Poor genius Nariyuki Yuiga’s this close to achieving his dream scholarship, and in recognition of his hard work, the principal’s more than happy to grant his wish…on one condition: that he tutors Ichinose Academy’s two legendary geniuses – bookworm Fumino Furuhashi and mathematician Rizu Ogata — to achieve their own university goals as well! To make matters worse, not only do both girls possess no intention in capitalizing upon their strongest subjects, but instead desire to pursue their weakest courses in, respectively, science and liberal arts! With an athletic superstar thrown into the mix, does Yuiga have too much on his plate in tutoring cute girls?
For fans of Komi Naoshi’s rom-com Nisekoi manga, there’s a reason why the leading ladies of Shonen Jump’s We Never Learn look familiar: it’s by one of his assistants! As it happens, Taishi Tsutsui previously published the Magical Pâtissière Kosaki-chan spin-off featuring the Onodera character — a brief moment of silence for fellow Team Onodera hopefuls — and now tries his own hand at this whole “high school harem” thing. While stumbling in certain places, We Never Learn is ultimately a pleasant little affair rom-com fans should watch out for.
Let’s cut to the chase: We Never Learn falls into all the traps of the genre, be it a black-haired “stand-in” protagonist, a delusional premise hardly representative of Japanese high schools, chapter after chapter of padded plots and failed confessions, and yes, heaps of shameless fanservice. Some of these are handled better than others — we’ll get into one particular clunker later — but We Never Learn’s careful in how it frames the growing harem. If we were to compare to Nisekoi, one advantage We Never Learn already has its emphasis on two girls means we’re not sure which lucky lady will win our protagonist’s heart; far too often, manga rom-coms telegraph from the very beginning who that’ll be — typically the leading girl — so even the addition of Uruka Takemoto – a swimming prodigy who’s crushed on Yuiga since middle school — leaves us uncertain.
It doesn’t help we end up rooting for everybody, although that speaks to We Never Learn’s engagement. Yuiga isn’t necessarily deviant as a rom-com protagonist — while smart, he falls into the typical obliviousness plaguing every male rom-com lead — but his poverty-stricken background isn’t just a means for reader sympathy: his own achievements through hard work paves the way for his recognizing the sincerity of Ogata and Furuhashi’s own dreams and work ethic, and so an easy chemistry is forged. In turn, Ogata and Furuhashi bounce back and grow beyond cute expressions and curvy forms: That they focus upon a different area of study than what everyone expects them to an interesting message in itself, and I’d like to think certain readers could certainly relate to societal/parental pressure into molding your future upon your talents as opposed to your actual passion.
They’re committed to a dream.
Not that We Never Learn doesn’t provide plenty of cuteness in its comedic hijinks, glistening doe-eyes, and blushing, cherubic cheeks; really, what more evidence do you need than the volume cover above? As opposed to Nisekoi‘s penchant for zany facial expressions, We Never Learn isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, content for light-hearted antics and sudden chibi-model transitions to highlight romantic tension. This works to its benefit as a light venture, although it’s not always perfect: Following her entrance, Takemoto’s exuberance eventually hijacks the volume and her tendency for shouting can grow exhausting. Given I eventually ended up rooting for her, it really does leave me wondering how exactly I ended up on her team; perhaps I’m just a sucker for the childhood love trope?
It’s also necessary I provide fair warning for more prudish readers: We Never Learn wastes no time in sexualizing teenage girls. Given how a) Magical Pâtissière shamelessly paraded exploding clothes and bare chests, and b) manga has already done this since time immemorial, this should hardly be a surprise. (That, and given that we’re dealing with teenagers here, I’m not about to wag my finger at sexual tension and naughty thoughts; comes with the territory, after all.) Nay, the problem lies in telegraphs – it’s one thing to expect naked girls in the familiar hot spring trope; it’s outright distracting when you randomly cutaway to bathing scenes and up-close swimwear outfitting solely meant for eye candy. Highlight their attractiveness if you must, but let’s not waste panels and at least have it be relevant.
(This isn’t even getting to some of the especially goofy stuff within We Never Learn‘s future – having followed VIZ’s digital chapters, I imagine the mere existence of a forthcoming harem member may cross a line for certain readers, as American law would render that potential relationship a felony. Regardless, I’ll leave that for you to gauge.)
Any future mishaps/sexualization disappointment aside, We Never Learn is a serviceable, cute read with a solid start. While the calculated mind-games of Kaguya-sama: Love is War are more to my taste, Taishi Tsutsui’s efforts to stand out are commendable enough for a recommendation. If you’ll excuse me, I need to reconsider Team Furuhashi once more.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Full Disclosure: This review was based on a review copy provided by VIZ Media.