There is a special sort of sting in disappointment. If a story—be it a book, TV show, movie, video game, what have you—is just bad, you can let it slip from your mind. You may have your gripes with it, but in some greater sense it will glide away from you like oil and water. A story that seemed like it was going to be good, held promise, wormed its way into your imagination and your heart… a story like that turning out bad gives you a unique kind of injury. Especially when you wrote a very public article telling people that you reckoned it had potential. Multiple articles, even.
Given that I wrote that big post speculating on Rent-a-Girlfriend’s potential, it feels like I should return to it and perform a post-mortem of sorts. Now, this is not me “walking back” my previous reviews or analysis. I maintain that the first few episodes genuinely compelled me, and genuinely presented a space in which to play with some really interesting ideas. Which, again, is why the show’s dedication to not doing any of the things that I suggested could be really interesting, is so very annoying.
Do I take it as a personal slight that a show did not cater to my wants? No. It’s clearly not made for me, and that’s fine. But it’s worth returning to the scene of the crime and unpacking what exactly went so wrong, from my own perspective as a viewer (and I imagine this is perspective shared by more than a few people). If I can write a post about how much Riverdale annoyed me for sucking me in with a cool premise and then going off the shits, I can certainly write one about Rent-a-Girlfriend. Yes, those shows exist in the same category now.
Every now and then I come across a show I am just… compelled to write about, a series that strikes a chord somewhere deep in my brain that simply must be noted down. Something in the narrative rings oddly true about life, youth, relationships, or some combination of all three; sends a resonant note that I simply have to pick apart and answer, often with far too many words at a time to be reasonable.
I didn’t necessarily expect that show to be this one, but here we are, and I have some thoughts about relationships, the markers of Adulthood, and how all that crap’s 100% made up… and how I think there’s a message about this sneaking through the heart of this bawdy drama-comedy.
What’s it about? Deliriously lonely after being dumped by his first ever girlfriend, twenty-year-old Kinoshita Kazuya spontaneously downloads the app Diamond, where you can pay for dates with a girl of your choice. The fake dating routine threatens to extend beyond the paid time slot, however, when he and his rented girlfriend are mistaken for a real couple by their respective grandmothers.
“Shenanigans,” with a capital S, seems to be the name of the game in this premiere. There are gossipy grandmas. There is slapstick comedy. There is the sort of improvised corny cuteness that you would only find under the banner of the fake dating trope. There is a scene where our love interests—who of course, don’t actually love each other, don’t be ridiculous—have to suddenly hide and thus they end up squashed together in a compromising position. Because of course they do. Right out the gate, Rent-a-Girlfriend seems to be a comedy of errors with a horny streak… but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have anything meaningful to say, necessarily.
Read the whole piece on AniFem!