We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN ?
It's nice to see We Never Learn getting past its more rote introductory elements. The characters are defined enough now that their personalities can carry the flow of events to come. We open this episode to find Nariyuki and Fumino striking up a side engagement, where she tries to teach him about being more aware about the feelings of the other girls, and there's a surprisingly easy rapport that's grown between them. It's an odd feature of this episode that's trying to show how Fumino might grow to have romantic interest of her own in Nariyuki, since it does perhaps too good a job of making a simple friendship between them seem more appealing.
The idea of Fumino ‘tutoring’ Nariyuki in love paralleling his academic teaching of her is a neat if obvious place for this part of the show to go. Fumino still seems to be the only one in the study group with any clue as to how to navigate her own emotions. She's actually too stringent about them, becoming aware of her potential to feel love for Nariyuki and resolving to suppress it at the episode's end. But the challenges of teaching come into parallel focus when Nariyuki is about as smart at noticing others' feelings as Fumino is at solving math problems. It's a funny idea to take the classically-dense harem protagonist and single the issue out as something to actually be improved, even if Fumino simply isn't as good a teacher as Nariyuki yet. With that in mind, this episode is also in a good place to explore teaching differences with the subject of its B-plot detour: Kirisu.
We got Kirisu's proper introduction last episode, so Nariyuki gets the chance to engage with her more this time around. The idea of our compulsively-helpful hero ‘teaching’ the teacher in some way is teased as soon as he finds himself in her disheveled home, primed to give her pointers on tidying up her living space and attitude. But that only comes about after he inadvertently spends time getting tutored by her academically, revealing that for all her failures to teach Fumino and Rizu in the past, Kirisu actually does seem to be a skilled tutor. We Never Learn seems to be backing off what I read into it last episode about how teachers that follow her creed are ‘bad’ at the job; rather they just have different reasons and motivations behind their approaches.
The revelation of Kirisu's figure-skater past is a predictable beat for her story, even if I couldn't have guessed the specifics ahead of time. It's still a harsh lesson that she had to learn, with the possibility that such a fate might befall any of the other girls Nariyuki is working with. (The sporting aspect definitely brings Uruka to mind.) Finding out how finite Kirisu's time as a prodigy was does make her notion of not ‘wasting’ efforts on anything else seem more sympathetic, though Nariyuki's counterpoint is just as salient. Encouraging students to do things they think they ‘can't’ will result in more well-rounded growth. At the end of this portion, I don't know that the series is picking one side or the other, simply presenting different perspectives. Whether a talent or effort approach works best depends on the connection between the student and the teacher.
One side-issue I did take with this Kirisu detour was the final revelation that her stone-cold rejection of Nariyuki at the end of the evening was a facade, and that she had in fact been feeling some romantic tension with him. The flat rejection was a much funnier beat on its own, and having even the ice-queen teacher becoming interested in Nariyuki just highlights how his romantic routes are the least-interesting parts of his character. Nariyuki isn't as much of a potato as other harem anime protagonists, with a real personality and motivations outside of stumbling into girls' advances. But that just means the relationships that do seem to be growing organically work better on their own, rather than obligatory twitter-pations with a teacher or his new friend in Fumino.
The connection between Nariyuki and Fumino rounds back to finish this episode, and I like how aggressively platonic the core of it seems to be, at least until Fumino's internal revelations in the post-credits scene. Nariyuki's proven himself to be a good friend already with childhood pal Uruka, and his affable nature mixed with Fumino's own amiability results in a new type of buddy relationship that's utterly charming to watch. It's to the point that poor Fumino even realizes how easily they could be mistaken for being in ‘that’ kind of relationship, and they have to contend with this entire fan-club it turns out she's been spying on and evaluating the two of them. It's a wackier scene than I was expecting, especially the way the not-couple's dutiful habits end up convincing all the spies around them to study more.
That ultimate resolution, with all those spies turning out to be so reasonable, was the highlight of this whole episode to me. It got me to finally come around on Fumino as a character, depicting her and Nariyuki's deep trust that transcends the boyfriend-girlfriend barrier. It's a unique choice of relationship to have in this kind of show, and my major point of contention is that they won't be able to help themselves in swinging it back toward romantic drama.
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