Akihabara [or more commonly known as Electric Town] is a hive of activity in the Japanese capital. Every day, small fortunes are spent in the pursuit of finding the latest gadget or rare artefact to complete one’s collection be it a figurine or DVD or even a book. One bookstore plays host as we gaze into the world of Denkigai no Honya-san and read up on it and skip to the pictures!
Umanohome, the name of the store the story is set in, has a rag-tag team of employees which deals with the patrons of the Akihabara district. They range from the greenhorn newbie Umio to the jaded manga artist/manager ‘Sensei’ [the term is ironic for she is actually quite lazy and lacking in confidence] and even the mute Sommelier, a master of manga matchmaking. These characters are led by the perverted Kantoku, a very sexually confident head of operations. With him at the helm, the team manage to generate a good amount of business in the area hosting midnight releases of new manga volumes and tending to the demands of fussy customers. This is a workplace anime sitcom with plenty of slapstick comedy and a distinctly older teen vibe about it. Yet despite the savoury content, it’s remarkably restrained.
When I first watched this show, I was taken back to when I watched the cult classic anime Genshinken. In that show, a bunch of young adults in college hung out together, each with a different level of affinity with anime and manga ranging from lots to barely any at all. Denkigai no Honya-san seems like a variation of sorts, like what would happen if the setting was a bookshop instead of a club room. It has a adult feeling whilst yet not being pornographic; it’s got that sense of maturity whilst also being pretty ridiculous. It’s not meant to be a hard-hitting analysis of what goes into running a doujinshi store [fan manga store] and reconstruct it in every single way; but it uses the more relaxed and open-minded scenery to create a bunch of characters that would be dubbed ‘socially awkward’ in the real world and see what would happen if you got them working with each other. When you do that, you get some very amusing yet oddly familiar characters such as the mute Sommelier with the paternal instinct [reminds me of Mori-senpai from Ouran High School Host Club]. Each one of these characters has a personality which contributes to the overall story; no-one is superfluous.
I will give this show credit for tons of charm. These co-workers aren’t just pay-cheque collectors, they are a family. They get on famously and help each other out when times gets rough. With each episode, I am filled with a sense of warmth and comfort, it’s comfort food. I await each episode and feel satisfied after each outing. Each of these outings consists of two or three minisodes within a full twenty-four minute slot so the pacing is kept at a reasonably fast level. Despite the lightning pace though, the show doesn’t half be clever sometimes. On the surface, the show looks very simple and soft but it can actually be quite self-aware about the moe genre and fanservice as a whole. Nothing feels biased or wrong. You expect to be thrust something offensive or striking, but it never comes and instead we get a bout of philosophical debate about the genre. For example, Sensei takes the tried and tested theory of “Schrödinger’s Cat” and swaps the feline with underwear. What’s better, to see or not to see? Sensei and the show takes a popular theory and puts an anime spin on it which is rather surprising.
One figurehead character and the potential candidate for “main character” is Sensei herself. A lot of the plot focuses around her and her ambitions of being a manga artist. However, the show doesn’t make her a prodigy; she’s adequate. Average. Meh. Nevertheless, she ploughs on even though she’s not the best in the business and her hapless friends aren’t much better and may be a hindrance rather than a blessing. I am pleased to see this as it is a facsimile for a lot of people there who have tons of ambition and dedication and may lack the skill at this time; they do it for the fun of it and take it seriously…well, they try! You will become very used to seeing Sensei cry, Shin-Ei Animations must have had tons of practice in how to draw tears after producing this anime; she’s crying all the time over deadlines, comradeship, anything! It’s not annoying, but just very different and a distinguishing feature.
In the end, Denkigai no Honya-san is a cute anime with a lot of personality and little accuracy; but that doesn’t matter because you can’t get over the friendship on display. It’s not a hard-hitting anime, but it’s a delightful and amusing slice-of-life about a little manga store in the centre of Tokyo. Nothing more. You will find a character you’ll like with no trouble at all; I actually like nearly all of them for different reasons. The fanservice that does show itself is tempered and equally geared towards all persuasions, not just the guys. That’s rather refreshing and I’m glad I got to see that the ladies were catered for just as much. Equal opportunities FTW!
Denkigai no Honya-san is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
RATING: CONTINUE [Simple, straightforward comedy with oodles of charm.]
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