by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 5 of
OK so just a heads up: today's review is going to cover some pretty frank discussion about a not-safe-for-work topic. Nothing I think deserves an outright content warning, but considering this show's graced us with masturbation as a recurring plot device and the greatest eye-catch in anime history, I can't exactly not talk about it. Obviously I'm not going to be as explicit as the show, but just be forewarned in case you're reading this on your office computer or something. We cool? We cool.
Before we get to that though, we have the fallout from last week's cliffhanger to deal with, in which Kazuya leaped into the sea to save a semi-conscious Chizuru from drowning. The end result is that he manages to get them both out, but because the guy's a sucker for drama he yells out her name underwater and is rewarded with a lungful of saltwater. So of course Chizuru has to give him CPR and (of course) the show frames it as a kiss. Anyone who's taken a standard CPR course can tell you that blowing into someone's face like you're filling up an air mattress is about as romantic as accidentally burping during a kiss, but this cliché has been a staple of the genre for years and predictably Kazuya's first thought upon regaining consciousness is that th-th-their lips touched! I'd consider this a delusion caused by oxygen deprivation but it's sadly in line with the character and considering what happens later...well we'll get to that.
In the aftermath, both get rescued and taken to a hospital, and in the ensuing reunion it seems like Mami's back to just shutting Kazuya out. That's probably for the best since the last thing either of them needs is to go back and forth like they were looking to, and god knows I don't have the patience for it. Our hero naturally gets down in the dumps about it, but that certainly doesn't preclude him from running it up the flagpole when she posts her bikini pics on Insta. Then, in what may become the defining moment of Rent-A-Girlfriend: Kazuya tries to make W. K. Kellogg weep in the afterlife as he attempts to fantasize about Mami, but finds his mind drifting to Chizuru just as he's about to add milk to his corn flakes. Now the basic premise of a character realizing they're in love by reminiscing about another character is tried and true, but leave it to RAG to center the whole thing around our protagonist giving himself the low-five. I can't tell if I'm impressed or put off by the sheer audacity to structure a pivotal piece of character development around a jerkoff session, but it certainly leaves an impression.
After that bit of self-realization, Kazuya makes perhaps his first well-considered decision in trying to let this crush peter out. He's gotten enough scoldings to recognize Chizuru's not actually into him, and trying to flamingo his way from paid date to real date would just end in disaster. Unfortunately, his and Chizuru's grandmothers are conniving masterminds who set up an entire hot springs trip just to get those two into a hotel room together. On the one hand, I can relate to having pushy family trying to goad barely-adults into “settling down” regardless of what the actual people involved want. On the other, god damn if it isn't weird to have a pair of grandmothers explicitly telling their grandkids to fuck already. Chizuru herself remains a breath of fresh air in all of this, recognizing immediately that they've been set up. In any other show there would be a perfunctory gag with her calling Kazuya a pervert or phoning the police, probably with some slapstick violence at his expense, but instead she just goes to confront the grannies about it. In a genre founded on comedic misunderstandings it's really refreshing to have at least one character who doesn't jump to the dumbest conclusion at every turn.
Sadly I have to report that Kazuya's grandma stopped being delightful and just started being creepy this episode. I haven't made much mention of Rent-A-Girlfriend's cheesecake so far, mostly because it's been ancillary and largely contained to the kind I don't mind. In pretty much any shonen romcom you're going to get some cleavage or butt shots, and all I really ask is that it be kept to where it makes sense, and “old lady feeling up her granddaughter-in-law in the bath” doesn't. It breaks character for her and puts Chizuru in a clearly uncomfortable situation for titillation's sake, and no amount of self-aware winking to the audience will make it feel less contrived. I can handle you being horny on main, Rent-A-Girlfriend, but keep some stuff to you private account, okay?
Outside of Kazuya's revelatory bout of self-love, there's not much to remember about this episode, as it feels like RAG is just going through the motions. Next episode's preview portends that we'll finally be meeting one of the two other girls in the OP, and I'm hoping her introduction will at least spice things up and put something into motion. Besides Kazuya's dick, obviously.
Rent-A-Girlfriend is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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