This Week in Anime
Is We Never Learn: BOKUBEN Worth Watching?

by Nicholas Dupree & Steve Jones,

We Never Learn isn't the first harem romcom to revolve around tutoring, and it won't be the last. This week, Nick and Steve find out if this slice of fanservice fluff can set itself apart from the rest of the class.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


You can read our weekly coverage of We Never Learn: BOKUBEN here!

Nick
Steve, it's finally happened. It took years of searching, and countless times where I almost gave up, but I finally found an anime character shorter than Micchy.
Steve
And I found an artist's approximation of her response to this joke!
Hey, there's gotta be something notable to talk about in We Never Learn.
To the show's credit, I've definitely come out of these 10 episodes feeling like I haven't learned anything!
Good thing its name is just We Never Learn, and it doesn't have any sort of goofy shorthand romanized word slapped onto it like a failing appendix. So yeah, we're finally talking about this season's requisite harem comedy, and as our official Harem Expert, I would confidently rate WNL as a 4/10. It's nowhere near the caliber of the modern masterpiece Nisekoi - False Love, but neither is it as reprehensibly awful as any given Ken Akamatsu anime.
I'm a far cry from being a Harem Expert, but it's just wild for me to see such a boilerplate harem romcom in the year of our lord two thousand and nineteen. We've had 30 years to play with this formula, and this is the best you can deliver? At least Tenchi had aliens and light sabers and stuff. The plot of We Never Learn is "boy tutors girls". That's it.
It also has the unfortunate timing to arrive right after a way more popular version of that exact same premise from last season.
Ah yes, the Fantastic Five I believe it was called.
But where The Quints had things like character development, interpersonal drama, and a cohesive gimmick, WNL is comprised almost entirely of stock harem nonsense. Like hey, why not dedicate half an episode to a skit about one of the girls forgetting her bra? That's a good use of our time, right?
It's literally "i told you bro. i told you about about falling into boobs", without a hint of irony, over and over again. It's like if Sisyphus kept tripping into tiddy.
 
 
It's such a bare-bones setup that you basically have to engage with it solely as a delivery vehicle for whichever anime girl gimmicks you like. Heck, even by harem protag standards, our lead might as well be named Millard Q. Toast.
My dude has all the personality and sex appeal of room temperature oatmeal.
It's a shame, because in theory Yuiga should have something to offer. Within the premise of getting suckered into tutoring the school's geniuses in their worst fields of study, he has a unique perspective as a former failure who's dedicated himself to his studies so he can eventually support his destitute family.

This would be a great time for the show to address things like class and inequality through a relatable everyman struggling against the odds to help both himself and others.
But that would be interesting, and the one rule of We Never Learn is it will never make the interesting choice.
Yeah, let's just keep doing this instead, I guess.

Our male lead has all the personality of a pool noodle, but that's kind of expected with harem anime. Nobody comes to this kind of show for an engaging main character, they come here for the girls. And We Never Learn certainly has girls!
There's Rizu, the math genius who wants to major in literature instead. She pouts. She's good at pouting. That's about it.
 
 
Hey now, don't discount her other two
distinguishing features.
The other half of our original duo is Fumino, who excels at literature but needs math skills to become an astronomer. She sleeps all the time because she's a big ball of anxiety in her waking hours, and honestly I can relate to that.

Of our main haremites, Fumino's easily my favorite. For one, she's got a genuinely touching reason for wanting to be an astronomer. It's a way of building on a connection with her deceased mom, and while she's self-aware enough to understand that's a rocky reason to pursue a career, she still wants to go for it.
If nothing else, it's better than Rizu's reason of "I want to win at poker".

Nothing like being salty over card games to motivate a person. But yeah, I also like Fumino a surprising amount despite (gestures at the rest of the show).
Fumino feels like a complete character burdened with a cheap gimmick. Rizu feels like a cheap gimmick pretending to be a character. Like her whole shtick is that she doesn't get "emotional" stuff, but that also extends to the most basic hyperbole or metaphors.

She's a cardboard version of an archetype we all know too well. It'd be great if she did something interesting beyond that, but that's pretty much all we've gotten so far. Fumino at least has her relatable moments when she's not shackled to being a vehicle for harem antics.
Oh, you mean like that bizarre midriff-touching sequence from her weight loss plotline?

I mean, good on them for branching out with the fetish material, I guess? Gotta take that creativity where I can get it. Personally, one of my favorite little moments in the series is this short scene of Fumino angrily chomping an apology crepe from Nariyuki. It's purely silly and humanizing in a rare way for We Never Learn.

I also dig that, as the humanities expert, she's the first to recognize the other girls' interest in Yuiga and starts actively trying to keep from getting in their way.
God bless her for putting up with this idiot.

Sadly she's got a lot to learn about physics, specifically anime physics.
Speaking of other people with a lot to learn:
Ah yes, the resident Jock girl Uruka, whose gimmick is being annoying and having a butt.

