Episode 16 – Rent-A-Girlfriend Season 2

You know, it’s my fault, really. This is something like the third or fourth time RAG has teed up that Mami-shaped football, promising that this time something will definitely happen from her meddling with Kazuya’s love life. By now, I should have known that it was going to yoink that thing away as soon as it could. Getting my hopes up that the most antagonistic force of this story would actually do anything besides ask obvious questions and then disappear to scheme for another half-season is on me. The disappointment I’m feeling is my own doing because I was foolish enough to believe this time I’d get to kick the ball.

On the bright side, Mami’s cliffhanger being inconclusively resolved in three minutes means the meandering sequence of events that constitutes this season’s plot can finally bring Ruka back into the fold. That means I get to hear Nao Toyama again, and without a song from The Peggies that officially counts as the highlight of this series. And to give credit where it’s due, Ruka does provide a lot of things I was asking for before. Kazuya still dumps a few mental paragraphs about how pretty she is, but the two actually have some banter and conflict as Ruka tries to tiptoe her way into getting some of Kazuya’s overactive carrot, and he tries to refuse without actually growing the integrity to be honest with her about any of it.

Yet it’s also that dynamic that just makes this episode kind of sad. Don’t get me wrong, Ruka is a habitual line-stepper who pushes past Kazuya’s boundaries in a way that wouldn’t be acceptable in a real relationship. If I’m going to rag on our hero for low-key stalking Chizuru and being possessive of somebody over totally unrequited feelings, I’m not going to give Ruka a pass just because she’s a girl and wears a cute hair ornament. But at the same time she’s basically the only character with a clear motivation who is actively pursuing her goal. Her goal her is getting together with a guy who sucks, but she’s far from the first teenager with terrible taste in a first partner. But because Kazuya is both down horrendous for Chizuru and too much of a coward to admit it, every episode with these two boils down to him leading her on her while she desperately tries to make him love her. And that is just god damn depressing.

Look, I don’t need for Kazuya to actually start dating or banging Ruka. But would it kill him or the show to let them have an actual conversation? Or to have him just…try? Like maybe just give an earnest go at having a date with her, see what it’s like, maybe learn more about what she likes about him. Just do normal stuff that actual people do when they’re testing the waters for a relationship! If you’re deadset on Kazuya being solely devoted to Chizuru, you could reinforce that by having him sincerely try dating somebody else and finding that spark isn’t there.

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But instead Kazuya spends the whole episode sitting around, totally checked-out while Ruka tries to make this date work, before saying he can’t let himself have sex with her because he doesn’t love her. There’s a lot I could dig into there – the idea that having sex with somebody you’re not in love with is somehow lesser, the conflation of sexuality and romance that leads to a lot of undue shame about attraction, how Kazuya’s obsession with his own virginity would probably alleviate if he realized it’s not actually a big deal – but we can’t really get into that and I refuse to go on record even hypothetically arguing that these two should bone down. So the result is virtually identical to the three-parter with Chizuru before this: nothing has actually changed, there’s been minimal if any development in any direction, and nobody’s learned anything new. Outside of Ruka trolling Chizuru at the end of the episode there wasn’t even anything very funny now that the shock-humor of the script’s obsession with Kazuya’s dick has warn off.

at least when Nisekoi was spinning its wheels, it went with wacky stuff like a foreign princess who looked exactly like Chitoge. When Rosario + Vampire needed to fill time you got some nicely-illustrated cheesecake for your trouble. If RAG wants to become a perpetual motion machine, it either needs to get sillier, spicier, or more substantive, because this half-hearted edging isn’t gonna do it for anyone.

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

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