Studio: TMS Entertainment
Genre: Romance, Comedy
I know, I know – the title of this anime alone is giving off huge alarm bells but I happened to watch the trailer for this one and thought… you know what, it might not be that bad. In practice the ‘rent a girlfriend’ premise isn’t quite so scandalous as it might first appear – coming across more like ‘The Wedding Date’, than someone just hooking up with a prostitute. Funnily enough, the idea of ‘fake dating’ someone for appearances (usually to get back with an ex) and then accidentally ending up falling for that very person is a pretty common trope seen in rom-com and teen movies, so I was intrigued to see if this anime would go down that route or not albeit with a male protagonist. Still, the anime’s title alone gives off rather problematic vibes and the promotional artwork, featuring four pretty girls suggests a possible harem aspect.
The renting system used in the anime is accessed through a mobile app with the customer paying per hour – from the looks of the date seen in the first episode however, the date itself is fairly innocent and is more about spending time with someone and pretending they’re dating. Mizuhara makes it clear that holding hands is as far as she shows physically with someone and even this is presumed to be more than a normal ‘rental girlfriend’ would do. Still, even Kazuya thinks of it as something fairly disrespectful and only goes on the date initially because he was feeling lonely after his bad break up. Mizuhara seems totally fine with her job, but even later on in the episode, it becomes obvious that her ‘rental girlfriend’ status is something she prefers to keep secret from others.
Our protagonist is twenty-year-old college student, Kazuya, recently dumped by his first girlfriend after dating her for only a month. The series goes to great lengths right away to show Kazuya as the wronged party, with him making attempts to get closer to her, only for her to dump him for someone else. Still, only seeing his side of the story makes it hard to really judge him, and quite frankly he’s just not very likable in general. The series makes it clear from the get-go that he’s much like any other horny teenager, and whilst this may be relatable for some it makes him suffer as a character. He comes across as rather two-dimensional and his actions throughout a large part of the episode are often rather pathetic and angry. Mizuhara plays out the role of the ‘perfect’ girlfriend well but when she finally reveals her real colours, it’s rather amusing – ultimately however neither of the two are particularly nice characters and that is perhaps why they are suited to one another. Still, I didn’t really find myself rooting for either of the two by the end of the episode, and knowing this anime is going down a harem route doesn’t really help you feel invested in them as a potential couple either.
The series keeps a fairly comedic tone throughout, Kazuya himself usually being the butt of many of these jokes and many of his facial expressions are particularly meme-worthy. Whilst there are some genuinely funny moments, there’s also a rather large amount of cringe-inducing ones which doesn’t serve to endear you to the characters but just feel a lot of second-hand embarrassment for them. Visually and audio-wise, this anime excels, however – the voice cast is stacked with great actors and the main pair do a good job. Their designs are colourful and attractive, and it’s obvious a lot of care has been shown with the cast to make them look bright and memorable.
All in all, I found this show to be rather disappointing – an unlikable protagonist and a fairly problematic concept with the girlfriend rental make this an anime which misses the mark. Whilst there is potential for some emotional beats in the story, not much of this was seen in the first episode and I ultimately didn’t really feel any sympathy for either of the characters.
Rent-A-Girlfriend Episode 1
Rent-A-Girlfriend is an anime surprisingly lacking in heart so far, and the main protagonist comes across as unlikable enough that you're not invested in his story unfortunately, making this series a rental I'd quickly return.