My Neighbor Seki Vol. 1 (Vertical)

Seki

CREDIT: Vertical

Rating: 4.5/5 – Move Over, Ferris Bueller, Toshinari Seki Has Your Number.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.

If you were like me, at the beginning of every school year, you did your best to scope out the seat in the back of the classroom. Sure, you were still stuck in class, but there was something semi-liberating about having the rest of your classmates in front of you – as if they were going to be under the teacher’s scrutiny that much more than you – because the back of the classroom meant freedom…of a sort. So you’d think young student Rumi Yokoi would be happy with her seat in the far back of her class. She probably would be…were she not seated next to Toshinari Seki.

Seki has a problem – or at least in Yokoi’s eyes he does – in that he seems to enjoy focusing on everything except what the teacher is talking about. One day he starts building an elaborate domino setup, complete with a firework set to go off at the end of it. Another day, he begins building an elaborate castle out of chess pieces. On still another day, he brings live kittens into the class. To Yokoi’s eternal consternation he also seems to have two amazing superpowers: he can put up anything he has on his desk as quickly as it takes for the teacher to turn around, and nobody but Yokoi seems to notice what’s going on. The end result is Yokoi often getting in trouble for reacting to Seki’s antics, while he gets away scot-free.

You might think this formula could only stretch so far before it becomes repetitious, but creator Takuma Morishige manages to throw a few curve balls along the way to keep things interesting. Seki doesn’t always “win” each conflict he has with Yokoi, and sometimes the confrontations end with no clear victor on either side. We also see, even in this first volume, Yokoi beginning to develop less of an antagonistic feeling toward Seki’s misbehavior and more of a willingness to condone it, if not allowing herself to take a complete interest in it. While each encounter is a self-contained short story, there’s an overall evolution that seems to be going on within straight-laced Yokoi.

Reading up on this series, and watching the anime (also worth checking out), I heard a lot of comparisons to Kiyohiko Azuma’s works (Daioh, Yotsuba), and while certainly not the same in style, there’s a definite vibe that could lump My Neighbor Seki in with those works. Call it “charming” for want of a better word, but you come off closing the book on the last page wanting more, wishing it could be longer, and knowing you’ve got to wait for the next volume to hit before you get to plunge back into this world. Part of this is Yokoi’s ongoing narrative – Seki never speaks – so Morishige has to rely on visuals like facial expressions and body posturing to get the point of the story across more often than not.

If you survived high school, chances are you knew someone who somehow managed to get through it without ever seeming to do a lick of actual work. Takuma Morishige takes that personality and amplifies it tenfold. You may also know someone who took school a little too seriously. While not as extreme as Seki, you’ll find that person in Rumi Yokoi. Put them together, and you’ve got a fun book that’ll amuse and entertain you, the only downside being its short length, which leaves you wanting more.

Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
(al@comicspectrum.com
)
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