We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 13 of
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN ?
The good news is that We Never Learn has already been confirmed for a second season. As lukewarm as I've been on the show sometimes, it's nice to know that it will get the opportunity to develop its story beyond this introductory cour. It also means this last episode of the season can be judged just as a mere pausing point, rather than any attempt at a true finale. That's for the best since, apart from being maybe a bit more reflective than usual, this thirteenth installment of We Never Learn comes across as just another episode of the show's usual shenanigans. So if you've been a fan of that thus far, this will work for you, and get you ready for more later on.
Like I said, what this episode does do is be reflective about the show's premise and what it does with the execution. The short opening segment has Sekijo invited over to Rizu's house to study with the girls in place of Nariyuki, which springboards into a discussion of how effective the boy actually has been as a tutor. His naturally helpful, self-offering nature makes it easy for him to get caught up in assisting people. This is the most we've gotten as portents of the possible future of the series, as Sekijo remarks that these same qualities that make Nariyuki suited to tutoring could lead to him having issues in any romantic relationship he winds up in later.
This all feels like just a passing idea thrown out for the sake of this being the last episode, since it doesn't factor too much into what's presented in the rest of it. Sure, the story still concerns Nariyuki at a festival running into each of the girls and as-usual being coerced into helping them one way or the other, but that's par for the course. What this is all really showing off is how Nariyuki's relationships with all these leading ladies has evolved by this point in the series. It's demonstrated how things are still awkward between him and Uruka over their unresolved romantic tension, or how he's able to be quite candid with the previously-chilly Kirisu. And the thing is, it never feels too in-your-face with this character development, it's carried naturally by the presentation. As down as I get sometimes on We Never Learn for being too low-key, that works in this situation, selling the breezy atmosphere of the festival and these characters going about their time in it.
This whole first half at the festival is mostly just harmlessly pleasant, a way for viewers to kill time with characters they've come to like in a way that's hard for me to really criticize. Sure I could bring up the oddly sexualized little scene of Nariyuki feeding Rizu a candy apple, or complain about the relatively low amount of Asumi content, but as We Never Learn tends to be, it's all just ‘fine’ for what it is. So thankfully, the episode does deliver some slightly meatier content in its second half, to appease me, someone who's perhaps too conceptually demanding of lightweight romance-comedy anime.
Focusing on Fumino the most for the season's send-off seems like a slightly odd choice, though I was just thinking that she hadn't gotten much true time in the spotlight lately. And the setup getting her and Nariyuki together is a grab-bag of tropes that will make shippers and fanfic writers happy: They have to get a hotel room together, and there's only one futon?! Oh and they're also pretending to be brother and sister, which would seem weirder if it wasn't an element alongside Nariyuki's repeated remarks this episode about how girls smell. Fumino herself actually seems mildly out of character for the first part of this situation, acting goofier and more flustered in a way that I suppose is meant to indicate her slow-burning crush on Nariyuki becoming more pronounced.
But this rom-com contrivance still pays off in the kind of more sincere storytelling I expect from a season finale. Fumino demonstrating her love and ability for stargazing and using that to flashback to her mother is the kind of character work all these girls should get at some point. It fits in with the story's ideas of why we study and learn things: Not simply for obligatory societal achievements, but because we wish to obtain new experiences that can bring us closer to people, those still in our lives and those who aren't. One thing I think I've always given We Never Learn is how strong its theming actually is, and this personal discussion between Nariyuki and Fumino is another demonstration of that. The disparate merits of their reasons for studying and learning are ones I hadn't really considered between the characters until now. Fumino has a lofty goal, a dream she's chasing, while Nariyuki simply pursues his studies as a means to help and provide for his family. Both are noble and worthwhile in their own way, and it's interesting how the show continually portrays the pursuit of knowledge as a means to an end rather than attaining it for its own sake. It's something that's helped humanize that characters and what they're doing.
So all my navel-gazing on the subject of this funny little anime's studious themes means that must have worked for me, at the end of this episode. It's indicative of We Never Learn overall, in that it can be far too low-key for me at times, but it still has some things it does very well occasionally, and can impress me. We'll have to see next season if the series can apply itself and make the most of what works about it, while hopefully leaving most of the chaff behind.
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