Tonari no Seki-kun

Tonari no Seki-kun is a show that doesn’t really invite thorough deconstruction or analysis in the same way that other shows do. When I lifted Re:Zero up onto its lofty pedestal, I tried to make the point of how deep and well thought out the story was and how interesting the core characters were, but Seki-kun is hardly a show that rides off its interesting plot and excellent characterization. So, what is it that makes this show so good? Well, for starters, if you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about from the get go, Tonari no Seki-kun—otherwise known in English as Seki-kun, The Master of Killing Time—is a favorite classic of mine. A comedy show with short episodes and skits akin to those of Joshiraku and Aho-Girl (both of which I compared to this show when I watched them), I’ve referenced it countless times when talking about comedy shows or comedic elements and have consistently held it up as being the golden standard for comedy over the years. The formula is deceptively simple, and it’s a huge part of what makes the show so compelling; Yokoi, the female protagonist, is a student who sits next to a boy by the name of Seki-kun. Luckily for him, he sits at the very back corner of the classroom (as in the usual anime protagonist desk) and uses that to his advantage, doing all sorts of insane stunts and playing all kinds of ridiculous games to kill time… and that’s it. The show focuses on not only the ridiculously elaborate nature of Seki-kun’s games, but also on Yokoi, her reactions to them, and how she slowly but surely begins to obsess over Seki-kun’s antics to the point where she is unable to focus in class and even becomes directly involved a few times. It’s extremely simple, but it also works extremely well. Most of that has to do with the infinite potential of the show’s premise; you, the viewer, never have a single fucking clue what Seki-kun will pull out of his bag next, and even then it can be even more difficult to guess what he’s going to do with it after the fact. It’s simple, and it’s consistent, but it’s also consistently funny. Despite Seki-kun being an almost entirely silent protagonist, the very nature of his games and general behavior paints a very complete picture of his personality; you know how people say “Boys don’t grow up, their toys just get bigger”? That’s pretty much Seki-kun in a nutshell; a professional who takes every single game he plays far too seriously to the point where it is supremely endearing and interesting. You somehow end up sympathizing with both of the show’s main characters; Yokoi, who just wants to focus in class but keeps getting sucked into Seki-kun’s elaborate games, and Seki-kun himself who takes each and every one so seriously that you can’t help but get sucked in too. As far as Yokoi is concerned, there’s a definite straight man element to her character, but she manages to toe the line between playing the part of the straight man and playing along when the time is right. A big part of what makes the show so funny is actually the relationship between both of its main characters, which is nothing short of impressive when you consider one of them is completely silent throughout its entire runtime. You could even go so far as to say Yokoi herself is an integral element in making a lot of the various skits work at all. At about 24 seven or eight minute long episodes total with the specials and OVA included, it’s a quick watch that you can either quickly finish in a single sitting or span out over a longer period of time so that each episode feels more fresh. The show is well animated with a very particular art-style and presentation that looks great and thematic. With a great opening and especially ending song that fit well with the show’s theme and a relatively subdued but still memorable OST, you can’t help but feel like everybody involved with the show’s creation was thoroughly enjoying themselves. All-in-all, it’s a classic; but you didn’t really need me to tell you that, considering how heavily I’ve praised it over the years. Also, naturally, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, especially after recently rewatching the whole show; some skits are better than others, and you get the feeling that the writers weren’t necessarily running out of ideas, but definitely using up a lot of their best ideas towards the beginning. Yet despite that the whole thing is super fun to watch and memorable; I hadn’t watched the show for years up until an hour or two ago, but it felt like I had just seen all the episodes yesterday. I say that it’s consistently funny despite its simplicity, but you could even argue that its various skits are deceptively complex, contrasting the seemingly simple premise; it’s similar to Joshiraku, actually, not just in the basic sense I’ve already expressed, but in its approach—Joshiraku, an anime filled with “lots of normal dialogue”, plays off of that very same false pretense in order to set up skits that quickly spiral out of control, very similar to how Seki-kun does things. At the end of the day, if you haven’t already seen Seki-kun, I’d urge you to; it’s been a favorite anime of mine for a very long time and is absolutely worth giving a shot.

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