Rent-a-Girlfriend – 1st Episode Review
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Synopsis: Kinoshita Kazuya is a 20-year-old failure of a college student. He managed to kiss his girlfriend once, but was dumped after a month. “Ugh… Damn it. I never want to go through that again.” Completely spiteful, Kazuya uses a certain method to date a girl. He goes to their meeting place and suddenly hears, “You’re Kazuya-kun, right?” A beautiful girl brushing her long, black hair behind her ear was there, smiling at him. Her name was Mizuhara Chizuru. Something real is born after just a single rental! A reckless rom-com filled with love and excitement is about to begin! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Rent-a-Girlfriend is a generally enjoyable tale, with the first episode centered primarily on Kazuya’s youthful romantic struggles, the pent up frustration that brings, and how these feelings are compounded as he stumbles into using the Rent-a-Girlfriend service. This first episode is largely a success, managing to keep Kazuya likable, despite some of his more ugly outbursts. The comedy is on point thanks to compounding misunderstandings after Kazuya rents Chizuru, and the episode caps it off with a workable heart felt conclusion. But what’s to follow in subsequent episodes is the big question that keeps us from outright recommending the series.
Linny: I’d like to reiterate that Rent a Girlfriend does do a great job of making its protagonist likeable. From giving us a look into his anguish as he reveals his horrid luck at romance to how he always acknowledges his mistakes when confronted with reality, even going so far as to apologize and make amends. It’s what will likely go a long way to getting audiences absorbed into the show as they take to Kazuya and want to watch him find love and get to a better place in life and romance.
Tom: Not only is Kazuya’s portrayal nuanced enough to keep him likable but so is Chizuru’s. In roles like this, where a girl is required to pretend to be the sweet romantic partner she isn’t, it’s not unusual for the girl to be revealed to be entirely self-centered, cruel, or worse. Chizuru though has a pretty even-minded interpretation here. She’s a generally kind girl who only goes into a flying rage after Kazuya insults her. Otherwise she plays the role of fake-girlfriend wonderfully, and even when the facade comes down between the two her attitude towards him is often justified, rather than outright cruel. It’s a refreshing characterization.
Linny: And it’s not just our two leads who steal the limelight this episode. Kazuya’s elderly but energetic grandmother brings a ton of gags and laughs thanks to her frank demeanour and her enthusiasm at meeting her grandson’s new girlfriend. She outright mentions the importance of sexual compatibility, urging them to get on with it, spouting lines one could never imagine coming from a grandparent. In fact, it’s this very unexpected meeting between Kazuya’s family and his rental girlfriend, Chizuru that becomes the main comedic segment of the episode and is seemingly setting up groundwork for future twists and developments.
Tom: But all that said, it’s hard to recommend Rent-a-Girlfriend based on where the show chooses to stop. We’re left with the question “What now? Why does he have to keeping renting her?” I did some reading up on the where the story goes, just to get a sense, and it’s hard not to see how Rent-a-Girlfriend could become increasingly convoluted in its attempt to keep these two characters together so that real love might blossom. It’s all in the execution of course, but right now I can’t help but feel Rent-a-Girlfriend is best as a sweet, fun, silly one-off tale, and doesn’t easily transition into a worthwhile week to week rom-com. Still, if you don’t mind it getting potentially convoluted, and enjoy Kazuya and Chizuru’s budding dynamic, you could honestly do a hell of a lot worse this summer.
Linny: As Tom mentioned, Rent-a-Girlfriend definitely feels like it’s bound to get convoluted. We even get hints of it in episode one itself. Chizuro’s unexpected meeting with Kazuya’s family doesn’t make a lot of sense. She could have easily let him rush off on his own and he certainly never insists she come along when he gets news of his grandmother’s hospitalization, yet she does. And then theres’s the reveal that her own grandmother is at the very same hospital and is in fact, good friends with Kazuya’s grandmother already. There’s also the fact that this first episode ends on a rather strained note. Kazuya is shown to be very determined to move on, to never use the rental service again even if his love life is still as lacking as ever. He seems to have made peace with that. He and Chizuro have even mutually agreed to tell their family they broke up to avoid further complications. In a more realistic and logical setting, this would have ended the entire story. They would part ways and live their lives. Even the big reveal at the end doesn’t exactly answer or justify why they would be FORCED to continue to pretend to be lovers. All that laid out, Rent-a-Girlfriend is likely to still charm viewers thanks to its likeable leads and hearty comedic notes. Convoluted scenarios are par for the course in the world of rom-com, so there’s a high chance there’s definitely an audience who will enjoy Rent-a-Girlfriend for the many crazy twists and turns it will put its leads through on their path to happily ever after. As new summer shows go, if you have time to spare and a watch list to fill up, you could definitely give this one a try. There are a few solid gags so at the very least, you’ll come away with a chuckle or two, even if you end up deciding this isn’t the show for you.
Rent-a-Girlfriend is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.