I love harems, it isn’t a secret. Slow burn series like Nisekoi, chaos series like Trinity Seven, hell I even enjoyed Infinite Stratos to an extent and to be honest this will be the only time I will ever admit that. Harems for me bring some of the most cheesy, stupid, and diverse development to the rom-com genre. Where else would you have a series where each girl (or boy) fills a certain vein that at least someone would love. A character that hits all the right notes is pitted against others that also hit the same notes in their own respect. A lot can be said about the tropes and the general run-of-the-mill recipe these shows go with, and I am not above that criticism. I have been harsh on iseakis for playing by some of these stupid rules that harems do all the time but I pay no mind. But even with all of that, the clot, the same tropes, the fanboying, and staning allows something to breathe within the genre, originals.
I have said this about iseakia’s as well because so many play by the same rules when a show does its own thing it is worth the praise and respect. Few harems really do this. My Teen Comedy SNAFU walks the line of witty humor and development while a similar series Haganai does the same with a lot more sexual undertones. Oreshura said ‘what if we make the main heroine the girlfriend right away’ while Oreimo (god I love that show) played around what it is like to be neck-deep in otaku culture (and then what it’s like to marry your sister) the point I am trying to make that there are plenty of gems that exist within the harem tag, shows that play the part but due to efficient on point development and plot drive makes them stand out from the rest.
But even with the shows I mentioned, mind you those are shows I LOVE, there has been one that stood above all the rest to me. A series that anime was fine, but manga hit every single high I believed possible for a harem. A series that took everything I loved about the genre and tripled down on it, a series I am perfectly fine with stating to this date, is the best harem ever written.
So why would I make such a claim when it comes to We Never Learn? Why would I, someone that has seen and read many harems, boldly claim that this specific one is the golden era of the harem? The answer to that is quite complicated. For those who don’t know, We Never Learn follows the same recipe as Quintessential Quintuplets. It is about some poor guy named Yuiga who is tasked with tutoring these three geniuses. So give a similar plot where do these two massively successful series different?
God, like, everywhere.
The biggest takeaway from Quintuplets to We Never Learn is both the main character and the girls they are tasked with teaching. Fuutarou of Quintuplets is one of the most boring characters I have personally ever read. He is obsessed with learning and studying and doesn’t care about anything else. His family is poor and wants to support them but rarely shows empathy in any situation, in short, he is awkward, unrelatable, and just strange. The sisters for most of the series aren’t much better Nino is a jerk, Itsuki literally is a nonfactor for the whole manga, Ichika starts out strong but quickly becomes a snake, Miku is annoying and Yotsuba Is just a magpie to PCP. Now I want to be clear, I like Quintuplets, Nino has one of the biggest turnarounds in harem history, Miku has some really adorable moments and Ichika, for better or worse, becomes a worthy antagonist. Honestly, I couldn’t give two fucks about the other two but whatever. The weakest point of Quintuplets is, again and again, Fuutarou, even as the girls (eventually) develop into complex and interesting characters in their own right Fuutarou never does, he never really has moments where he seems human, even as the girls confess to him he has no idea how to take it usually just ignoring them and moving on. At least Raku (who is the biggest idiot ever) got flustered, fucked up some words, or blushed at least when one of the girls did something to gain his affection in Nisekoi.
The reason I am hitting on Quintuplets so hard is because it is the best example of how to set up a harem then failing, it just also happens to have the same setup of We Never Learn so it’s easier to compare to two but these are not isolated to one another. Raku as I mentioned is a moron and a half, but he at least has moments where he feels human. Kyousuke from Oreimo is another really likable character, he is just trying to rebuild his relationship with his sister, deep-diving into a world he doesn’t give two fucks about simply because she loves it (wholesome huh?) but even with those who out-pace Fuutarou by miles I don’t think they even touch how much I enjoyed Yuiga, and that is just one small part of why I praise We Never Learn the way I do.
Harem’s as I mentioned usually play by a set of trope rules, these aren’t new. The childhood friend, the tsundere, the himedere, and sometimes a kuudere all shooting their shot to get the love they want. But what matters the most in this genre isn’t the world, isn’t the tropes or quirk’s, but simply the character building. Harems are nothing without the characters that reside within them, they live and die by not only how likable they may be but the relevance they play in the overall story. When your whole story revolves around the reader not only seeing but investing in the characters there is little room for mistake, every quirk, every word, every moment matters, and that is where We Never Learn shines, 187 chapters of every moment mattering.
