MANGA REVIEW | "My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over!" - Volume One
Every person has had that fantasy of meeting someone famous. But if the opportunity ever came, the thoughts of what one would say or do would come crashing into their brain like water from a bursted dam. Now imagine what would happen if you somehow managed to share the same class with that celeb. This situation is what happens to Sakiko Manaka, the main focus of Tetsu Tsusui & Koyubi Sugawara’s My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over!
Manaka is very shy high schooler who has a big love for the pop idol group Spring Sunshine. Her favorite member is Chihiro Yoshida, whose shy personality made her feel relatable to her. After flubbing her introduction, she sits herself down next to her neighbor, embarrassed by the situation. That’s when the neighbor stands up and begins to speak: “My name is Chihiro Yoshida. I just moved here not that long ago, so I’m a little nervous.”
Instantly, Manaka’s mood changes between being excited and worried. On one hand, she’s excited to be in the same class as her favorite idol; but she’s nervous about letting Chihiro know of her fandom. As time goes by, the two students become close friends, with Chihiro feeling grateful for Manaka’s support. However, another fellow student and Spring Sunshine fan, Maaya Tozawa, could make things difficult for both Manaka and Chihiro.
When My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! begins, it has a feel-good vibe hitting the eyes. The shy Manaka manages to break from her cocoon when she and Chihiro have a moment to themselves, with the idol being glad to have someone in their corner. It opens the door for a fun friendship, with the possibility of the two friends tightroping over Chihiro’s idol life and school life. Alas, a character like Maaya has to come in and ruin all of the fun!
There have been stalker-y characters in music-based series; it’s par for the course, after all. But what I don’t like is how they normalize Maaya’s antics and bullying, with her treatment of Manaka when Chihiro isn’t around being just downright awful! Although she starts to play a little nice with Manaka, her internal personality doesn’t cool down in the slightest. She’s a lot like Ren Yamai in Komi Can’t Communicate, whose presence ruins almost all of the fun of that series.
Fortunately, there’s some good that can be found in When My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! The way Manaka starts to build confidence thanks to Chihiro is pretty endearing, and her freakouts when she acts more like a fan than a friend can be pretty funny. How the two (and Maaya) take on various student clubs has their own charming elements, with some silly back talk when certain clubs criticize Chihiro’s tryouts. But the real spark of the narrative comes in the form of a guerrilla performance story.
After Manaka joins the photography club, she (and Maaya) unlock clues on Spring Sunshine’s Twitter account over some mysterious photos. Once they decode the hints, Manaka starts to practice taking idol photos, using a reluctant Maaya as a stand-in. But at the show, Manaka finds herself lost in the performance, with even her fellow club member Masato being swept up by the live energy. And at just the right moment, a bit of magic happens between Manaka and Chihiro, the kind that occurs in the blink of an eye!
My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! has a rough start, no thanks to Maaya’s personality. However, the end of its first volume does deliver a stellar payout that’ll make any fan of idol stories want to stick around to see what happens next. If one can sit through the uncomfortable parts to get to the sweeter moments, then My Idol Sits the Next Door Over! will find a way to win you over. If not, then there are plenty of other idol manga & anime you can watch that’s more happy-go-lucky!
Promotional consideration provided by Tomo Tran of Kodansha Manga