What They Say:
He’s a pest. A menace. And worst of all, he sits next to her in class. All Yokoi wants is to be able to pay attention to her teacher’s lessons, but somehow her focus is always pulled away to what Seki is up to. Because he’s always up to something, whether it’s playing a game or building some mind-boggling creation on his desk. While their teacher is speaking! While Seki should be taking notes! And yet Yokoi is the only one who ever notices. She’s the only one who sees disaster looming as Seki’s nefarious plans slowly build to their evil fruition.
And worst of all, while Seki always seems to get away with it, the constant distractions and paranoia that he’s inducing in Yokoi keep getting HER into trouble! It’s just not fair! But despite the consequences, Yokoi finds herself unable to look away. To ignore him. So with every class, the tension and torture begin again!
The audio presentation for this release is a pretty solid one as we get the original Japanese language track plus the English dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. I really didn’t expect this to get a dub when they first picked it up so I’m pretty happy that we got one – and one that delivers well, particularly for non-anime fans that just want to enjoy the situations. Both tracks are pretty standard fare stuff however as there’s not a lot of big moments to this. The majority of it is just dialogue-based with some really fun music cues that hit well in ramping up the tone and tension along the way. There are a few “big” moments along the way where things get silly, but mostly it’s Yokoi’s dialogue and inner monologue that drives things here and it’s all well captured and conveyed.
Originally airing in 2014, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-one episodes are kept to a single disc here as each episode is about seven minutes long, giving it plenty of space to work with. Animated by Shin-Ei Animation, the series works a kind of basic school look with some creative CG material brought into it and some really fun details along the way. It’s a show that may not look like much when you first get into it, but as it progresses and reveals more of itself you have to admire some of the creative tricks it uses. The coloring is fairly basic as it works the usual school design but there are some great moments of pop and vibrancy, especially on the CG side, which gives it some additional life. The show in general has a solid appearance with this transfer as colors and clean and problem-free and fans of it will be largely pleased by it.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the single disc for the series. With this edition, we thankfully get a new cover as the original cover wasn’t a favorite even as it did the trick. With this cover, we get Seki at his desk doing all kinds of things while a frustrating Yokoi is beside him, aghast that he’s once again getting away with it all and that she’s the one likely to end up in trouble over it. The back cover goes in a more straightforward form with a chalkboard taking up most of the space where the premises is broken out and we get the image of Seki and Yokoi together at their desks as he’s really getting into more trouble. The few shots from the show are colorful and eye-catching themselves and we get a good listing of the episode count, which doesn’t make clear the running time. The remainder is the usual elements of the production credits and the technical grid, all of which works well.
The menu design for this is somewhat weak in a way as it’s focused on the episodes themselves as they’re the main navigation piece. With twenty-one of them, well, they dominate about 80% of the screen as done on a chalkboard. They’re easy to navigate and get around with as is the submenus for language and extras, but it’s such a big piece of real estate here that it just looks a little unwieldy. The artwork we do get of our two leads is kept to the right side and it’s cute enough to be sure, but it left me wishing we had more artwork for it here and a different approach to the menus. Everything works right and is problem-free, which is the most important part in the end.
The only extras included are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Based on the manga by Takuma Morishige, Tonari no Seki-kun has eight volumes released so far since it began in the seinen magazine Comic Flapper back in 2010. The show is one that has a certain appeal for me from the start simply because it goes with a seven-minute run time rather than trying to overdo with a longer run time that can drag a gag through the mud. The short-form anime boom of the last few years frustrates many, understandably so, but there’s a real appeal to it in terms of comedy to be able to do some very fun, tight and well-written shows in that format. It’s a challenge that definitely works the creative staff well and can push them in excellent ways.
The show revolves around the pairing of Yokoi and Seki, two classmates that are at the back of their middle school class. Yokoi comes across as someone who wants to do well and tries to study, but she’s continually drawn in by the things that Seki does as he’s pretty bored by it all. Such is the case here in first period where he draws out dozens of erasers in order to build something with them. Yokoi is pretty nice in that she wants to make sure he doesn’t get into trouble, but all that she does just gets Seki’s ire since he wants to concentrate on his game of dominos that he’s crafting. Pretty elaborately at that when you get down to it, which is definitely reminiscent of some friends of mine in school back in the day who went on to some pretty interesting things as adults.
The show has no real overarching storyline so you really can, for the most part, just randomize what you watch with it. There are small callbacks along the way that are fun but I like that it stands alone and you can just dig into it without worrying about a big picture. So we’ll just talk about a few episodes that click really well for us. After spending an episode watching Seki build an elaborate eraser domino gag worked great and I loved seeing Yokoi deal with it, but it can go only so far in some ways. Such is the case in the second episode as we see him with his latest little item, a variety of shogi tiles in a box that he pulls out.
Since he’s pretty bored in class, he ends up drawing a board on his desk in ink and starts playing the game against himself. But not quietly, which kind of throws everyone else off since they’re not sure what the sound is. What makes the whole game amusing is that he plays it in a way where his own troops betray their leader and we get a twisted leader that’s just going beyond the bounds of how the game actually works. It’s pure fantasy playing in a very comical way, especially through his imagination, but what makes it even more fun to watch is Yokoi’s running commentary as she envisions it as an actual battle and tries to understand how it’s unfolding. She takes it so seriously and personally that you just get caught up in what she’s saying as much as what Seki is doing.
