Denki-Gai is a blush-inducing, coming-of-age comedy about manga-loving book store employees! All the characters are hard-core manga fans (and maniacs) and work at the comic shop Uma no Home (the horse’s bone). On a daily basis they find themselves displaying new manga releases, shrink-wrapping comics and questioning their love of ero and BL. They have fun and work hard (sometimes). As they work together, everyone begins to develop closer relationships in this modern day bookstore rom-com.
When I first read the synopsis of Denki-Gai, I knew that this was one I would want to watch immediately. I was on the lookout for a good slice of life anime to watch this season and knew that this would fit the bill – you can’t go wrong with an anime set in a manga bookshop. Each episode tells two short stories about the Uma no Home staff and their escapades based around the bookshop.
To start with, the show takes us around the more mundane routines that occur in a bookshop: arranging displays, shrink-wrapping comics that are parts of limited editions as well as receiving visits from Government Youth Service workers to ensure that all manga is marked appropriately and that the more adult titles are properly situated and displayed. But in a slapstick-esque show like this, you know that these events aren’t as mundane as you would expect.
Every episode we get a little more insight to the characters and their literary inclinations and talents: Sensei wants to become a professional manga-ka, Fu Girl loves zombies, Umio is a very capable illustrator and Sommelier has an innate ability to select the perfect manga for any customer that steps into the store (what I wouldn’t give to know a manga sommelier). All of this information is delivered quickly by a great little montage which works well when you want to memorably introduce a small group of characters to a viewer in a short amount of time.
Although the serious government worker is there to essentially patrol the bookstore to make sure that the more adult mangas are separated and legally covered enough to protect minors, a quick turn of events has her declaring her love for ero manga and philosophising on the importance of having these interests… and gets a standing ovation from all that hear her. It’s so silly and outrageous, but I love the constant emphasis on otaku behaviour and ‘liberation’, as well as seeing stereotypes of the kind of customers that flock to different genres.
We are also starting to see relationships develop between the characters. Umio has begun to take an interest in Sensei after realising that she creates her own doujinshi under the pen name Jona Taro, who is one of his favourite manga-kas. Another relationship that is as amusing as it is touching is the one between the pint-sized Fu Girl and the tall, stoic Sommerlier-kun. When they’re not fighting people that they are visualising as zombies, they are combining together like a human mecha in a water-fight battle royale that encompasses the whole town. But having said that, there are also scenes where we don’t see them as maniacal comic figures, but as teenagers trying to express their feelings to one another.
The two sides of this stylised rom-com are evenly paced, and the animation is simple and appealing in a way that compliments the plot lines. The cast of characters have had their personalities and quirks established quickly, which contributes to their own personal ‘cute factor’ as the episodes progress. It also shows us an insight into the kind of mindset an employee must have when working in a manga bookshop and how they deal with the range of customers that walk in.
Denki-gai follows the standard slice of life anime pattern and doesn’t really offer anything new, but the bookstore setting does elevate it somewhat in my books (very punny). I find the otaku references very amusing and my personal interest in books/manga keeps me engaged with the story lines. Overall it has a relaxing feel and follows the lives of some very cute characters. In the first few episodes it has already shown that it can do the ‘light and fluffy’ and incorporate elements of surrealism as well as leaving time to explore some of the burgeoning relationships that are at work underneath all the slapstick.