The manga community, like any fandom, tends to have some rather strong views about certain genres, characters, or series. Sometimes these views come from passionate feelings, and sometimes from legitimate complaints. Ask around the manga community about Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend) and you’ll definitely find some of those strong views!
Rent-a-Girlfriend has a pretty dedicated following, and in the 2021 anime season, the first season was received quite well, scoring a 4.4/5 on Crunchyroll, and 7.26/10 on MyAnimeList. A second season was announced in 2022 — and yet, reviews on the series are very different for the manga, with it barely scraping past a 6/10 on MangaUpdates.
Manga readers can be a rather critical bunch, but the criticism of Rent-a-Girlfriend is, well, in our opinion, rather deserved. A distinctly unlikeable protagonist, a rolling series of escalating lies that push the boundary of believability, and a meandering romantic plot line that seems in no hurry to choose a ‘winner’.
So, why do we persist in reading Rent-a-Girlfriend? Why do we continue pre-ordering every volume?? Why are we still searching on Amazon for that elusive Chizuru figurine???
Today on Honey’s Anime, we take a deep dive into the mind of a Rent-a-Girlfriend reader, and discuss why we’re still reading this beautiful train wreck of a series — and why, sometimes, bad fiction can still be enjoyable!
Wait, What’s a Rental Girlfriend?
For the uninitiated, or for those who’ve simply forgotten, the main premise of Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend) is that our main character, Kazuya, has recently been dumped by his first love, Mami. Their relationship only lasted a month, but this is basically the end of the world for our college freshman, so he rebounds with a ‘new’ girlfriend. Kazuya hires a rental girlfriend named Chizuru Mizuhara – beautiful, composed, and definitely out of his league. For a modest fee, she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend (within certain limits, of course), and give him the company he’s sorely missing.
Things rarely go according to plan, however! Chizuru and Kazuya are forced into a dating charade when each of their grandmothers — both sick and hospitalized — are introduced to the pair. Unable to break the truth to their grandmothers, Chizuru and Kazuya begin living a double life. Kazuya continues to pay Chizuru, unable to bring himself to stop dating the beautiful girl he’s falling in love with; and meanwhile, his love life grows ever more complicated as his ex, Mami, interferes with his new “girlfriend”. There’s also the loud and eager Ruka, who declares herself Kazuya’s girlfriend and promises to make him fall in love with her, no matter what!
Now that we’re all caught up, it’s time to discuss why we’re still reading this series, despite the manga community’s criticism — and our own!
Reason #1: We Love The Artwork
Rent-a-Girlfriend’s mangaka Miyajima Reiji really brings his characters to life in both their emotional, heartfelt scenes, and in their dumb comedic moments. There’s a casual but refined energy to his drawings that we genuinely enjoy, and each of the girls look stunning no matter the situation. For a series that is often completely over-the-top, Miyajima also nails the physical comedy aspects as well, with expressive body motions and exaggerated facial expressions that perfectly fit the tone of the scene.
Like the food industry’s adage of “you eat with your eyes”, Rent-a-Girlfriend has a huge appeal in its visual design and artwork. It’s one of the reasons why we’re still reading and loving each volume, even if the story itself can be “meh” — at least the drawings are a treat, and we’re always happy to see Chizuru and Ruka looking their very best!
The fandom’s love of the incurably shy Sumi (both her design and her personality) led to the spin-off series Kanojo, Hitomishirimasu (Rent-a-(Really Shy!)-Girlfriend) — which is an incredibly wholesome slice-of-life topped with sugary-sweet fluff. Without Miyajima’s brilliant control of expressions — and his great clothing illustrations too — Rent-a-Girlfriend and its sister series really wouldn’t be as wonderful as they are to read!
Reason #2: We Love Flawed Characters
Let’s be honest: the harem sub-genre is one of the most unrealistic genres in manga. We absolutely love it, of course, but real life doesn’t throw multiple love interests at you all vying for your affections (well, at least in our experience, anyway)!
