I know in my head that We Never Learn isn’t the best comic currently running in Shonen Jump. One Piece is the greatest action comic of all time, so of course this silly little harem manga isn’t the best comic. But every Sunday when Viz and Shueisha update their apps with that week’s Shonen Jump chapters, the first comic I read is We Never Learn because it is just that much fun to read.
Of course, you don’t want to go into a comic like this with false expectations, and I want to address the most common complaint I see about this and every other similar manga: the loosely serialized nature. This isn’t Domestic Girlfriend or My Love Story!! where you’re getting a long, tightly-serialized drama that’s constantly moving a central plot forward. This is the hangout comedy of manga where the central premise, in this case that protagonist Nariyuki is a tutor to a group of hopeless geniuses trying to grapple with subjects outside their expertise, is used mainly for gag chapters and even the story arcs that seem to move the plot mostly end with the status quo intact. This isn’t a negative, but it’s not what some people are expecting due to the heavily serialized nature of most manga.
With all that being said, this particular volume does have two events that change the status quo going forward. The first is that despite Nariyuki’s obliviousness and focus on studying, his teacher Kirisu becomes a clear romantic option. The other, bigger development is that the fifth and so far final potential love interest, Asumi Kominami, is introduced and ropes Nariyuki into pretending to date her to appease her father.
I judge a harem romcom manga on three general criteria: comedy, romance and sexiness. To be truly great a manga really needs to hit all three; they’re sort of the tent poles of the genre.
For comedy we want to look at the situations, visual gags and the general plot, and all three are on point here. A few of the one-off chapters have some strong situational comedy, like the one that sees Nariyuki filling in for his mother as a mascot character in a lingerie shop. The fact that everyone thinks it’s completely normal for a person in a mascot costume to be running a store alone, removing bras and measuring breast sizes is a pretty big contrivance, but it pays off. Asumi’s constant teasing of Nariyuki also pays off with some great gags.
Next is romance, which is also done well here. For this we want to consider the girls and the chemistry they have with the main character. Pretty much all the girls get a moment with Nariyuki. The volume opens with him overhearing Takamoto’s friends talking about how she has a crush on him, and he’s so distracted he can barely concentrate. A two part story sees Ogata try and fail to kiss him, which is incredibly cute.
At this point in the story, Ogata and Takemoto are the only overt love interests, though Furuhashi seems like the most obvious choice for Nariyuki to eventually end up with. She doesn’t have a lot of focus, but she’s the closest to Nariyuki precisely because she doesn’t think she has a crush on him. Nariyuki does share a particularly cute moment with Kirisu, though; she tells him she’ll do “anything” if he stays because she’s afraid of a bug and he asks her to help him study. And of course his chemistry with new girl Kominami is off the charts.
That brings us to sexiness, which is both the art and the proper balance of fan service. Tsutsui’s artwork is clean and cute, exactly what you’d expect from a former assistant to Naoshi Komi who illustrated a Nisekoi spin-off. He absolutely manages to make each girl both cute and sexy in their own way depending on what the scene calls for. Ogata gets most of the cute at this point, while Takemoto gets the sexy scenes, including a bath scene and a bonus comic. Of course, Kominami’s whole plot revolves around her working in a maid cafe, so there’s some inherent sexiness there. I think that overall it does a good job of illustrating the point that these characters are supposed to be sexy without overdoing it in the way something like To Love-Ru Darkness did.
We Never Learn is a strong harem comedy, and this volume is a good example of why this is such a fun series. There’s no intense drama to work through, just a breezy comedy with plenty of sweet character moments.