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 IpsMoink.
There have been so many of these sorts of series since the first volume of Seatmate Killer came out in English that I had to struggle to remember which one it was for a bit. That said, unlike a lot of the sorts of series I mentioned just now, this is not a sweet and syrupy “they’re already a couple” romcom, it’s more of a “rehabilitation project” sort of romcom. The easiest comparison is with Rascal Does Not Dream, and indeed you could describe the plot to Seatmate Killer as “what if Sakuta and Koga were classmates and worked together to help his sister”. That said, Seatmate Killer needed something to separate itself from the pack, and it has decided that something is the com part of romcom. This series is here to be wacky, and it will not let you forget that until about 4/5 of the way through the book.
Yui and Yuuki are still much the same as they were at the end of the last book. She tries to get him to fall for her/teases him, he ignores her/tries to rehabilitate her tendency to do this, and they both pretend to be a couple in order to help his shut-in sister. Things are complicated with the arrival of Rio, Yui’s friend who has been dubbed the “seatmate breaker” by Yuuki’s friends as she tends to make everyone who sits next to her hate her. As it turns out, in reality Rio is a lonely, socially inept teenager who is desperate for Yui to validate her, and now Yuuki finds himself trying to help two different girls… which unfortunately ends up reading quite a lot like him cheating. Can a party help to resolve this, or will it just make everything worse?
As with the first book, the payoff in this volume is quite good, as each of the characters reveals depth that they normally tend to conceal. Mina, in particular, was impressive here, quietly mentioning to Rio that she is well aware that her brother and Yui are faking a relationship for her benefit, but is leaving it alone mostly as she thinks they make a good couple. The trouble is that we have everything before the payoff to get through before we get to that. Everyone has that friend who tries to hard to be funny and “on” all the time but just ends up exhausting and annoying everyone, and Seatmate Killer is this friend, as it’s simply too manic. Yui especially, though at least she admits that this is the mask she wears at the end. If this does get an anime, and liberally cuts some of the repetition, it could be fast-paced fun. But I was definitely sighing about halfway through and asking Rio “can you please just snap and have a breakdown soon so I can get to the good stuff?”
So this remains about mid-tier romcom, worth it for those who love the genre, but not essential.