The easiest comparison I can make for this show is either a soap opera where drama WANTS to happen but doesn’t, or your typical harem with a gimmick setup in order to get things off the ground. Well, there’re worse ways to start your story I suppose.
Nariyuki Yuiga is an average high school student whose highest selling point is being a jack of all grades in school, doing well in all subjects but not really excelling. One day he’s informed by his school’s headmaster that he’ll be able to get the school’s VIP recommendation for college on one condition: he must tutor the school’s most valuable honor students Rizu Ogata and Fumino Furuhashi in their worst subjects to a similarly proficient level.
The show’s translation title of ‘We Can’t Study’ is really only partially true to the setup of the series’s story. Taking roughly two chapters of the manga per episode, the story can largely be explained as a romcom school series where studying primarily serves as the series’s backdrop than its main focus. There’s definitely progress with how the girls’ grades improve as the series goes on due to the numerous amount of study scenes we see in the series, but this isn’t really what the series wants to be even though it really should make academics its main focus.
A typical episode setup involves the main cast spending time studying in some manor before the situation spirals out of control through random acts of god in order to further Nariyuki’s relationship with two females that progressively increases to five by the end of the series. Sometimes it improves the girls’ proficiency in studying, sometimes not.
Depending on who Nariyuki is interacting with dictates the direction of the episode, which either creates a massive air of awkward dialogue where no party knows what to say, or completely coincidental encounters that were handcrafted by the twisted machinations of a higher power. Because of this, episodes can feel largely disconnected from each other because the narrative relies so heavily on the ‘status quo’ of the characters’ relationships that it feels like filler with millimeters of progress for characters too nervous to just spit out what’s on their minds. As such, the pacing for progress feels very stop and go with a rare episode having some large changes while the next four or something episodes either have nothing of note happen afterwards or features the awkward fallout.
Yuiga Nariyuki is a bingo card of harem protagonist traits and tropes. Dense? Check. Lucky pervert situations? Yup. Nice to everyone, apologizes profusely, and doesn’t know how to handle women? Fuck, we got a winner here folks! Yuiga’s character is less of a protagonist or character, and more of the starting gun to whatever shenanigans is destined to happen. He constantly studies but usually gets flustered by either a passing comment said by a member of the female cast, or notices something about them (like being close or seeing that they’re weirdly pretty today). He consistently does this and it’s not very exciting to see his character amount to what we see even though it’s possible to create an actually fun harem protagonist. We get vague inklings about his past and how he became obsessed with studying, but it doesn’t come to light enough to matter.
Ogata Rizu, Takemoto Uruka, Kirisu Mafuyu, and Kominami Asumi are the ‘harem’ members of the female cast who largely serve the “studying into perverted/funny/romantic” moment that makes up the basis of this series. Each of them have a very different dynamic with Yuiga to the point that the show devotes entire episodes to his interactions with each of them as a way to give each of them a moment in the spotlight. (Budding interest, First love, Teacher & Student, and Senpai and Kohai respectively.) They’re also the show’s way of raising ‘flags’/add character traits to the girls as Yuiga, through usually comedic means, accidentally finds out more about them and either gets them or someone associated to them to spill the beans on their motive for doing better. While the content’s different, the setup and payoff usually follows the same formula and I’m not really interested when a lot of the dialogue in the interaction has the protagonist stutter. A lot. Give me characterization sure, but please spit some words out, man.
Then there’s Fumino Furuhashi. Usually I talk about harem girls as a collective “collect them all” kind of deal, but I’m giving her her own section cause this one’s special. While Furuhashi does share most of the girls’ motives at getting better at school, her role is being practically the only person with common sense and can read the room. Without her, the show would be dead in its tracks because she’s the only one who knows the shit that goes on around Yuiga and is the one who makes him confront the holes he’s dug for himself. She’s an extremely refreshing character in a show like this because her motives aren’t (mostly) based on any attraction towards the protagonist and really helps get the story going once it hits its many, many awkward roadblocks. I actively cheer any time she’s on-screen because she always manages to get the ball rolling whether or not she’s the main focus of the scene.
