Original Run: July 11, 2020 - September 26, 2020 Number of Episodes: 12 Genre: Comedy, Romance Based on the Series Created By: Reiji Miyajima
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Rent-a-Girlfriend. Reader discretion is advised.***
Kazuya Kinoshita (voiced by Shun Horie) has had his heart ripped out after his first girlfriend broke up with him. In a state of desperation, Kazuya comes across a site where he can rent out a professional girlfriend. On his “date,” Kazuya meets the beautiful Chizuru Mizuhara (voiced by Sora Amamiya).
Kazuya is taken in by Chizuru’s kindness and maturity but realizes it is all probably just an act. Thus, he rates his rental experience poorly, a move that infuriates the proud Chizuru. In a flash of fury, it turns out the soft-spoken beauty is much harsher and more combative than is when in girlfriend-mode.
It is assumed between both Kazuya and Chizuru that the two will never meet again. However, fate has other plans.
The two suddenly begin to cross paths in their personal lives. Then, due to circumstances, Kazuya has to rent Chizuru’s services on a long-term basis. As time goes on, though, what was once a platonic partnership soon becomes something more substantial.
On the one hand, Rent-a-Girlfriend was much better than I was expecting it to be. It would be a lie to tell you that this series didn’t surprise me occasionally. I certainly have things to say in its favor.
On the other hand, the show was unsatisfying. But, we will save that for the second half of this review.
If there was one thing Rent-a-Girlfriend had in abundance, it was promise. From my understanding, a second season has been announced; great since episode twelve just sort of ended. I can see plenty of ways this show can trim its fat and shore up its more commendable aspects, such as its female characters.
From Rent-a-Girlfriend, there were four female leads. To a degree, each of them helped prevent this series from becoming yet another wannabe harem anime rom-com. There was an incredible amount of personality to these characters.
First, there was Chizuru Mizuhara, and by a wide margin, she was my least favorite of the four. As your classic tsundere (cold and distant on the outside, warm and gentle on the inside), Chizuru played her character type well enough. The reason I never could connect with her like the other female leads had more to do with how the show used her rather than Chizuru herself.
Throughout its run, Rent-a-Girlfriend made it a point to highlight Chizuru’s resilience and quick thinking. Even in the most awkward and testing times, she could keep a cool head. This attitude was essential given how her co-lead, Kazuya Kinoshita, was often irritatingly timid. Chizuru was a perfect counterbalance.
There were instances when Chizuru would be caught of guard and even get a little flustered. These moments would have done wonders for her character growth if, you know, they had been believable. The times when Chizuru was stuck in a corner didn’t make much sense. Usually, the problems that would get to her were nothing compared to other, more difficult complications she had overcome with ease.
Chizuru was the typical victim of story progression. Suppose a character needs to move the narrative forward. Even if it goes against all other establishments, they will do what has to be done in the name of the overall story.
Second, there was Sumi Sakurasawa (voiced by Rie Takahashi). She wasn’t in this show long enough to do anything of real note, which was a shame. However, I thought she was cute; that’s why I’m giving her a shout-out.
Third, and the first person to actually have something to her character, was Ruka Sarashina (voiced by Nao Touyama). To fully frame her situation, Ruka had to play dirty and wouldn’t accept “no” for an answer to get Kazuya to date her. Thus, I can’t say I was rooting for her. Nevertheless, it was hard not to sympathize with her. After all, from Ruka’s and an outsider’s perspective, Kazuya and Chizuru’s relationship was frustrating.
Despite Kazuya and Chizuru constantly denying there was anything romantic between them, their actions told a different story. For someone like Ruka, who was very open with her feelings towards Kazuya, this wishy-washy denial was maddening. She wanted a straight answer to a question that was being made needlessly complicated, “Do you two like each other?”
Finally, there was Mami Nanami (voiced by Aoi Yuuki). Hands down, Mami was the best character of Rent-a-Girlfriend. She had a lot going on in her head, and that was what made her so fascinating to watch. There was this dark side to her personality. She could be cruel and vindictive for seemingly no reason other than spite. As a result, you want to know where that hatred was coming from. This series did a fantastic job of not giving too much away while fully illustrating that she was fighting with some demons.
The reason I am on board with a Rent-a-Girlfriend season two has to do with Mami, and not at all with Kazuya and Chizuru’s relationship. That was why it was a massive shame when Mami disappeared and was sidelined during much of this show.
Rent-a-Girlfriend tried to do so much in twelve episodes. Sadly, the only thing this did was cause the show to feel unfocused and hollow.
For example, although Ruka was a great character, her coming into this series was more like a sudden appearance than a proper introduction; she was a distraction from the story rather than its progression.
Keep in mind that Ruka showed up right after Rent-a-Girlfriend gave us the first real taste of what Mami was like. And apparently, that was this series’ cue to change gears. This crossroad was the point where Mami wouldn’t play any significant role until much later. It wasn’t that we were denied a resolution; the story simply moved on to something else just as things were getting interesting.
That was the second biggest problem with Rent-a-Girlfriend. There was never a moment when this show followed through with something it brought to the table. This series didn’t know how to put something on pause.
An argument can be made saying that Rent-a-Girlfriend was setting itself up for a second season. I see value in this line of reasoning, hence why I see potential in a continuation. The problem was, this series didn’t leave much in the way of anchors; why should we be excited to watch a season two when season one didn’t have much to get excited about?
Mami was one such anchor. However, she was the only one. So, do you see where the trouble is? From where I’m standing, I have zero interest in seeing where Kazuya and Chizuru’s relationship goes.
Part of the issue was the generic nature of Kazuya and Chizuru’s story; a dorky guy bumbles and blunders his way into a beautiful girl’s heart. If you’ve seen this once, you’ve seen it a thousand other times. While this may not have done Rent-a-Girlfriend any favors, it wasn’t exactly ideal either.
Still, much of this show’s faults are a result of its biggest problem – Kazuya. Manly his never wavering spinelessness.
I get that Kazuya felt vulnerable after getting his heartbroken; he wasn’t in the best place to start trusting again. Nevertheless, this was the best place where this series could have built excitement for a season two. If only Kazuya had a single moment, just one, where he stood up for himself and not let others fight his battles, then maybe there would have been hope.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
Any time Kazuya looked like he would find some courage, he would immediately backtrack and laugh his actions away. Therefore, why should I care if this guy will get the girl when he did nothing to demonstrate he was up for the fight? Should Kazuya find a spin in season two, that would be great, but sadly, it will probably be too little too late.
It’s fine when a series sets itself up for a continuation. But when a show fails to leave behind enough reasons to return, it’s nothing more than a wasted effort.
This show could have gone down the tried-and-true road. Had it been committed to doing that, things might have been more serviceable, albeit forgettable. To this series’ credit, it was willing to expand its horizons; this was not a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy.
However, there was far too much hesitation. This show would only ever dip its toes into the water without ever finding the nerve to take the plunge.
So while there is some promise, this series wasted its first impression. Things might get better, but at the moment, I cannot give Rent-a-Girlfriend a recommendation.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this series? How would you advise Rent-a-Girlfriend? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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For Anime Hajime, I’m LofZOdyssey, and I’ll see you next time.