MANGA REVIEW | "We Never Learn" - Vols. 19 & 20
With the main story now over in We Never Learn, Taishi Tsutsui is giving readers the chance to see alternative paths the series could’ve taken. Volume Eighteen had Ogata be the winner, in a presentation that was both sweet and heartfelt. Now, it’s Fumino’s turn to take Nariyuki’s hand, but does it deliver a believable path? Or are there some bumps on that romantic road?
Volume Nineteen of We Never Learn starts with a creative twist on the entrance exam story, this time with Fumino being the one injured. Feeling bad for the situation, Nariyuki takes it upon himself to care for Fumino while her ankle heals. But as he cooks, cleans, and helps her study, Fumino’s feelings for Nariyuki become stronger. This feeling is one that makes her feel worse, as she knows how much Uruka and Ogata love him.
Most of the conflict in this volume happens internally, as Fumino wrestles with her feelings. On one hand, she feels terrible knowing that her love for Nariyuki could jeopardize her friendship with the others. However, the more time Nariyuki spends under her roof, the greater the challenge it becomes to fight off those feelings. It becomes a bigger problem when Valentine’s Day comes around, and Uruka & Ogata pop by Fumino’s to make their “obligatory” chocolate for Nariyuki…while he’s under her roof!
The goofy humor of We Never Learn still stands out here in this volume, with both Fumino and Nariyuki’s luck running on empty at around every corner. From Fumino’s chocolates being sent adrift to a skiing mishap gone haywire, these moments will no doubt make any longtime fan of the series laugh hard. Even Ogata and Uruka act a little brave and blunt in front of Fumino, especially in a later chapter taking place at the water park. But in-between the comedic scenes, a sort of tenderness appears when things calm down.
One of the things that Fumino and Nariyuki connect on is the struggles of losing a parent. This is showcased well when Fumino asks him about what his dad was like. It’s a moment that demonstrates why Nariyuki is the man he’s grown to become, with Fumino commenting on how good people both him and his father were. Yet even when Nariyuki feels like he hasn’t reached his father’s level of heart, Fumino’s delivers some kind words that truly awaken his feelings for her.
However, when it comes to Fumino’s pathway to Nariyuki’s heart, I can’t help but feel like some steps were skipped along the way. While this manga has been going on for awhile, there’s this odd feeling that what happens in this alternate timeline is slightly rushed. The emotional aspect is there, but the pace that happens in this volume can be a little wonky. Because of this, it makes the payoff of seeing Fumino and Nariyuki together feel more like a Roman Candle than a full-blown fireworks display.
Thankfully, there’s enough good here in Volume Nineteen of We Never Learn to forgive it for its rushed conclusion. Fumino’s victory may not be as strong as either Uruka or Ogata’s, but it’s nevertheless believable in a sense. There are only two more what-if scenarios left, followed by the grand finale. Despite the minor hiccup here in this volume of We Never Learn, one can’t help but feel excited for where the next alternate path will take us.
VOL. 19 RATING:
VOL. 20 REVIEW
“Was Asumi the dark horse all along?” This question flashed in my mind midway through my read-through of We Never Learn’s twentieth volume. We all know that Uruka was the true winner, but these what-if scenarios with the other girls have been playing with my emotions in many ways. This next-to-last volume, which puts Nariyuki’s senpai in the spotlight, may very well be the most enjoyable of these alternate endings!
Taking place years after graduation, Nariyuki finds himself teaching on a recluse island, where the classroom follows Non Non Biyori rules. After one of his students passes out, he drags her to the island’s clinic, where Asumi just so happens to be working. As usual, Asumi is struggling with her studies, and Nariyuki decides to help her learn how to literally ties to loose ends. (Okay, it’s more stitching than tying, but you get the gist!)
That’s when their feelings for one another start to come out again. What begins with Asumi’s usual teasing slowly starts to evolve into true romantic affection. But when the school kids are put in danger, Asumi starts to see the true Nariyuki bolt into action. Once she sees what he’s capable of, there’s nothing to stop her heart from throbbing with love.
One thing about this volume of We Never Learn is that its presence is pretty ridiculous. The coincidental aspect of Nariyuki working on the same island that Asumi’s doing her residence in is as far-fetched as it is funny. But the more Nariyuki and Asumi find out about one another on the island, the more the idea of fate playing its hand becomes more believable. And the one who’s dealing the cards may just be Nariyuki’s deceased father.
It’s when Asumi’s dad arrives on the island when we see just how close her and Nariyuki’s family were. A flashback before the father’s death showcases one of Asumi’s dad’s biggest regrets, one that haunts him to this very day. But it’s how Nariyuki lifts that burden off of Asumi’s dad’s shoulders where we see just how noble of a guy he really can be. Character development has been one of the strongest aspects of We Never Learn, and the conversation between Nariyuki and Asumi’s dad showcases that power very well.
Then there’s the moment where the “what-if” comes strongly into play. It involves another dangerous situation with a couple of students, leading towards a moment that leaves Asumi shaking. One cannot spoil what happens here, but it’s certainly a moment that comes full circle for both Nariyuki and Asumi’s family. Thankfully, it leads to one satisfying conclusion, one that even those not rooting for Asumi might find themselves happy with.
So yeah, we’re nearing the end of We Never Learn now, with one final volume left. The penultimate story of Asumi managed to take me by surprise, in a series that should’ve run out of them halfway through its run. It’s been a joy covering Taishi Tsutsui’s rom-com, and I’m feeling sad by its incoming conclusion. But after reading this and the other what-ifs, I feel confident that We Never Learn is going to end with one major bang!
VOL. 20 RATING:
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media