This is review number four hundred and twenty. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Denki Gai no Honya-san. I was originally planning to review a Masaaki Yuasa movie for 420, because, yknow, the number is significantly high. Did you get it? I did, however, realize that this is just a number. Might as well just finish the Fall lineup instead of wasting time on a movie. So yeah, this anime is actually pretty good. Glad I saw it, and now we’ll talk about it. Let’s read on.
The anime follows the employees of a doujin shop. They have an atypical work life full of special events and unusual promotional activities. They also spend a lot of time together and things develop naturally, so there is no dull day in Umanohone.
Taking the Pants Off
This anime is amazing. Yeah, I don’t really know how to start this review other than saying that the show is amazing. It’s actually really hard to describe what makes this show great, because it’s a combination of a lot of things. The anime is obviously a cute girl doing cute things show, but it’s not really full on a marshmallow. The show doesn’t just rely on the characters’ cuteness, even though the gags do heavily involve them. Despite being cute, the anime does remind me of Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki and Working. The “let’s make a manga” component of Nozaki is also in this anime, while the cute romance of Working is present as well. While it’s a combination of a lot of things, this anime actually feels refreshing and entertaining to watch. The main reason is because every similar element from other shows is actually done a lot better in this anime. Ok, so to sum this up, this anime is like Nozaki with a mix of Working with some dashes of marshmallow, and one more. This anime also strongly resembles Hen Zemi with its sex jokes. Yeah, cute girls, romance and sex jokes. Denki Gai no Honya-san pulled off these elements so wonderfully that I honestly want more. Shows like these are the reason why I love being TPAB. After sitting through two gawd awful VN adaptations, killing my enthusiasm, here comes this anime absolutely giving me one hell of an experience. Well go over each element of this show as it relates to the other shows, but I’m telling you right now: this anime is amazing. Stop reading, and just watch it already.
It’s Working, But in a Manga Shop
The anime is about the employees of a manga shop called Umanohone in a fictional Akihabara. The anime mostly follows the characters’ everyday work routine in the shop. Being a store that caters to doujin though, the work life of these characters is certainly unconventional. It features normal stuff like unboxing deliveries, shrink wrapping products and stacking shelves, but it also goes down a rabbit hole from time to time. Special sale seasons, monthly events and midnight releases are also featured to really highlight the demand of the product. Japan has a very healthy doujin culture, and it’s actually really fun to see the world of a manga store. Umanohone (the horse’s bone, seriously) is apparently a reference to a real store called Toranoana (the tiger’s lair, chuuni much) so you can tell the events in the anime doesn’t really stray far away from typical promotions of an actual doujin store. I find that adorable, because the grounded realism makes for an interesting story. The “normal” world of Umanohone can also get absurd very easily, so this particular premise really has a lot to work with. Mundane is certainly not part of the job description, because anything and everything can happen in this anime. In fact, the show came out strong in its first few episodes.
I believe the first episode threw out its first BL joke, while the proceeding ones gave us events like Comiket and a summer festival. These are usually clichéd big event stuff for other anime, since the slice of life routine can be broken up by Kagami reading a BL doujin while attending the same Comiket. These are usually special events, and this anime gives it to us very early on. In terms of first impressions, the show will instantly hook you. The premise is delivered with ease, and the interest for the show will surely sky rocket. First impression of the show also features the characters, and they are all awesome in this anime.
A Strong Character Driven Anime
I love the characters in this show, mainly because they all stand out on their own. While they are severely clichéd, they both work as individuals and as a group. The first few episodes actually give us the wonderful chemistry of the group. As it gives us a realistic work life, the bonding moments of the characters are also highlighted. One thing that immediately stands out is that the characters address each other with a nickname. There is Director, Camera, Rotten Girl, Sommelier, and Master. This is a minor detail, but it tells a lot about these characters. They’re very close that they give each other nicknames. They enjoy the company they have to the point that their boring work routine is often “fun”. There is no dull moments when you’re working with people you legitimately like. I know there is some cynicism about the whole setup of the show. Like “work isn’t this fun, lol”, but that’s not true. Work can actually be this fun, because I’ve personally experienced a very close knit work life like these characters. I’ll say this with confidence, “if you think the characters are having too much fun at their job, then you’re in a job that you do not enjoy”. I’m actually glad this anime features a very close knit work life, where in the characters still hang out with each other even after work hours. This is pretty normal, because you do get to bond with people you work with even if you don’t really like them.
