Why We’re Still Reading Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend)
Like any fandom, the manga community has a tendency to hold some very strong opinions on particular genres, characters, or series. These opinions occasionally stem from strong emotions, and occasionally from justifiable criticisms. If you ask around the manga community, some people have quite strong opinions about Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend)!
The first season of Rent-a-Girlfriend garnered positive reviews during the 2021 anime season, earning ratings of 4.4/5 on Crunchyroll and 7.26/10 on MyAnimeList. A second season was confirmed for 2022, although the manga’s ratings for the series, which barely surpassed a 6/10 on MangaUpdates, are considerably different.
Manga readers have a reputation for being harsh critics, but we feel that Rent-a-Girlfriend has received more than enough of it. A clearly unlikable main character, a cascading succession of increasing untruths that stretch the bounds of plausibility, and a meandering romance plot thread that seems unmotivated to pick a “winner”
Why do we continue to read Rent-a-Girlfriend, then? Why do we keep placing pre-orders for each volume? Why are we still looking for that elusive Chizuru figurine on Amazon?
Today on Honey’s Anime, we explore why we’re still reading this gorgeous train wreck of a series, Rent-a-Girlfriend, and why poor literature can occasionally still be entertaining. Tune in to find out more!
Wait, What’s a Rental Girlfriend?
The central conceit of Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend) is that our main character, Kazuya, recently been dumped by his first love, Mami. For those who are unfamiliar with the series or who have simply forgotten, this is true. Their relationship just lasted a month, but for our college freshman, this is essentially the end of the world, so he bounces back with a “new” girlfriend. Kazuya hires Chizuru Mizuhara as a rental girlfriend; she is stunning, cool, and absolutely out of his league. She will play the part of his girlfriend for a small cost (within reason, of course) and provide him with the companionship he dearly needs.
But rarely do things go as expected! When their respective grandmothers, who are both ill and hospitalised, are brought to the couple, Chizuru and Kazuya are coerced into a dating sham. Because they can’t tell their grandmothers the truth, Chizuru and Kazuya start leading double lives. Kazuya keeps on paying Chizuru because he can’t bring himself to stop seeing the lovely woman for whom he is falling; in the meantime, though, his love life becomes more difficult as his ex, Mami, meddles in his relationship with his new “lover”. There is also the obnoxious and zealous Ruka, who introduces herself as Kazuya’s girlfriend and vows to win his heart no matter what!
We can now explain why we continue to read this series despite the criticism it has received from the manga community as well as our own.
Reason #1: We Love The Artwork
Girlfriend Mangaka Kanojo, Okarishimasu’s Twitter Both in their moving, genuine episodes and in their bumblingly funny ones, Miyajima Reiji really brings his characters to life. His illustrations have a relaxed but elegant spirit that we actually like, and each of the girls looks beautiful in every setting. Miyajima also nails the physical comedy aspects, with expressive body motions and exaggerated facial expressions that perfectly match the tone of the scene, which is no small feat for a series that is frequently completely over-the-top.
You eat with your eyes, as the saying goes in the food sector, and Rent-a-Girlfriend has a lot of visual appeal in its artwork and visual design. It’s one of the reasons we continue to read and adore each volume, even though the stories themselves can be a little lackluster. At least the illustrations are delightful, and we’re always pleased to see Chizuru and Ruka looking their best!
The spin-off series Kanojo, Hitomishirimasu (Rent-a-(Really Shy!)-Girlfriend), which is an incredibly wholesome slice-of-life topped with sugary-sweet fluff, was inspired by the fandom’s love of the incurably shy Sumi (both her design and her personality). Rent-a-Girlfriend and its sister series would not be as enjoyable to read without Miyajima’s masterful use of expressions, as well as his fantastic clothing illustrations.
Reason #2: We Love Flawed Characters
The harem sub-genre is one of the most implausible in manga, let’s face it. Although, in our experience, real life doesn’t present you with a variety of love interests vying for your attention, we still adore it!
Girlfriend isn’t an idealistic harem where the women just let their guy flirt with them all, but rather a place where tensions are high, confusion reigns, and family issues only serve to fuel the flames.
Although Chizuru is obviously conflicted about her feelings for Kazuya, she needs the rental girlfriend position to hone her acting abilities and advance her career goals. She is unable to break her grandmother’s heart because she is caring for a sick and dying grandmother.
Ruka views Chizuru as a rival, not just for Kazuya’s affections but also as a rental girlfriend. She is heartbroken that Kazuya is determined to pursue Chizuru, but she still stands up for him and shows her devotion to him.
Mami, on the other hand, may be Kazuya’s ex, but her meddling is motivated by genuine concern for her ex-boyfriend. Despite her incisive tongue and apparent agenda, she does not want Kazuya to be taken advantage of and left heartbroken once more.
As the protagonist of the series, Kazuya is perhaps the most flawed character of all. He can’t break up with Ruka, the only girl who truly loves him, and he won’t give Chizuru up because he cares so much about her. He also lies to his grandmother to satisfy her high expectations for his love life.
These flawed characters are all the more human for their dislikeable traits, even though the series has a tendency to overplay some of its own drama. Because we want to see how these flawed characters improve, we’re still reading Rent-a-Girlfriend. and at the very least acknowledge that they must alter their behavior!
Reason #3: Trashy, But Enjoyable
At the time this article was written, Rent-a-Girlfriend had 25 volumes published in Japanese and 11 volumes published in English. Rent-a-Girlfriend is obviously succeeding because a second season of the anime is on the way!
To love a series that can be, quite frankly, quite trashy at times, feels odd. But then again, who doesn’t occasionally just want to read for pleasure? Rent-a-Girlfriend is similar to a TV soap opera in that it’s not the best fiction, but its trashiness makes it enjoyable. It’s a stretch with the plot turns and the absurd lies, and yes, there are times when it seems like we’re going around in circles.
We can’t help but enjoy the emotional train wreck that is Rent-a-Girlfriend in every volume. It’s the kind of manga we can just enjoy without thinking about it too much.
Reason #4: We’re In Too Deep
“Stockholm Syndrome” might be a familiar phrase to some readers. A (mostly disproven) psychological theory holds that a hostage or kidnapped person may occasionally come to sympathise with their captors. Such a person may even be resistant to being saved because they no longer see themselves as victims.
In any case, we’re pleading with you not to save us from Rent-a-Girlfriend.
We’ve been in the English volumes for so long, and there are still over a dozen volumes that need to be translated, that it’s impossible for us to escape at this point. For better or worse, we want to see these lovely but flawed characters through to the end, if only because we can find some measure of satisfaction in our own lives by watching this car crash of a romance unfold on the pages.
Although we’re not sure if any of Rent-a-Girlfriend’s problems will be resolved in the second half of the series, it doesn’t really matter to us. We’re already completely engrossed in these characters’ drama, so we’re excited to see what new twists and turns are in store.
The manga and anime series Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-a-Girlfriend) elicits a range of reactions from its readers and viewers. It’s the kind of series that might have been wasted by going in a different direction than what readers might have anticipated. However, those of us who have grown close to Kazuya, Chizuru, and Ruka are as addicted to their drama as we are to a binge-worthy reality TV season!
Yes, we could read harem manga that was better. And we have plenty of much better romantic comedies on our shelves. However, there is only one Rent-a-Girlfriend, for better or worse, and we read it because we adore the artwork, the characters, and the fact that the story captures the absurdity of a harem so well!
We’d love for you to leave a comment below if you have any thoughts on Rent-a-Girlfriend, whether positive or negative. Thank you for reading, as always!
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