Spoilers. Note I’m not too thrilled with how this turned out. I want to do a more anylitcal look into what this series does really well and a lot is missed in this.
Harems(likely) will never earn the title, masterpiece. The recipe just doesn’t allow these types of stories to soar the way they would need to to have that large of an impact. But that by no means I dislike harem’s honestly I adore them. Whimsical gauntlets of love that usually play over WAY too many chapters to get to (possibly) one ending that wraps it all up. Though as a standalone I doubt one of these will ever be a masterpiece, within the genre of harem, I have finally found a series I can say comfortably is a masterpiece harem. We Never Learn.
So I watched the anime a bit ago (here) and pretty much stated the series overall was pretty mid-tier. A high 6 or low 7, it was funny, interesting in genuinely made me laugh and care for the characters. So when I decided to give the 187 chapters a read I wasn’t expecting much more enjoyable than what the show gave me.
Boy was I wrong.
We Never Learn came out in 2017, a story about a tutor that was tasked with teaching 3 geniuses. I also like to note this is the same year Quintessential Quintuplets started its serialization, it is irrelevant to this point but I think it’s a funny little fact since their plots are so similar. Never Learn Follow Nariyuki Yuiga, a guy who comes from a poor family, but due to the drive of his late father, is a generally good dude who tries his hardest to keep his grades up while helping those around him out. Honestly, Nariyuki has to be one of the best harem MCs in recent memory. He has his dense moments but generally speaking, as the relationships grow, his interactions both with his own feeling as well as others seem real and caring.
Nariyuki has his quirks, don’t get me wrong, he has the typical harem MC thought process of throwing himself at an issue with such dedication he cannot fail. But what this series does well is, sometimes, he fails. There are times where Nariyuki is literally defeated, caught in situations where he doubts himself, but never others. Beautifully We Never Learn crafts these relationships so the shortcomings of others aren’t always addressed by the MC, sometimes even he is saved by one of the three girls, or his teacher and senpai.
Back on track, Nariyuki coming from a poor family is offered a golden ticket. An MVP award that will pay for his college, an award that will be his as long as he tutors literature genius Fumino Furuhashi, math savant Rizu Igata and swimming ace Uruka Takemoto. Oh, it should be important to note, they all want to pursue passions that don’t align with their talent.
What follows is the typical run-of-the-mill romance. Uruka admits to herself that she has actually been in love with Nariyuki since middle school. The ever-cold Rizu starts to warm up to him but the lit beauty Fumino, seeing her two dear friends fallen for their tutor moves her relationship with him to a more, ‘elder sister’ role. Throwing in her support for the other two, the 4 go through hardships, achieve victories, and find out within themselves how much they grow to adore one another.
These relationships are amplified but the senpai Asumi Kominami, a dear who is hell-bent on becoming a doctor. And the ever-cold teacher, Mafuyu Kirisu. So with these 5 girls, the stage is set, and boy, was it a ride. Outside of Nariyuki, I want to first look at the swim ace, Uruka. Being the first one to come to terms with her feelings, she starts laying the moves on heavy in the series, but in the purest adorable way possible. She falls into the childhood friend act, usually one of my least favorite but I found myself cheering her on even though she wasn’t even my favorite out of the geniuses. Uruka is pure, innocent, and struggles with her feelings. She doesn’t want to hinder Nariyuki anymore than she already does. He is helping her pass and go to college while at the same time keeping his own grades up. The thought of her confessing and becoming a hindrance to him mortifies her and it allows this adorable narrative to play out between the two.
Rizu is the second to get in on this. Though a master of math she wants to better understand what it is like to be human, how to feel instead of choosing everything logically. Picking humanities as her field of study she was actually my least favorite of the group. She was cute, but her whole bit of jealous brat kinda got old pretty early on. Added with the fact I felt her arcs were the least impressionable, it was pretty meh. This is compounded that Rizu’s home life overall is pretty stable. Nariyuki lost his father and lives in poverty. Fumino lost her mother, creating a rift between her dad. Uruka plays off a maiden trying her damnedest to make the right choice. Rizu has some issues but they never really amounted to the others, and don’t even get me started on Mafuyu’s and Asumi’s.
