Of all Shonen Jump’s current series, We Never Learn might stand out the most in terms of plot and genre. There’s no action to be seen here, just high school shenanigans. Nariyuki Yuiga is a hardworking tutor whose task is to help three of his prodigy peers– Rizu Ogata, Fumino Furuhashi, and Uruka Takemoto– sharpen their skills in the subjects they want to study in college. The catch: most of their desired fields aren’t related to the subjects they’re actually prodigies in! The second volume of Taishi Tsutsui’s academic romantic comedy is out now, and it collects chapters 8-16. How does it compare to the series’ enjoyable though flawed debut?
This series is very much a comedic slice-of-life, and on that front it works more often than not. Most chapters tell self-contained stories focusing on one or two of the characters, and there are generally accidents and misunderstandings galore. Tsutsui’s decision to focus on just a few characters at a time allows him to develop the cast’s personalities and anxieties well. There’s never a sense that any of the characters are imposing on each other’s page-time; all the protagonists get at least a chapter or two devoted to them.
Ogata’s chapters are largely the best. We get our first glimpse at her home life as an employee at her family’s udon restaurant, as well as numerous scenes with her and Yuiga working together to avoid embarassing situations. Though the pair of them have romantic tension toward the volume’s end, we get to see them interact a lot strictly as friends. Yuiga’s relationship with Ogata is easily more entertaining than those he has with the rest of the cast.
Art-wise, this volume is solid. Most of the line-work is quite clean and there’s a solid variety to the page compositions that help prevent events from getting too repetitive. Given the series’ comedic nature, there’s a lot of emphasis on exaggerated facial expressions and body language. Tsutsui utilizes this type of humor very well; the sharp contrasts between the characters’ usual selves and their dramatic looks of determination, exhaustion, and disgust are great. These are especially fitting given the high school setting. Sure, no one’s in life or death peril, but teenagers’ emotions are still extreme and rendering them in an over-the-top style is very appropriate. Tsutsui’s style isn’t the most unique or extravagant by any means, but it’s a great fit for this lighthearted comedy.
Enjoyable as this volume is, it’s not a must-read. It suffers from many of the same flaws Vol. 1 did, to include feeling very safe and genre-typical. A lot of the humor is quite predictable, especially where the characters’ sexual tension is concerned. There are a lot of very convenient events that result in accidental touches or confusing exchanges which, while sometimes funny, often lack the comedic punch necessary to make up for how expected they are. Besides this, my main complaint with the series is its fan service. Now, I’m not inherently opposed to it; plenty of people like seeing attractive people in their comics, and that’s fine. With that said, the characters depicted are high school students, so many readers are understandably going to find a lot of scenes off-putting. The fan service also disrupts the rest of the volume’s tone. So much of this manga is goodhearted and sweet, and seeing the characters reduced to sex objects counteracts that significantly. There’s some definite tonal whiplash here.
All in all, We Never Learn Vol. 2 is an enjoyable read. All the main characters get some good time in the spotlight, the art is polished, and there’s some great visual humor throughout. With that said, a lot of the other comedy feels too obvious to be successful. There are also some major tonal whiplash issues due to the occasional fan service reducing sweet, likable characters into nothing but sex objects. These moments get even more disturbing when you remember just how young the characters are supposed to be. This series sometimes feels like two different manga rolled into one, so while it’s a fun time it’s a bit too disjointed to be great.
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