So, this is a weird warning.
This manga is shameless, and yet fanservice occurs extremely rarely.
It’s a perverted series to be sure, but most of the time it’s fine.
If you don’t like dirty words, though, or lots of talk about porn, stay away.
Should you be pure of heart, consider this 18+, not safe for work..
This is a weird manga for weird people, and yet…
Denki-gai no Honya-san (デンキ街の本屋さん, The Bookstore in Electric Town) is a comedic otaku culture-type manga (thankfully with more focus on original humor instead of referential humor) about some employees of a (pornographic/not pornographic) manga/light novel/doujinshi store in nerd paradise: Akihabara (also known as Electric Town). While it is primarily a comedy it is surprisingly also a romance. INERTIA 67% has a very similar vibe to it, although INERTIA 67% is basically always down to earth whereas Denki-gai is down to earth seemingly only ever to catch you off guard — otherwise it’s insanity. This is par for the course for the series’ author, Mizu Asato (水あさと), a woman with one of the most bizarre senses of humor I’ve ever come across.
Mizu Asato is best known for, Denki-gai aside,
how she draws crying faces producing scads of one shots, very similar to Dowman Sayman in that regard. Unlike Dowman, she doesn’t ever draw actual porn, but a lot like Dowman she adores perverted humor. She also absolutely loves humor revolving around uncomfortable truths (like stray pubes, not bathing for a couple of days but trying to hide it, or wearing raggedy clothing even though you could easily buy more), and Denki-gai no Honya-san has that in spades (hence why I’d compare INERTIA 67% to it). Mizu Asato is also known for being very “on point” with human relationships, though — that’s what really makes her so strange. Her works almost universally operate with absurd situations and scenes, but then she shows off 100% realistic (but totally abnormal for fiction) displays of “life, as it would be lived by actual people”. Denki-gai might be her best example of that, as it’s her first major and longest running series and within it are those standout elements of her style from start to finish. Thus, the manga is incredibly unique, but I’ll warn you that this is not something for everyone.
Denki-gai no Honya-san begins by trying to fool you. The apparent setup is pretty easy to understand: we have a normal-looking otaku protagonist who has become the newest part-time employee to The Horse’s Bone (Umenohone) and we have a senior part-timer who is obviously the main heroine, featured prominently on the cover of volume 1 and clearly earning the attraction of this protagonist.
Furthermore we have another female character who’s obviously interested in the protagonist, so it’s a harem I guess?
No, no, no; stop, stop. This is all wrong.
First things first: this guy, Umio, is only protagonist-like; he is not exactly what I’d call “the protagonist”. This series has no one narrative focus — most chapters are just omniscient and observe all the characters at present without any particular preference. Furthermore if it does focus down on a person it could be literally anyone in the cast, not just Umio. On that note, the “main heroine” is not a love interest for Umio, although it does seem like it’s going in that direction at the very start. The girl that was sitting on top of him doesn’t “like” him, either; she just think he has a good build for zombie makeup, and thus wants to put him in costume and assault him with blunt instruments. She’s really into zombie apocalypse scenarios. Umio does have a love interest in the series, but she seems like a side character for the first two chapters. There are several romance connections in this series and they’re all over the place. A few are obvious, some sneak up on you. Characters are also not strictly relegated to their “partners”, and you get a lot of mixing around since they’re all friends.
They’ve all got nicknames, although we end up learning a handful of full names as the series goes on. The characters are:
- Camera: Or “Kameko” (Camera Girl). A small girl who loves photography. Incredibly shy when in front of a camera herself.
- Master: Or “Sensei”; a young woman who plans to become a mangaka. Has pitifully low “girl power”. That is to say, although she can be cute, her habits are…sloppy, to put it lightly.
- Rotten Girl: Or “Fu Girl”. Another small girl. She loves zombies a whole lot. Her name is a play on “fujoshi” (rotten girl), a term for female otaku who are scarily into BL.
- Director: Or “Kantoku”. The crew’s boss (the store has more employees, he’s in charge of these ones). He likes making movies and teasing people. Oh how he loves teasing people with a straight face.
