“They’ll just send in some special ops douchebags with pussy-ass heartbeat monitors on their guns, instead of us.” –Terrence Sweetwater, Battlefield: Bad Company 2
After university student Kazuya Kinoshita is dumped by his girlfriend, Mami Nanami, he falls into a depression and signs up for a rental girlfriend programme via smartphone app. He is assigned Chizuru Mizuhara, a kindhearted and beautiful girl, but when he realises that the date felt hollow, rates her poorly. The next date they go on, Chizuru takes Kazuya to the woodshed, but things are cut short when Kazuya learns his grandmother was hospitalised. He brings Chiruzu with him and inadverdently creates a misunderstanding in which his grandmother, and Chizuru’s grandmother, assume the pair are dating. The pair try to break things off while at the same time, remain tactful to their grandmothers, who would be heartbroken to learn that their relationship was a scam. However, things become increasingly complex when other rental girlfriends appear and begin falling for Kazuya, who’s come to genuinely fall in love with Chizuru, who took up the rental girlfriend post to better prepare for her aspiration of being an actress. This is Kanojo, Okarishimasu (Rent-A-Girlfriend, literally “I’d like to rent a girlfriend”), an anime that aired during the summer of 2020, and whose very presence had been lambasted to Hel and back by irate viewers who found the premise outlandish, the progression implausible, and Kazuya himself was infuriatingly single-minded and dense. Based purely on the voice of internet critics, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is an anime that would, on first glance, seem consigned to failure: over the course of twelve episodes, Kazuya continues to grovel at Chiruzu’s feet, disregarding the fact that Ruka and and Sumi have fallen head over heels for him. These critics argue that Kazuya is blind to his realities, and for acting in a way they’d certainly never act in, Kanojo, Okarishimasu has therefore failed as an anime. After all, folks watch stories to get inspired, and to see how people overcome their setbacks to become stronger and better learned, but Kanojo, Okarishimasu seemingly offers none of this. Week after week, Kazuya pursues Chizuru, hoping that his persistence and sincerity might one day change her mind, all the while trying to keep the lie from breaking their grandparents’ hearts and fending off suitors who’ve become attracted to Kazuya following his acts of kindness.
Unfortunately, the picture that some of the anime community’s most well-known members paint, with their tweets and MyAnimeList reviews, would have individuals believe that, on the basis that Kazuya isn’t acting in a rational way (i.e. how’d they’d react), the series is therefore unrealistic and not meritorious of being watched. The criticism that characters act differently to how the individual might given a set of circumstances is one I’ve often seen thrown around, although this approach is one lacking validity. A work of fiction is intended to convey a particular theme, and consequently, if a given character were to respond to something in a way that was rational, or conforming with what might be considered common sense, there’d be no lesson to learn, and no theme to convey. Kazuya’s lengthy list of shortcomings and mistakes drive Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and supposing that he enters the story with a modicum of confidence and self-respect, there’d be nothing to present, and no journey to embark on. The fact that he lacks these is what gives the series a reason to present his story. It is common knowledge that giving credence to internet critics, is the quickest way towards developing an incorrect, cynical and bitter view of the world: these individuals conveniently forget that Kanojo, Okarishimasu portrays a Kazuya at the beginning of his journey, someone indecisive, weak-willed and utterly lacking in confidence, that we see. In the knowledge that this series is to continue, then, there is always the prospect of a pay-off from watching Kazuya navigate the world of relationship and slowly improve his own sense of self-worth as he chases after the sharp-tongued Chizuru: the internet critics are inevitably too hasty in their judgement, and a second season will likely show a Kazuya who is better prepared to impress Chizuru, having learnt from his earlier mistakes. While perhaps a gross exaggeration of an unwillingness to date, Kazuya’s choices after Mami dumps him is not implausible, and his confidence is shaken to the core. It therefore stands to reason that a series of (hilarious) misunderstandings to help Kazuya understand why he desires a relationship, well beyond the physical aspects.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I’ll preface the discussion with the suggestion that, were such a service to exist in reality, I would be torn between using it and doing things the old-fashioned way. On one hand, being able to basically buy a guided tutorial on how to properly date would be great practise for when the moment comes where said experience would be helpful, but on the other hand, it’s not as though people fall into a list of procedures, and what works in one scenario may utterly fail in another. Relationships and dating requires finesse on a case-by-case basis, although I suppose that periodically shelling out the cash for this experience isn’t too different than practising one’s interviews.
