Monday, June 22, 2015

My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishige

Yokoi wants to be a good student.

As for Seki, the boy who sits at the desk next to Yokoi, well, he rarely seems to be paying attention in class. Nope, instead Seki is busy creating a Rube Goldberg-esque domino course on his desk, or pulling out any number of unexpected things from his bag or his desk to create elaborate games or otherwise amuse himself, and yet no one except for Yokoi seems to notice this.

Seki's, and mangaka Takuma Morishige's imagination, is something to behold, as Seki's alternately amusing or weird or just stupendously creative ideas take shape on his desk. My Neighbor Seki is a deceptively simple manga. Each chapter follows the same formula: Seki starts working on something, Yokoi tells herself to focus on the teacher's lecture, but still can't help getting caught up in whatever it is Seki is doing. Within this simple framework, however, Morishige writes and draws a very fun and enjoyable comic, and you can't predict what Seki will devise next. Morishige's artwork is on the simpler, understated side compared to other manga I've read, and he makes great use of panels and page turns to depict Yokoi as realizes what Seki is up to. And you can't blame Yokoi for being distracted in class when Seki is so much more interesting.

The first two volumes of the My Neighbor Seki manga series have been published in the U.S. by Vertical. I do have to quibble with chapter 13, when Yokoi says Seki is knitting when he is obviously using a crochet hook, then continues to use the two terms interchangeably for a few more pages. I don't know if this is an error in the translation or the original Japanese, but it probably wouldn't bother anyone who doesn't knit or crochet. And when the crocheter is as creative and entertaining as Seki, this is a minor criticism. I don't know whether to be disappointed or thankful that I never had to sit next to someone like Seki in school, because I'm sure my reactions would have been very much like Yokoi's. In a manga, though? It's great.

Book details
My Neighbor Seki by Takuma Morishige, translated by Yoshito Hinton
Volume 1 (ISBN 978-1-939130-96-9) published in the U.S. January 2015 by Vertical

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