Y'know, it's my fault, really. I'm the one who foolishly thought that with a character finally learning the central secret of the series leading into the season finale, something would actually happen. But why would it? What part of the last 5 or so episodes of Rent-A-Girlfriend made me think that it was capable of accomplishing anything? It's only on reflection that I realize how easily you could cut out the episodes between Ruka's arrival and “Confession & Girlfriend” without losing anything of importance. Sure, Sumi wouldn't be around, but she was barely there to begin with, and despite Kazuya's short-lived attempt to make Ruka his rebound girl, that idea gets tossed out the moment he spots Mami and Chizuru on their “date.”
Said super-awk rental date makes up the bulk of this finale, and it spends about 10 minutes teasing that it might, just maybe, if we're really good, actually give some insight into either girl. A full season in the bag, we still have no real idea why Mami dated, broke up with, and is now still hung up on Kazuya. The inciting incident of this entire show remains a nebulous mystery, and that approach can only work if the mystery is interesting and not integral to understanding why anyone in your show does what they do. I have no clue why Mami is still bothered over dumping this guy, and after he jerked his feelings for her away in episode 6 it hasn't really mattered. Chizuru also wants to know, and in the closest thing to a meaningful scene in this whole mess she makes a plea with Mami to consider her feelings and approach Kazuya in good faith, because apparently seeing him devastated over their breakup “taught her what love looks like” or something. It again begs the question of what our heroine's motivation for any of this is, outside of pity for our lead, and we're no closer to answering that than we were 2 months ago.
So okay, 80% of the final episode was dedicated to a pointless, overlong scene that did nothing to progress the only storyline in this show with any tension. But this is still a finale, and regardless of the quickly announced second season, that means we've got to get some kind of closure, or cliffhanger, or even just a shift in the status quo right? For one criminally brief montage of “Centimeter” I thought we'd end things on Kazuya finally confessing his feelings to Chizuru straight-out, and let the ensuing fallout of that decision lead into the next season. But no, RAG is as incapable of committing to anything as Kazuya himself, so even though the entire point of this show and his character arc was for him to change and grow in some way, the conventions of his genre leave him scurrying back towards cowardice and left me actually, audibly groaning at my computer desk.
I'm a fan of romantic comedy anime and manga, as I'm sure I've mentioned tons of times through these episode reviews. I'm used to series treading water for episodes or seasons on end, filling time with silly side stories and meaningless adventures that don't ultimately prove to matter much, and sometimes those are the best parts of a given show. But the key to all of those shows is having likable, entertaining characters who are fun enough to spend time with that you don't mind that nobody's mentioned Raku's locket in like 6 months, or that it took 12 volumes for Kanda to confess to Takase, or that Nozaki misheard Sakura because of some god damn fireworks. RAG's greatest weakness is that the romance half of its Romcom status is built on making its fundamentally unlikable cast grow into more endearing and relatable romantic leads, but the conventions of its comedy keep them trapped in stasis. No matter how much Kazuya or Mami or Ruka or Sumi or Chizuru want to change themselves, to become better than their worst instincts or biggest anxieties, so long as they're trapped in an ongoing story they won't be allowed to, both characters and audience can only be left to rot in stagnation.
For all that, there are some redeeming qualities to this mess. The color pallete and character designs are as pleasing as ever, and while production woes seem to have lessened its character animation the show still looks and sounds nice. My biggest hope is that the team tasked with continuing this show eventually get to work on something that isn't being dragged down by its own story, because they have some serious chops for comedy. With the second season somewhere in the distance, that looks like it'll have to wait. I don't know when this show will return, or if I'll end up covering it when it does, but for now, RIP RAG.
Rent-A-Girlfriend is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.