- With this in mind, I imagine that were I ever to write a mobile app for the purpose of connecting people with rental girlfriends, I likely find myself rejected by Apple’s review team for violating section 1.1.1 of their App Store Review Guidelines under objectionable content: what happens to Kazuya and Chizuru in Kanojo, Okarishimasu might be amusing for viewers, but such misfortune in real life would be very unfortunate. Further to this, my job description as an iOS developer does not entail wrecking peoples’ lives or making them unnecessarily complicated, so such an app would be outside the boundaries of what I’d consider to be ethical.
- For this Terrible Anime Challenge post, my verdict is “the negative reception to Kanojo, Okarishimasu anime is greatly exaggerated, and while I did not see enough merits in this anime to readily recommend it to my readers, I do not agree with the vitriol that was directed at the series was necessary, either”. In other words, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu isn’t going to be the next CLANNAD (or anything approaching thus), I see no need to belittle the authors or studio for having produced the anime. I had a moderate amount of fun watching this series and have an inkling of where it’s headed. It also helps that Chizuru is voiced by Sora Amamiya (KonoSub‘s very own Aqua and Akemi Sōryūin from Dumbbell Nan-Kilo Moteru?).
- Kazuya reminds me of Rick and Morty‘s Jerry Smith, being excessively insecure and cowardly, while at the same time, being also kind-hearted and loyal to a fault. However, Jerry is only a secondary character, and his mistakes are typically contained to a given episode’s subplot. Conversely, Kazuya is the lead in Kanojo, Okarishimasu, and I’ve got my answer as to what would happen were Jerry to take a more active role in Rick and Morty. Having said this, much as I am optimistic that writers will have Kazuya undergo enough growth so Chiruzu no longer steps on him, I would hope that Rick and Morty‘s fifth season, at the very least, lessens the frequency where Jerry is made to act as the series’ punching bag: his misadventures are not funny.
- Mami Nanami proved to be an interesting character: after chucking Kazuya for unknown reasons, she ends up developing a possessive streak a mile wide and forces her way back into his life, becoming genuinely frustrated that Kazuya seems genuinely infatuated with Chiruzu. I usually don’t take joy in watching characters suffer, but seeing Mami go yandere because of jealousy always puts a smile on my face.
- Kanojo, Okarishimasu would disintigrate in the blink of an eye if Kazuya had any backbone: the reason why the series is able to create wild scenarios is because, out of concern for his and Chizuru’s grandmother, telling them the truth about their bogus relationship would be inconsolably disappointing for both, and he doesn’t have it in them to break their hearts in this fashion. Chizuru agrees to keep up with the façade for similar reasons, and while she plays her role as the girlfriend well when on duty, off-duty, she’s blunt, foul-mouthed and poor-tempered wherever Kazuya is concerned.
- Kanojo, Okarishimasu certainly takes the pains of reminding viewers every so often how hot Chizuru is, to the point where Mami, herself sporting a good figure, becomes intimidated by Chizuru’s assets. With Kazuya’s personality, a part of me wonders if it would’ve been more effectual to have Kazuya fall in love with Chizuru on personality alone, since this could indicate that he was maturing past looking at a relationship as being purely for physical contact. Having different variables in play can serve to help a series make its point clear, but if too many variables exist, it becomes difficult to ascertain where a series intends to go.
- One aspect about Kanojo, Okarishimasu that did strike me as a bit strange was the fact that the art quality would shift frequently, and inconsistently. While I understand the use of simplified, chalk-like background artwork for moments where Chizuru is kicking Kazuya’s ass, it becomes a bit more jarring when the lower-quality visuals are seen in more serious moments. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Kanojo, Okarishimasu does demonstrate that it can have above-average artwork as well – this is most noticeable during the beach episodes, where the backgrounds and skies are of a much higher standard.
