Tonari no Seki-kun is a short-form comedy that made its début in the Winter 2014 anime season. The series is told from the perspective of high school student Rumi Yokoi. Rumi’s class experiences aren’t the same as those of other students. She’s seated next to Seki Toshinari, procrastinator extraordinaire. Day after day, week after week, he finds new ways to goof off during the daily lectures, much to Rumi’s fascination and concern.
In the first episode of the series, aptly titled “Dominos,” Seki-kun’s fascination is makeshift dominos. Through the course of the episode, Rumi continues to glance over at his work, which goes undisturbed by the teacher’s lectures and exercises. With each look, Seki’s display grows more elaborate and impressive. From a few carefully placed erasers to a makeshift see-saw, to a setup that would make the old Domino Rally commercials seem like poorly planned pieces of shit. Seki’s setup is a thing of beauty, of such careful planning and execution that one must marvel at just how he could set it up in a single class. To top it off, the display’s finale is a grand firework that- wait… firework?! How the heck will he pull that off without blowing his cover?!
Tonari no Seki-kun is an interesting series, in the fact that there is very little dialogue. The titular Seki actually has no dialog whatsoever in the show’s first episode. Aside from Rumi’s occasional chiding and reminding Seki that he shouldn’t be goofing off, most of the action is conveyed through Rumi’s thoughts. Her reactions are vocalized through shocked, often terrified narrations, as she unwittingly delivers a breathless play-by-play commentary on Seki’s current project. When she’s not delivering the running narrative, poor Rumi’s often being chewed out by her teachers for her inability to pay attention to the current lecture.
Though there is little real dialogue, the series seems to ooze charm. The body language of the characters, from Rumi’s wide-eyes gawks, to Seki’s accusatory glares when Rumi causes him to slip up, is simply fabulous. Every expression, every action seems to contribute to the overall personality of the characters. The sight gags are well-executed, with satisfying payoffs. The animation is surprisingly strong for a series of this format, especially during the big domino rally finale that inevitably occurs at the end of the episode.
While the show wouldn’t stand as a thirty-minute series, Tonari no Seki-kun thrives in its five-minute format. The presentation is strong, and the jokes tend to be legitimately funny. So long as the show is able to provide scenarios that are as fun to watch as this first episode, Tonari no Seki-kun will quickly become the type of title that wins over audiences inside and out of the niche.