First Look: Rent-a-Girlfriend

Alternative title: Kanojo, Okarishimasu
Manga Adaptation by TMS Entertainment
Streaming on Crunchyroll

Premise

Kazuya Kinoshita is a rich college student who just got dumped after one month of dating. Full of jealousy and loneliness, he decides to use a rental girlfriend service with his parent’s money. After complaining for receiving the service he knowingly asked for, he gets to know the fake girl better, and by happenstance brings her to his family, who now believe he actually has a girlfriend.

Marlin’s verdict: Rent-a-Betterplot

I’m a little mad at how much effort has obviously been put into this show. The character designs are well done, the direction is engaging, and the animation is fairly good. It’s such a shame it’s in service to such a toxic premise. Within the first few minutes we get the idea, this guy is lonely and wants to escape it instead of deal with it. This development would be smart if this was a longform novel, but knowing this is a romantic comedy brings forth a lot of questions and issues. I didn’t even get past the actual rental fee portion of the rental date before having serious problems with the narrative thrust. Now, I am the least likely member of the Glorio Crew to bring up class conflict, but even I was galled at the idea that he was paying 30000 yen, the equivalent of 280 american dollars for this rental date, to the point where it took me out of the whole rest of the story. Next, knowing this is a romantic comedy means we’re supposed to be rooting for these two, and yet they have no actual chemistry, and we could never even believe they have real chemistry because of the central conceit of the story. Even more distressing, they’re highly implying the ex-girlfriend is going to become highly involved with the story, which would just seem to confirm the wish fulfillment idea that the lives of these women revolve around some asshole with more dollars than sense.

I’ll just barely touch on how much this is unintentionally a huge commentary on the decay and decadence that has infested Japanese society. Kazuya’s initial attitude is understandable, if a bit laughable for its naivete, and could be a real source of reflection for a show. Unfortunately, it immediately gets dropped in service of a joke that sounds like a cry for help. He shows such superficial attitude toward life and how people should be treated, as objects of use rather than people to get to know. This is further reflected in the parent’s attitudes later in the show. Sure, the base forwardness with which they go about their sighs of relief and invasive questions is obviously exaggerated for effect, but it mirrors the real problem of superficiality in the modern world: if only my son is dating someone hot, if only he’s able to handle himself in school, I don’t have to care about his real development as a person. I don’t have to care about how he views women or treats them. It’s all just depressing the more you think about it, and it’s obvious that there’s no way they’d deal with these themes in the context of a comedy, so I’ll have to leave it here.

Jel’s verdict: I Want My Money Back

I’ll admit part of the reason I hated this episode is just being too old to have patience for this high school heartbreak nonsense – and yes, I know the characters are college age, but it’s functionally the same thing. Dude starts moping around and acting irrationally after getting dumped without stopping to think for one second that he might be part of the reason why. Clearly girls these days just like toying with guys’ hearts and moving on to the next one. In reality, seeing how he acts like a spoiled, immature brat for most of the episode, I would have dumped his ass too.

The only path to redemption would be using Chizuru to keep him in check as he learns from his mistakes and grows as a person. I did get a bit of satisfaction watching her bitch slap him during his sappy speech where we are supposed to feel bad for the dude that is well off enough to afford multiple $300 dates with his parents’ money. But you could already see Chizuru softening up in the end and I have zero faith that is the direction they are going to go. Throw another series on the dumpster fire that is this season.

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