We Never Learn 001 – Review

We Never Learn:

Chapter 001

Reviewed by: Tom

Which girl will he choose to ‘study’ all night long!?

Synopsis: Nariyuki Yuiga is a hard working student, aiming for his school’s prize award: Full College Scholarship. The only problem is the two genius level girls in his way: Rizu Ogata, a master at science, and Fumino Furuhashi, amazingly adept at the humanities.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

We Never Learn is by Taishi Tsutsui, creator of the Nisekoi spin-off Magical Patissier Kosaki-Chan (Which I didn’t know was a thing till today.) Outside of a couple background characters featuring designs awfully similar to Nisekoi mains, there’s no significant connection to that franchise. It’s just Taishi’s pedigree to drum up additional interest. Rather We Never Learn is about one, Nariyuki Yuiga, a final year high school student who works incredibly hard on his studies.

Unfortunately the two major subjects, Science and Humanities are dominated by two girls considered absolute geniuses: Rizu Ogata who can do extremely difficult calculations in her head and Fumino Furuhashi, a girl who very easily writes masterful level works and has no trouble understanding the underlying themes and subtext of literature. The joke here, that these girls are supreme masters of their crafts, is pretty obvious and straightforward. There isn’t much to it and it feels like We Never Learn near exhausts that line of humor within this very first chapter. It’s not to say the situation isn’t funny, but it has an exceedingly short half-life and forms one of the weaker elements to this new series.

And thus the twist was telegraphed a mile away.

Nariyuki is incredibly frustrated that his hard work is undermined by two people who just happen to be auto-superb at everything. His friends try to put things in perspective, he’s well-rounded, and sitting next to the cutest girls in the school! What could be better? It’s here the series hints at its love triangle angle, and perhaps full-blown harem elements as we learn both girls happen to not only be bright, but major babes among the student body. I’m not too keen on this aspect, as it feels like the manga pandering to the fantasies of its male readership.

But more to the point, why is Nariyuki so frustrated? Well it all has to do with the school’s Special VIP Recommendation. As it turns out Yuiga’s high school has a unique award given only to the most outstanding student. It basically grants said person a full college scholarship. That in and of itself makes perfect sense. We’ve already learned that Yuiga is a full blown study hound, and naturally a scholarship, in and of itself, would be quite an achievement. But the manga feels the need to hammer home Yuiga’s motivation, even if perhaps the simple pursuit of the scholarship would’ve been enough.

We just need to add in the fact that Yuiga and his, rather large, family are dirt poor. It’s a bit unclear if Yuiga still has a mother, as one girl we meet is wearing a high-schooler’s uniform, although the other girl is either another sister or a very young looking mother. We do know however that his Dad got sick and died five years ago, leaving the rest of the family (mother may or not be included) to fend for themselves. Yuiga wants to get his schooling done and fast, so he can get a good job and support his siblings (and maybe mother. I seriously can’t tell!) It’s pretty cliche, and strays into heavy handed territory. At the same time, the portrayal of their poverty is exceedingly PG, failing to give this reveal real weight.

Okay seriously. Is that girl at the table his mother or an unkempt sister? I know his dad’s dead but is the mom out of the picture too?

However, at the fateful day for his interview Yuiga learns that while he will be receiving the VIP Recommendation there’s a catch– He needs to tutor both Fumino and Rizu. But why? Aren’t they geniuses? If you haven’t guessed it already, We Never Learn has cast both Rizu and Fumino in one of the most cliche lights possible.

Yes, as it turns out they’re only geniuses in the fields their gifted in. Rizu is great at science but horrifically bad at humanities and Fumino vice versa. The problem is compounded by both girls pursuing schools that are entirely against their own wheelhouses. There’s some decent comedy here, but again, like the opening pages, suffers from over use and feels entirely predictable. Besides the newest of readers, most decently weathered audiences will know exactly where this is going before we get there. And while there’s something to be said for the journey/series of events still being fun, it’s hard to see how We Never Learn will survive long term if it’s already trotting through familiar territory.

Yuiga tries to tutor them but it immediately appears hopeless, and after several days their scores, rather than improving, drop dramatically. Frustrated, Yuiga suggest the girls play to their strengths, but this only upsets Rizu. As the girls storm off they leave behind their text books. Sneaking a peek later that night, Yuiga learns from their notes that both girls are struggling hard to achieve their dreams. This stirs something in Yuiga, who remembers the encouragement his father gave him when he was getting bad grades as a kid. In fact, it was that early struggle that pushed him to get to where he is now. This part is probably my favorite part of this first chapter. It finally manages to inject some real emotion in Yuiga’s struggle. It’s where I feel this new series is at its strongest and hope it continues to play to this aspect of its more emotional core.

Without the eyes I can’t help but feel the dad was actually mocking him.

Yuiga goes to see Rizu and Fumino and asks them about their resolve. Once he’s sure they won’t ever give up he offers them note planners he developed himself. He promises to help them and things get a bit awkward when it seems like he’s asking for more than just their cooperation. I think this is the first truly adult joke of the manga. We also move by it pretty quick so I wouldn’t expect too much exploration of this avenue of humor. But the girls thank him and for the first time Yuiga realizes they’re both kind of cute. Unfortunately, neither girl bothered to remember his name this whole time.

But later, as both girls shower back at home, they seem to take a liking to Yuiga. It’s clear that We Never Learn is going to toy with various romance/harem angles. I also wouldn’t be surprised if more girls gradually get added to his study group. But what’s the main focus here? The studying? The pursuit of knowledge? Both avenues seem ill suited for a longer serialization and my money is on We Never Learn focusing much more so on the budding feelings Yuiga has for Rizu and Fumino and vice versa. I wouldn’t be surprised if We Never Learn ends up a lot like Nisekoi, where its more unique aspects are often sidelined in favor of a more generic, ever expanding standard harem fare.

Overall I’m very mixed on We Never Learn. The first chapter was generally amusing, but I feel little pull to want to continue on with these characters. It’s not as if Rizu or Fumino is unlikable, in fact, I more feel I don’t even know them well enough to make a judgement call on whether they’re interesting or not. What did more for me was the story’s emotional core, but aspects of that were handled poorly, as if the series doesn’t really want Yuiga’s family struggles to play a major component.

Assuming We Never Learn gets picked up for U.S. Shonen Jump’s schedule, which is anybodies guess, then we’ll see in a subsequent review how the series is holding up. But currently I don’t have high hopes that We Never Learn has staying power.

That’s it for today. Please let me know what you thought of We Never Learn’s first chapter in the comments below!

We Never Learn can be found in Shonen Jump and will (probably) be available to read for free at Viz.com.

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