I want to look at Yuiga first. Yuiga’s whole bit is not alone that original. He was a dumb kid that due to some event worked hard to make sure he can get into college and help his poor family. Been there done that. What really sets the tone for Yuiga is a couple of things, when the reader discovers his dad was a teacher and his ultimate guide to getting better grades, the connection is easier to make. It makes total sense for Yuiga, under the impression of his late father to take up the mantel of the head of the house to make sure his mom and siblings are taken care of.
The second is the general way he interacts with the world. Unlike most harem protags one of the greatest takeaways from Yuiga is he is rather aware of either his own feelings or of the girls around him. Though he has his fair share of airhead moments when it comes down to brass tax he is right when it comes to knowing who and how they feel about any given situation. This is also helped by the fact of how Yuiga is dressed as a decent guy. The decent guy trope is a dead horse in anime but I do think there are good ways to go about it. Being a white knight just because “it is what is right” or “That is my pride as a man” to me, is stupid. I don’t care about your pride or you’re ominous hard-on, I’m looking at you Ikki Kurogane, you can fuck off.
Yuiga finds himself in this interesting middle ground. He helps people out because in the context of the situation it makes sense, and ultimately he as well gets something out of it. Granted that something is usually along the lines of studying or whatever but that isn’t the point. When he goes into a situation there is background, there is reason and there is an outcome that drives either his own incentive or the plot, I am not a study hawk nor have I ever felt most of Yuiga’s driving factors but nonetheless, they made sense to me.
The girls are another thing We Never Learn does damn near perfectly. I want to start with Rizu, mostly because she was my least favorite out of the group. Rizu is a math genius, but one plagued by the death of her grandmother and her inability to understand human emotion. Super logical she dreams of being able to understand what it means to be human, loving the world of the arts instead of mathematics where she thrives. She is one of the first three students Yuiga is tasked with tutoring, she is also the first one to come to terms that she has feelings for him (outside of Uruka I will get to her), and even as my least favorite, Rizu is hardly a pushover.
She feels the role of semi-air head pout girl. She struggles with emotions, usually settings up super awkward conversations and challenging people in logic traps, unable to read the room. Though I personally found her rather annoying her lane made a lot of sense in context to the show overall. She was a bit of a counterweight, she knew she had a thing for Yuiga but wasn’t really sure what it was or how to express it. Since this happens early on it allows the story and those within it to help her along the way, sorting out her feelings as she learns more and more about humanities. Rizu really shines for me in her ability to help the other girls and Yuiga himself. Her hyper-logical way forces people to look within themselves to better address how they explain and or feel about situations, something that alone would make little sense if there wasn’t someone there pushing them along.
My grip with Rizu is pretty simple, she is a brat but not in a tsundere way. Her place is relevant, I cared for her and her story but anytime she was going through one of her fits I found it annoying. But hey, I FELT annoyed, even though it’s a negative connotation I would rather feel that than nothing at all.
Fumino is my personal second favorite, the quiet and charming arts genius she has always loved the stars much like her mom. Though bad at math and science her dream of studying said stars seem just like that, a dream that will never be. Fumino is the anchor. She is the first to understand her friends (the other girls) are falling in love with Yuiga and brings it upon herself to help them out in any way possible. Making her way into the older sister role she finds herself at Yuiga’s side not so much as a pupil or a love interest but an equal, the single thing that makes them have way more intimate moments than anyone else in the series.
I LOVE Fumino for so many reasons. She sweet but doesn’t take bull shit, she is funny as fuck, she goes out of her to make sure those around her are cared for and their issues addressed and does all of this while having one of the most heartbreaking backstories within the series. Fumino like Yuiga has a parent that had passed, one that made a major impact on her life. Fumino’s mom loved the stars and would talk to her daughter night after night about the wonders of it, when she passed, however, the loss of her mom was only one thing.
Heartbroken and unsure what to do Fumino and her dad’s relationships hit the ice hard. They rarely talk and he rarely comes home. He knows of her dreams of studying stars but shames her for it, talking of how her mom was a great mathematician only to have a daughter that can do little more than multiplication. We Never Learn digs hard into this and rightfully so, it’s a gut-wrenching arc, one that made my eyes sting at some of the high points.