- Hiotan: The newest employee before Umio and the character on the cover of volume 1. Her nickname basically means “not an otaku”. She’s not used to otaku stuff and gets embarrassed easily, but she wants to learn. Not so secretly a huge porn lover.
- Umio: The not!main character. Not a nickname. The newest employee; he’s rather competent, a decent artist, and is an enormous nerd to a smug and irritating degree. Absolutely shameless.
- Sommelier: A young man who rarely speaks. Like a sommelier is an expert on wine, he is an expert on manga — especially pornographic manga. The nicest person in the series by a long shot.
They’ve all got something to them.
Truly a multi-faceted bunch.
The series is mainly slice of life and absurdity with a large amount of weird characters, with regular “kinds” of chapters at intervals. For instance, chapters about the bookstore getting overloaded with customers and the employees being overdramatic about it, or chapters where everyone hangs out and drinks at a party, or chapters where the female cast observes Master’s daily life and goes over point-for-point why she is a depressing excuse for a woman.
For the most part, I quite like the series’ humor. I think on some jokes it’s a little too absurd and doesn’t work for me, but the grand majority of it is really great stuff that has me chortling.
Let’s talk about the romance in the series.
While the series is mostly goofy, when it comes to romance I think Denki-gai no Honya-san might be the only manga I’ve seen to have relationships that feel completely and 100% normal, not like storybook or “plotted” romances. There are exes, there’s unrequited love, there’s love triangles, and most importantly there are relationships all around; it’s not just one character making everyone’s hearts throb. Relationships progress slowly and, in a stunning act, !!ACTUALLY PROGRESS!!. At least two characters become a couple maybe 3/4ths through the series, no misunderstandings or nothin’. Characters who are unable to get together seriously consider whether or not loving someone who loves someone else is worth the trouble, friendships naturally develop over time between characters who end up hanging out more than others, and overall the entire cast experiences character development — nobody in the series in volume 10 is the same as they were in 1.
Of course, I hesitate to call the series outright “realistic” because it’s so often so out of its mind, but when it comes to love and friendship Denki-gai no Honya-san is the realest. It’s a definite strong appeal for the series.
That…is actually it. Denki-gai no Honya-san has been running for a pretty long time and a lot has happened in it, but if I am to recommend it this is about all that is necessary to say. If this sounds appealing to you; check it out. Some other stuff: if you’re interested in workday stories about jobs, this one is of course very about manga bookstores (and all the ridiculous responsibilities that come with managing one). Also, Master’s character arc is naturally focused on making manga so there’s a lot of that if you want to see it. Of course, don’t forget that this series is also very perverse and there’s a lot of vulgar things going on; that never stops. If you’re curious, my favorite characters in the series are Camera, Director, Master, and Hiotan. Keep a close eye on those characters and watch as they grow…!Okey dokey, I have a final few things to say. First, you need to read the bound volumes of this series, not the monthly releases. This is one of those series where the bound volumes have a LOT of extra content AND that extra content is canon (I love such series), referenced in later regular chapters. Don’t miss out. Plus, the volumes actually have the color pages in color; that always rocks.
Second, if you’re reading the scanlation (what else would you be reading in English? This series is unlicensed), this is yet another series where the translator outdid themselves with notes, as in Golden Kamuy and Wizard’s Soul.
The end of each volume of Denki-gai has a glossary going over the tranlator’s decisions, some pun clarification, and a few reference explanations, though it stops after volume 9. It’s cool! Make sure to check that out. The original translator for the series did a very professional-esque job with the series, localizing things most people wouldn’t bother translating (which usually bothers me) but doing so in a way that just felt normal (like doujin -> fanzine). The new group that picked it up with volume 10 isn’t a slouch with their job either, for the most part. Good stuff.
That is all! Denki-gai no Honya-san is one of my favorite series, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it if only because I think Mizu Asato could sometimes reign in the weird, and there’s subject matter within that could turn off a bunch of people. Got the stomach for it? Stick it out and check out that believable human interaction (outside of the completely unbelievable human interaction, played for laughs). This series actually got an anime adaptation, and I recall it being pretty decent. As for the manga, you may purchase it from Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. Please do! Okay. I’m done now. Thank you for reading, hope to see you next time