I bet we have all done stupid things when killing time in uninspiring school classes. I used to play draughts with my neighbour on a sheet of squared paper. Hey, you had to do something to make the time go faster when you were bored of hearing about ox-bow lakes. But have you ever made a huge domino Rube Goldberg machine? No? Well now there is a show dedicated to just such a thing!
Yokoi Rumi spends her time at school at the very back of the class sat next to Seki Toshinari, a lad who manages to spend his time farting around with all manner of strange diversions instead of actually paying attention in class. Of course, Yokoi is the only one who ever notices Seki’s antics, much to her consternation. Despite continuously admonishing Seki for ignoring the lesson in progress, she ends up engrossed by whatever he is doing, perhaps more so than even he is.
The subtitle that has been added to the show’s name for streaming is Master of Killing Time, which I oscillate between liking and thinking is really dumb. On one hand, it sums up the show really well. On the other, it makes Seki sound like a wizard with a really crap ability. That being said, Seki does have the magical ability to get away with some crazy stuff without being seen by the teacher or anyone else in class who is not Yokoi, such as making a huge run of dominos, playing an overly dramatic game of shogi, or other such activities that he has stashed away in his TARDIS-like schoolbag.
The main problem I have with Seki-kun is that the whole show feels lethargic - everything is drawn out and lifeless and so it is rather hard to get invested in the wacky shenanigans on display. Perhaps it is a sign that Teekyu’s high-octane pace has ruined me, but for the majority of my time watching Seki-kun I found myself constantly looking at the time elapsed on the Crunchyroll player, passive-aggressively urging the show to hurry things along. There is simply not enough material present in an episode to comfortably fill seven and a half minutes of running time, and what is there ends up being stretched out. The events portrayed are well-realised but lose their impact from being spread out over too long a time and so end up feeling flabby, losing the crispness and the sharp edge that you would expect from such absurdist events and commentary. The original manga chapters being adapted weigh in at thirteen pages of very swift moving action and manic cuts, and a lot of that immediacy and punch is lost in this adaptation.
This lifelessness extends to the voice performance put in Hana Kanazawa, who admittedly has the unenviable task of carrying the majority of the show’s “action” through constantly wigging out over whatever Seki-kun is up to via inner monologue. Sadly her performance is affected by the same lethargy as the overall pacing and while she does have her moments the voice acting just doesn’t sell you on the situation. It comes across as a tepid, workmanlike performance which is a shame as we have already seen just how bananas she can get from her work in Monogatari Second Season.
The visuals continue this pattern - they look fine, but nothing more. The slow pace of the show kills any flash or punch in the visual presentation, even when it goes on any of its more flashy tangents. The characters expressions, particulaly those of Yokoi, are pretty great however and do a lot to salvage the comedy in the show.
I can’t find another paragraph to slot this comment into, but man is the opening song terrible! Awful! It sounds like a basket of harassed cats. The accompanying animation itself is actually quite nice, being a hyper compressed version of Seki-kun making an animation itself - a nice meta touch that again makes me long for the show that comes after to have a similar rapid pacing.
Seki-kun has the material to be an amusing comedy, but squanders it through trying to spread out over too long a run time. It’s a shame as every now and then a small spark of brilliance or a damn good idea will shine through, but then quickly be subsumed by long stretches of mediocrity that squander the joke.
You can currently watch Tonari no Seki-kun in streaming form via Crunchyroll.