by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Something I asked of Rent-A-Girlfriend a few episodes back was to tell me what, exactly, Kazuya wants out of a relationship. The answers given so far have ranged from the obvious (sex) to the sentimental (companionship and support) but something I failed to think about at the time was what, if anything, Kazuya has to offer in a relationship. That's perhaps a modular way of treating human interaction, but romantic partnerships do need to be two-way streets and learning how to be an engaged partner is something a lot of young folks struggle with. So when we opened on Kazuya fretting over all the attention his Trial Girlfriend is demanding of him I was interested to see where the episode might go exploring that idea.
Nowhere, it turns out. At least for now. While there's a short bit with Kazuya ghosting Ruka on a Christmas Eve date, that gets set on the backburner for the rest of “Christmas & Girlfriend” so we can sit through perhaps the most painful stretch of this show so far, and not in a good way. It starts when Kazuya, depressed and lonely, happens to see Chizuru meeting up with a guy for an apparent date. His first instinct is, wisely, to keep his nose out of her business, but then the dumbass part of his brain just can't quit hitting the cortisol button and he turns back around to stalk the pair. What follows is an extended sequence of Kazuya following his worst instincts and jumping to the worst conclusions possible, and it is all around as tedious as it is cringe-worthy.
It's not just that Kazuya's being a weird, possessive creep towards a girl he doesn't even consider a friend (though that doesn't help), since our “hero” being an obsessive weirdo is basically par for the course by now. It's that if you've seen even a single romantic comedy before this one you can tell five seconds in that no, Chizuru isn't actually on a date and that this will all be explained as an innocent misunderstanding eventually. But then it just keeps...on...going, for well over ten minutes as Kazuya misreads everything they say and continually ignores better judgment telling him to just leave. By the time the show concocts a last-minute reason for him to misguidedly think the other guy is trying to take advantage of her, any patience or sympathy I had for Kazuya was long depleted and all I wanted was for him to internalize that just because he's caught feelings doesn't mean Chizuru owes him anything.
Of course that's not what happens. Once again Chizuru proves entirely too kind for her own good and explains the situation away in one conversation, even giving Kazuya a Christmas gift as a peace offering. Nevermind that she has every right to want him gone for stalking her all day, if this is meant to be a sign of her reciprocating his feelings it just does not work. Rewarding Kazuya for being at his worst isn't romantic or endearing; it's cheap and fails to actually grapple with the inappropriateness of his actions. If the show wants to portray Kazuya as the desperate, nosy jerk he's being this episode, it needs to actually contend with it rather than softening everyone's reaction to a blatant breach of their privacy and autonomy. Otherwise it strains any sense of emotional relatability left in this bizarre, contrived mess of a plot
In all, this episode marks a serious low-point for RAG. Fumbling character consistency for the sake of an easy resolution isn't a new concept to the show, but combined with drawn-out, unfunny delivery it only manages to drain away whatever goodwill Ruka's introduction stored up. If this series wants to rebound at all, it better start actually developing these characters rather than simply pitying them.
Rent-A-Girlfriend is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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