Rent-a-Girlfriend S2E7: Losing Control of the Narrative

Life has gone swimmingly for Kazuya in season two of Rent-a-Girlfriend. Chizuru is starting to return his affection as he demonstrates his commitment and thoughtfulness to her. Ruka hasn’t been able to sabotage that relationship, despite her best efforts. And even the devious Mami, Kazuya’s ex, has been kept at bay. Yep, life is going exceedingly well—that is, until episode seven, in which Kazuya’s precarious plan to balance a series of undefined and strange relationships begins to unravel. And while Mami is the instigator of the impending collapse, the ultimate cause lies with Kazuya and Chizuru, their deception of others, and the lies they use to protect themselves.

Proverbs (15:25) teaches that the “LORD tears down the house of the proud.” And this is exactly what’s happening with Chizuru and Kazuya. While they may not exhibit the haughtiness typically associated with pride, by deceiving so many people in their lives through so many (at times contradictory) lies, the duo are depending on their own strategies and wits instead of doing what is right. They might have gotten away with it, too, if not faced with the smartest character in the series, the much-maligned Mami. Sharp and perceptive, she’s like a co-ed, kawaii version of Game of Thrones’ Littlefinger: the other characters may know that she has her sights set on them, but they fail to grasp quite how formidable she is.

Indeed, Mami’s brain has been whirling. She knows that someone with a very specific and expensive purse has become intimate with Kazuya. She’s also continued to suspect Chizuru of maintaining some level of relationship with him despite promising that she wouldn’t. As Mami pieces these and other clues together, she serendipitously spots Chizuru on the train carrying the purse she’d seen at Kazuya’s apartment. And that’s when it all clicks for Mami and she entraps Chizuru.

That their lies would be discovered by Mami was an inevitability. Chizuru and Kazuya are too close to one another, both in terms of proximity as well as emotionally, hiding too many details and creating too many conflicting stories—each suited to a different person or group of friends. It was unavoidable that the secret of their relationship was going to spill.

It’s hard enough for me to keep track of who knows what…

And to what end was all this cloak and dagger stuff? It’s all so trivial. Kazuya and Chizuru, after all, aren’t having an affair. They aren’t conducting any illegal activities. And neither one is beholden to Mami in any legitimate way. And yet, they craft lie after lie after lie to keep their growing relationship a secret from her.

The two have been subtly spinning a narrative—several in fact—to maintain an illusion in front of Mami and others, including friends, co-workers, and even Chizuru’s grandmother.

Ironically, Chizuru does so ostensibly to be a person of character! She wants to commit to her job as a rent-a-girlfriend and not cross boundaries into real relationships with clients.

For Kazuya, it’s about fear of his ex-girlfriend, insecurities, and general thoughtlessness in how he treats others. But while using deceit to build toward a romantic relationship with Chizuru may keep him afloat (barely), he becomes like a drowning swimmer fighting his rescuers as he lashes out, endangering Ruka in particular (It’s fine keeping her as my “girlfriend”—she understands that she comes second to Chizuru!) and increasingly dragging others under the waves.

It all sounds pretty over-the-top, doesn’t it? A bit too anime to be realistic. But isn’t this actually what we do, too?

Think about it: who among us can honestly say they’ve never crafted a false narrative about themselves? I’ve done it. In fact, I remember a time in my life when, if someone asked me about a topic I really didn’t know much about, I would act as if I did. Or if I asked a girl out and she rejected me, I would lie to friends and tell them that I had lost interest in her. And even when it came to faith, I would act and speak as if I loved God, when I neither understood him nor had faith that he was loving—or that he even existed.

I later realized that I did these things to retain control in situations where I feared I would lose it. But the idea that I ever had control in the first place was an illusion. While I wasn’t always found out, when my lies were exposed, the results were personally catastrophic. Besides the embarrassment, I had to face reality: my narrative wasn’t truth, and the truth was sometimes quite bleak.

I came to realize that though I might have convinced myself that I was only putting out “white lies” and subtle reworkings of the narrative, I was blinding myself to reality. My misdeeds were taking me further away from the truth, and thus further from what is right and good and leads to the most authentic and best resolution to the problems I was facing. Was this really the way I wanted to live?