Fumino is without a doubt my favorite of the original three. She is kind-hearted, burying her own feelings for others to make sure her friends can succeed. She fails, funny enough finding herself in some of the most intimate heartfelt moments of the series. The arc of her building her relationship with her father brought tears to my eyes. Add the fact she and Nariyuki rely on each other heavily at moments throughout the manga that wasn’t shown in the anime made me love her that much more, easily crowing her second-best girl.
Asumi Kominami and Nariyuki’s banter is definitely the funniest. Her ability to get a rise out of him with teasing is on point, add the fact he has to play her fake boyfriend, the dynamic of the two is extremely well written and she has to be one of my favorites but in a friendly way. Even with the teasing, flirting, and helping each other through some rough patches I never thought Asumi was a good mate for Nariyuki, seeming to be a better friend than possibly a lover.
Lastly the teacher, Mafuyu Kirisu. So for those who read the anime review, she is my favorite. She is cute, funny, clumsy but always reliable and a sensible adult. She gets WAY more page time in the manga than the anime and I am not going to complain. Anytime she was on the page, rather it is in the school sense or a more personal sense I loved it. What starts as cold and collected she slowly opens up not only to Nariyuki but the girls as her true intentions, their success, comes to light. She has to be one of the more interesting characters, her quirk of saying one-word introductions such as ‘blunder’ or ‘distasteful’ still makes me giggle from time to time when I think on it. Add the element she is a teacher, unknowing to love or what romance is even like she gets a lot of development in the book that was a welcome difference.
Alright, now we get into the guts of it. We Never Learn manga has packed full of arcs and content that was never shown in the anime. Rather it is Mafuyu’s sister as she tries to get her older sister back into skating. Rizu boldly going after Nariyuki way more aggressively or Fumino’s slow descent in coming to terms that she indeed loves him. But as I was going through the chapters something in me changed, I wanted Mafuyu, the teacher to win, but not really.
What this series has done where no other harem has is it made me care about all of the girls. I didn’t want there to be a loser and was actually panicky at times about the ending. Worried that the crushing weight of the L onto Fumino for example would emotionally end me, but then, it didn’t.
There is one thing I hate about harems, how they end. It is rare for a series just to send with a clear winner, a girl chosen to be with the MC, the others suffering the emotional tragedy of ending their love. In the back of my mind I was really hoping We Never Learn wouldn’t do something silly like what Quintuplets did, or the equally bad each girl gets an arc, but sadly, it did just that.
We Never Learn is an ending arc. Each girl gets their own ending based on which one the reader preferred. This type of squirmy ending I was never a fan of but I can say that it at least did it well. Each girl got not just one or two chapters to their arc, but 8 each. The story jumping back to points that shaped that outcome, making it so the girl that is winning gets a proper and full back story, and I have to say (critically) the best one had to be Mafuyu’s.
Yes, I know, I know I might be biased but I do think it was the most thought out.
What starts as Nariyuki being a teacher at the same school quickly develops into him confessing to her, saying that he has admired, respected, and loved her for a very long time. But she turns him down, there is an age gap, he was once her student and even though they are now both adults and teachers, such a move would be unethical. This doesn’t thwart Nariyuki however, as he slowly builds the school festival Mafuyu dreamed of when she was a student, a proper celebration she never got due to skating.
It starts to sprinkle the idea that the two had known each other much longer than they expected, it was Nariyuki’s father that inspired Mafuyu to be a teacher there was always this seed in between the two of them. This is confronted by Mafuyu again by the simple fact, she doesn’t know how to love or has never really understood it. But none the less decides to humor Nariyuki in courtship as she works on her own feelings quickly coming to the realization that ethics be damned, she had loved him for a very long time.
I really, REALLY enjoyed We Never Learn. It has it all, ups and downs, heartwarming and wrenching, struggles though not really deep, are real. The art is wonderful, the arcs that exist within the manga are a lot more meaningful than what the anime depicted and it’s packed with so much more content and context it is worth a full read-through.
8/10 would be a good rate for this, a masterpiece in the world of harem, it is something that I going to stay with me for a while to come.
Thanks for the read!