In general, the character in a harem manga who gets the least character development is usually the protagonist. The theory is simple, the target audience is more interested in the love interests and like a silent protagonist in an RPG, the reader is invited to apply themselves over the mostly blank slate.
While We Never Learn doesn’t entirely break this mold, this particular volume opens with a Nariyuki-focused chapter that’s also one of the most endearing in the series. Uruka and Nariyuki sneak into their old middle school and we get to see how they met. But Nariyuki can’t escape the harem manga curse of being totally clueless about when a girl likes him.
Nariyuki also has another focus chapter later on where the boys from his cram school follow him to figure out why Asumi and the other girls are all so drawn to him after Furuhashi and Ogawa place number one on the literature and math exams. It’s nice to see him get his own stories and to learn more about him as a character; he’s more interesting than a lot of Jump harem main characters. Rito Yuki was barely even in To Love-Ru Darkness by the end, and no one missed him.
Aside from Nariyuki, the primary character in this volume is probably Mafuyu-sensei, and this is essentially where she really becomes a part of the harem. She features in two stories: a two-parter where her sister comes to visit and a beach episode where a dolphin steals her bikini top.
The younger Mafuyu, Miharu, thinking her sister and Nariyuki are a couple makes a really good two-part story, partly because the popularity polls have shown that readers really, really want Nariyuki and Mafuyu to be a couple. Miharu is also a good character in her own right; she’s slightly unhinged when it comes to her sister but also nervous around Nariyuki because she hasn’t been around boys much, so her attempts to “seduce” Nariyuki away from her sister to keep her out of trouble are genuinely hilarious.
There’s not a lot of sexiness in the early chapters of this volume, but Tsutsui makes up for it near the end with three chapters packed full of cheesecake. First, there’s a two-part beach trip story where both Asumi and Mafuyu lose their bikini tops. Asumi’s a fun spotlight character because her constant teasing of her kohai Nariyuki feels more like a romantic relationship than any of the other girls even though she seems the least interested in him.
It’s fairly unbelievable that immediately after Nariyuki finds Asumi’s bikini top and sees her off he runs into a half-naked Mafuyu whose top was pulled off by a crab and taken out to sea by a dolphin. But it’s really not a great idea to start pulling threads on the fan service chapters of these books. Mafuyu and Nariyuki do a lot of bonding here emotionally as well, which really cements her as a potential love interest with the other girls.
And after that there’s a chapter where a mix-up sends Rizu, Fumino and Uruka stark naked into the men’s bath with Nariyuki. Aside from all the nudity, the most interesting thing here is that all the boys seem to like Furuhashi over the other two girls. Furuhashi has always seemed like the “front runner” for a reason I still can’t quite put my finger on, but moments like this scene really sort of create that feeling.
The two Rizu chapters are the low point of this volume. At the beginning there’s an entire chapter where she keeps confusing discussions about bra sizes and test scores. It’s kind of funny when Nariyuki tries to figure out what getting a G on a test means, but that’s about it. The chapter where she cuts her bangs too short at the end is equally flat, but you do get to see her cute pouty face, which at this point is probably the only reason she’s still in the book.
Overall, this volume is pretty representative of the series as a whole at this point in the run. Every girl except for Furuhashi gets one or two focus chapters and none of the stories run more than two chapters. This format also means that not a lot happens in this volume to move the storyline along, but that’s not really what We Never Learn is about; it’s about each self-contained story being funny as well as a little sexy and a little sweet, and that’s a thing that Taishi Tsutsui accomplishes incredibly well here.