This will be the final anime I cover for this year’s Merry Days of Anime. To end it, I wanted to do something very stupid: indulge in something I knew I would probably hate going into. What better example than with Bokutachi wa Benkyou ga Dekinai, a rom-com harem anime where a geeky-looking doofus happens to attract the attention of multiple way-out-of-his-league women of varying personality archetypes? Just like the old days…
It would seem inevitable that something like this, which would’ve been an easy below-five-scored title for me in my “glory days,” would continue to irritate me in newfound ways. However, I’ve been surprised before! Perhaps this will be a lovely outlier, something that goes beyond its surface triviality and will dig deep into its characters to provide a fulfilling, emotional experience!
Spoiler: it didn’t.
“His late father always said that a useless man should strive to be useful, so to that end, third-year high school student Nariyuki Yuiga dedicated himself to becoming a high-achieving student in his school, despite his history of poor grades. In order to give his destitute family a better life, his ultimate goal is to obtain the special VIP nomination, a prestigious scholarship covering all future university tuition fees.
“Although Nariyuki could feasibly be a shoe-in for the nomination, he is constantly overshadowed by classmates Rizu Ogata and Fumino Furuhashi in mathematics and literature, respectively.
“To his delight, Nariyuki receives the nomination, but there’s a catch: he has to tutor his two star classmates, who are each hopelessly mediocre at the other’s subject of expertise! To make matters worse, the subjects they are horrible at are the same subjects they want to pursue for their future. As the time to submit university applications draws nearer, Nariyuki must find an effective tutoring method for the girls before it’s too late.“
Before anything else, I wish to make two things very clear:
- I only watched the first season. Based on the time between the production of the first and second seasons (which are only months apart), this seems to have been originally planned as a two-cour series. Some information I provide may be resolved or further implemented in the second season, but I’m not taking the time to watch more of this.
- This is not the worst thing I have ever seen. It did, however, remind me very staunchly as to why I do not watch harem anime.
After managing to sit through thirteen episodes with only minimal skimming near the end, I can say with confidence that this series is very much a straight male fantasy and little more. “But aren’t all harem anime straight male fantasies?” Generally, yes; what I’m trying to say is that “BokuBen,” which is how I’ll refer to it henceforth, is zero different. There is nothing special about this series. Another addition to the “harem with exploitatively salacious material” pile.
There’s certainly no shortage of the material, either, let me tell you. Every episode has at least one or two wacky situations where the male lead is caught up in seeing girls semi-exposed/exposed and/or placed in the perfect position to be “lucky.” The initial premise of tutoring people is more of a set-up to always be around these girls, leading to sexually induced situations. Sometimes these characters actually study! And the plot centers around them improving their grades! …Until it doesn’t.
It’s one thing to just have a series revolve around finding ways to be excessively ecchi, but BokuBen barely tries to go beyond the basics. “Oops! Someone pushed me into your oppai! Boing!” “Ahh! You fell into me and coincidentally locked lips with me! So awkward!” “Hey, I’m ready to study and I’m entering your roo—Oh, my goodness! I didn’t know you were changing! Gaaah!” All the boring, cliché shit people have seen billions of times over. If you’re going to go down this route, at least show some creativity.
At later points, it doesn’t even seem to try anymore. There’s a situation where the male lead is tasked with covering his mother’s shift at a lingerie store (yeah ok) and he’s put into a mascot costume. Wouldn’t you know, every person he knows ends up stopping in and immediately assumes the person in the mascot costume is female, so they drop their guard (clothes) without hesitation. Isn’t that just convenient? Isn’t that just so funny? Hahaha, I am crying laughing. Hahahahaha.
My issue with this is the issue I have with almost every harem I have ever seen: nothing is earned. The male lead is a “nice guy” who is good at studying. Truly the pinnacle of humanity. Because he, at one point, said or did one (1) nice thing to someone of the opposite sex, his image is transformed to that of mid-2000’s Orlando Bloom. Because after all, how to get a woman to love you is to be nice to them. You don’t even need to try, they’re putty in your hands with a single, triumphant speech.
Again, the initial premise of helping these girls study is only loosely followed as the series continues. There are very minimal scenes (more near the beginning) of them actually studying, showing the male lead actually tutor them, and seeing the results of their efforts. Cool. Progress. Eventually, as it always happens, it scurries off in an opposite direction where the characters just fondle each other for no reason and compare breast sizes. Remember: If you’re flat, you’re not a real woman.
The negativity on display so far would have you assume I hated this beyond reason. To some extent, this is true—BokuBen is a series that would make me legitimately hate anime if it was my only exposure to the medium. But it wasn’t irredeemable, not at all. There are cute moments and endearing sides to this buried way… way down. Past all the gross self-indulgent bits and sexual exploitation.
One of the very first scenes in this series shows the male lead thinking about his father and how he urged him as a child to strive for progress even when he was failing. That’s something! Motivation for the male lead to build off of, and he has a goal. It’s clear, it’s evident. Something we, as the audience member, can relate to. Even the two girls he ends up tutoring at first have goals: they want to attend colleges for subjects they’re not good at. They need male lead to tutor them to achieve this.
BokuBen‘s premise has value. To some extent, they built on it. The first episode is probably the best of the bunch—it wasn’t particularly funny, but it set a foundation for meeting these goals and introducing us to the characters. Then, it started introducing more girls and the direction started becoming muddy and then I developed some PTSD with all the flashes of light or soap covering the female anatomy and… wow, it’s all a blur.
Props to Furuhashi, the blue-haired girl up there, for being the one character I could see as a human being and not a cartoon character. Most of the girls in this are cartoon characters; Furuhashi is only slightly cartoonish, though shows a sense of maturity most other characters don’t have (including a literal teacher…). I came to see her being onscreen as a respite from the madness. Though she is also subject to being shown mostly nude from time to time, she takes the prize of “best girl.”
So you see, it’s not all bad! It has one decent character! And the premise is okay when they actually pay attention to it! Yeah.
Oh! I almost forgot: animation is also pretty solid. Character designs are fun and colorful. Not a lot of shortcuts used that I could see, and the expressiveness of characters are generally delightful. And, if that is your goal, the girls are shown mostly naked, like, a million times. Furuhashi may be “best girl,” but Ogata might be aesthetically cutest to me.
Pretty bad. I’m sure many readers who have read my content for this long could have predicted this, and I don’t blame them. Harem anime is really, really, really, really not for me. There are too many sexually stimulating events, which only dull with each added use. Characters are basically archetypes—save for one—and they don’t really go as far as they should with the “I have a goal to reach this college” thing. At least in season one.
I don’t really care. Watch it if you have a fetish for touching girls’ stomachs.
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
For more anime reviews, check out the associated archive.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great rest of your day.