The third season of Rent-A-Girlfriend’s anime may have come to an end, but the manga has plenty to celebrate as its English releases reach a new milestone with Volume 20. We’re still almost 15 volumes behind the Japanese releases, but these many books are certainly still only something some manga creators dream of for their series. So, is the story still engaging? Let’s find out!
As we enter into Volume 19, we find Kazuya preparing to enact a plan to cheer up Mizuhara. He starts by hiring her for the day and then takes her to see a movie she should enjoy, then off for some rock climbing before an expensive seafood dinner. After the death of her grandmother, Mizuhara has shut herself off from everyone and is putting on a happy appearance. Kazuya can see straight through it and knows she’s not okay, but getting through those layers proves difficult. He can only hope that the date will help her feel better at least for a day.
For all of Kazuya’s fears about how the day could go wrong, by the time their date is coming to an end, Mizuhara does begin to open up for the first time. About how she feels lonely without her grandmother and grandfather and that somewhere deep inside she’s grateful that Kazuya noticed her feelings.
In many ways this exchange is a perfect opportunity for Kazuya to convey his romantic feelings to Mizuhara, but for once he proves tactful enough to keep them to himself (although he does talk about his ideal girlfriend type, which all but names Mizuhara). But will he regret having not said anything? After the date, Mizuhara feels awkward about having been reduced to tears and appears to be avoiding our protagonist…?
Then as we begin Volume 20, Kazuya is preparing for the screening of the movie he and Mizuhara worked so hard on but once it’s over, what does it mean for their relationship? Do they go back to being nothing but next-door neighbours who never see one another? Before he can get too lost in these thoughts, Kazuya finds himself invited on a trip with Ruka who has been unusually lenient about her boyfriend spending so much time with Mizuhara instead of her.
And if that wasn’t enough, Kazuya’s ex-girlfriend Mami is getting closer to Kazuya’s grandmother thanks to a new business opportunity which is likely to set a cat among the pigeons. Although I will say I am glad Mami has finally returned to the forefront of the manga since it has been a while since she was last present and even back then, she was very obviously plotting something to interfere with our protagonist’s life!
As we reach this milestone 20th volume it feels as though Rent-A-Girlfriend could have wrapped up as soon as the movie arc was finished. Yes, we have loose ends to tie up before Kazuya can be with Mizuhara, not least of these being the fact he’s currently dating Ruka, but it feels like there was a path to the finish line. Now with Mami making a return, ending the series is clearly not on the author’s mind but I hope that whatever storyline we get from here doesn’t feel forced.
The movie arc has proven to be one of the very best since Rent-A-Girlfriend started, partly because it sidelined a lot of the extended cast to focus on Kazuya and Mizuhara. As the series goes on, it’s getting harder and harder for Mizuhara to both deny her feelings for Kazuya and ignore that he likes her. All that’s standing in the way at this point is Ruka. I have long held the opinion that Ruka is a character who deserves better. She’s in this complicated relationship with Kazuya whom she’s in love with, but of course, it’s clear to everyone else that he doesn’t love her in return. And that’s even reaffirmed here in Volume 20 in a heartfelt exchange with Mizuhara. Perhaps worst of all is that it feels like author Reiji Miyajima only brings Ruka into the story lately when he’s trying to cause problems for Kazuya (similar to Mami’s appearances it has to be said) and this way of storytelling feels like it undermines the very raw and heartfelt storylines we’ve had recently.
In many ways, I think Rent-A-Girlfriend is trapped between being a somewhat trashy soap opera-style harem and a more serious romantic drama. We’ve seen it swing between the two throughout the arcs so far and while that’s more or less worked, I am increasingly of the opinion that Miyajima is going to have to choose one or the other to commit to. We’ve come so far now when it comes to character development for our main duo that I worry a hard turn into an overly dramatic storyline will tarnish it. At the very least I’m eager to see what’s next, even if I am apprehensive that it might go wrong.
Rent-A-Girlfriend Volumes 19 & 20 come to the West thanks to Kodansha and continue to be translated by Kevin Gifford with lettering by Paige Pumphrey. As usual for the series, both of the books read well with no issues present in either the translation or presentation. Volume 21 of the series is available in English now with #22 following in late December.
Overall, these two volumes of Rent-A-Girlfriend both show the close bond between Mizuhara and Kazuya while also beginning a new arc. While I find myself concerned about the future of the series now we’re headed back into more ridiculous drama, these two books are certainly still worth reading if you’ve made it this far. Especially as we’re now once more ahead of where the anime concluded.
Our review copies from Kodansha were supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.