A lot of fanservice anime tends to be gross. Maybe it’s because the fanservice comes through sexual slapstick of the “Whoops I fell and groped you or looked up your skirt” variety. Or it comes through battle damage of the “Female character gets their top shredded in combat and now their boobs are hanging out” variety. Or it’s of the “Male lead openly sexually harasses female characters variety.” Perhaps that’s why the fanservice that comes up in We Never Learn feels like a breath of fresh air.
Rom-Com Study Group
The show follows Nariyuki Yuiga, a very intelligent, studious high school student in what I believe is his senior year, who is preparing for college exams (presumably in his senior year). His family isn’t particularly well off, so it is his hope to receive his school’s VIP Recommendation to a major university – granted to one outstanding student each year.
Towards the start of the year, he’s called into the principal’s office, and informed that he will be granted the Recommendation – if he will tutor the school’s top STEM and Humanities students – Rizu Ogata and Fumino Furuhashi (respectively). However, there is a catch – Ogata wants to study Humanities, Furuhashi wants to study STEM, and they are both hopeless in those fields. On top of that, Nariyuki’s childhood friend Uruka Takemoto, a star athlete on the swim team, wants to get her grades up as well.
What makes this less sleazy as a fanservice series is that while, yes, the male gaze is still present here, what is also present is consent and the fact that while none of the students’ ages are stated, it’s not unreasonable to assume that they’re 18. First off, there is no constant glut “I tripped and groped” you situations. Rizu, Fumino, and Uruka will have close physical content with Nariyuki which will lead to him being rather aware of the presence of their cleavage, but it’s always initiated by them. There are probably a pair of moments where he accidentally sees someone naked, but he doesn’t initiate them and with one exception the circumstances that lead to them are believable. (The exception depends on sitcom logic).
To an extent, this means that We Never Learn has, in fact, learned on how better to present fanservice without being gross and sleazy. Again, it’s not flawless – the camera tends to leer on Uruka’s butt and bust in her swimsuit. But otherwise, this is a harem romantic comedy anime that completely manages to avoid making the protagonist into a letch.
Equally Good Cast
The show’s cast is solid as well. Rizu is written as being convincingly on-spectrum. She shows difficulties handling some of the more soft concepts I ran into when it came to studying literature and the humanities, while not being the sort of loathsome ass that autistic characters often are written as – and as someone who is On-Spectrum and also interested in the humanities, her motivation rings 100% true for me. Fumino’s interest in science also totally fits – she’s captivated by the poetry of the universe and wants to be able to take a career path where she can study it.
Nobody’s motivations are hokey, nobody’s motivations feel contrived. The Rom-Com misunderstandings come, basically, from failures to communicate – either through not being able to read the situation, or people having to work out their own feelings. If I have a complaint, it’s that by the end of the series, all of the three initial female leads have their own internal point of view monologues – but not Rizu. The show has been announced as receiving a second season, so it’s my hope that she’ll get a similar degree of story attention.
We Never Learn is currently available for streaming on Crunchyroll. The manga is currently ongoing and is available from RightStuf and Amazon.com (in print and Kindle editions)