Rent-a-Girlfriend is a trainwreck of an anime—but not in a bad way. In fact, it’s a lot of fun, even if it’s often full of cringe, most of all because of Kazuya, the series protagonist whose libido is only matched by his lack of self-awareness. Desperate for a girlfriend, and particularly for Chizuru, the girlfriend he rents from time to time (at first because he’s lonely, but later because of more complicated reasons involving them both), Kazuya’s actions are almost always either gross or embarrassing. He begs and cries a lot, and can’t get outside of his own head; even the when he tries to consider Chizuru, as in episode 8, “Christmas and Girlfriend,” it’s from a very Kazuya perspective: He’s going to rescue her from some scumbag instead of following the voice that tells him that what he’s doing—stalking Chizuru on Christmas Eve as she meets with a good-looking guy—is likely worse than what he’s imagining the guy is planning for her.
Back to the show being a trainwreck. The indicating I”m giving by saying that is that I just can’t look away. It’s often funny and just so entertaining to see how Kazuya acts and thinks. I admit, too, that I see a teensy weensy bit of myself in that loser, especially when I was his age. Just like Kazuya, I felt an immense pressure to date. In high school, I could get away with not trying to date anyone (even if I wanted to), but in college, I felt something was wrong with me if I couldn’t get a girlfriend. Actually, I should say it would be confirmation that I’m not as great as I think I am, and also that I wouldn’t be able to overcome the fears of trying to establish a relationship, which extrapolates to me not being able to overcome other adult problems in addition to maybe not having the marriage and children I one day wanted.
Also, like Kazuya and his friends, I was very much about physical attraction. I judged girls very highly based on their looks, and very rarely cared about their personalities and character. Kazuya immediately deems Chizuru an incredible person based on her looks—this much is obvious because she’s mean to him, has a questionable job, and he still declares as much. Kazuya’s friends also frequently remind him that she’s “out of his league.”
Truth is, physical attraction aside, Chizuru is out of Kazuya’s league. She’s a strong, independent, and quick-witted woman. She has strong feminine qualities, and her masculine side is even stronger than Kazuya’s, too.
She’s everything, it seems, that he’s not.
And yet, Chizuru cares for Kazuya. At first, it seems to be based on their mutual predicament, but as time passes, we see that she does see him as more than a client. In the Christmas episode, as she goes on her apparent date, once Kazuya accidentally reveals himself and truth comes to bare in the situation, she shows him the major purpose of her day out: She was looking for a gift to give him.
Chizuru chooses to give Kazuya a cell phone case after he cracked his phone screen when saving her in an earlier episode. While that in itself doesn’t seem particularly loving—it’s a repayment as much as anything, and she does bestow gifts on other clients—her continual advice to Kazuya, willingness to break the rules she otherwise strictly abides by in her job, and most of all, the work she does to try to build him up for him show that the gift is just part of something more; it’s another sign of her caring for this broken young man.
I can’t help but think of our own predicament this Christmas. I can’t help but think, for instance, of the many Kazuyas there are in the world—I’ve known many, and I’ve known a number of people who are worse than he. I can’t help but think of myself, as well. I have far more self-awareness than Kazuya, but when peeking into my mind, as we get to peek into his, I’m sure viewers would see gross and terrible things as well, made worse because I lack that “innocence” he has. I should know better. I should be better.
And yet, just like Chizuru demonstrates love for Kazuya, God loves me, and them, and you as well. I know he must be fed up with the ways we act and think. And yet, like Chizuru sees some good qualities in Kazuya—a sweet heart, an innocence, a willingness to sacrifice himself—I believe that God also values the good things he sees in us, the small triumphs in the choices we make.
He also, of course, sees Christ, his perfect son. In about a week, we celebrate Christ’s birth and remember that he came into the world to rectify the problem of sin, to say that even though we’re all somewhat like Kazuya, messed up in our own ways, God still loves us enough to accept us and teach us, like Chizuru, and even to love us so much that he would pay a penalty that was unjust and terrible.
Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder if God loves us, like Kazuya does with Chizuru. He’s shown his love for us, and that love endures, paid on his behalf and for us, thankfully and fully, rent-free.
Rent-a-Girlfriend can be streamed on Crunchyroll.