Discovering this Yugia does whatever he can to mend their relationship, and what follows is some of the dearest moments in any harem I have ever read. Rather it is them cuddling at night after a certain chain of events that left them alone in a village with no place to stay. Fumino crying in her sleep missing her mother while Yugia comforts her like he has his siblings. Or in the park after her dad finally accepts her dream, the two of them alone on a bench as Fumino lays her head on his shoulder, a moment she asks to last a little longer, a moment where she breaks from her normal “elder sister” role in one of the most endearing way possible. I could talk about Fumino forever but the point is she is an ideal deredere character, as much as I hate to say this there is only one ever I’ve seen that somewhat matches her sweetness, spunk, and overall likability. Mizuhara from Rent A Girlfriend.
Uruka is the swim team ace and plays the role of childhood friend. Knowing Yuiga in middle school he often helped her with her studies, an event that would create feelings within her that play out through the series. I stated Rizu was the first out of the girls to fall in love with Yuiga, I say that because Uruka, all things considering was already in love with him. This is another trope I dislike, childhood friends usually are just super sweet overly nice girls who end up hurting themselves for feelings they never allow to be known. Something that Uruka does early on but something that changes as the story goes on.
As the swim ace, she sucks at all subjects and is the third genius Yuiga is tasked with tutoring. One thing I liked right away is how Uruka is not only with Yuiga but the other geniuses as well as her personal friends. She is a pure-hearted girl who knows what she wants, understands that it might hinder the man she loves future but ultimately (as she should) lets him decide what is best for them. This allows this cute but understandable narrative to play between the two. One that is so fluent that even if as Uruka discovers her best friends are in love with her childhood friend she isn’t jealous, she is actually excited. Thrilled that she has such dear friends that are so close they love the same person.
Okay, so this is where We Never Learn gets kinda tricky but in a good way. We have laid the ground for the main guy and the three main heroines, but here is the thing. There are five heroines.
Enter stage left Asumi Kominami. So Asumi’s whole bit is pretty simple, she is dressed up as a fill-in as Yuiga’s senior he runs into her a summer cram study. It is a moment where Yuiga is mostly away from the other girls, so much he is in another town. Asumi is cool, in a lot of ways. She is quite mature and has a lot to teach Yuiga but like the others, she has a dream that is hard to obtain. Following the footsteps of her father, she wants to run the family clinic. But as any of you will know becoming a doctor is no easy feat, using cram school to get caught up she finds herself between working a part-time job, studying, and getting help/ helping Yuiga along the way. It is a nice turn, up until this point only Uruka had a moment to teach her mentor but that was to swim. Asumi is not only capable but willing to push both her and Yuiga. She was a nice addition that stayed around for the rest of the series, becoming a somewhat aid to the tutor extraordinaire and teases master in her own right.
If I had to put her in line I’d say Asumi is easily my fourth behind Fumino and Uruka. Oh, I guess I should talk about my favorite.
So, there is something that exists within manga that is a bit taboo, something that I have talked about recently in my post about Koikimo. The infamous age gap. Now I want to make something clear, I don’t care about it in most cases. I’ve mentioned Domestic Girlfriend, I don’t see Hina as a threat because Natsuo seems to understand how and what is going on. This is a mess to jump into and I will be vague but I do find this romance, in some context, adorable, as I have with this series.
Mafuyu Kirisu is a student counselor and world history teacher at the school all the students currently or have studied. Mafuyu fills an interesting role to me that isn’t present for most harem anime. She is the adult, I mean literally and figuratively. Without a doubt, my favorite Mafuyu is cold, precise, and cares deeply for her students even though that doesn’t always seem to be the case.
The final heroine in the lineup Mafuyu is complicated in a lot of ways. She is the oldest, she understands that she can’t have feelings for her students but being a Kuudere in general never really had a romance. Her cold personality has turned people away leaving only really two people in her life to work to accept her. Her student Nariuki Yuiga, and his father, the very same teacher that inspired her to shed her own talent to teach others.
These two are intertwined from the start even though it isn’t so relevant. Mafuyu is a high-level figure skater that threw it all ways because of Yuiga’s dad, her teacher that made her realize that dreams exist on so many levels, even if it is beyond your talent. This, however, is a risky way to think, jaded over time Mafuyu has seen tons of students fail at their dream cause of her guidance. She stated that dreams trump talent as more and more of her students fail to make those dreams come true, she starts to hate dreams, regretting her own life choices feeling that so much more would have happened if she just stuck to her talent.