- Like any drama, trouble is amplified when Ruka joins the party. Initially, Kazuya is surprised that his friend, Shun Kuribayashi, also seemingly has a girlfriend. Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents most of the males in Kazuya’s circle as being inexperienced with relationships but eager to pursue them for their own reasons, not fully understanding that a proper relationship is built on trust and stability over flashier things – I view a partner as someone whose presence makes me an even greater, more empathetic and understanding individual, someone who I can count on and be relied upon by, whom I listen to and offer suggestions for, and someone who would listen to me and offer me advice where needed.
- Consequently, when Kanojo, Okarishimasu presents relationships in this shallow manner, it suggests that, at least at this point in time, Kazuya and his friends are not sufficiently mature to find someone who can offer that for them. I imagine that this is why Kazuya got burned by Mami prior to the series’ beginning – Mami had not been looking for the emotional parts of things and in fact, is suggested to mess around with men for kicks. Conversely, when Ruka is introduced, and she immediately deduces that Chizuru is a rental girlfriend, things get tricky for Kazuya real fast.
- Kazuya is put into a bit of a bind when it turns out Ruka is in love with him: despite expressing open hostility towards him after their first meeting, after Kazuya saves her from a bad fall, Ruka begins to see the real Kazuya. I appreciate that the idea of anyone falling in love with someone as indecisive and cowardly as Kazuya can seem outlandish, but at the same time, the Kazuya we see just took a beating after Mami dumped him, so it is understandable that he would feel like he’s walking on eggshells around women.
- My choice of page quote comes from Ruka and her unique heart condition: Kazuya’s been the only person able to elevate her heart rate, and for this, Ruka suspects that Kazuya’s special to her, worthy of pursuing. Of course, the joke here is that in a relationship, one doesn’t exactly need a heartbeat monitor to determine if they’re in love or no: it’s a very specific feeling that one would know when they’d experience it – if it were not apparent, I’d also spent the past long weekend playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2: it turns out that after reinstalling my OS, I’d lost my old save files, and so, I resolved to unlock everything again. I still occasionally revisit Bad Company 2‘s campaign for nostalgia’s sake, so I figured it be nice to have all the levels unlocked for that purpose.
- While I’d love to share my Bad Company 2 adventures anew, this is a Kanojo, Okarishimasu post, and here, after Ruka demonstrates to Kazuya and Chizuru her feelings are authentic, Chiruzu suggests that he at least spend time with Ruka to see where things go. Despite her dislike for Kazuya, Chizuru does care for his well being and promises to keep an eye on him until he can get a proper girlfriend and finally be truthful to his grandmother. This scenario, however, imposes additional challenges for Kazuya: he’s fairly confident that he’s in love with Chizuru and feels it unfair to be leading Ruka on when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.
- I imagine that Chizuru wants Kazuya to first regain his confidence around women, which is why she agrees to let Ruka spend time with him: for her, the best case is that Kazuya comes to appreciate Ruka and can stand on his own two feet. Of course, what this will really do is to help Kazuya rediscover his own confidence and face Chizuru better: Kanojo, Okarishimasu has made it quite clear that there’s a long and difficult road to Chizuru, and that every step of the way, Kazuya’s determination to set things right with her will lead her to come around.
- With this in mind, there is a limit to what persistence can do, and in reality, if the magic isn’t there, it isn’t there. Fiction is fond of suggesting that enough grit can turn things around, but this is wishful thinking: relationships have an intangible component to them that isn’t readily quantified, and it can be difficult to put this in words. Consequently, I do feel bad for Ruka: she’s genuinely in love with Kazuya, but as the story dictates, heartbreak will likely await her. Ruka is voiced by none other than Nao Tōyama, whom my readers should know as Shimarin from Yuru Camp△ and Kiniro Mosaic‘s Karen Kujō, amongst other well-known roles.
- Late in the series, Sumi Sakurasawa is introduced to Kanojo, Okarishimasu. Despite being uncommonly shy, she decides to take on the rental girlfriend job to prepare herself for a career as an idol and figures doing this would get her more comfortable with people. At Chizuru’s behest, Sumi goes on a few trial dates with Kazuya to better her skills. Their first date is fraught with challenges, including a couple of shady guys hassling her, and then Mami’s sudden arrival. In spite of Kazuya’s feeble efforts in fending them off, the sincerity of his actions convince Sumi that Kazuya’s the real deal.