I love their after hour bonding, because it just highlights how casual they are around each other. They enjoy the company so much that they’d extend time just to be with each other, and that’s cute. I wish a lot of anime can be this casual too. Now, despite the close knit relationship of the group, the characters are still awkward when they are put in pairs. While the entire group can come off as rambunctious, characters are still reserved around one another. The gap between them is pretty evident, the awkward silences feels like a solid stone between them, and there is some feeling out happening between people that do not know much about one another. That’s adorable, because it’s pretty real. You really only become close when you both open up, so characters can start out like this:
But eventually grow closer like this:
This growth happened in the span of the anime’s 12 episode run. This is an insane amount of detail to put in your story, and I absolutely love it. Crap, I didn’t even talk about the characters individually. As you can see from the images though, there is a diverse range of characters here and I know some of you are interested in knowing much about them. It really only takes you the first three episode to really love this anime. I’d even argue that the first episode is so solid that it’s enough to convince people. Now, I mentioned a “character driven” story (characters affect the flow of the story), and not a character showcase (the show features characters instead of story). This is one of the best parts of the show, because there is progression and a large amount of character development. It sounds insane, because we’re talking about cute characters in a slice of life show. I’ve only mentioned the parts of the show that resembles Working though, and there are other stuff to talk about. But, for a random segue way, let’s talk about boobs.
It’s Hen Zemi, but More Tolerable
Hen Zemi is a dirty anime. It’s a very dirty anime. Both the main series and the superior OVAs that came before, the humor of this anime is very disgusting. There was a very long conversation about diarrhea in the OVA that resembles the curry they’re eating, and people overhearing it slowly stops eating and just walks away. It’s pretty brilliant, actually, but certainly not something everyone can enjoy. Hen Zemi has a lot of sex jokes, from one of the characters wishing his girlfriend gets NTR’ed (seriously people, go watch this one too) to riding the train with a vibrator on. Denki Gai no Honya-san plays around the same pool, but it prefers to stay in the shallow part. This anime also features some strong sex jokes like this:
And there are a lot of casual talks about BL and the like. While the images above made me recall flashbacks of Hen Zemi, especially since both show has a “cute girl” motif, these jokes actually doesn’t last. I think by the end of episode 2, the jokes became a lot tamer and the recycled gags are in effect. One unique thing about Denki Gai is that the jokes are never for the sake of shock or simple laughter. The jokes in this show actually help flesh out the characters. Some of the jokes are often used to highlight the relationship between the two characters, like this:
Other times, it just focuses on the quirky nature of a character:
And the rest of the jokes are about the anime giving some love to the fandom:
In each instance, the characters are slowly developed. Even if the show goes back to random gross humor, it doesn’t really feel that bad because the joke’s purpose is to feature the characters. There’ll often be long sequences of characters discussing the importance of panty shots or the effect of giant boobs, but it just feels like a typical day of work for the characters. It just ties into their work life, so it doesn’t really feel that out of place and it doesn’t really get stale easily. Believe me, slice of life shows get stale and repetitive very easily. It’s part of being a good SoL Show, to be honest. This anime seems to have figured out a way around that, and it’s actually pretty simple. The jokes won’t feel stale if the characters are enjoyable by themselves. I mean, they could start f*cking each other and it wouldn’t really be a jarring progression. *deep breath*
It’s Just as Cute as Nozaki, but Develops More Sensibly
This anime starts out with your typical slice of life and comedy combo. It doesn’t need much explanation. Basically cute girl makes funny faces, and that’ll last you the entire series. For this anime though, the recurring gags are established towards the middle, episode 4 and so on, where the “girl power” subplot and the zombie subplot is revealed. These are adorable subplots, but the anime made a massive transformation towards the end where romance is now a staple of each episode. I believe the correct term is “OTP at max” for this anime, because everyone is paired off and they’re all adorable. I was honestly a bit reserved at first, because Working had the same concept. The main couple was forcibly lumped together, and they never really progress. They hug and all that, but the girl is still afraid of boys. It doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t really need to make sense. The point is that this is a running gag, and the anime will always go here. It doesn’t need to develop because it’s an easy element of the anime that they can keep returning too.
