Licensed by: Sentai Filmworks
One of the things I learned as I studied comedy writing throughout my youthful years, find a creative way to craft the same joke to tell it as many times as possible. Tonari No Seki-kun has one job and does it very well. A show with such a direct premise manages to have me asking many questions.
STORY: I admittedly did little research on The Master of Killing Time prior to watching it, so I was curious to see how it would manage to sustain its humor for 21 minutes. I later learned each episode runs 6 minutes, opening and closing credits. And it’s great. Each project is paced the same, which starts with Rumi Yokoi, the female lead and Seki-kun’s seating neighbor, believing it’s going to be a normal class, only to be distracted by whatever it is Seki begins constructing as she interprets/narrates the scenario. Now the magic I discovered is that you get pulled in as much, if not more, than SHE does! It’s quite amazing! Seki-kun will pull out dominoes, mecha bots, a rack of glasses, and I’ll find myself trying to guess ahead of Rumi, thinking, “Where could this possibly go?”. And no two scenarios are the same, so each of Seki-kun’s contraptions are as much a mystery as the previous episode. This show gets so much out of such a small amount of time, it’s a perfect example of less can be more. SCORE: 9/10
ART & ANIMATION: The palette and animation are very pleasant, yet simplistic. Produced by Shin Ei Animation (Doraemon 2005 and Hare+Guu, two other delightful anime I adore), they capture the spirit of the manga well in terms of comedic timing and execution while also having a delightful aesthetic adjacent to the aforementioned anime. The physical gags aren’t incredibly over-the-top or disrupting, as Seki-kun’s satiristic pacing calls for more of a rising crescendo with a payoff at the end.
Not overly demanding and fairly easy on the eyes. The character designs are not very complex, though there is one thing I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention: Rumi Yokoi’s oddly colored white hair. She’s a cute girl and certainly gives her a very distinct look. Not many teenagers in anime simply have white hair without some cryptic reason or mythos behind it. Different is good, but it certainly caught me off guard. SCORE: 7
SOUND/VOICE ACTING: As I’m reviewing the Sentai Filmworks, I’m discussing the English dub. This is Blake Sheppard’s easiest paycheck ever. He “voices” Seki, but I use that term loosely, because Seki never actually speaks. Other than audible grunts and murmuring, he doesn’t emit a single word of dialog. It’s impressive, to say the least.
Rumi Yokoi is Voiced by Monica Rial, who I’ve been critical of for just kind of being default anime voice actress woman. Over the span of her career, none of her roles jump out at me as impressive or notable, even when voicing comical characters, she’s just decent, if not outshined by Laura Bailey or Karen Strassman. Her performance as Rumi isn’t really different from her performance as Bulma or Kirika from Noir. She puts an energy into narrating Seki’s madness she’s attempting to translate that I can appreciate, as it’s essentially a one-woman performance. Her inflection ranges as Seki-kun’s playlets unfold through various emotions, from curious, apoplectic, amused, to frightened. It’s my favorite Rial performance. SCORE: 8/10
CHARACTERS: I’ve pretty much already covered the characters’ throughout, so I’ll just talk about talented Seki is. I know it’s a work of fiction, but from one school hour day dreamer to another, Seki’s creations are really cool and easily the reason I latched on to the series. He’s got laser focus for everything he constructs and shows a pride in it that’s almost admirable. It makes me wonder if he goes home, planning on what he intends to bring to school the next day. Or what exactly is going on in HIS head!
And with several exceptions, he’s mostly amusing himself. There’s instances where he’s completely aware Rumi showing interest, but it’s sometimes ambivalent as to whether he’s put off by her efforts to dissuade either his works or the outcome of the tales he’s telling. Again, so much is derived from how little they give you, it’s fascinating. SCORE: 8/10
OVERALL: Tonari No Seki-kun is an enjoyable, effective, creative comedy with a formula that works. I can’t immediately think of anything to compare it to, but it really hearkens back to my days of goofing off and not taking notes during class. Each episode is an ever-increasing drumroll that builds and builds. FINAL SCORE: 8/10