Episodes 13-15 – Rent-A-Girlfriend Season 2

It’s fair to say I wasn’t really looking forward to more RAG. While I enjoyed a substantial amount of the first season, by the end of its last “arc” I had lost my patience. It wasn’t just that Kazuya was an eternal sadsack creep who found a way to center every conversation on either his heartbreak or his boner. Nor was it the total lack of development on all fronts of his various relationships. I’ve sat through shows with scummier protagonists and loved RomComs with more glacial pacing. It was the combination of those elements, along with dwindling chemistry between the cast, that made it a frustrating, ultimately charmless waste of everyone’s time. All the promises that Kazuya would someday develop a more endearing personality couldn’t and didn’t make sitting through his unending moping and jerkoff fantasies any more entertaining in the moment.

And sadly all of those things are still true as of season two, which picks up the ball right where the first left it, and then proceeds to lazily dribble underneath the hoop for about two and a half episodes before making a halfhearted layup attempt. I’m not trying to speak harshly when I say that everything in these three episodes could have been condensed into half the time and it would have actively been better for it. Because there are kernels of nice ideas here – Chizuru’s genuine heartbreak over missing her big break took me by surprise, and it was a much-needed moment to develop her outside the filter of Kazuya’s crush on her.

Likewise, I like that the two of them finally have a real conversation where they learn more about each other, and for as cringe as he can be I was happy to see Kazuya sincerely offer his support. This is ostensibly a story about these two eventually getting together, so having our lead make actual strides in being a better partner, and seeing more of who Chizuru is outside of her role as love interest are both important factors in making this romance feel at all earned. These are good, worthwhile moments to have in your romance story, and while not huge on their own, could prove to be pivotal parts of a great whole if the story is able to capitalize on them. All I want is to see their relationship change from the holding pattern it’s been in, and this is at least a good start.

But by god is it a chore to get there. So much of these three episodes is spent crammed inside Kazuya’s brainspace, following along with every stray thought and obvious misunderstanding that comes with them. We see Chizuru’s play entirely from his perspective, and he never stops inner-monologuing about how amazing she is. They go to the batting cages and he spends the entire scene flashing back to the previous episode. Chizuru hangs out in his apartment and he spends multiple minutes with his eyes glued to her skirt hem. These are moments that any other show would use to build rapport between its romantic leads, or give them meaningful dialogue that allows both to learn more about one another, or to just indulge in some shameless cheesecake. Yet all of them are instead spent listening to Kazuya mope, snivel, or drool as he goes over the same conflict he’s been pretending to deal with since last season.

And look, I’m not demanding this show become a whirlwind romance. I’ve watched romcoms new and old where you’d be lucky if the main couple held hands by accident before episode 100. But those shows still knew how to craft characters who were fun to follow, where watching them meander around their feelings for eons felt like spending time with a lovable cast of friends. For romcoms it’s the journey, not the destination, but RAG‘s journey is driving 45 on the interstate, windows up, radio off, while your college roommate reads hentai on his phone in the passenger seat. If the show is going to tread water for however long it wants to, it’s got to find something for Kazuya to do besides harp on how Chizuru is the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world. Because that alone isn’t enough to sustain it.

And there are hints at possible drama, or at least some momentary complications. Mami is finally, finally interacting with Kazuya again, and hopefully we’ll start to actually learn something about her. How does she really feel about the guy? Why exactly did she break up with him, only to immediately get possessive over his apparent rebound? For what is essentially the villain and inciting incident of this entire story, she’s barely been more than a dead-eyed Twitter troll, and I really would like to know more about her, if only so I understand why she’s so hung up on a guy she doesn’t seem to like at all. Or hey, maybe we can get some more development for Ruka, or Sumi can show up for more than 30 seconds. Have a character slip on a banana peel and fall into a wedding cake. Commit a war crime! just something, anything to shake this show out of its stagnancy.

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Rent-A-Girlfriend Season 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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