I believe Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki had the same setup. While the characters are super cute together, they were more of a recurring gag than anything else. Do they have a chance of hooking up? Yeah, but the comedy born out of their pairing is more important. I mean, the girl confessed in the first episode and it was turned into a gag. It’s OK, really, because the focus is on the slice of life and the comedy. This combination implies light heartedness and a laid back atmosphere for cake eating and light music club performances. It doesn’t need to actually develop romance. Denki Gai did the opposite though. It gave us some serious romance, and it completely destroyed the lighthearted and laid back feel of the anime. Is the risk worth it? Yeah, because this is a character driven show.
The decisions the characters make influences the anime, so if they started to flirt then it’ll gladly abandoned the cute cake time to feature some cute romantic moments. I love anime like this, because it’s easier to just keep the status quo. Imply romance but never deliver it, that’s a sensible idea. For the show to pair the characters, develop their relationship and slowly intensify their bond, it takes a lot of guts. It’s hard to pull that off, because a drastic shift in tone will ruin the anime. Focusing on the characters does wonders though. Nozaki had one dimensional pairings like the girl jock and the gentleman, and the combination produces a lot of gags. In Denki Gai, the pairing is the new employee that loves manga and the manga artist trying her best to be as girly as possible to win the guy over. It also produces a lot of gags, but the characters also develop. There is always payoff in every cute scene and every adorable encounter. This makes me want to see more of the characters, and discover just how far their relationship goes.
The show doesn’t stop at cute pairings though, because life is not that simple. If the show took time to give us a realistic work life, then it also gives us a realistic take on love. If you look at the group, there is always on character with no pairing. Does she fade in the background? She certainly thinks she does, but there are no supporting characters in life. The amazing character work mixes her into the story, and she f*cking broke my heart mainly because I can relate with a character like her. She believes she doesn’t deserve love, but if a seventeen year old girl addicted to killing zombies can get some love then surely she can too. This anime also features a love triangle and multiple pairings to keep the audience on their toes. It actually feels a bit mean, because we knew the characters as a group so we know how they think. The show is now trying to make us choose who belongs with whom. It’s unfair, and the fact that the anime made me care so much is actually a true sign of just how gawd damn great this show is.
The Comedic Timing
Oh yeah, I made a GIF post of this anime praising the comedy. The show has a good handle of its comedy, because it knows how to punctuate the punchline. It also relies on the characters and the stuff the audience knows about the characters to make the comedy more effective. For example, there’s one scene where Sommelier enters the shop with no shirt on. Predictably, the girl with BL issues starts to panic, camera girl starts taking pictures, and the manga artist drops a “can I draw you for science” line. The last one is a random reaction that makes sense, but it’s even more powerful because the manga artist, who has never said anything of the sorts before, delivered the lines. Afterwards, a cop shows up to confront the shirtless dude and that just adds more to the random gag. The comedy works like that. Usually, for a slice of life and comedy combo, it’s easier to just joke about a character’s height or their flat chest. This anime does those gags, but also gives effort to do more complicated setups. In the first episode, we have this wonderful moment:
See how random the setup is but it adds to the punchline of the girl liking BL. She’s a weird character. The anime does have some stale gags and missed punchlines though, like most of the girl power jokes. They play for too long and they aren’t really that funny. The joke is that you can relate to the miserable life of someone in a budget, but I don’t think most of the people watching can relate. It is fun to see adulting life from a person really trying to make the best of their limited resources. But you know what, despite the jokes not landing, the cuteness is actually still there to save the day. Even if the joke flies over your head, the amount of cuteness will still hit you directly. That’s the smart three point attack of the show’s comedy, and it’s actually really complex. The wonderful part is that they all work together to really deliver a strong anime experience. Each element can work by itself, but it’s a lot more fun when they come together. The amount of effort that is put in this anime is just simply amazing.
