I work part-time at a bookstore and one day when I visited to shop, a coworker told me about this manga that she’d just read. It was obvious that she enjoyed it, so I ran over to the manga section of the bookstore and got myself a copy too. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it.
Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-san, Vol. 1 by Honda (illus.), transl. by Amanda Haley
Manga — contemporary
Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san
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! (Goodreads)
Before this, I’d only read the Fullmetal Alchemist manga series, which I love and am still working my way through. So I was more than willing to get another manga to jump into. I would have preferred something like Fullmetal Alchemist, but I was open-minded when I decided to try Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san and was really taken in by how humorous and relatable it is.
This manga is basically about working at a Japanese bookstore, and I guess it’s pretty much true to life but certain scenarios are exaggerated to make it funny. The protagonist, Honda, wears a skull facemask, and the coworkers and other significant people in Honda’s life also wear a mask. I assume that’s done to protect the persons’ identity, but it also adds to the humor.
The premise might make it sound boring to some, but trust me, it’s worth checking out. It’s funny and entertaining and gives you an idea of what it’s like to work in a bookstore because although this story is about working in a Japanese bookstore, the situations and Honda’s emotions and reactions to customers and certain situations are so relatable that I think the synopsis should be “what it’s like to work in a bookstore” — so anywhere in the world.
Scenes like when Honda couldn’t think of a book to recommend to an old man who wants to buy a manga for his 11-year-old granddaughter whose tastes he’s not familiar with, so Honda frantically runs into the back to ask his coworkers for suggestions and gets a barrage of them. Lol! That happens. When that happens to me, I’d sometimes get so many recommendations for the customer that the customer ends up with a stack of books to choose from. Almost all the situations in this manga were relatable, which made me enjoy it even more (figuring out inventory, working with certain types of customers, having to lift heavy stuff, lol… all that).
I also like it for all the manga recommendations too. Actually, I learned quite a lot about the terms for different types of mangas from this book. There is a helpful glossary in the back. Being a manga newbie, I was stuck on that glossary and learned a lot from it and the story. It was also funny how Honda dramatizes how certain types of manga readers act.
It was a really entertaining read.
It’s pretty good, but I didn’t care much for it because it’s a lot busier than I’m used to. Also, the layout for the dialogue bubbles sometimes confused me, but I wonder if that’s because I’m not so used to mangas. I didn’t have a problem with the reading direction, but the flow from one dialogue bubble to the next wasn’t as smooth as I’m used to in Fullmetal Alchemist (the only other manga I’d read before this so don’t take this critique too seriously).
Overall: ★★★☆☆ ½
A humorous read that those who work in bookstores or who are really familiar with mangas are sure to enjoy.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I plan to read the other volumes.