My Neighbor Seki Volume 1
My Neighbor Seki volume 1 by Takuma Morishige is something truly unusual — a refreshing read that celebrates curiosity, creativity, and imagination. It’s the kind of series that would never be created over here, but not because of weird cultural reasons or fan service or any of the other manga stereotypes. I can’t see someone here putting out a successful series about subtle battles with authority, about doing your own thing on your own. In this country, it would be much larger and feature direct confrontation and validation of Seki’s activities, instead of simply being a small dose of weirdness.
My Neighbor Seki is quiet but fascinating. Yokoi and Seki sit next to each other at the back of the class. Seki doesn’t pay attention — instead, he does bizarre, wonderful things at his desk, distracting the good girl Yokoi from her work.
For instance, Seki uses erasers (a lot of erasers) to create a domino chain of effects. Or he turns chess pieces into warriors for a battle. Or he creates animations out of go pieces or sets up a mail service for class notes or knits or does origami.
Sometimes the events leave the classroom. One story features outdoor activities, as Seki paints cat faces using a line marker (normally used for ruling a field). Another has an insensitive classmate interfering with a Ouija board reading during science lab.
My favorite was the disaster drill chapter. Seki has been playing with a robot family — only since he’s Seki, they don’t battle, they have cozy domestic scenes — and takes them along to do the right things during the practice emergency.
Seki never gets caught by the teacher — he’s got an almost magical ability to clear his activities away in a second — but Yokoi is often called out for not paying attention. Their emotions, expressed silently (or through internal monologue), are cartooned beautifully, as are Seki’s activities, particularly those that feature a slow reveal of what he’s actually doing.
This series is marvelous. I never knew what would happen next, and reading it made me appreciate the wonder in everyday activities while being more content with small moments of imagination. (The publisher provided a review copy.)