It’s not unheard of for anime to come up with incredibly ‘convenient’ plot points in order for two characters to get it on; be it supreme clumsiness or as a means to save the world. One thing that is not exaggerated, though, is the seemingly unrealistic premise of Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend).
Pretty much everyone is familiar with escorts, expensive professionals you can pay to entertain you and usually results in some sort of sexual favors. It’s usually to enjoy an extravagant night out. While there are all kinds of such similar services in Japan, the Rental Family Service is a bit different. Not just regulated to rentable family stand-ins, customers can request significant others, coworkers, and classmates. Let’s take a look at some key points of rental family service through the lens of this season’s Rent-a-Girlfriend!
Professional Fun and Games
On the surface, it all seems like meaningless fun between a bored guy and a girl who wants money. They use each other to get what they want and neither really cares about the other. Kazuya starts this way, at first idolizing his rental girlfriend Mizuhara and then hating her when learning she makes all her customers feel special (as is her job). He decides she must feel empty or just be a bad person for accepting money for living up to the expectations of others. After making a public scene, Mizuhara chastises him and says she loves her job and takes pride in how good she is, revealing she even bought a book on fish so that she’d be able to converse with Kazuya more on subsequent dates. Rental partners often ask for information or research the kind of role they are supposed to fill in, going far beyond just looking the part and being present. While the idea is to have a good experience, whatever it may be, it’s still very important to take each job seriously. Some actors will use specific mannerisms or adopt different speech patterns to better serve the customer’s specific desires. Their professionalism is seen in how incredibly natural it looks.
It Serves as a Bandaid, Not an Antidote
While it may seem counterproductive to a business, the goal of many companies is simply to aid people until they get to a position where they no longer need it. By covering an emotional wound like a grandmother’s sudden death, having a replacement grandma to bake you cookies and tell you stories can help soothe that pain. One day, that wound will heal under the bandaid and you won’t need it anymore. Sometimes people don’t want to explain why a child is missing, a parent can’t attend, or there’s no one to accompany them to a wedding. Simply filling a specific role in a time of need can help keep events and ceremonies focused on what’s happening instead of what’s missing. Kazuya’s emotions are all over the place and he often goes from a complete disregard for Mizuhara’s privacy and free time to apologizing for being pathetic for needing her services. While she’s adamant about her personal boundaries and doesn’t let herself get pushed around despite Kazuya’s begging, she is always quick to assure him he isn’t pathetic for having feelings. She believes strongly that people should be allowed to feel hurt and lonely and as she says, “… some goodbyes can only be healed by a ‘see you again’”. Even just acting out those desperate wishes with a stranger can be a cathartic way of letting go of what we can’t change.
Setting Boundaries Doesn’t Mean Everything is Fake
One of the repeated gags in Rent-a-Girlfriend is how hot and cold Mizuhara can seem. Her dating persona is so sweet and cute, it’s jarring to see her kick Kazuya for attempting to hug her during a tender moment. It may seem a little harsh, but rules are in place for a reason. Unfortunately, it’s often people suffering some deep loneliness or loss that reach out for rental services that can’t be filled with just one or two meetings. Sometimes people get too attached or delusional and believe those workers should fill that role full-time because the pain for the customer is unbearable otherwise. Rules, such as women not meeting/entering a male customer’s house and nothing beyond hand-holding, help to keep things from escalating.
Mizuhara doesn’t allow Kazuya to beg her into going along with everything he wants but she does cheer him when he talks himself down, on or off the clock. She even finds herself getting more involved than she’d like due to those Kazuya loves and not wanting to disappoint such nice people. A lot of actors really enjoy their work and meeting new people, just like Mizuhara. Being able to help others is great, and they make enough money to devote their time to being available whenever someone needs them, something most of us just can’t realistically do.
Kanojo, Okarishimasu may be a comedy but it touches on some pretty profound and complicated topics like honesty, familial expectations, and personal relationships. Especially in cultures where appearance is everything, having a stand-in can be a serious life-saver. Loneliness comes to everyone even if they’re not good with people or don’t look super attractive. Sometimes it’s just nice to have someone to be there when you need them and never worry about reciprocating emotionally or physically if you’re unable to.
Rent-a-Girlfriend explores the topic of purchased relationship dynamics in a world where you can’t always know what the people you’re involved with are really like under their mask. Would you ever rent a relative or girlfriend? Let us know in the comments!