Tonari no Seki-kun
High school girl Rumi Yokoi tries to pay attention to class, but that's easier said than done when her classmate next to her is Toshinari Seki, a student infamous for playing around in class, much to both her annoyance and amusement.
As a kid I often found myself doing most anything at times other than paying attention in class. Usually I would just draw, but occasionally I did other activities like playing games on my solar calculator, write stories, and even play games of Wheel of Fortune or Hangman with other people in my class. I think we all did things like that in class at some point or another.
As such, Tonari no Seki-kun was a show that I related to quite easily. Though it offers the same thing each week, with pacing grounded in a fairly fixed structure (teacher talks, Yokoi looks at Seki, and shenanigans begin), the series mixes it up enough to keep things interesting. At first Seki's experiments start off pretty small; for example, one episode has him setting up a row of dominoes on his desk. But as the series goes on, his games become far more elaborate, like a little RC car on a "driver's test" on his desk, a game of fukuwarai (kind of like pin the tail on the donkey, but with human facial parts) that goes over the entire lifespan of a family, and even a flip book with sound effects recorded. One episode even features Seki's a little robot family with an insert song sung by famous anime singer Ichiro Mizuki (one of the series' highlights, in my opinion). Tonari no Seki-kun is almost worth watching alone to see how Seki tops himself next episode.
And although it's mostly a gag comedy, Tonari no Seki-kun actually does have character development, which is pretty rare for a gag series. As Seki gets more elaborate with his ideas, Yokoi gets increasingly more immune and/or self-aware of Seki's obvious playing with her mind, and even pulls the tables on him once in a while! Seki, meanwhile, seems to be get more aware of this, and learns to not to cross her line too much. (Considering how easily Yokoki is pushed around in the early episodes, one can't blame her for occasionally striking back, can they?)
Unfortunately, as fun Tonari no Seki-kun can be, it's for the most part a one-trick pony concept, and begins to wear thin before series' end. There's only so many times you can see Seki act like an ass towards Yokoi (whether intentionally or not) before it gets old. There's not much else in the way of other characters, either; barely half a dozen other kids in their class even have names. One of them, a glasses girl named Goto, is featured in one of the series' more interesting episodes, where she gets to deal with Seki's antics while Yokoi is near absent the entire episode, complete with a great ending scene. The final episode also does a neat job acting as a season finale, while also diverging a bit from the typical episode structure. Still, episodes like those are rare.
Enjoyable for the most part, I doubt I'd have finished Tonari no Seki-kun if the episodes were longer. It's a fun show, but not one you can marathon; even at one or two episodes a week, I felt it getting a bit tired. Still, I got a decent amount of laughs out of it, and when it comes to comedy anime, that's all I really ask for.
Fun in small doses, Tonari no Seki-kun gives you exactly what you think it does, but little more. Those looking for more variety in their series might want to deck a star or even two. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: There's very little in the way of objectionable content in this series. The only exception I can think of is a couple of episodes featuring figures battling in Yokoi's imagination, which do have some violence in them.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (21/21)
Tonari no Seki-kun © 2014 Takuma Morishige / KADOKAWA Ltd. / Media Factory Publications / Tonari no Seki-kun Production Committee / Shinei Video
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