Turning the Tables on the Seatmate Killer, Vol. 1

By Aresanzui and Sabimizore. Released in Japan as “Tonari no Seki ni Natta Bishoujo ga Hore Saseyou to Karakatte Kuruga Itsunomanika Kaeriuchi ni Shite Ita” by Monster Bunko. Released in North America by Tentai Books. Translated by Noor Hamdan.

Everyone talks a lot about how much they detest clichés, but a lot of the time they don’t really seem to mean it. What they detest are boring clichés. You really do enjoy seeing the seemingly stoic and grumpy guy or the bubbly and somewhat clumsy girl provided they’re written well. They’re types we love. The trouble is that most authors don’t know how to make those clichés come alive, and so you get a series of light novel protagonists that have been dubbed “potatoes” by fans. Replace them with a potato, and the story would be the same. Fortunately, it doesn’t require much to clear this low bar. Just… add a dash of realism to your cliché. Make them seem like a person who could exist in the real world. Doing this solves many issues. Fortunately, Seatmate Killer manages to do this quite well. I was surprised to find myself increasingly gripped by the characters.

The Seatmate Killer is Yui, a cute and popular high school girl who has had a lot of guys sit next to her, fall in love with her, confess… and get rejected. Every changing of seats brings a new guy and a new rejection. That said, if this IS deliberate she has a tough nut to crack when Yuuki sits next to her. A seemingly stoic man who doesn’t react to any of her overtures of conversation, he has no interest in her at all, and is puzzled that she keeps trying to get under his skin and get closer to him. Of course, Yui is not particularly doing this because she’s a tease, she has a very good reason for it. What’s more, Yuuki’s attitude also comes from a realistic place, and also involves his little sister, who manages to be weirder than he is.

As you can see, the two leads are types. The supporting characters also fit that bill. Mina is the classic little sister with an older brother complex, but she’s also fragile and emotionally devastated, and she and Yui have a lot more in common than you’d think. Maki, Yui’s older sister, is the classic teasing oneesama type, but also clearly cares and worries about Yui, and doesn’t want to see her hurt. As the book goes on we get deeper into Yuuki and Mina’s past, and Yuuki’s tendency to smile and go along with things unemotionally is put under the microscope. That, more than any banter at their shared classroom desks, is what allows the two to get closer. That said, this book is still relatively lighthearted, and there’s a lot of humor to be found in Yui’s freaking out about things or Yuuki’s po-faced reactions to her jokes and attempts at conversation. I would also like to note that if THIS is the Seatmate Killer, the other guys in their classroom are all the easiest of chumps. Sheesh.

I said on Twitter I think Tentai Books has a nice niche in sugary sweet romcoms, and this book certainly helps to add to that impression. I’ll be getting another volume. It’s clichéd… but in the right way.

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