Jade Woodruff’s “Life on Anime” issue #9: DENKI-GAI NO HONYA-SAN

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Denki-Gai no Honya-san is a 12 episode slice-of-life anime series based on four panel shorts that aired in the fall season of 2014 and is available on Crunchyroll.

Here’s the premise:
The setting for Denki-Gai is Umanohone Bookstore. It has it all for a manga fan: from rare issues to popular doujinshi and light novels (even the extra naughty stuff!), and expert staff there to guide you in your selection. The series is a bit risqué, so it might not be suitable for viewers under the age of 15.

Review:
Denki-Gai is fun. It a side-splittingly hilarious slice-of-life series, but can also be touching when it dials back the humor. The animation is a tad lack luster compared to other modern comedies. But you don’t watch Denki-Gai for the animation. You watch it for the characters.

The series features five main characters and a few side characters and gives each ample screen time and development. It changes perspective based on the episode’s main character rather than telling the entire story from one person’s perspective. By putting the viewer in that character’s shoes, it offers a unique perspective and enables you to relate more closely to each character. This is where Denki-Gai really excels. The writing is great and each character is memorable. In this way, Denki-Gai’s characters become lovable very quickly.

It’s the characters and how they play on each other (thanks, again, to well written dialogue and good direction) that make Denki-Gai so darn good. With plenty of other anime featuring otaku female leads, manga themes, and co-workerer style slice-of-life comedy, I was worried that Denki-Gai would fall into some of the same pit falls in which other titles find themselves.

One way Denki-Gai sets itself apart is by not overdoing their gags. So, sometimes Fu-chan goes a little crazy and bludgeons Umino with a bat, repeatedly because she sees him as a zombie. It’s not your usual, run of the mill Tsundere attack, but it’s comparable. In twelve episodes, Umino is beaten-up by Fu maybe four times. And, for the four or so times that it happens, it’s funny. Another prime example is Senpai’s lack of feminine awareness. While she focuses on finishing her manga manuscript in hope of winning a debut as a manga artist, she lets her appearances and hygiene take a dive. When her coworkers Hio-tan (the obligatory moe character) and Tsumori (a professional artist who used to work at Umanohone) notice some of her bad habits, they tie her up and force her to watch footage captured from the security cameras in her workspace at Umanohone. I won’t spoil this for you by telling you what is recorded. But, watching Senpai’s reactions and her lack of “girl power” never gets old because it only happens a handful of times. Even Sommelier, the erotic manga guru who barely utters a word the whole series, has his share of antics, especially when the Erobon G-Man, a hot bombshell who collects contraband erotic manga, is involved.

The series parodies everything from ridiculous white censor lines to tropes while paying homage to popular doujinshi. I’m more into the anime scene than the manga scene. So, I think a lot of the nods to popular manga artists and doujinshi may have flown right past me. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying the comedy, plot, and character interactions. To be honest, I didn’t even notice if I missed something.

For a comedy series, I was very impressed with some of the more subtle and touching moments. Denki-Gai was able to turn off the comedy like a light switch and shift to something sentimental. I liked this a lot about Denki-Gai because I never knew when something sweet was going to happen or if I should brace myself for another dose of off the wall comedy.

It’s definitely a true slice-of-life series. The series prioritizes friendship building, self improvement, accepting yourself for who you are, and finding that work-life balance. These themes are prevalent in every episode. The ending is complacent and a little nostalgic, but leaves viewers wanting more.

The Bottom Line:
Denki-Gai is a quick, energetic fun anime series. I’ve watched it a few times now and I enjoy it best with friends and a cold adult beverage. While I’m not drinking to enjoy the series, Denki-Gai just has that party vibe to it. It reminds me of good times with good friends doing things that we love to do like watching Denki-Gai!

I highly recommend this series – especially for anime club get-togethers!
9/10

-Jade Woodruff
Columnist: Nerd Nation Magazine

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