Over the summer, publisher Yen Press brought the first volume of Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san to the West, which delighted book lovers everywhere. Now I return to the series to check out Volume 2 and find out if it’s as captivating as the first instalment.
In this volume of the bookstore comedy, Honda-san deals with a book signing, customers asking for erotic manga, and explains how wholesalers work. Within these stories, we get to meet more of Honda-san’s quirky coworkers, including Chief Magician who works in the distribution department and solves many stock issues by what Honda-san can only describe as ’wizardry’.
This volume spends a lot of its time focused on the inner workings of the bookshop Honda-san works for, rather than dealing with customers (although there is still some of that). It’s still an entertaining read, but the comedy is toned down quite a bit from Volume 1. It means that Volume 2 is a much more informative read in many ways, but I felt it to be a little bit disappointing, compared to the madness last time.
In the afterword, mangaka Honda sheds light on this subtle change in direction. According to their comments, they got in trouble with their workplace for Chapter 6 in Volume 1, leading to every new story having to be checked by both the manga publisher and the bookstore Honda works for.
The conclusion Honda comes to is that they don’t want to draw ‘risky’ stories and it’s clear that the bookstore doesn’t want anything that will result in bad press. While I appreciate the mangaka’s honesty about the situation, it’s a shame that so much of their creativity is being blocked now.
Having said that, this hasn’t resulted in Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san becoming a bad manga – far from it. The comedy is still funny and relatable if you’ve worked in retail, and as someone who enjoys workplace stories, the behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of Honda-san’s workplace are extremely interesting. The story about the wholesalers is bound to give you a newfound appreciation for the hardships bookstores go through to make sure they have enough stock of their titles.
If that’s not your thing, then don’t worry because everyone is sure to love Chapter 13, which focuses on the wide variety of people who buy from Honda-san’s bookstore simply because they love bookstores. This includes a young man who buys far too much to carry home (I definitely related to that one…), which causes one of Honda-san’s coworkers’ to comment that he would have been better off using Amazon. This leads our protagonist to wonder if the people who love books and bookstores are a dying breed with the advance of online shopping, but the enthusiasm of the shoppers he meets in the rest of the chapter soon prove him wrong.
As previously mentioned, this volume of Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san comes to the West thanks to Yen Press. The series continues to be translated by Amanda Haley who offers a problem-free translation which reads well. This release opens with a colour page depicting our cast on their lunch break, which is a neat extra.
Overall, Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san has undergone a subtle change in direction but still proves an entertaining and fascinating read. Entertaining, quirky and relatable in equal amounts – this continues to be a series everyone should be collecting.