We Never Learn, Vol. 1

By Taishi Tsutsui. Released in Japan as “Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai” by Shueisha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Jump. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Camellia Nieh.

It always feels reassuring to have a romantic comedy coming out in Shonen Jump in amongst all the friendship, training and victory. Especially coming out in North America, where Jump romantic comedies have not always had the best track record. Nisekoi was a recent hit, but it’s an outlier – To-Love-Ru and its sequel were farmed out to a different company, and does anyone remember Strawberry 100%? That said, like Nisekoi, We Never Learn seems to be falling more on the side of “romantic comedy with strong character development” rather than “romantic comedy with lots of panty shots and sexual suggestiveness”. Like, well, those other two series. As a result, it’s far more my type of series. The main characters are all types, but they’re enjoyably written and aren’t aggravating. Nisekoi fans may find Fumino a bit familiar to Onodera, but that’s no surprise, given the author wrote Nisekoi’s magical girl spinoff.

Nariyuki is a serious young man from a poor family who needs a recommendation to get into a good school. He’s an excellent student, not through innate ability but hard study. He is, sadly, not the best in his class in science and literature, thanks to two geniuses who effortlessly get the best grades. Now he is being told to tutor these two, as they each have goals that clash with their specialty – literature genius Fumino wants to study astronomy but is wretched at science, and Rizu wants to go into the arts despite being seemingly awful at understanding feelings and emotions. Things get off to a rocky start, but Nariyuki is not one to give up easily, To make matters more chaotic, Naruyuki’s friend Uruka needs to study in order to stay on the swimming team, but she’s bad at EVERYTHING. Can he get these girls to bone up on the right things and achieve their dreams? And, more importantly, fall in love with one of them?

Well, I say that, but at this point in the series love is not all that high on the agenda, which is content to introduce the main cast and have them bond as friends. The plot is very sedate with few surprises – the girls meet Naruyuki’s family, the girls each reveals secret asides to themselves, etc. One of the interesting things about the title I noticed is that there’s no “first girl” here – both main female protagonists are introduced at once, so you don’t get a sense of who the author favors. (Sorry, Uruka, you arrive three chapters late.) I suspect that Western readers will gravitate to Rizu – let’s face it, Fumino is the classic “nice girl who always comes in second” sort (see also Nisekoi) – but it’s going to be more of a surprise than these titles usually pull off. The author also has a good flair for art and facial expressions – there’s just a lot of amusing faces here, and I found myself laughing at them as much as the characters and situation.

So overall a pretty strong debut, and I can see why it was licensed. I look forward to seeing these girls make painfully slow progress in their efforts to learn outside their specialties.

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