Again, I’d skip the characters. As of any current reviews, I actually don’t plan to talk about the characters since they’re usually the one thing the audience should discover for themselves. The characters in this anime are amazing, so discover them on your own.
Masafumi Sato and Shin-Ei Animation
This is apparently Masafumi’s first full time directorial work, and he did a fantastic job here. He mostly did a lot of episode directing prior to this, so I guess he knows what he’s doing from the get go. Still, a lot of first time directors usually suck so it’s nice to see one that actually knows what they’re doing. I recently saw an anime directed by a five man team, and it sucked. Masafumi really knew what the author’s intention was, and he truly gave it justice. Now, I’d also like to think Kazuyuki Fudeyasu did a great job of series composition. The manga mostly centered on the straight man as the main character, but Kazuyuki eliminated a “main character” and gave each one a time to shine under the spotlight. I was actually surprised to know the manga wasn’t a 4-koma, since episodes are done in small skits, but it’s actually a normal manga that has a central topic in a chapter or so. Exposition was also used to introduce characters in the manga, but it was given a lighter weight in the adaptation. Kazuyuki did a lot of series composition for marshmallow shows, and his experience certainly shined here. He arranged each episode ensuring the changes he made truly had great effect on the adaptation, and I love how smart he is about it. The comedic timing is all on the director though. He did a fantastic job executing the punchlines and the visual delivery of the relationships. While the author certainly knew how to create a complex manga, the adaptation was also left in good hands.
Shin-Ei is a really old studio, but I think they mostly do kid shows like Crayon Shin-chan and Doraemon. It’s nothing to sneeze at, since these shows aired in the 90s and they’re still airing. Most of their kid shows are really low budget works though. This anime had amazing animation, and I actually thought A-1 Pictures did it. The amount of detail and smooth transitions had me convinced, but I was shocked to learn the studio that made the Stich anime also made this. I think they’re a pretty great studio, judging solely from this show, but I don’t really have access to any of their other works. They’re currently doing Elegant Yokai Life, and I do catch some episodes from time to time. Animation wise, they do have a standard despite existing for such a long time. I mean, I can forgive Toei for cutting corners and Gonzo for dying unable to keep up, but Shin-Ei is like Sunrise, they’re just really good and consistent. I’d like to see more from this studio, or maybe I should just review Doraemon. I’d actually love to do that if I have the time for it.
Sight and Sound
The mangaka’s name is Asato Mizu, and she is an amazing artist. Basically, the characters you see in the anime are the same ones on the original source. Their cuteness is on point, their individual design stands out, and there is a wide range of character designs here. More than that, she also gives us ambitious camera angles and consistent panels to deliver the gags and other naughty parts of the story. As I read the manga, I actually recall how the anime did it. It’s a very faithful adaptation, and even the light color palette of the manga is captured by the anime. Asato has published a lot of manga, and Denki Gai is actually her first adaptation. I’d love to see more of her works, since they are very well constructed and incredibly complex. A lot of individual design stands out, but I mostly love FuGal’s design. She constantly looks like she’s fidgeting, and I love her jagged upper teeth. She also has those puppy dog eyes and a thin built. It instantly stands out. The fun part is that as much as FuGal looks loli, the design isn’t limited to cute characters. There’s a business woman character in the anime, and she has very well built proportions. She’s sexy and model-esque completely different from the loli design. For a light hearted manga like this, I actually won’t fault a mangaka to use similar body builds but Asato seems to go all out. She’s put so much thought into each element of the manga that it just looks very masterful. From the light hearted tone, the character design, the story progression and even the dirty parts, it just proves that Asato Mizu is one hell of an artist.