Living in deceit isn’t the happy life I’d assumed it would be

As I matured, I turned away from this prideful lifestyle. And indeed, it wasn’t me, but Christ in me, as I was transformed by the Holy Spirit. The worries that loomed large in my mind, those which led me to the solution of taking control through developing false narratives, were conquered by a King who knocks down the giants that stand in the way of my enjoying his love. The result has been a more authentic life, one where I now typically face my faults head-on instead of hiding behind deceitful tales. Sure, facing harsh reality is sometimes painful, but it’s a whole lot better than clinging to a façade that could crumble at any moment.

As frustrating as they are, I really like Chizuru and Kazuya, and I hope they realize the same thing that I did. But in the immediate future, I’m not sure what they’re likely to do. Maybe Chizuru will shut down her relationship with Kazuya fully, just as he thought they were getting closer, leaving him to wonder what happened. Perhaps she’ll tell Kazuya, and he’ll agree to stop seeing Chizuru entirely.

These two don’t have a lot of help or guidance in their lives—or rather, they’re unwilling to seek wisdom from others. Which brings us back to that verse in Proverbs: “The LORD tears down the house of the proud.” Both Chizuru’s pride and Kazuya’s are centered on control. Though each does it in their own way and for different reasons, they are both building their houses on a false reality. And they’re building their houses out of pride.

If only Chizuru could understand what she’s doing. If only she could accept that she has feelings for Kazuya and take a chance on him, letting her path go a little off course. Embracing the truth would lead to such good results for her—clarity about Kazuya and, if all goes well, a boyfriend who would support her in her ambition, which he’s already been doing as much as he’s able. But also a freer life, one where she doesn’t have to constantly hide her feelings or thoughts, and certainly one where she doesn’t have to put on a face as she deceives others.

And if Kazuya could face reality instead of hiding behind the narratives he’s conjured about himself and others, maybe he could become the bolder person he wants to be. If he would only open his eyes to how he’s treating others by lying to them, Kazuya could become a better person.

By setting aside their pride, Kazuya and Chizuru can take their first steps toward constructing something truer and stronger. It’s the same for us. While God “tears down the house of the proud,” it’s not to embarrass or distress the builders. It’s to impress on them that there is a better way.

I’ve seen this happen in my own life, perhaps most plainly through being a parent. I’ve admitted my shortcomings as a father here before, but I’ve never explained how easy it would be for me to fall back to old habits, to retreat to the security of never admitting my mistakes and instead justifying them on the grounds of my being more mature than my children (they don’t know any better!) or feeling that I shouldn’t show “weakness” because they need a strong dad. But from the beginning, I’ve tried to admit when I’ve wronged my family and apologize in those instances.

Let me tell you, after all this time, it’s still not always easy to do. But I’m no longer tempted to create a narrative to avoid reality, not only because my faith in God continues to grow, but because I see the impact of living transparently before my children. I’ve seen them also ask for forgiveness when they’ve wronged someone and I’ve heard their words of forgiveness directed toward me—and there’s nothing sweeter than to hear, “I forgive you, Dad” from your kids when you’ve hurt them.

Now imagine if Chizuru did the same, letting go of the lies and deceit, breaking down and admitting her feelings toward Kazuya. It would be more than the beginning of a romantic relationship—it would be Chizuru humbling herself and learning that she doesn’t have to go it alone, that others can help guide her toward her acting goals and in all manner of areas in her life, too.

And imagine Kazuya deciding for once to not run away and hide but just to tell Mami (and everyone else) about his true feelings. He’d take a temporary doink to the head in the form of embarrassment or shunning, but then he would start living free from fear. Kazuya wouldn’t have to spend his energy on figuring out how to hide his feelings; he could simply focus on Chizuru—and also on treating others, like Ruka, with more dignity.

I don’t know if any of that will happen in Rent-a-Girlfriend. In fact, judging by the forceful complaints I’ve been hearing from manga readers for quite some time but especially recently, it sounds like frustrating and angsty times, rather than redemptive character growth, are ahead.

Thankfully, our lives don’t have to be a screwy romcom. You don’t have to be Chizuru. You don’t have to be Kazuya. And though it takes courage to face the giants (believe me, I know!), instead of making stories that hide you away from them, remember that our God is a giant slayer. There is joy, truth, and freedom in having faith in his control and just as importantly, in letting go of the control that you never really had in the first place.

Rent-a-Girlfriend can be streamed on Crunchyroll.


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