Dumped by his girlfriend, Kazuya in a moment of loneliness uses a service to "rent a girlfriend" and book a date. Chizuru joins him for the day, until he learns his grandmother is in the hospital. Kazuya rushes to visit her but fumbles to explain why Chizuru is with him. He refers to her as his girlfriend to his overjoyed family. Complicating matters more, Chizuru's grandmother befriends Kazuya's grandmother. He doesn't want to let his family down, while she doesn't want her grandmother to know she dates men as a job.
Kazuya decides to keep renting Chizuru to keep up appearances, but juggling the story runs into complications. Kazuya's ex-girlfriend may be bent on breaking them up, and other rental girls also end up involved.
Is it better to buy than rent? It's certainly less expensive than dealing with three rentals at once.
This concept has potential if done right, so I hoped it would win me over, but I'm not sure if it actually did. The start was rough, with my opinion shifting a few until I had mixed feelings.
Kazuya is the biggest problem as the main character. This guy is so pathetic! He's supposed to be, but he annoyed the shit out me, to the point where I kinda checked out at times. He whines, complains, cries, and grovels constantly. He's often leering at girls in a way that makes the anime feel a bit trashy. Then there's the point where Kazuya realizes he's in love with Chizuru. So he's in his room depressed, then decides to "jerk it" to a photo of his ex-girlfriend. Then while wanking, an image of Chizuru pops into his head. Truly anime romance (not really). The characters aren't bad, but good chemistry requires they be well developed; something this anime fails to do in the main couple (and everyone else).
I struggled to get into Rent-A-Girlfriend at first. The story wasn't told well enough to pull off a serious story, yet not gimmicky enough for a fun comedy. Things come around with the introduction of Ruka, another girlfriend rental who was picked up by a friend of Kazuya. With seriousness off the table, the anime does a better job at the usual "juggle the anime girls" situation, and story points improve. Ruka has a medical condition where nothing excites her, until she encounters Kazuya. Thereafter she throws herself at him, declaring she will be his real girlfriend. I thought this setup was very cute. What bothered me was Ruka's assessment on the situation being totally correct. She points out that lying about having a girlfriend isn't helping anything long term, and there's no point in continuing a fake love resulting in nothing. He can't exactly get into a new relationship if pretending to be in one already. Chizuru only agrees to keep dating Kazuya until he finds a real girlfriend. Ruka absolutely meets that criteria, however Kazuya is in love with Chizuru.
That's another problem: Kazuya is kind of a creepy stalker. For story purposes, it's a thing where two people pretending to be in love, actually fall in love. That gets tricky due to the premise of the anime. Chizuru is clear it's her job and that she's not interested. However Kazuya becomes obsessed over her. Looking at his actions out of context with any other girl and it appears very stalker-ish.
A third rental girl lands later in the anime. She's bad at her job due to being incredibly shy; a really adorable setup. There's also the sinister ex-girlfriend orbiting in the background, but it's hard to say where that will go. The anime does a good job sticking to the girlfriend rental theme, with each of the girls having a different situation relating to the story. Unfortunately the added girls are pretty much peripherals due to the "destined one" being a foregone conclusion. The anime is in progress but I'd be surprised if there was an upset with the ending.
I wish this anime hadn't taken the simple route with Chizuru. It would have been more interesting with Chizuru and Kazuya NOT romantically involved. Faking the relationship could still work, but maybe give Chizuru something like a big sister role in trying to help Kazuya get a girlfriend. Changes aside, I would have liked to see demonstrations of Chizuru's skill at being the perfect girl, even in difficult circumstances. Or maybe giving a shy co-worker pointers on being a great professional girlfriend.
Is Rent-a-Girlfriend worth it? Maybe. It's okay, with parts I liked and parts rubbing me the wrong way. I could see how people would enjoy it more than I did as a light hearted (some what) fun romantic comedy. Another season with a strong conclusion to the story would improve things a lot. If you're interested by the setup and don't have high expectations, I'd give it a shot. Otherwise it's run of the mill stuff.
Yoshiaki: When you let reality win and stop dreaming, you die inside.
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