Then Yuiga comes along. Replacing her as the tutor for Fumino and Rizu Mafuyu is harsh on the three. Telling Yuiga to drop the act she urges him to force the girls to pursue their talents, dropping their dreams to do what they are good at. Naturally, he doesn’t starting a crash course where he alone sees a side of his teacher that no one else sees. The cold and neat Mafuyu is actually a hot mess who can’t hold her booze, has no friends, and is terrified of bugs, fitting really.
Seeing this side of Mafuyu, Yuiga’s respect and admiration for her turns more romantic. His admiration for her so deep, in fact, he becomes an educator, following her footsteps he becomes a world history teacher and the same high school, becoming equal to her. What follows is her turning him down at first, but slowly warming up to one of the most beautifully crafted wedding scenes I have ever seen. A heartwarmingly fantastic image as they stand at the alter, Yuiga’s father sitting in the front seeming to give his blessing.
This tie-in was something that I wasn’t expecting but just added the icing to the cake. Throwbacks in harems in nothing new, honestly they are usually full of stupid little “oh I knew you back then” but it is rare for them to hold as much weight as this one scene did. These were two people joining their lives together, two people that lives were drastically changed by the same person, Yuiga’s father.
Now I need to talk about the ending of this series. There are many ways to end a harem, usually, it’s one girl winning and the rest of the fandom crying. Something is charming about these endings honestly, but We Never Learn went a different route, a route that I usually hate.
Different arc endings in my opinion are weak. Having each girl win on a different timeline seems like a cop-out and no matter how many times I have seen it I have always felt the same. Until We Never Learn. Each girl has their own ending in this series, so no matter who you like there is an ending for her. So how does this series tackle this type of ending differently? Simply put, the story ends on a reset point, and each arc starts at that point giving 10 or so chapters to each girl.
A perfect example is the first ending, Uruka. Getting a scholarship to study abroad she confesses to Yuiga before she leaves. Unsure how to take it he takes some time before coming to the determination that he indeed loves her. Telling her this they decide that once she returns to Japan they will get married, and adorably they do so.
Rizu has the weakest showing. In that arc, Uruka doesn’t confess and Rizu pretty much states to Yuiga she will make him fall in love with her, which she does. Out of all of them, this was definitely the horniest, Rizu is aggressive and doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to getting what she wants out of Yuiga.
The third is Fumino. Uruka confesses in that arc but Yuiga is unsure how he feels. The whole time Fumino is denying her own feelings so she doesn’t hurt her best friend. So this sets up a dynamic where we have two people that have feelings for each other but deny it out of fear of hurting their friends. Then Uruka comes along and tells Yuiga he better not hide his feelings for her benefit, better yet, she is going to be mad at him if he does. With this push he confesses to Fumino, stating that through it all she was the one he fell in love with, and she eventually claims the same.
The other two endings are kinda weird because the main three girls aren’t in them at all. Asumi’s arc Yuiga becomes a teacher on some island somewhere and just happens to run into her again as she runs a clinic on the same island. He almost dies which was whack and she saves his life with surgery. Coming to he states he loves her and finds out that her father feels responsible for Yuiga’s father’s death, failing to save his life on the operation table. Because of this Asumi feels she can’t be his partner, the death staining her family’s hands. Of course, he states that is fucking stupid and they get married anyways but still, it was the first time I felt in the whole book that ‘wow you are really grasping’
I’ve already discussed Mafuyu’s ending but the point remains that even the ones I didn’t much care for, specifically Rizu’s and Asumi’s arc they still felt real, meaningful. Characters, ending, and execution. If I had to sum up in three words what this series does almost fucking perfectly it is those three things.
We Never Learn overall is not perfect, I found myself annoyed at some moments, even slightly bored as I was going through some of the 187 chapters but even with all of that one thing remained clear. In context to harems, a genre I love dearly, We Never Learn is a powerhouse, a gleaming beacon of what the genre can do, what it can make people feel, and it does it spectacularly.
I have been sitting on this one for a while and I hope it was worth the long read. I assume if you are reading this you have read the series, if not I just spoiled it all but you should still read it anyways. Love the series let me know! Hate the series, well you’re wrong but let me know! As always thanks for the read!