With the sixth episode, we get a disaster drill session that’s going to happen but Seki is totally enthralled with the toy robot he brought in that day. Of course, it’s not just the main robot he has but rather a cute little robot family that he’s messing around with. And when the disaster drill comes along, he has them doing the same exact thing, though he himself is completely bored by it whereas the toys are taking it ultra seriously. And that, strangely enough, has Yokoi totally taken in by the toys and admiring them. She ends up getting so into it, like everything else, that she ends up becoming the one that gets possessive about them and tries to put Seki in his place over it to good effect.
With the seventh episode, the show again puts Yokoi in that kind of weird position that changes things up nicely. The focus is on note sharing, which she sees others in front of her doing which turns far more complicated when Seki starts doing it. He essentially starts up a postal system with it, complete with stamps, and begins tossing them around. It’s an amusing acknowledgment by others in class to Seki’s weirdness and he totally goes overboard with it, though of course, she ends up getting drawn into it because her friend uses it. It is comical just how detailed Seki’s postal system becomes and how Yokoi can’t help but to follow its rules. When it’s open! It all naturally spirals out of control and you have to love how Seki sets all of this up.
With most of the episodes focusing on events in the classroom, the thirteenth one shifts us to the outside a bit as the gym class with the pool is involved here as the kids learn some basic safety lessons and the like. Of course, while Yokoi is doing her best, Seki has brought his toys to the pool and is generally just goofing off with friends and getting away with it. Amusingly, she does her best to hide the toys for a bit so that he can focus on the actual lesson at hand, but it goes badly when one of the other kids in the class finds them and starts messing with them, which she’ll obviously feel really badly about. That leads her to doing her best to rescue things and it’s just cute to see the way she deals with this, realizing her mistake and doing her best to fix it before Seki can find out and really get upset, since he is kind of childish in a lot of ways.
While I do like when the series breaks from the norm and gets out of the standard classroom, it does have a different feeling to it that keeps it from being just as enjoyable. There’s less of a focus on Seki and his antics and when that happens, like it does here, it just feels like it’s not as sharp and funny as it is when he’s coming up with his creative ideas. I do like the pool shift and how Yokoi tries to get Seki to ignore his toys for a bit and focus on the class, but it just kind of spills out in a weird way that doesn’t really grab you the same as other episodes.
Another later episode deals with the pair in health class where Seki is definitely looking to ignore what’s going on and he’s pulled out his shogi set for more fun – this time with chess pieces on one side and the shogi on the other in order to wage war. And it’s a pretty intense battle in the dark as the class watches a film and the chess pieces overwhelm the shogi pieces, and that just panics Yokoi in a big way so that she has to get involved herself. Which is done pretty creatively as she begins to slide pieces there herself which changes the course of the fight as Seki isn’t sure what’s going on. His panic is utterly hilarious as it goes on though since the pieces just keep reappearing and Yokoi’s ghost-like presence from the previous episode feels even more powerful here to great effect.
While Yokoi usually does get invested in the things that Seki does through her imagination and she’s gotten involved from time to time, she takes a more involved approach this time around that really gets under his skin and is just hilarious to watch. It’s riskier than she usually is when it comes to interacting with him but it works out well since we see just how proud of herself she is, which of course has its own issues along the way that adds a bit of fun to the mix. Yokoi and Seki definitely have an amusing relationship here and getting the environment changed up a bit definitely works to its advantage to tell a fun and comical story.
The series finale is one that’s a rather amusing as it has a much-needed twist; Yokoi’s teacher has called her into the office to talk about how she seems so distracted recently and that she needs to get things back on track. What she overhears there though is that a surprise personal belongings inspection is about to happen in homeroom and she hopes that Seki will get caught and his things taken away, which will help settle down the problem a bit of her distraction. Unfortunately for her, Seki has brought in the robot family to play with and she’s quite attached to them and starts to worry what will happen to them since she’s so invested in the family and their actions. There’s a lot of fun as Seki doesn’t quite get what’s going on at first and goes in the wrong direction to deal with the inspection, but the bulk of the fun comes from the way Yokoi is so invested in everything. Of course, things have to go in a bad way for Yokoi in the end but it’s comical just seeing how invested she gets in things.
Tonari no Seki-kun is a series that I could watch for years and I’ll be glad with each re-release and price drop there is for it. There’s a lot of creativity that can go into time wasting and I fondly remember much of what my friends and I did back in our school days. Seki’s abilities are second to none here and it’s great to see what he comes up with and just how much it both frustrates and fascinates Yokoi. While the series could function without her, her presence brings it so much more as our view into the world and as someone who ends up being the one caught in Seki’s web of mischief. The show may not be overly long in terms of running time, but this is a series you pull out regularly to share with others and revisit it yourself. Sentai put together a solid release here and while it’s basically the same as before, just $10 cheaper list, it’s worth making sure you have it in your collection.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: C+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 7th, 2020
Running Time: 168 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.