by Nicholas Dupree,
How would you rate episode 9 of
There's a kind of vicious cycle to Kazuya's character. To some extent it's always been there, but as Rent-A-Girlfriend spins its wheels it becomes ever clearer that our hero's myopic approach to problem solving is a self-propelling spiral. Like many a modern sadboi protagonist, he's self-aware enough to recognize how lying about his romantic situation to his family is ultimately digging a hole for himself, but through nine episodes he's been totally incapable of owning up to it and accepting the inevitable consequences of his actions, doubling down with every lie in the desperate, doomed hope of somehow threading the needle and not having months of lying to everyone in his life blow up in his face.
Similarly, he keeps prolonging things and toeing the line with Chizuru, understanding on some level that her help and sympathy aren't inherently signs she's in love with him, but by god he just couldn't stop trying to convince himself that maybe, just maybe, she's slowly being worn down into liking him despite never showing any positive facet of himself to her. In a way, this makes Kazuya a fairly realistic portrayal of the all-too-common young man who was socialized to take any positive attention from a woman as a sign that she secretly wants to bang him, regardless of her quite literally saying the opposite. No matter how many times Chizuru tells him bluntly and without nuance that their “dating” is a business arrangement designed to end with him moving on, Kazuya wants her to return his feelings and so his brain twists any kind gesture or word into a sign that secretly she's also pining for him. It's a kind of hell, really; knowing rationally that things are how they appear, but wanting so much to escape that uncomfortable truth that he will bury his head in the sand until he suffocates before admitting to it.
What really makes it sadder is that it doesn't have to be this way. For one, while his family would rightfully be pissed off and/or mortified at him lying to them, if he came clean Kazuya could at least live it down at some point, but that becomes more difficult with every new bit of chewing gum he tacks on to the house of cards he's built for himself. For another, if he really, truly wants a partner, he does have options besides trying to suck Chizuru into the quicksand that constitutes his emotions, considering Ruka is so down to clown that she drags him to a love hotel before the opening credits roll this week. I'm not saying Kazuya should date Ruka, especially with how pushy she is with his own boundaries, but it's odd that he never so much as bothers to sit down and ask her why she's so infatuated with him, or what she wants out of their relationship. He just immediately tries to ghost her at every opportunity because hey, avoiding the problem is the same as making it go away, right? It mostly just adds another layer of lies and shenanigans to his own personal hell, tightening the noose ever so slightly with every new lie he tells.
Ruka gets to taste a bit of that hell herself this week, and I'd almost feel bad for her if she didn't bring it on herself. As if to prove that Kazuya isn't the only person who can stick their hand into a fire ant hill, she starts doing everything she can to insert herself into his life. Go to his school without warning? Why not. Literally hunt him down in the streets and strongarm him into a date in a love hotel? Go for it. Read his texts without his knowledge and crash his family's new year shrine visit? Don't mind if she does. And if none of that works, why not just get hired at the same business so he can't escape her without losing his job? It's objectively creepy and only tempered by the fact that the frantically woven web of lies Kazuya crafts gets her labeled a pathological liar so nobody will believe a word she says, which defangs a lot of Ruka's fumbling attempts at blackmail. She's somehow deadset on wrangling our lead, and that means she gets to crawl around in the swamp he calls his social life to try and hog tie him. The only reason this hasn't imploded in her face is that she's picked somebody too non-confrontational to just tell her to go away, but that can only last so long.
That all sounds rather heavy, but it's at least pretty funny to watch go down, even if it's quite miserable if you stop to think about it. The same unlikable nature of both characters makes what could feel like mean-spirited jabs at their expense feel genuinely cathartic and thus amusing. Ruka flamingo-ing her way into the family outing only to find her would-be in-laws nodding along like she's a crazy person is so deeply, cringe-inducingly awkward that it loops the moon and lands back on hilarious, and thankfully Chizuru is there to be the straight-man as she now has to babysit two idiots who won't get out of their own way. Though the continued insistence that Chizuru is slowly falling for Kazuya can't help but put a damper on it because a) the joke doesn't work if she isn't totally exasperated by all this and b) the show has done negative amounts of leg work to actually communicate why she'd feel anything besides pity for the guy. Outside of a single selfless gesture five episodes ago, he's done nothing but show her his worst qualities in a constant parade of mediocrity and pettiness. Kazuya needs to recognize that feeling sorry for someone isn't the same as being attracted to them, and it's starting to look like the show itself needs to figure out out too.
Suffice it to say my patience has run out with RAG, and unless it can manage to find something salvageable from our leads in the next few episodes I feel safe proclaiming that the train officially derailed. I'm also a bit concerned with the fact that we're 75% of the way through this show and our fourth girl still hasn't shown up. That makes me wonder if this whole fiasco is planning on baiting out a second season, since three episodes is definitely not enough time to offer any kind of closure while also juggling yet another new character and all the nonsense we already have on our plates. So at this point I think my hope is for the show to just crash as hard as it can, however it can.
Rent-A-Girlfriend is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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