We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 11 of
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN ?
Asumi's introduction to We Never Learn turned out to be a highlight of the series. However, this character being pointedly more distinctive only throws the cliche simplicity of the other harem members into sharper relief. This episode brings Kirisu back for another turn in the spotlight, so she can discover how nice Nariyuki is. At least the show compensates us for our time by giving her some fanservice in the way of costume changes.
This all kicks off with Kirisu meeting Asumi at the maid cafe, which is somewhat expectedly the most interesting part of the episode. As the two adult ladies in Nariyuki's life, I was interested to see how they might interact. Ayumi being a former student of Kirisu's also seems ripe for exploration. We do get some teases of how Asumi and Kirisu will play off each other, and it's appreciably confirmed that Asumi can burn Kirisu to the ground as easily as she can anyone else. But those moments are interrupted when Kirisu causes an accident and gets roped into working at the maid cafe herself.
I only recently heard that Kirisu's main gimmick throughout We Never Learn is her bad luck conspiring to land her in various fetish outfits, so I guess it's no surprise that this episode would get that particular ball rolling. But it's not really played as a jarring punchline, since the whole bit is telegraphed well in advance. This is an issue We Never Learn tends to have in general, not firing off its romcom shenanigans rapidly enough to be a strong comedy, nor trusting us to be savvy enough to its genre conventions to cut the buildup and just get to the fireworks already. One of the main jokes of this maid Kirisu setup is that her natural ineptitude at house work lets her embody a ‘clumsy maid’ moe archetype that the cafe workers and patrons enjoy. But it takes so long to set up and pay off that one bit that it just feels like a cute aside being drawn out to diminished effect.
Thankfully, once that's passed, we get to go back to actually exploring Kirisu and Asumi as characters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Asumi comes out more interesting in the comparison; Kirisu's characterization just boils down to another refrain of ‘she's a hardass who didn't believe in her students’, but Asumi's response to this offers a new spin on things. She reveals that she's at least partially motivated to succeed in her quest for med school out of spite toward Kirisu, wanting to prove her former teacher wrong for not believing in her. It's delightfully in-character for Asumi and provides a more interesting springboard for Kirisu to keep interacting with the studying plots that drive the main story. It's certainly a more interesting angle than just having her and Rizu mutually respect but dislike each other a couple episodes ago. As Asumi explains, students trying to beat the odds need a sort of ‘rebellious spirit’ to keep that fight up. Having Kirisu embody that spirit makes her more than just another prop in the harem.
Unfortunately, immediately after the show gives us that appreciable new light to Kirisu's character, it goes right back to portraying her as just another prop in the harem. This time she's out of any clothes to wear besides her old school uniform, which she has to wear to go down to the school to pick up some documents. Events conspire to have her meet up with Nariyuki who helps her avoid the worst of the embarrassing situations that inevitably occur because of this contrivance. As with the maid thing, it's way more setup than necessary for such simple material. There's a whole section where Kirisu stumbles through explaining her situation to a police officer, necessitating that Nariyuki come to her aid, but then she admits that she really does have a reasonable explanation for being in the uniform. So the entire joke is based on a poor contrivance, makes no sense, and isn't all that funny. The episode is better when it's making jokes based on things that have nothing to do with the fetish outfit, like Kirisu's ridiculous street-racing habits.
Kirisu's always been a hard sell as a character in this story, with her antagonistic attitude towards the students rubbing up against her contractually obligated chemistry with Nariyuki. So when this episode isn't contriving weak jokes, it's shifting to more sincere places to try and humanize her more. The strongest of these moments comes in this second half, as she points out that pouring everything into her former figure-skating career left her with little time to make fond memories with high-school friends. Nariyuki's simple gesture of buying her ice-cream while ‘walking home from school with her’ in uniform works well on that level. Unfortunately, that moment passes too quickly and we're on to another wacky bit where Nariyuki and Kirisu are the absolute worst at hiding from Rizu and Fumino. I appreciate We Never Learn attempting to find more for Kirisu to do, but the results weren't so compelling unless you're specifically here to see the teacher in fetish outfits. If not, at least there are some more Asumi dunks.
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