Love can be a complicated journey to navigate – so why not hire a girlfriend and keep things simple? Rent-A-Girlfriend tells the story of the recently-dumped and desperate Kazuya Kinoshita, who stumbled upon a girlfriend-rental service. After he finds himself disillusioned with the service and leaves a bad review for one of its star employees, the two get awkwardly entangled in each other’s lives, and a comedy of awkward errors ensues.
Kazuya is floating on cloud 9 as he reflects on having a beautiful girlfriend – but just as he’s ready to take things to the next level, she dumps him and blocks him on social media. Completely shut out, Kazuya is devastated, and in his romantic grief, finds a questionable service called “Rent-a-Girlfriend”.
Interested in trying it out, and assuming the girl would be “fugly without filters on”, Kazuya is stunned to be met by Mizuhara Chizuru – a beautiful college student who goes on a perfect date with him. The two go to the museum, she asks him questions, and at the end of the night she even holds his hand! (They don’t even censor it…)
Kazuya is thrilled with the service…until he reads all of the other reviews from previous “dates” – and is livid at the performative nature of it all. In order to give her a piece of his mind, Kazuya hires her again, but this time offers snide comments throughout the date until he finally has an outburst at the aquarium.
Mizuhara pulls him away from everyone and, once out of view, lays into him for his rudeness and leaving her a one-star review previously. He can tell that this was the “real” Mizuhara, but just as he’s being properly raked over the coals, he gets a call that his grandma collapsed. Racing to the hospital, Mizuhara tags along since he “still has time left”.
The family is utterly shocked that Kazuya has arrived with such a cute girlfriend – including his grandma, who is the matriarch of the family that helped keep their small business afloat after her husband passed away at a young age. Her dream has been for Kazuya to find a nice girl before she dies, and she’s moved to tears of joy knowing that he found someone.
Mizuhara is happy to play along for the time being, but things get a bit complicated when Kazuya’s grandma goes to tell her “best friend” on the same floor, and Mizuhara makes the connection that her own grandmother is an inpatient at the very same hospital. Of course, the two know each other, so Kazuya and Mizuhara attempt to hide…badly…in an empty hospital bed.
Under the covers.
Ultimately uncovered, Mizuhara’s grandma spots her and the two are properly recognized as “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. Outside of the hospital, Kazuya confesses the circumstances that led him to hiring her, admitting he felt like a “rabbit” that would “die of loneliness”.
Mizuhara asks him to essentially cut the pity-party, but invites him to give her a call if he’s ever feeling like a rabbit. He leaves her a rave review that night, and the two are confident they won’t cross paths again.
Of course, the next day, they do.
The first thing that came to mind when I reviewed the premise was that it seemed like a more adult version of Ouran High School Host Club. Rather than simply accompanying someone on a lunch or tea break, however, these rental girlfriends spend a whole afternoon with someone (though never an evening…they do have standards, after all!)
I found there were a few instances where the comedy had difficulty landing properly – particularly when much of it is centered on sex. The awkwardness occasionally comes roaring to the forefront, blunting the execution. An example of this is in the closing lines of the episode when a pair of Kazuya’s friends arrive on his way to class and ask him (as guys are wont to do) how many times he masturbated the day before just as the trio encounters Mizuhara (in “student” mode, of course) on campus. It just seemed forced, almost to the point of distraction.
I found more of the entertainment/enjoyment in uncovering more of Mizuhara’s “true” personality, though the pair’s banter and chemistry falls painfully short of similar pairings such as Sakuta and Mai from Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny-Senpai. There is still time to allow it to blossom, of course, but the similarity led me to an inevitable comparison, and if you’re familiar with Bunny-Senpai, you may have left the debut episode feeling the same.
The animation was fine, nothing of note or unique in its execution, nor did it have a particularly polished or upscale look.
The ending theme gives us a peek at three other girls that work for the agency (presumably), so I’m interested to see how their characters ultimately are integrated into the broader narrative. I’m also invested (slightly) in seeing Mizuhara and Kazuya’s relationship blossom. I’m optimistic that the chemistry will improve, and the resulting episodes can rely less on heavy-handed innuendo and physical comedy and more on navigating college, romance, and the burdens they each carry to make their respective families proud.
You can watch Rent-A-Girlfriend on Crunchyroll, with new episodes every Friday!