Jun 29, 2019
papsoshea (All reviews)
This is three consecutive seasons where there has been at least one fun romcom harem series. It is pretty difficult to look at Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai (We Never Learn: Bokuben) and not compare it to Gotoubun no Hanayome, which aired this past season. A poor and hardworking student who is tutoring beautiful girls has certainly become a sub-genre in its own right. But here you’ve got both guys tutoring five girls, both guys being dirt poor and needing to make it work for financial reasons. In saying that, the similarities between the two don’t run as deep beside the superficial ones, which are unmistakable.

Adapted from Taishi Tsutsui’s manga of the same name, Bokuben’s story centers around a self-proclaimed “prodigy of the common folk” and third-year student Nariyuki Yuiga, whose main goal is to get a VIP Recommendation to his high school's associated college, which will allow him to skip the entrance exams and not have to pay tuition. To do this, however, he's made to tutor the two "geniuses" of his class—literary prodigy Fumino Furuhashi and mathematical genius Rizu Ogata, who has been passed over by all their previous tutors. This is a deal he and the headmaster of the school agreed to if he can save the reputation of the school, he gets his dream. Nariyuki went as far as discarded hanging out with friends in order to focus on his studies. Due to his family’s poor status, he works hard towards a future where he can support his family. The twist is that both girls want to study the subject the other is excellent at despite the fact that they themselves are terrible at it-and hilarity ensues.

Of course, those two aren’t the only girls of Nariyuki’s harem. We’re introduced to a few more that are just as fun and quirky as the first two. Uraka Takemoto is one of them (a.k.a best girl), who joins Fumino and Rizu as the most reoccurring characters (along with Nariyuki) in this series. Uraka is an exceptional athlete but isn’t the brightest of people. She needs better grades to meet admission requirements for English at Otowa Sports University. It is a simple story, yet engaging that keeps things focused on Nariyuki’s struggle to get the girls to improve academically. I was impressed with the way that this series imparts a strong sense of direction in keeping all of his interactions with each of the sisters in service of this goal. Additionally, the comedy works well around this premise by appropriately providing some college humor, as well as both situational comedy and playing off both Nariyuki’s personality as well as each of the girls.

Each character explains their motivations for aspiring to study the thing they're the worst at. The girls are just not waifu baits, they each have goals and dreams they aspire to and work hard for it. This is also the source of plenty of jokes since they have bad studying habits. Surprisingly, Bokuben has displayed some effective real-world studying philosophies, and the interesting part is seeing how Nariyuki tailors his lessons to each particular girl. A really good example happened in episode 2 with Uruka's diving English lesson. That was very creative with a well-timed punch at the end. Each girl has distinctive personalities and appearances, none look or feels the same. Fumino is an aloof airhead who has a charming innocence. Rizu has a frank, curt attitude and is bad at reading others feelings and emotions. Uraka is active, full of energy, and wears her heart on her sleeve. When you clash all three’s personalities, including Nariyuki’s caring, dull and dense traits, the result is character chemistry.

The last two characters of the harem bring more to the table. Mafuyu Kurisu is a teacher and one of the previous tutors for Rizu and Fumino. She is a messy person and often needs to have her room cleaned. She is also very clumsy, and at times finds herself in undesirable, awkward, and embarrassing situations. Her view is that people should follow their talent and that they shouldn't be swayed by emotions, which put her in conflict with Nariyuki Yuiga from the moment they meet. Asumi Kominami is an alumnus of the school who comes much later into the story. She often likes to tease Nariyuki for fun but doesn’t like being at the end of jokes. Especially ones that make fun of her height. The relationships and interactions that these characters have for one another create lots of opportunities for comedic and heart-warming moments. There are also some romantic beats, with each girl getting a “ship-esque” moment with Nariyuki. It is very innocent in its approach as well.

Studio Silver and Arvo Animation combine to adapt Bokuben. I quite like the characters' designs, they are distinct enough to be memorable and stand out, without feeling overdone for the sake of uniqueness. Their appearances manage to reinforce their personality without feeling forced. Personally, Uraka’s design is like a bottle of Ciroc Mango to me—sweet and smooth. Especially her tan lines, more evidence that she is the best girl. The overall production values for the series aren't the best but does shine in moments. The limited animation injects plenty of personality and life into the characters, but rather flat in other places. The visuals gags are pretty hilarious and well-timed but it can be pretty heavy with the big, floating chibi-head art for a number of sequences. Pretty colors, great voice acting, lively soundtrack—all standard stuff for a romcom harem series. OP "Seishun Seminar” and ED "Never Give It Up!!" are done by Study.

Bokuben isn’t exactly breaking any new ground, but it does well with handling its clichés and tropes, it's also got enough little things good that set apart from shows like Gotoubun no Hanayome and Nisekoi. It also keeps most of the sitcom style shenanigans and comedy fresh, which prevents it from becoming stale. This is the perfect show for lovers of romcom and harem, especially ones that lean more on the comedic side of things. It caters to its audience; it does turn up the raunchiness as episodes progress but knows when to pull back. Lots of laughs, a generous amount of fanservice, and plenty of heart-warming scenes. A sequel is already announced for the upcoming Fall season and I look forward to it.