Yokoi would be your average high school girl if it weren’t for one thing: her neighbor Seki. You see, the boy who sits next to her in class doesn’t just goof off. He elevates it into an art form. Creating an ersatz domino rally with erasers, turning his desk into a shogi board, creating a giant chess piece out of other chess pieces, and demonstrating his origami skills are just a few of the activities he engages in. What would seem like a simple and formulaic setup for a manga actually turns out to be much more in mangaka Takuma Morishige’s hands. The fifteen chapters in this first volume showcase a wide range of activities involving Seki’s desk that may push against your suspension of disbelief regarding their plausibility, but never quite break through it. Morishige gives the impression here that while there is clearly a formula at work here, it is only restricted by imagination. Of which the mangaka appears to have plenty.
He also gets great mileage out of the interaction between Yokoi and Seki. It would’ve been easy enough to have them fall into the familiar routine of him being the untouchable instigator and her being the exasperated victim of his antics. Though this is true in more than a few cases, Yokoi’s reactions to Seki’s antics show a welcome variety over the chapters in this first volume. While she can deliver a withering glare that shoots down Seki’s indignation at having his “Topple the Pole” game ruined, Yokoi finds herself a willing participant in several cases. Like when Seki literally lets the cats out of his bag and she tries to entice one over to her desk. It’s moments like these that caused my expectations to be subverted, and then ultimately surpassed. In this volume, “My Neighbor Seki” reveals itself to be as imaginative and diverting as the title character’s desktop creations.