Animation is incredible. It’s always high quality and consistent. I particularly love the cute moments, because it really captures Asato’s vision. She loves doing grand and detailed panels during cute moments, and the anime really gave her vision justice. They also kept her ambitious camera angles and her sense of comedic timing. Masafumi really shined here, because the kind of comedic timing Asato had in her manga is so complex yet he manages to capture it with ease. The random transition gags and the punchline is a nice touch particularly, because they really make you laugh. I’ve seen directors fumble at doing comedy, but Denki Gai is really on point. For anime like this, the tiniest details are really given care. Facial expressions, random bursts of characters running or flailing all over and even simple actions like sitting down all have incredible detailed animation. I particularly love how the hair falls on a character’s body or how tears trace a character’s face. It’s a very tiny detail, but it’s a good way to really show off the high quality animation. Even the glances and body mannerisms are wonderfully animated, since the visuals cues also tell a very subtle story.
The color palette is really well done, and I love the background design of the anime. I especially love the shop’s background design since it’s littered with tons of books and promo posters. I don’t really know where to put this, but the anime also celebrates the doujin culture proudly. A lot of the manga covers are references to popular titles, and they each have a very detailed design on them as well. The show took the effort to make spoof covers for every manga and magazine that appears on-screen. The anime gave a montage of all of the spoof covers in the final episode, and I am really impressed by them. They just look amazingly designed, and I was even fooled into thinking they’re real covers. I’m sure a true manga fan can appreciate the effort given to make that particular demographic laugh with these spoof covers. It’s a beam of love from the anime directly to you.
The anime’s OP is “Kajirikake no Ringo” by Ayana Taketatsu. This is a love song, and it basically gives away the fact that there are a lot of OTPs in this anime. It’s about having a youthful love and all that sh*t. I love it, but it feels a bit out of place in this show. Ayana’s voice is amazing, and the piano in the beginning is pretty good, but still, weird OP. I do love the OP sequence featuring the characters gazing at a meteor show, gets hit by cute stars, and subsequently panics. It’s adorable, and it highlights the great animation you’ll watch in the actual show. I also love the beautiful insert of the Denki-gai manga cover in the OP itself. Not sure what the apple means though, but I like it. It’s a very strong OP, ready to hype you for the actual show. It still has a weird song though, but it’s just my preference.
The anime’s ED is “two-Dimension’s Love” by denk!girls (Natsumi Takamori, Minami Tsuda, Ayana Taketatsu, Mai Aizawa). This is the song that suits the anime, because it’s cute. I mean, a cute show deserves a cute song. The lyrics are still about love though, but it’s done in a playful manner just like the anime itself. I also love the fact that the VAs sung this, since it does remind you of some strong marshmallow shows doing the same thing. The ED sequence is adorable, but it’s mostly brought out by the really energetic song. I do love the random sequence of the girls interacting with the mascot, and I also love the “manager” of Umanohone doing the omake segment, mainly because we never see him in the actual show until the last episode.
9/10 “The romance, the comedy, and the character driven story can stand by itself, but they look even more amazing combined resulting in a one of a kind anime experience”
Truthfully, the anime’s content scores a solid eight for me, but I bumped it to nine because there is some incredible effort in the technical side of it as well. From the characters to the background design, there is a lot to appreciate in this anime. If you liked any of the anime I compared to this show, then you’ll love how each component is done better for Denki Gai no Honya-san. I think the first episode speaks for itself, so I do urge you to check it out. I highly recommend this one.