You can find romance just about anywhere, even in a bookstore. And before people start losing their minds over much more erotic things, yes, I’m talking about THAT kind of bookstore! Now you may proceed to lose your minds (briefly), and then come back to this review!
Erotic shenanigans aside, this series actually contains nothing explicit. On the other hand, there are tons of innuendos left to the imagination (or not?) that makes this series a mild adult comedy. But beyond the surface of such humor, there lies a drama of unrequited love, bringing in both a funny and serious side to romance and eroticism.
Denkigai no Honya-san puts us in the daily life of workers at an electronics district bookstore, hence the title. Electronics districts in Japanese cities are where all electronic goods are sold among other things, and that includes the boom in entertainment media such as — you guessed it — anime, manga, and video games. The most famous of these electronics districts is Akihabara in Tokyo, but that’s not important to know in regards to this series.
The story takes place specifically at the fictional bookstore Uma no Hone, where the employees give each other cute nicknames and are otherwise stocking, selling, and reading dojin works all day. Dojins are essentially the label for amateur artists, in this case for manga, who often sell their works independently from official manga magazines. The majority of well-known manga artists today got their start in dojin circles, and as you might have guessed, a lot of that kind of work is erotic.
And if you thought that a lot of these works are just rip-offs of something previously established, the artists will tell you otherwise.
But that’s enough about background. Denkigai no Honya-san is also a romantic series, as love in the erotic sense develops in just about every character in the series. From sexual quips to peeping, from friendzones to breakups, no facet of love is left unturned, except maybe an official coupling. All four seasons are filled with eroticism for such a line of work, and just as the government inspector “Erobon Gmen” points out, “Everyone loves erotic fiction!”
There really is something for everyone, as the romantic tales range from funny to serious, including all the genre references, with content for men and women.
But not everything about this series is humorous or even erotic. Sure, the vast majority of it is, but there are also dramatic moments that really show how much romance can actually hurt. The fact alone that no one in this series officially becomes a couple (albeit there are hints) shows that there is something very tragic about love, too.
The store director aptly named “Kantoku” (literally Director) has a battle on his own hands, as three (yes, I said three) of the girls in this series battle for his affection. It may seem that Hio-tan his current interest, as he willingly helps her out, but his ex-employee and ex-girlfriend Tsumorin often shows up to remind Hio-tan that her man carries a lot of baggage with him.
I suppose the common male fantasy is that Kantoku would assume the “Harem King” role and appease both of them at the same time. But for Kantoku, he doesn’t do that. Obviously there is something more to what he has in mind for love than to just give in to lust alone.
I was once asked by another fan who my favorite girl was from this series, assuming I would pick one of the more popular characters. He was surprised when I said “Kameko” because she often fades in the background as the silent observer. I did not say this as a reactionary response, or at least, not intending on one. I did like her since the beginning of this series. She may not be one to stand out, but she brings a very sentimental ambiance to the series and even offers a somewhat narrative look at what’s going on at Uma no Hone.
Sensei may be a more obvious choice, but I felt that the original artist Asato Mizu put herself in this series partly through Kameko as well. Despite being a strange side character with a big hat to cover her even bigger hair, there is a certain fragile side to her that is more vulnerable and, to some extent, true to heart.
But even more so, the series is still not just about sexy shenanigans, funnies, and unrequited love. Some of the moments from Denkigai no Honya-san are very heartfelt to the very spirit of romance, maybe even beyond the erotic level.
Oddly enough, I think the best example of this feeling came from the Christmas episode, when Gmen goes against her own agency and delivers banned books to Uma no Hone’s all-too-busy holiday sale.
Yes, even the government has their ways in censoring erotic literature as they see fit. But in an act to save these prints to be archived and burned, Gmen asks that Uma no Hone find a home for them. Knowing that it was illegal for them to sell such fiction and that their holiday sales were likely going to plummet, Kantoku and his team make the quick decision to pass these books out for free.
Now because this series is an erotic comedy, passing these books out had some very crass humor behind it, including a father who got a book about lolis, thankfully fantasizing about his daughter; or a boy who will probably be scarred for life thinking about turtles and elephants.
And yet, there were even more aesthetically pleasing moments such as warming the hearts of a happy old couple or bringing comfort to the spinster Tsumorin. And all this happened on a night that seems to be all about couples in Japan. Call me crazy for making light of something that ultimately amounts to passing out hardcore porn that was deemed forbidden, but moments like these made Denkigai no Honya-san very sentimental as well as humorous.
The show features plenty of musings in the daily lives of these bookstore workers and possible romances that occur between them. But let’s face it, they still have to work. And with that, perhaps you might understand: even adult bookstores are serious business.
So if you’re looking for an excuse to legitimately say you’re watching something for the plot and not feel too guilty about it, watch Denkigai no Honya-san. And while some of it may not be suited for children, there is still something for all the adults!