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Manga / Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san

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Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san (ガイコツ書店員本田さん Gaikotsu Shoten'in Honda-sannote ) is an autobiographical Japanese comedy/essay manga authored by the eponymous Honda. It depicts Honda's day-to-day life as an awkward bookstore employee... except she draws herself as a skeleton and protects all of her former coworkers' identities by drawing them with weird masks and other headgear.

It's been featured on Pixiv since August 2015, and received an anime adaptation that first premiered on October 8, 2018.

You can find the anime on Crunchyroll here. Discotek holds the rights to be retailed in English.

This anime provides examples of

  • Art Shift: Honda's face (or at least, skull) switches from an anatomically-correct skull to a rounded, cartoonish skull in times of great stress, often for comedic effect.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: As it is a autobiographical manga, this trope is employed by the tons, even more so in the anime adaptation.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Everyone in the bookstore, sans Honda, is extremely quirky to a fault, but they're still competent enough to manage and stock a popular bookstore while also dealing with equally quirky customers.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship:
    • Played for laughs. Book titles have only one or two letters censored in the subtitles, and the titles are covered by a scratching sound. It's still easy enough to guess what they're talking about, especially since in at least one case, the title had different letters censored each time it was spoken, so viewers could just fill in the blank letters with the ones from the other instance.
    • The same thing is done for most of the manga publishers, like KADOKAWA (written in all caps rather than kanji) and Shu-E-Sha, and the bookstore itself, ** Bookstore (〇〇書店).
    • Episode 6 has a black line over Daddy Eyeball's namesake eye that doesn't cover it much at all while talking about "Ki**ro".
  • Cool Mask: All the bookstore staff aside from Honda are depicted with masks. They range from a kitsune, bōgu, bunny, robot, doll, knight, gas mask, welding helmet, plague doctor mask, Halloween pumpkin, mummy bandages, and a simple paper bag. Since Honda's coworkers are all based on real people, it's essentially a creative way to protect their identities.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: "ISBN ~Inner Sound & Book's Narrative~" has Soma Saito taking on lead vocals in collaboration with TECHNOBOYS PULCRAFT GREEN-FUND.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: The first half of episode 11 sets the bookstore in an Historical Fantasy AU of sorts (with much Schizo Tech), where most of the antics are the same, but the customers are monsters instead of humans and magic is in full-force, among other things.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The name of the anime's opening theme, "ISBN ~Inner Sound & Book's Narrative~", is a nod to the ISBNs that are on books.
  • Gender Flip: The anime inexplicably casts Soma Saito as the title character, when the author and therefore the Author Avatar is actually a woman. The same thing happens to Honda's editor Seal who gets Ayumu Murase as a voice actor, made more obvious in later volumes when Seal is drawn wearing a dress.
  • Gratuitous English: The bookstore is often visited by tourists from all around the world, and Honda says that she has a face that suggests that she knows English, although she says that she isn't very fluent in it. When they meet, this trope ensues:
    • The entire conversation involving the handsome older man in the first chapter/episode. He comes in looking for a doujinshi for his daughter, clueless as to its subject matter. Honda can't speak much English, either. After spending a while mentally preparing an explanation of why the bookstore doesn't carry it, she simply blurts out, "Sorry, we don't have this one. It's...Special YAOI book!"
    • In episode 5, Honda has to explain to a Brazilian tourist why Japanese manga are in black-and-white while Western comics are colorful. While Honda speaks, a banner reading "Let's! Bullshit English Time!" appears. Honda's explanation is grammatically correct, but it's clear she is having a hard time getting the words out.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: There are several manga mentioned, but a few letters in the titles are edited out to prevent them from being fully readable.
  • Limited Animation: The show makes ample use of this, with any non-customer face completely motionless due to being covered by a mask, and most other faces static or having few frames.
