We Never Learn: BOKUBEN
by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 9 of
We Never Learn: BOKUBEN ?
If We Never Learn isn't going to use its remaining time to seriously progress its characters' relationships, it's at least settled into reliably delivering comfortable sitcom antics. The first half of this episode is devoted to getting Nariyuki into Kirisu's apartment again, this time to kill a pesky cockroach. The characterization being explored turns out to be less of a repeat than expected (even as Nariyuki remarks on the repetitiveness of having to help Kirisu clean again), since it turns out to be more focused on getting Rizu to interact with the teacher.
The whole segment works well as pure farce. I got a good laugh out of Nariyuki taking Kirisu up on her ‘I'll do anything’ offer by having her help him study again. And though Rizu being the one to deliver the food Kirisu ordered is an obvious choice for mining humor, it still works great thanks to everyone's funny reactions. I feel like Rizu's unique background working at a restaurant hasn't been used for as many jokes as it could, so seeing it come into play when cockroaches are involved was a welcome treat.
But of course, the real meat of this portion is finally getting to see Rizu and Kirisu interact. The backstory of Kirisu being her (and Fumino's) former tutor has oddly informed her relationship with Nariyuki more than either of the girls, so there's always been an element of curiosity to seeing how these characters regard each other now after everything went wrong in the past. I feel like an interaction between Kirisu and Fumino might be able to reveal more emotional aspects of this former student/teacher relationship, while Rizu illustrates more its mechanical issues. Rizu's desire to use her card games for interpersonal practice bounces ineffectually off Kirisu, and we find the teacher still hasn't abandoned her philosophy of insisting that students follow their talents rather than their desires.
As Nariyuki witnesses Kirisu and Rizu's sparring, We Never Learn approaches a pragmatic perspective on these kinds of antagonistic relationships. For all his desires to use this situation to broker peace between the two women, Nariyuki ends up having to accept that some people may simply never get along. Rizu comes away with a more nuanced understanding of Kirisu, but there's still too much bad blood between them to bury the hatchet yet. As the show often does, this episode illustrates how Nariyuki and Rizu end up learning about relationships as much as their various academic subjects.
I only wish the second half of this episode had the same level of nuance in its storytelling, but it opts for pure fanservice antics instead. Seriously, the level of contrivance behind this mini-plot is probably the most entertainingly absurd thing about it until you have to actually watch it unfold. It turns out that Nariyuki's barely-seen mom is employed at a lingerie store. When she gets sick, Nariyuki decides to cover for her (which the surprisingly cool manager is totally fine with), only to find himself stuck working in a goofy mascot suit that he can't get out of. And then, like clockwork, all the ladies in his life file in for increasingly embarrassing escalations.
I wish there was more to this sequence if only to give me more to say, but if you've seen one harem-show boob-measuring scene, you've seen them all. The only defining factor to this rendition is that due to Nariyuki's accidental disguise, this is less about the girls growing closer to him and more just him stumbling into awkward sexual fantasy scenarios with his classmates and teacher. There are some cute bits, like Uruka surreptitiously hoping to find underwear she thinks Nariyuki might like, or the earnest excitement we get to see Fumino express when shopping. But overall, it isn't enough to fill up half an episode with Nariyuki get embarrassed in an oddly-expressive mascot costume.
The split-sequence vignette structure in shows like We Never Learn can sometimes make them hard to evaluate, and that's definitely true of this episode. The first half is a fine exercise in the show's breezy character comedy while sneaking in some mild development. But then the second half is near-disposable unless you're specifically tuning in for fanservice, but even then, the art this time isn't quite good enough to deliver. I've got a net positive opinion on this one thanks to that first part, but you can probably just go ahead and turn it off after that.
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