I haven’t blogged any short anime that I can remember, not beyond the first episode anyway. There have been some I’ve really liked – especially Poyopoyo and Chi’s Sweet Home among the three-minute class, Boku no Imouto wa Osaka Okan among the five-minute, and Namiuichigiwa no Muromi-san in the half-length – if I were ever going to blog one, that would have been it (in hindsight, I should have). But short series are a tough nut for a blogger to crack.
That brings us to Tonari no Seki-kun, which is actually the first anime adaptation of a manga I like where my first reaction was, “I hope it isn’t full-length”. The manga is hilarious, but I just couldn’t see any way a series like this could sustain 22 minutes. What you see in the premiere is very much what you get – Seki-kun (the title literally means “The Boy in the Seat Next to Me”, as Seki means “seat”) performing ridiculous feats with everyday (mostly) items, to the horror of Yokoi Rumi (Kanazawa Hana), who has the misfortune to sit next to him. And forget trying to blog it – “this week Seki-kun used erasers as dominoes and pretended to set off fireworks”.
As it turns out Tonari so Seki-kun is between 5 and 6 minutes without the (very clever) OP end ED. That’s fine, though I think two mini-chapters per episode would have been good too. There’s nothing fancy about the animation here, but the anime more or less manages to capture the wit of the manga. Tonari no Seki-kun is basically a musing on the short attention-span and wild imagination of young boys taken to an absurd extreme – it could hardly be simpler even if Seki-kun’s antics could hardly be more elaborate. It’s just funny, plain and simple, to watch him come up with his ridiculous constructions (the premiere is one of the tamest) as Yokoi looks on horrified and takes the fall for him (note the freakishly tall and broad boy who sits just in front of Seki-kun).
The anime has only made one substantial change from the manga, really, and that’s to make Yokoi’s reactions verbal instead of almost entirely an inner monologue. I can understand why they’ve done this, thinking it suits the visual medium better and wanting the two to have a “relationship”, but I’ll withhold judgement for now. In practical terms, in the manga Seki-kun for the most part seems unaware of Yokoi’s existence – here, they actually interact. Apart from that it’s a faithful interpretation of this very simple premise. As Seki-kun Shimono Hiro gasps and groans as you imagined he might when reading about Seki-kun, and KanaHana is appropriately unhinged by what she’s seeing. It totally works for me – it won’t change your life or anything, but for consistent laughter therapy I expect Tonari no Seki-kun to reliably deliver the goods.