  • Medium Awareness: Honda is still working at the bookstore while she's writing the manga, which causes the two to blur together when she goes to a company nomikai for networking only to meet a colleague from another store who says that he doesn't find Skull-face Bookseller believable because the main character doesn't hate their wholeseller as much as he does. This prompts her to apologize, leaving the other employee dumbfounded once he realizes that he is speaking to the real Skull-face Bookseller, but that soon fades into a rant that Honda needs to be more demeaning towards her store's wholeseller, who we have already met earlier in the episode and who everyone at her store likes as a friend and fellow nerd.
  • Occidental Otaku: Most of the first episode focuses on foreign customers at the bookstore Honda works at. One of the customers in the first episode looks like a parody of an American anime fan: scraggly blonde hair with a bandana, overweight, has a weird accent and a magical girl cell phone case.
  • Roman à Clef: Aside from Honda herself (although "Honda" is obviously an alias), every one of her former bookstore coworkers is simply referred to by the mask Honda has drawn them wearing. Honda's editor, however, requests to be named "Azarashi" (Japanese for "seal"), and is drawn as an anthropomorphic seal.
  • Shout-Out:
    • They sell out of Kingdom and have a shipment coming in... only to find out they ordered way more than expected.
    • One of the first scenes is the staff being baffled about the massive popularity of V Jump.
    • A woman buys what is clearly a copy of School-Live! for her son.
    • Honda immediately recognizes that the old guy is unknowingly looking for a Gintama doujinshi for his daughter.
    • The Occidental Otaku comes in looking for the collector's editions of Mobile Suit Gundam and Slam Dunk.
    • Honda-san is a fan of a manga where they shoot, eat, and skin animals.
    • The Swedish fujoshi comes prepared with a whole list of BL manga.
    • The American man who's come in with his father to buy Naruto is wearing a shirt that's designed to resemble Son Goku's iconic orange gi.
    • Honda's depiction of trying to keep unsold stock hidden from publishers parodies the flashback scene in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind where young Nausicaa tries to hide a baby Ohmu from her parents.
    • The name of the episode dedicated to the fight between salespeople and the bookstore is called "Battle Without Honor or Humanity". A song by Tomoyasu Hotei and most well known as a part of the soundtrack of Kill Bill.
    • The name of the episode about Christmas is "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bookstore" very close to Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.
    • The "New Book Instrumentality Project" is a blatant reference to Neon Genesis Evangelion and shows a parody of the crucified Lilith.
  • Shown Their Work: As it all is an autobiographical memoir of her time working in retail at a bookstore, Honda knows what she's talking about. She takes some time to briefly explain different aspects and genres of manga, such as doujinshi and BL, and their impact in the overall business and popular culture. Many of the customer interactions will also be spot-on for anyone who's ever had a job in retail, especially in a bookstore.
  • Silver Fox: "The Handsome Guy is First in Line" revolves around a handsome gray-haired man trying to purchase a very inappropriate book for his daughter. Honda privately lampshades this trope, thinking he looks like a Hollywood actor despite being middle-aged at least.
  • Surreal Humor: Who would have thought a retail job at a bookstore would have so much bizarre behind the scenes stuff? It doesn't hurt that the author depicts herself as a skeleton and has hidden all of her coworker's identities by just drawing them while wearing off-the-wall Cool Masks all the time.
  • Stylized for the Viewer: The author portrays herself as a skeleton and her former coworkers as wearing masks, but neither is literally the case. They're all humans that dress normally.
  • Thinker Pose: Honda does this in Episode 10, with the statue shown in the background.
  • Translation Convention: Zig-Zagged. In the first episode, Honda has to deal with several customers who speak in a foreign language. To avoid having too much Gratuitous English, the characters occasionally start speaking in Japanese, with an icon in the corner indicating that this trope is in effect. Other times, they just speak in their native tongue.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In the episode "Yaoi Girls from OVERSEAS!!!", a stereotypical Otaku celebrates finding the book she wanted very loudly in the middle of the crowded bookstore. Nobody bats an eye except for Honda.
  • Yaoi Fangirl: "Yaoi Girls from OVERSEAS!!!" revolves around Honda dealing with a bunch of these, and her embarrassment at having to give them suggestions on what books to get.

Alternative Title(s): Skull Face Bookseller Honda San