There aren’t really many side characters to note of, and most of them are character-based, pertaining to their one relationship with a specific character (since each girl basically has their own support team…) and as such aren’t really important to the story unless it’s for a gag or when the show thinks not enough wrenches have been thrown into the current scene. I’m actually more pissed that most of the girls have at least one or two members of the cast dedicated to pushing them to pursue a romance with Nariyuki. It’s as if the girls don’t have enough agency themselves to express their feelings or something.
Produced by a collaboration between Silver and Arvo Animation, the art for Bokutachi feels extremely bland to me. Art-wise, the show relies heavily on a lot of really saturated and bright colors which are not only somewhat blinding, but is also a style that doesn’t have a lot of depth to it. This is mostly apparent with how exceedingly brightly colored each girls’ hair is, which even looks unnatural by the standards of a medium with this as a mainstay feature. There’s also a surprising amount of fanservice which is only made worse when breast size jokes are a mainstay due to Furuhashi carrying a vastly smaller cup size compared to the rest of the female cast.
There’s also not a lot of animation in the show’s typical animation, reserving most of that for quick, sped up frames during the show’s many, many comedic moments where the character’s models squish and chibify themselves to express their current emotion. There’s also a constant use of tiny heads that pop up on the screen with one or two clear traits associated to each head to make sure you know which girl it is, which suspiciously reminds me of another series. Hmm… Since comedy’s a mainstay of the series, this is where the series sits at for a greater minority of its runtime, so expect to see a lot of this when watching.
“Seishun Seminar” and “Never Give It Up!!” by the convenient artist name of ‘Study’ are a pair of OP and ED tracks that aren’t really all that interesting. Super poppy songs that invoke the casual, school comedy setting aren’t really my cup of tea, and aren’t really the kind of songs are all that memorable. They serve their purpose, but personally I think are songs worth skipping.
When I first started reading the manga, I said to myself, “Wow, this reminds me of Nisekoi, and not in the good way”. The characters seemed to share a similar style, the setup to the story seemed to be largely forgotten for the sake of adding more slice of life moments with individual members of the female cast, and there were even tiny heads on the side of the screen/panels with one striking detail. After a bit of digging, I found out that the series’s author, Tsutsui Taishi, was responsible for the mahou shoujo Nisekoi spin-off, which leads to believe that he must’ve also been an assistant for Nisekoi at some point prior. So why the lengthy research report? Well because Bokutachi is basically the middle hundred chapter section of Nisekoi where it’s just the character faffing about instead of figuring out who’s the right girl with the key.
I don’t really have much that can be said about my thoughts about the series that hasn’t been said prior. Episodes can either feel like there’s story progress, or a massive slog with only a millimeter of progress to make it seem like it was ultimately worth it even though the show’s just gonna return back to its status quo. It’s a frustrating cycle that can go largely unnoticed because the show is built around making these near pointless situations as comical as they can be for the sake of entertainment. I just find it difficult to enjoy something when the characters’ default reaction to everything is acting flustered because Kami-sama decided to play a prank again on Yuiga that day. Furuhashi is undoubtedly my favorite part of the series because she mostly manages to skirt around these issues with her sheer presence by pushing both Yuiga and the show in the right direction, and I shudder to think what the story would be like without her.
Because of this, I find it hard to really recommend this show to many people. Maybe to Nisekoi fans, because it’s basically the same schtick where you fall into a camp and cheer for that particular girl to get the largely uninteresting protagonist trophy with a few interesting traits. But beyond that I think the show is trashy entertainment at best. Maybe season two will spend time on the girls’ arcs and explain the trials, tribulations, and reasons why the series’ females want to take the direction contrary to what they’re best in in academics, but for right now, the show’s a typical harem with only one character trying to push it in the right direction. Godspeed, Fumino. Godspeed.