In honor of Tonari no Seki-kun ending (for now) I ate dinner at Tonari Ramen last night (a local tanmen chain – very delicious). Happily this isn’t really the end, as the DVDs are going to feature several bonus episodes bringing the series total up to either 21 or 24, depending on who you believe. More Seki-kun is always a good thing – at barely 7:30 including the opening and closing credits, it just never feels like enough.
In truth, though, this is probably (along with shows like Chi’s Sweet Home and Poyopoyo-san in the 3-Meter Class) as perfect a candidate for a short series as you could ask for. I said from the beginning that this seemed like the case (“Normally I get upset when an adaptation I’m looking forward to is revealed to be a short series, but 10 minutes seems about the max that Tonari no Seki-kun could pull off” was how I put it in the preview), though in hindsight, I would have found a double-chapter 15-minute format even better. But that’s quibbling – despite it’s being a beloved Manga Taisho nominee, this is a very judicious and concise series that doesn’t need (and couldn’t survive) a lot of fluff and padding getting in the way.
Shin-ei pretty much nailed it from top to bottom with this adaptation. They got rock-solid veteran Mutoh Yuji (the man in charge of their Crayon Shin-chan franchise) to direct. They commissioned fantastic half-length OP and EDs that meshed perfectly with the material. And most importantly, they proved from the very first episode that they understood the hook with Morishige Takuma’s hilarious manga, what makes it funny – that it’s a smart musing on the difference between boys and girls (Morishige’s older sister wrote the Kuragehime manga, and I suspect their house must have been an interesting place), and that Yokoi is every bit as hooked on Seki-kun’s antics as he is.
In fact, I think you could go so far as to say it’s a very open question – who has the more vivid imagination, Seki or Yokoi? Seki is the creative one here, certainly, but the way Yokoi takes his antics and constructs elaborate fantasy scenarios around them is every fit as impressive. Seki is a boy who can’t sit still physically or intellectually (in other words, a boy), but Yokoi is completely addicted to the thrills his stunts provide her. She’s also a girl addicted to feeling like she’s much more mature and responsible than Seki-kun (in other words, a girl).
That’s it, really – Tonari no Seki-kun is just that great dynamic and the hilarious creations Seki-kun comes up with every week. These two are a perfect match, and their seiyuu as well – KanaHana is in her element here, as funny and charming as she’s been in years, and Shimono Hiro was the ideal choice to “voice” Seki. At first many questioned why Seki needed a seiyuu at all, but it soon became apparent that in anime form, it wouldn’t work if he was completely silent – and no one these kinds of verbal punctuation marks that HiroHiro. If Seki-kun had been a girl, she could only have been played by Aoi Yuuki.
As for the TV finale, it was just another example of the formula at work – which is what most of the episodes are, and why this isn’t an easy show to blog. It was nice to see the return of the robot family (and their theme song), and here they really played up that it may just be Yokoi (who it must be said is very… stout for a middle-school girl) who’s the real escapist here – Seki-kun didn’t really do all that much except bring the robots to the pool in the first place. But the point is this, I think – they were the only two people at the pool who really saw those robots as living beings with feelings. Whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know – I happen to think a robust imagination in childhood is a sign of good things to come in adulthood – but it definitely makes them both very likeable, and a great couple.