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We Never Learn Vol. #01 Manga Review

5 min read
How could you go wrong tutoring a bunch of cute geniuses? You might be surprised.

How could you go wrong tutoring a bunch of cute geniuses? You might be surprised.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Taishi Tsutsui
Translation/Adaptation: Camellia Nash
Lettering: Snir Aharon, Steve Dutro
Touch-Up Art and Lettering: Erika Terriquez
Editor: David Brothers

What They Say:
When studious Nariyuki tutors two supergeniuses who are total dunces in their favorite subjects, he’ll get a crash course in love!

Nariyuki Yuiga comes from an impoverished family, so he’s eager to secure a full scholarship to college when he graduates high school. His principal agrees, with one stipulation—he must tutor the two smartest girls at the school and make sure they get into their target colleges! Rizu is a science genius who wants to study liberal arts. Fumino is effortlessly good at literature, but math makes her head spin. Nariyuki is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but who can complain about tutoring a couple of cute girls?

Nariyuki is facing the chance of a lifetime if he can just make sure that Fumino and Rizu excel and get into the schools they want to attend. He comes prepared to tutor them, but he isn’t prepared for burgeoning high school romance! Sparks begin to fly, no matter how much Nariyuki tries to avoid it—and things get even more complicated when a third girl joins the study group!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Is talent destiny? If you’re really good at something, do you have an obligation to pursue it to the best of your ability? Or is following your heart more important, even if what your heart wants you to do is something you’re ungodly terrible at? These are pretty deep questions for what is essentially a harem manga, but We Never Learn is just full of surprises.

Protagonist Nariyuki Yuiga is a guy many readers will likely relate to. Not gifted with any great affinity for any subject, he studies really hard and gets good grades through sheer effort. He can’t help but feel a little jealous two genius classmates: Rizu, the kind of science/math prodigy who can do complex calculations effortlessly in her head, and Fumino, who’s such a good writer that she can produce brilliant essays on a dime. However, both girls have a problem: they have personal reasons for wanting to pursue a subject other than the one they excel at. When Nariyuki is essentially forced to tutor both girls in their weakest subjects by the principal, can he help them achieve their goals without drowning in resentment for both of them?

The situation that necessitates this dysfunctional little study group is ridiculously contrived, but that doesn’t bother me. Actually, I kind of like stories about school administrators being incredibly unethical, because there’s something fun about the absurdity of it. (My experience is that people who actually work in education find these kinds of stories a lot less funny, but that’s going beyond the scope of this review.) Basically Nariyuki is dirt-poor, with a full group of adorable little siblings to take care of, and if he doesn’t tutor the girls successfully, he can kiss his chances of going to a good college goodbye. Bad, bad school administration! Can’t you guys just pony up the funds to hire some professional tutors? Cut the budget for the light music club, all they do there is drink tea anyway! *dodges tomatoes*

Terrible educational ethics aside, a large part of the appeal of the manga rests on the charm of the two girls. Rizu is a stoic Rei Ayanami/Yuki Nagato type…and if you’re not familiar with either of those characters, let’s just say she’s a short-haired beauty with an air of mystery. Fumino is more accessible, but a bit of an airhead whenever she’s not actively writing or analyzing literature. Later on, the athletic Uraka joins the group, and she gives the series a jolt of energy it was otherwise lacking. Tsutsui is good at drawing attractive, if young-looking girls, and this manga gives him a lot to do. There’s even some nudity at times, although never very detailed nudity.

I should touch on the elephant in the room here, which is the “loli” factor. The girls in this book are already young, being high school students, and they’re depicted as quite petite, which can make them appear even younger than they’re supposed to be. Amusingly, it’s mentioned a few times that Rizu has big breasts, which she really, uh…doesn’t. She’s only well-endowed if the standard you’re using for comparison is someone completely flat. Personally, I’m not bothered by how old the characters appear, but some people are uncomfortable with sexualized depictions of girls who don’t look sexually mature. Needless to say, if you like your romantic comedies to feature full-figured, sultry adult women who are definitely old enough to drink, We Never Learn may not be for you.

Also in the category of “things that don’t offend me, but I could realistically see offending someone,” it’s pretty clear that Rizu is supposed to be on the autism spectrum. No one ever refers to her as autistic, but many of her behaviors are classic spectrum-behaviors, and it’s hard to interpret her character any other way if you know anything about autism. Therefore, jokes at Rizu’s expense could be seen as jokes poking fun at autistic people, which is upsetting for obvious reasons. Personally, I think that if the book can make fun of Fumino’s cluelessness in math, it should be able to make fun of Rizu’s equal level of cluelessness in literature, but that’s just my opinion. To use a widely-known example, if you find The Big Bang Theory offensive because of the treatment of Sheldon’s character, this series will likely annoy you for the same reason.

Possible socio-political landmines aside, I like We Never Learn. It’s not stellar in every way; frankly, I don’t care which girl Nariyuki ends up with, and I find it hard to believe that I’ll ever care. But the musings about talent– not only its benefits, but the toll it can take, not only on the talented individuals themselves but the people who surround them– give this manga some food for thought that make it stand out from others in its genre. Talent and/or academic prowess has been an important topic in manga romcoms for a long time (and it was certainly front-and-center in Love Hina, a staple of the genre), but We Never Learn has its own unique take on it that makes me curious to see how this volatile little study group will turn out.

In Summary:

A seemingly generic romcom/harem manga with clean, attractive art. However, the series deals with some weightier themes then one might expect, giving this book some appeal even for those who aren’t that enamored with the petite heroines.

Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: December 4, 2018
MSRP: $9.99 US/ $12.99 CAN

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