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Team First Impressions: Tonari No Seki-Kun, Saki – The Nationals

Posted on the 07 January 2014 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

Tonari no Seki-Kun

Tonari no Seki-KunMaggie: On the contrary, Yokoi, there’s never been a more perfect moment for a triumphant fist than the airing of this series.

It’s a situation all too familiar–you’re sitting there in class, determined to pay attention despite the teacher’s monotonous voice that threatens to lull you to sleep at any second, when something diverts your attention out of the corner of your eye. One of your classmates is doing something so irrelevant, so distracting that for the rest of class you can’t look away.

And that’s what Tonari no Seki-kun is about.

The directing of this first episode is phenomenal. We start out, like Yokoi, listening to some lecture on historical Japan. It sounds boring, but Yokoi is trying her best to be a good student. Suddenly, she notices Seki playing with at first one eraser, then another. Already this is more interesting than the history lesson at hand. It becomes more and more absorbing as Seki’s imagination manifests itself in elaborate schemes (as Yokoi points out, his dominos set-up includes a cable car, fireworks, and stairs). As if Seki’s playtime wasn’t wacky enough, perhaps the real humor of the series is when Yokoi constantly gets in trouble because of Seki’s distractions. The irony is perfectly executed and balances out the episode.

Tonari no Seki-Kun

Seki’s dedication is admirable to say the least.

Admittedly, the animation is not that great (the characters look like some pre-teen’s attempt at Photoshop), but in a way it adds to the charm of the series because everything else is done with such detail that it feels like the animation style was an intentional choice and not lack of know-how. The sound, on the other hand, is simply incredible. Every minute sound made by Seki, from tapping his finger on his desk to intricately placing his dominos, is loud and clear, and intensifies the motif of being distracted. The voice-acting, as well, although mostly done by Kana Hanazawa (Rumi Yokoi), is superb and hilarious, especially her commentary of Seki’s domino creation in action and her reactions to his glares and behaviors.

The short time frame for each episode does not seem to hinder the gags at all. It actually feels like the perfect amount of time, although sadly you will probably find yourself wanting more after this first episode (I know I was). Tonari no Seki-kun is 7 minutes of pure bliss. This series will definitely be one I look forward to each week. I’m curious to see if the relationship between Seki and Yokoi will develop in any way–will they eventually become accomplices, or will Yokoi forever play the good student trying to change Seki’s ways?

Saki – The Nationals

Saki - The Nationals
Muse: In the first season, I wasn’t sure if the main character was wearing underwear. In Side-A, one of the major characters didn’t wear pants. And now we have a character who doesn’t feel like wearing a shirt. I fear what will happen in future seasons…

In all honesty though, it’s good to have a new Saki season. Side-A was…awkward, so I’ve been looking forward to the series getting back to the main storyline and finally moving forward with the tournament. However, this episode had other ideas.

I was expecting at least a bit of a recap, but the entire episode is a strange retcon and character introduction hybrid, covering pretty much every important character as well as giving a bit of screentime to some new ones. The main purpose of this seems to be to reconcile some of the events of Side-A into the main Saki story, which is welcome, but if you’re a complete newcomer to the franchise, don’t expect this episode to catch you up. It definitely assumes that the viewer has seen Saki and Side-A, and only briefly touches on the big details of the plot–which makes me wonder why it felt the need to recap and retcon in the first place. It also jumps around a bit in the timeline, going back to before the tournament started and then right back to where the last season left off. Aside from that, the premiere focused on going through the carousel of girls with a fair amount of fanservice.

Saki - The Nationals Screencap 3

Although I do have to give credit where it’s due for the floating towel censor.

Saki has always had fanservice, but a whole episode of just the large the large group of characters, a drive-by run through of their quirks, and the occasional lack of clothes felt hollow at best. I’m only here for the crazy mahjong battles, so I don’t really care about the show’s need to sexualize the entire cast… Honestly, all of this at once nearly put me off the season entirely. I want to see the tournament, not naked underage girls!

But that said, since it’s currently set to air for only one cour (barring the possibility of extra episodes or a split cour), it’s also possible that the production front-loaded all the fanservice so that there’s nothing but tournament matches from here on out. However, my high expectations going into this have been tempered. The familiar background music gave me a bit of a thrill, and the art style borrowed from Side-A works well with the show. But without crazy mahjong, it still doesn’t feel like Saki is back. Not yet, anyway.

These series are streaming on Crunchyroll.

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