Denki-gai no Honya-san (Merry Days of Anime 2021)

Cover image looks a little like doodoo garbage, but what can you do? Denki-gai no Honya-san seems to be a not-popular-enough attraction for high quality images and assets.

Nevertheless, this anime has been mildly interesting to me for a number of years for one reason: it’s by the same author as Aharen-san wa Hakarenai, which I quite like. (And just found out is getting an anime in 2022.) Surely if I like one work, I’ll like another one of a similar nature, yeah? Yeah… About that…

Brief History / Synopsis

As stated just previously, my motivation to watch this primarily came from what else the author had worked on. Though there was one other motivation: character design. Specifically, “Sensei-san,” the dark-haired, spectacled lass in the cover image above. Something about her design really does it for me; she’s quite cute! Seeing her prominently featured in the cover on MyAnimeList every time made it minimally enticing.

Denki-gai is about a group of adults (mostly) who work in a manga store. That’s pretty much the gist of it. One of those slice-of-life things that take a simple premise and rely on the absurdity of the characters to provide entertainment. Absurdity is certainly the aim here, much like Aharen-san, as characters are definitely rambunctious enough. Maybe too rambunctious. Definitely too rambunctious.

Baby time.

Actual Review

With the nature of the series one of leisurely character-building, it ends up relying a lot on the strength of said characters to make or break the overall quality. If the characters do not amuse you, this series will not amuse you. An incredibly risky maneuver for any story that not only doesn’t have any sort of plot to fall back on, but encourages characters to be as “extra” as possible.

Let’s discuss something important in this vein:

These Characters Are Really Horny

To clarify something before getting really into it, this isn’t really an “ecchi” series, nor is it one that goes out of its way to display female assets at every opportunity. Regardless, it does contain very blatant scenes that take advantage of its core bizarreness. Aha, these characters are adults, therefore they can drink, therefore they get really touchy-feely and start stripping down anyone in sight! Aha, this random contest we entered into caters to the problematic nature of “otaku culture,” so we’re being overtly sexual to appease them!

Sexualize men, too!

They work in a manga store, though the more prominent targets of attention are “ero” books and BL novels. Y’know, the kind of material that’s bound to get the heart going “doki-doki” and the libido charged. I suppose this is just what this author finds funniest? Given the writing never stops making fun of the fact that the sexy titles are “unwholesome,” I’d theorize it.

Then there are the characters themselves, who are all lusting after someone. Despite the fact that (most) everyone in the main cast is an adult, they still act as though they’ve never been any sort of romantic relationship ever. Entirely possible, but still annoying. The common clichés of will-they-won’t-they, being too nervous to convey behavior suggestive of sexual provocation, and a severe lack of any communication hampers what little “romance” is present. It’s more just there to be there.

Denki-gai unfortunately contains some “problematic” elements, too. If that is not of your concern, skip this and the next paragraph. There are a couple scenes where it’s insinuated that a male character is concerned that someone he’s into is “too defenseless” and that he’ll eventually cave to his desires as she is. This is culminated in a scene where he… playfully(?) demonstrates what he means. Hey, uh, it’s not hard to not sexually assault someone. Not raping is incredibly easy. Quit it with that horseshit.

Appropriate reaction.

Then there’s Sensei-san, who’s self-conscious over how non-feminine she comes across. It would be one thing if this was her own insecurity to face, but the writing decides to make it a means for teasing by other characters. More than funny, it comes off as cruel, culminating (again) in one (very long) scene where her daily routine is spied upon and judged for its lack of “girl power.” (She gets a couple pity points for ‘knowing how to cook.’ Yeesh…) And it eventually becomes an ongoing gag.

Basically, the humor is occasionally gross and the content is pandering under the guise of mild parody.

Teeter Totter Time

Interesting factoid: I almost dropped this twice. In the beginning, it was a somewhat weird and charming series that clearly had its own style. The grievances noted at the end of the prior section occurred more during the halfway point of the one-cour run; episodes six and (part of) seven really got under my skin. Despite this, there are some truly nice moments contained in the whole.

I’ve been quite negative up to this point; let’s reverse course and highlight some good things.

This was a nice scene.

Sommelier. This one character is such a bright spot among the cast that it’s a shame he isn’t the main character. (There isn’t really a main character, but it’s definitely not him.) A big, silent hunk of a man with a penchant for ero manga consumption. He plays everything straight and is helpful to all. My spirit animal, and a pleasant respite (kind of) from the stupidity of everyone else. Also the star of the first half of episode eleven, which is by far the best segment this series showcases.

I was also kind of fond of Kameko, a cutesy-voiced shrimp who’s never really in the spotlight. She’s aware of this and seems bittersweet about the fact, too; she gets her moments here and there. Unfortunately, she isn’t utilized very much, which kind of remains the appeal to her (and Sommelier’s) character. Maybe I just like them because they aren’t shoved in the viewer’s face constantly and screaming.

Okay, back to complaining.

No, he doesn’t.

As for who’s most prominent in Denki-gai, it’d consist of everyone outside Sommelier and Kameko: Sensei, Hio, Umio, Fu Girl, and Kantoku (later on). Three of these five characters are really loud and obnoxiously grating. Definitely something I think better translates to manga form than anime, where there is no sound and one can imagine the auditory screeches on their own. In anime, though, all the screeching is present. All of it is annoying. All of it is constant.

Part of what I like so much of Aharen-san is how it combines wholesomeness with pure absurdity. Denki-gai does this to some degree, only it leans more towards the absurdity and its wholesome bits come a little too late to have any lasting impact. There are good scenes between characters within, as well as a couple chuckle-worthy moments (Fu Girl tailing Sommelier to his home was fun). What it lacks is both consistency and shoving itself way too far up its own ass. It tries to be a comedy, a romance, a heartwarming story of connection without committing to any of them too vastly.

It would’ve also helped if any of these characters acted like actual adults, but that’s not funny enough, I guess. Points to Kantoku for being the closest to get to that point.

Pictured: Not Kantoku.

Conclusion

What Denki-gai no Honya-san ends up as is an incredibly frustrating series with glimmers of quality buried underneath. I like that it tries to be wholesome, and the things that make Aharen-san fun are kind of blueprinted here. If only the characters were more consistently, uh, reasonable(?) and not playing to the otaku crowd’s more exaggerated characteristics. Seriously, can these characters not be screaming / crying for more than ten minutes?

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.

Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.

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