- Another familiar face from KonoSuba returns: Rie Takahashi (Megumin) voices Sumi. I also know her previous roles as Yuru Camp△‘s Ena Saitō. Altogether, while Kanojo, Okarishimasu does have a setup that could yield a worthwhile payoff later down the line, the challenge this series faced during its run is the fact that Kazuya’s growth happens very slowly: there’s no indicator that he’s more confident in himself by the series’ end, as he even ditches a date with Ruka to tail Chiruzu closer to Christmas when she hangs out with a coworker. A Kazyua coming to his own would have a little more faith in Chizuru and not do such things.
- With everything in mind, Kanojo, Okarishimasu is very much an incomplete work, and the series would’ve likely worked better as a full-cour series spanning twenty four episodes, rather than be split into two seasons. This would’ve presented a much more complete picture than the current setup did, and while some words folks have thrown at Kanojo, Okarishimasu are unreasonably harsh, I appreciate that this series has been uncommonly frustrating owing to its pacing and Kazuya’s apparent lack of growth. However, it’s not all bad news bears for Kanojo, Okarishimasu: other viewers, likely those who empathise with Kazuya and his situation, found the series relatable.
- As for where I sit on things, I would tend to believe that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is a series where viewers would be better served if they waited for the second season before beginning their journey, although as I’ve noted earlier, I did find some enjoyment out of this chaotic, hectic series. While I concede that this series is not for a majority of viewers who are looking for a meaningful or moving romance, the series certainly doesn’t merit the insults directed at it, either. Concerning those who feel strongly about anime opinions enough to resort to such crude means, this post’s title is representative of my response to them, in addition to acting as a metaphor for Kazuya’s journey throughout Kanojo, Okarishimasu after Mami dumped him.
- The line is inspired by a moment from Rick and Morty‘s fourth season, during which Rick begrudgingly attends a heist movie themed convention and publicly insults a figure known for heists in-universe during a panel. When the crowd boos him, Rick responds with this gem of a line: it is a clever and hilarious stab at certain fandoms, where some of the more vocal individuals vehemently object to any opinion not in alignment with their own. In this sense, my whole blog’s existence is an insult to them, and very much like Rick, every breath that I take without their permission raises my self-esteem. Moreover, said individuals’ criticisms of the anime that I find passable or enjoyable mean nothing, for I’ve seen what makes them cheer 😛
Unsurprisingly, twelve episodes is clearly not sufficient a timeframe to properly illustrate everything: at this point in time, it remains too early to determine whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is worth watching. On one hand, watching Kazuya’s failures is fairly challenging: he acts in a way contrary to what one would expect, but on the flipside, the fact that there will be a second season somewhere in 2022 means that Kanojo, Okarishimasu is by no means complete, and to review the series at this point would be akin to discussing a hockey game when one team is leading 4-1 after two periods of play. Much as how anything can happen in the final period (most recently, the Edmonton Oilers were handed a devastating blow when they blew a 4-1 lead against the Winnipeg Jets and lost in overtime), anime can occasionally still find ways of surprising people. Kanojo, Okarishimasu is not an exception to this rule, and while at present, I would not give the series a glowing recommendation or suggest folks watch it out of curiosity (unless one is uncommonly tolerant, or looking for a good laugh), I’m also not going to stop them from checking the series out. In an anime dominated by Kazuya’s bad decisions, there are a handful of genuinely heartwarming moments, seeing Chizuru’s foul personality outside of her duties is always hilarious, and Mami’s yandere-like traits make seeing her recoil in jealousy in response to what Kazuya does is made all the more satisfying. Whether Kanojo, Okarishimasu manages to right itself by the second season and really focus on Kazuya’s pursuit of Chizuru remains to be seen, but at this point in time, it’s still early to be passing a verdict on whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu is, in the words of the internet critics, a train-wreck. In more civilised words, whether or not Kanojo, Okarishimasu paints a compelling picture with its theme is something that will require further exploration, and this, for better or worse, remains a ways off.