Anime Review: Tonari no Seki-kun (The Master of Killing Time)
Rumi Yokoi is a high school student who wants to study hard and get good grades. But she’s constantly distracted by the boy sitting next to her, Toshinari Seki, and not for the reasons you might at first expect. You see, Seki is easily bored by the droning teachers’ lectures, and shielded by his position in the back corner of the classroom, engages in various hobbies at his desk.
Yokoi tries to avoid looking at Seki’s elaborate games and handicrafts, but constantly finds herself drawn in to watching and narrating the events unfolding next to her. And when she tries to tell the teachers what’s going on, she winds up in trouble!
This 21-episode anime series (The title roughly translates as “My Neighbor Seki”) is based on a manga by Takuma Morishige. Each episode is eight minutes, with a short opening and ending song. As of this writing, it is available subtitled on Crunchyroll.
The series is sweet and adorable, making good use of a limited cast. Seki never speaks (although we do hear his voice once or twice), so Yokoi’s narration may or may not accurately represent what he’s thinking. You don’t need to know the rules of any of the games Seki is playing with, because he really doesn’t stick to conventional rules unless he’s simulating real life, as in the post office episode.
Those new to anime might find it helpful to know that in standard Japanese high schools, the students sit in one classroom for most classes, while the teachers go from room to room. Thus Yokoi and Seki’s relative positions seldom change. Also, being a proper student, Yokoi is more formal than most American kids, so almost always uses family names rather than given names, except with close friends.
For the most part, the series is safe for middle-schoolers on up–some of Seki’s games have some violence in them (the lunch episode references the gruesome series Attack on Titan) but it’s all imaginary, as are the slightly naughty things envisioned by Sakurako Gotou, a classmate of the main characters who thinks they’re a romantic couple.
Overall, highly recommended, even to people who have never watched anime before.