Rent-a-Girlfriend is a comedy shonen manga based on a real Japanese premise, where girlfriends or even other family members can be “rented.” This is a type of business recently growing in Japan, as a note at the beginning of the book explains. The note also explains that, no, renting a girlfriend doesn’t mean what you first think it means—everything is chaste and the girlfriend is in control.
20-year-old college student Kazuya gets his first girlfriend, only to be dumped by her a month later. Feeling lonely and pathetic, he finds a way to “rent” a girlfriend. When he goes to meet her, he feels even worse about what he’s doing, then is pleasantly surprised to find his “girlfriend” Chizuru is quite an amazing young woman. But when he doesn’t treat her with as much respect as she deserves, she really rips into him. All of this is interrupted when Kazuya learns his grandma is in the hospital, and they both go to see her.
The grandmother believes Chizuru is Kazuya’s real girlfriend, and he doesn’t want to disappoint. Things get more messy when Kazuya learns that Chizuru not only goes to his same college, but lives right by him in the same building. Then Chizuru’s grandmother, who knows Kazuya’s grandmother, also learns about them and believes they’re in a real relationship, so they have to keep up a charade. Kazuya knows that lying isn’t the answer, but doesn’t know what else to do.
Rent-a-Girlfriend is rated 16+ for its fanservice and jokes. It’s one of those absurd comedies with over-the-top expressions and outbursts. Its popularity in Japan has led to a Rent-a-Girlfriend anime that debuted this summer and is available for streaming on Crunchyroll. No, it’s probably not a realistic look at how “renting” people works, but it’s just meant to get laughs and entertain.
Story & Art: Reiji Miyajima
Publisher: Kodansha USA
Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, and its sequel, Manga Art for Intermediates, with professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.