Don't forget about the tanline! (Please don't think too hard about the logistics of that tanline on a mermaid.)
I mean it also doesn't make sense on regular Uruka, considering she swims exclusively in an indoor pool, but Horny Is As Horny Does. So rather than gradually falling in love with Yuiga, Uruka's already had a crush since they were in middle school together, so she basically muscles into their study group to get close to him. Also she's weirdly obsessed with the other girls' boobs.

She has lots of bi energy for sure.

Granted, that also goes nowhere because We Never Learn refuses to do anything interesting.
These cowards wouldn't even let her princess-carry Nariyuki, even though that was the most obvious solution to their problem.
Oh right, her whole subplot about wanting to be more girly. I get that this is a common hangup for "boyish" characters in anime, but it feels pretty weird for Uruka when she's actively proud of her athleticism and also isn't less traditionally feminine than any other member of this harem.
I love a good proud idiot jock character, but Uruka feels like a lot of wasted potential thrown away in favor of being as bland and inoffensive as possible.
Having read the manga, I can say she does get more engaging eventually, but the lion's share of her screen time is still just excuses for cheesecake.
Cheesecake is pretty much the centerfold of We Never Learn's menu. There's an episode where they went "haha wouldn't it be weird if we all studied in the bath?" and then they all did. That's the level we're operating on.

It's dumb, but it's almost dumb enough to be charming for me, which is more than I can say for my least favorite harem member by far.
Can't have a harem without a Bad Sensei! Also, apropos of nothing, what is it with Bad Senseis sharing gendered coffee mugs with students?

Honestly, the fact that you of all people aren't into the teacher character is the most damning mark against We Never Learn.
I do have some standards.
Real talk, it's total bullshit how they let her have this sweet ice burn only to undermine it by revealing that she also has the hots for Oatmeal-kun.
 
 
That's basically Kirisu's character in a nutshell. She's a hardcore perfectionist at work, but in her private life she's actually a disaster. And that could be funny if the entire joke wasn't that she's so incompetent her underage student has to fix her life for her. "I'm trying to be a responsible educator, but I'm dummy thicc and the suction of my ass cheeks keeps attracting the eyes of my student."
'Tis the scourge of harem shows that otherwise interesting characters are neutered by the necessity of having to depend on the boring protagonist.
And the anime hasn't even reached her main gimmick, which is being forced into random fetish outfits by happenstance. It's kind of amazing how the character with theoretically the most mature outlook is given negative amounts of dignity.
That's gonna be a yikes from me. I'm totally okay with Nariyuki getting thrown into increasingly absurd horny situations (i.e. this entire mascot scene), but there's a fine line to walk between absurdity and discomfort.
 
 
WNL generally falls on the bland but inoffensive side of fanservice but yeah, that whole mistaken identity story tripped the line into creepy. Even if Kirisu weren't, y'know, his teacher. To me, there's only one major reason that anybody should bother watching WNL, but that reason is a pretty big one (in a small package):
Okay yes, finally let's talk about the show's saving grace. She looked exactly like I felt going into the 10th episode.
Asumi is Best Girl. She's the single solitary bright point that keeps me reading We Never Learn every week, if only for the hope that she'll show up to dunk on Yuiga and the rest of the cast.
It really is astounding how much she immediately improves the show by not immediately falling over herself to win Nariyuki's affections. She's small and acerbic and injects some honest-to-god humanity into We Never Learn with her savage dunks.

She's easily the strongest example of what WNL keeps insisting its main theme is about: pursuing a future you might not be suited for because it's what you want, even if it's difficult or impossible. She failed to get into med school, so she has to spend a year working toward retesting, which is a potential future Fumino and Rizu might have to face someday too. Despite working in a maid cafe to get by, she's the only one in the cast who seemingly has her shit together.

Also mad respect to the baller move of hiding your maid cafe job from your dad by blaming your outfit on the kinky fake boyfriend you just made up. She's got a good head on her shoulders, even if those shoulders are very close to the ground.

ALSO, let's not forget the absolute power move of petting someone a full head taller than you.
Asumi is just that powerful. And frankly, the fact that Yuiga doesn't immediately ask her out after that is proof that he's the biggest moron in this whole show.
It makes sense that he'd be intimidated: Asumi's the only top in this entire cast.
She even gets out in front of any Harem Misunderstandings by telling Fumino about her fake-dating Yuiga right away. Frankly, this show doesn't deserve her.
 
 
I wasn't originally planning on finishing the show, but I'll watch the last few episodes for more scenes with Asumi. She's legitimately too good.
Honestly, I'm even tempted to tell folks to start watching at episode 10. It's not like much before it matters or is hard to pick up from context clues, and it means less time wading through stupid boob jokes.
Yeah, I mean they'd just miss out on classic gags like "Nariyuki repeatedly hides under girls".

Unless folks are just absolutely dying without a weekly dose of harem shenanigans, I can't say I recommend We Never Learn. If you're curious, just read the manga, since a 20-page chapter is a lot less of your life wasted than a half-hour episode. Or just wait for The Quintessential Quintuplets season 2.
Asumi exempted, there's plenty of better stuff out there. We Never Learn is just too bland and boring to justify the investment of an entire cour of anime. I'm not saying the first nine episodes are a total waste of time, but...

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