading. Like, I thought in the anime, Honda was always in charge of American comics, but in this volume, they start it after being on something else. The male-sounding voice too, which is the largest hiccup. These are just stray observations about the anime, and admittedly not really relevant to anything in the book.
As far as this volume’s actual content goes, I am quite interested in the economics of bookselling, or at least the logic (and frustration) that goes into the stocking and restocking books. The first few chapters give good insight into those moments, as well as the difficulties some customers (and thus booksellers) face when there are just no books anywhere. Whatever Yokohama Station SF is, it’s gotta be something that comes over state-side too right??
The final point is something I’ve seen on twitter before, from an irl bookseller. But these customers who request books that no one has ever touched or books before their release date because they are loyal customers are just so, so absurd that I continue to believe that they can’t exist, but the mounting evidence that they do keeps being put in front of my face. But I’m here to say stop!! I don’t want to know!! I want to live my life in the innocence of the kids in the book!!
Also, the innocence and hilarity of kids buying books is just…exactly what we need while a global pandemic wreaks havoc across the world and leadership is too incompetent to do anything about it. And not a reminder that there was once leadership who did do something about it with the Ebola pandemic in 2014!!
Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san continues to be extremely enjoyable, and continues to be a general scourge on my brain trying to come up with something more than “I really liked it.” Heck, I had a whole paragraph in here where I just rambled about the anime! But that doesn’t take away my enjoyment from it. Honda knows how to craft a story that’s succinct enough to be enjoyable, funny, and not overstay its welcome in any given chapter. And when they’re funny, they’re funny! Sometimes these mostly comedy manga can be onerous or repetitive to read (this will be a controversial take, but Nichijou sometimes felt like that, especially the anime, which is not a binge-able show), but I’ve never felt that way with Skull-faced.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: February 18, 2020