Barring a few exceptions, the recent outbreak of short form anime has been completely disposable. Tonari-no Seki-kun proves that not only are anime shorts worth giving a look, they are capable of being just as rewarding on a weekly basis as any normal length series. To be fair, Seki-kun clocks in at about seven minutes an episode or twice the length of your average anime short, so it does have a bit more time to develop from week to week. But on the flipside you could also say it manages to be incredibly satisfying in a third of the time of a normal anime episode, so it’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless.
In those seven minutes Seki-kun manages to pack in a fantastic mix of absurdist humor and subtle relationship building, somehow drawing our main characters convincingly closer together despite one of them never uttering a single intelligible word. Your mileage may vary on the jokes as they mostly consist of the time honored “straight man (or woman in this case) freaking out over something weird” setup, usually caused by some kind of misunderstanding. Personally I found it hilarious, and when you add in the creative absurdity of Seki-kun’s various time wasting activities you can never say the series is boring.
As funny as it is though, the real brilliance of Seki-kun is in the tacit friendship between the main characters. Seki-kun never talks but he doesn’t have to. His creativity, passion, and talent shine through in his masterful attempts at fighting off boredom. You can’t help but smile as Yokoi fails miserably at resisting her fascination with him. Even though she’s supposed to be the straight woman, her reactions reveal her imagination is just as wild as our title character. We talk a lot around here about how we like “show, not tell” characterization and Yokoi and Seki-kun’s silent complicity is a perfect example.
With school supplies, old board games, toy robots, and whatever else Seki-kun can smuggle in his bag, the two stage an unambitious, low stakes rebellion against their boring daily life and remind us we don’t have to settle for the ordinary and mundane. It’s the perfect message for a comedy like this, delivered without a hint of pretentiousness or cynicism. Seki-kun never gets serious or loses its sense of fun and yet it’s still satisfying enough that you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time. Between that and the fact that you can watch the entire series in about two and a half hours, you’d have to really hate having fun or enjoying life to skip this. If you still need convincing, join me in listening to the song below and paying one last passionate tribute to everyone’s favorite mechanical family. MINNA DAISUKI, SCRAMBLED EGGS!!!
Seki-kun has set the bar high for comedies this year. In seven minutes this show has managed to pack all the heart and hilarity of full length shows and more. Really, such a short format lends so well to gag shows that I’m surprised more aren’t using this format. In most comedies, the action in each episode is usually broken up into chunks to begin with. I feel this might become the natural progression of how conventional comedy anime are made.
Part of the reason this formula worked so well is that Kana Hanazawa really sells her role. With Yokoi being the only voice in almost every episode, that voice needed to be able to play a lot of hats. This is a job Kana Hanazawa has excelled at for some time now. Listening to her go from frustration to confusion to even adoration, every voice is given the right amount of emotion without overreaching into hammy territory.
One of my favorite parts was just how much you could project into the very nature of Yokoi and Seki’s relationship. While the show seems to start with the two characters in total enmity of each other, as the show goes on we get little teases that show their relationship changing as it goes on. In the beginning, Yokoi seems legitimately angry that Seki’s nonsense is getting in the way of her concentration. By the time it’s over, she clearly only uses it as an excuse to justify why she gets drawn into his world. It might be reading too much into it, but it’s kind of cute to think that maybe Seki-kun is creating these scenarios to get Yokoi’s attention. Enough of them seem to be meant to provoke her that it seems hard to believe it’s all unintentional. It’s the great amount of interpretation in Seki-kun, like that of Yokoi’s own imaginings, that made this show such a fantastic ride from start to finish.