We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 6 of
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN ?
Romantic comedies, Shonen Jump titles, and all the intersections between can sometimes take a while to come into their own. We Never Learn has been no stranger to the checklist of recurring genre building blocks, but all that waiting seems to have finally paid off, as the last couple episodes have been much stronger for their higher volume of content. Interestingly, it seems that putting the more distinctive tutoring elements of the show on the back-burner to focus on the romance itself has been a boon to the show, as the characters' affections grow to make their shenanigans more interesting. This episode is all over the place in terms of focus, but the central thread of Nariyuki and his charges becoming closer keeps it unified enough to be engaging all the way through.
This episode's first priority is to properly introduce another new character: Kirisu, the teacher and former tutor of the girls who's only been on the periphery of the story until now. Granted, even in her starring segment, she mostly functions as a straight-man to facilitate one of the show's funniest gags yet. Each of the girls busting in to futilely ‘explain’ their improbable romcom antics with Nariyuki was a great way to recap how things have gone for everyone so far, with poor Nariyuki delivering his own ‘stop helping me’ reactions. We don't get much to define Kirisu as a character beyond her coldly analytical nature, contrasted with her apparent willingness to give Nariyuki the benefit of the doubt in the face of his tutoring success. Her remarks paint her as someone similar to the girls who ended up having to pursue her natural talents instead of developing what she actually wanted to do, which allows her to let her guard down and develop alongside the other characters later.
For now though, this segment mostly seems to exist for some comedy, recapping the status quo, and making sure we're aware of how Nariyuki and Rizu's accidental kiss will affect the rest of the cast. Rumors spread, and Uruka's conflicted concealed-crush complications can only continue to worsen as this situation carries on. As with last episode, We Never Learn demonstrates a surprising strength when it comes to simple and sincere romance: Uruka's issues with thinking Nariyuki may be out of her reach are played completely straight and land with emotional impact as a result. I keep expecting the show to pull back with a comic-relief punchline or more overblown melodrama, and instead it keeps delivering a decent dose of basic, relatable high-school feelings. If this series wasn't particularly strong on the wacky comedy side of things, just going for the emotional beats like this is a simple, effective way to make up for it.
Surprisingly adjacent to the growing emotional entanglements of everyone else is Fumino, who hasn't really been given many hints of romance with Nariyuki. So she finds herself in a supporting role to the other girls this week, which works well in terms of giving everyone varied roles in the narrative. Fumino is notably the one member of the study group who seems to have a higher degree of emotional intelligence, so she easily decodes Uruka's thinly-veiled requests for romantic advice and figures out what happened between Nariyuki and Rizu. It's sweet to see her trying to figure out how to support both of the other girls, and it's also interesting to see her in this unique role. She's not yet interested in Nariyuki, but now she's the only one fully privy to the pseudo-love-triangle going on. It makes me curious to see how her character trajectory will progress, and while she and the others are still talking about Nariyuki through most of it, it's also nice to see all the girls interacting with each other.
This increasing emphasis on the lovey-dovey elements of the show gets its final boost at the end, as we fully transition over to Uruka's efforts to woo Nariyuki. I continue to prepare myself for disappointment given how tragically perfect I think these two idiots are for each other, and their romantic power-walk is another comic highlight of the series. There's layers of misunderstood messiness to their situation now, with Nariyuki thinking Uruka is interested in someone else so he should keep his distance. The characters' connecting scene at the shrine is bolstered by stronger art than usual in this episode, particularly character animation like Uruka's. And while I shouldn't find myself expecting an actual confession this early in the show, I was still rooting for Uruka to go for it anyway in her roundabout dialogue at the end, and I'm intrigued by Nariyuki's ambiguous reaction, wondering whether or not he's figured it out.
This episode did feel disparate in its focus, like it was wandering between character interactions outside of a clear format, but each portion was entertaining and still stuck close to the focal idea of the developing romances. I definitely feel like We Never Learn wasted its time at the beginning, and halfway through a one-cour series isn't an ideal place for it to finally pick up, but on the bright side, it's good to find myself more entertained and engaged by it now.
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