by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 10 of
My god, he's done it! Kazuya has finally told the truth for once! Everybody break out your balloons and confetti, today we're celebrating our shambling homunculus of a protagonist taking his first step towards not being a puddle of congealed butt sweat. Granted, this is Kazuya so he does it in the most backasswards way possible but progress is progress nonetheless.
The central conceit of “Friend's Girlfriend” is that Kazuya's friend Kuri has been pretty down in the dumps since he got busted showing off a rental girlfriend. Even though the whole thing was Kuri's own fault, Kazuya realizes he may have goaded his friend into it by doing the same thing, and sets out to cheer him up in a way that won't just make him feel worse. Enter Chizuru, who continues to have unearthly amounts of patience for the dudes in this series, and agrees to let Kazuya rent her in order to go out with Kuri. Now I'm certainly not an expert in human interaction but this strikes me as the most galaxy-brained way to go about it. All it should really take is to sit down with him and explain things to spare him any lingering embarrassment, right? God knows more people in this show could stand to just air out their feelings like normal human beings, but nope. Everyone instead has to figure things out through hours of intersecting sitcom chicanery or else we couldn't get these episodes to 22 minutes.
But the ensuing date seems to do the trick anyway. Over the course of the day, when he's not drooling over just how amazingly hot Chizuru is, Kuri starts to warm up to the thought of a relationship again and I guess not hate women anymore, which apparently was the real goal of this? That's what Kazuya says anyway, though coming from him it can't help but ring a little hollow. This is the guy who dropped a hundo just to chew Chizuru out for doing her job too well and giving him funny feelings in his pants after all, so I'm not sure how much room he has to speak on burgeoning misogyny. Letting that go though, it's also just a weird goddamn choice to prescribe literally paying a woman to be nice to him to keep a guy from redpilling himself. Even for the show's bizarre, shenanigans-powered logic, that seems like a stretch, and it brings up a longstanding but understated issue with this show.
Rent-A-Girlfriend has a lot to say about what exactly its male characters want from a girlfriend. Over the course of the series we're subject to endless monologues from Kazuya (and now Kuri!) about what he likes so much about girls, from how cute they are to how they smell to how nice and sweet they are, but we almost never hear from the other side of things. Chizuru herself would seem like the prime delivery for that, but all of her dialogue comes down to what she, as a (rental) girlfriend can do for her clients, and even says their job is to be emotional bandaids for lonely guys. Kissing, sex, and being a free therapist is apparently the role RAG envisions for the ideal girlfriend, and that's just really skeevy even for a subgenre that's often defined by male wish-fulfillment. Even worse is that the show's own premise undercuts that by virtue of Chizuru putting on an act for her clients and isn't actually the unerringly sweet emotional pillow she presents herself as. The point of this story is that these guys who fall for her are falling in love with the girl they perceive, not her, while Kazuya falls for her real personality, but even this is undermined by the fact that he's still obsessed with the fake version.
(Yes, I did switch bands this week. But for a fun easter egg, check the first letter of each sentence in the past three paragraphs. I have to keep myself amused somehow.)
That disconnect is really at the heart of why I've more or less given up on RAG as anything but cringe comedy. Whatever moves it might be making to develop the cast ultimately feel at odds with its own ethos, and for a show with so much room to explore relationships it seems to have incredibly little to say on the subject besides “girls are nice and hot.” So sure, Kazuya makes nominal progress this week towards not being a jerk, and that makes Chizuru fall more in love with him because I guess she's never met a guy capable of improving himself before now? Sure, let's roll with it for the last two episodes, where we'll finally be introduced to the 4th girl the OP's been promising all season. I don't exactly have high hopes, but if nothing else a new personality could maybe bring out some new side of our hero that can make him more amusing, if not more likable.
Rent-A-Girlfriend is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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