Comic Picks By The Glick

My Neighbor Seki vol. 1

May 12, 2015

It’s a simple premise:  Seki goofs off in elaborate ways in class while the girl who sits next to him, Yokoi, reacts to his actions.  One would think that such a setup wouldn’t be enough to sustain an entire volume, but mangaka Takuma Morishige proved in the first volume that it had real legs in his hands.  Not only was there a great amount of variety to Seki’s antics, but Yokoi’s interactions ran a wide gamut themselves.  There were times when she suffers in class due to the mischief taking place next to her, or her pride was wounded at the end of things.  Yet there were as many if not more instances where she either found herself a willing participant in Seki’s schemes, creating a narrative to them in her head, or got one over on him at the end.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the first volume.  It got to the point where I kept checking the upcoming manga release list on Anime News Network to find out when this second volume would be arriving.

My copy arrived a while ago, but it was absolutely worth the wait!  This second volume shows that the first wasn’t a fluke and Morishige has lots of new ways for Seki to distract his neighbor.  From card tricks, flower arranging with his feet, golf on a pockmarked desk, and the mountain-climbing exploits of a brave teddy bear, the new stuff is consistently inventive and entertaining.  The mangaka also shows that he knows how to put new spins on things that were employed in the previous volume -- othello, the robot family -- in ways that make them come off as welcome recurring motifs.  He even broadens the scope of the series by having one story take place on a school trip, and introducing a third player to the action:  Goto, a schoolgirl who occasionally sits behind the two, and consistently mistakes their interactions as being those of a couple who are deeply in love with each other.  It’s an amusing idea, and credible up to the point where you start wondering why she never sees what’s actually going on with these two.

Yeah, it’s just a slice-of-life story about how two students interact with each other over some unlikely circumstances.  Yet “My Neighbor Seki” has shown more invention and creativity in these two volumes than most series do in their entire runs.  Now I’m back to reminding myself about when volume three will arrive (in July).

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

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