Rent-a-Girlfriend isn’t an idealistic harem where the girls just happily allow their guy to flirt between them all; instead, emotions are high, feelings are confusing, and family situations only add more fuel to the fire.
Chizuru is clearly unsure of her feelings about Kazuya, but she needs the rental girlfriend job to help her acting skills so she can pursue her dream career. With a sick and dying grandmother, she can’t bear to break her grandmother’s heart now that the lie has lasted so long.
Ruka sees Chizuru as her rival, not just as a rental girlfriend, but for Kazuya’s affections. She’s heartbroken that Kazuya insists on pursuing Chizuru, but still defends him and continues to prove her love to him.
And as for Mami, she might be Kazuya’s ex, but her meddling comes from a place of genuine care for her old boyfriend. Sure, she seems to have her own agenda, but despite her sharp tongue, she doesn’t want to see Kazuya taken advantage of and left broken-hearted once more.
Kazuya is perhaps the most flawed character of them all, and as the series protagonist, that makes sense. Lying to his grandmother to appease her high expectations for his love life; unable to end things with Ruka, the one girl who actually loves him; and unwilling to cut Chizuru out of his life when he feels so strongly about her.
Even if the series tends to overplay some of its own drama, these flawed characters are all the more human for their unlikeable traits. We’re still reading Rent-a-Girlfriend because we want to see these flawed characters figure out how to be better…and if nothing else, come to the realization that they need to change their ways!
Reason #3: Trashy, But Enjoyable
At the time of writing, 11 volumes of Rent-a-Girlfriend have been published in English, and 25 volumes in Japanese. With a second season of anime on the way, clearly Rent-a-Girlfriend is doing something right!
It feels strange to love a series that is, honestly, pretty trashy at times. But then again, sometimes we all just need a guilty pleasure read, right?! Rent-a-Girlfriend is like a TV soap opera — it’s not the finest fiction, but it’s enjoyable in its trashiness. The plot twists and the ridiculous lies are a stretch, and yes, sometimes it feels like we’re going in circles.
Every volume of Rent-a-Girlfriend is an emotional train wreck we can’t help but enjoy. It’s the type of manga we can turn our brains off for, and simply enjoy for being what it is!
Reason #4: We’re In Too Deep
Some readers might recognize the term “Stockholm Syndrome”. It’s a (mostly debunked) psychological theory that, sometimes, a person kidnapped or held hostage might eventually grow to sympathize with their captors. Such a person no longer regards themselves as being a victim — including to the point that they might resist being saved.
Anyway, what we’re saying is — please don’t save us from Rent-a-Girlfriend.
After going so long in the English volumes — and well over a dozen volumes yet to be translated — we’re in far too deep to get out now! For better or worse, we want to see these beautiful but flawed characters through to the end, if only because watching this car crash of a romance play out on the pages offers us some modicum of satisfaction in our own lives.
We’re uncertain if any of Rent-a-Girlfriend’s flaws will get fixed in the back half of the series, but frankly, that doesn’t really matter to us. We’re already obsessed with these characters and their drama, and we can’t wait to see what fresh twists and turns are in store!
Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend) summons mixed responses from many manga readers and anime watchers. It’s the type of series that had a lot of potential, and perhaps it’s been squandered in a direction readers didn’t expect. But for those of us who’ve grown attached to Kazuya, Chizuru, and Ruka, we’re addicted to their drama like a binge worthy season of reality TV!
Sure, we could read other, better harem manga. And our shelves are definitely stocked with much better romantic comedies. Yet, for better or worse, there’s only one Rent-a-Girlfriend, and we’re reading it because we love the art, the characters, and the fact that the story is realistic in how unrealistic a harem is!
If you have feelings — good or bad — about Rent-a-Girlfriend, we’d love for you to drop a comment down below. As always, thank you for reading!