Rent-a-Girlfriend – 12 (Fin) – The One He Wants

We’ve finally arrived at the end of one of the most frustrating, problematic rom-coms I’ve experienced in quite some time, and it ends pretty much how I expected: by not ending. But despite how hard it was to watch at times, I could never quite look away.

On not one but two occasions this week Kazuya shows signs of not only knowing what he must do but stepping up and doing or saying it, only to abandon the effort a half-step short of the finish line. First he does this with Ruka, realizing how lucky he is to have her and how unreasonable he is for feeling like she’s not enough.

He is right in the middle of telling her he’s ready to move past the “trial” period of their relationship and declare them “official”—only to be distracted by the arrival of Mizuhara and Mami at the karaoke parlor. It’s the first of two “showdown” scenes between the two women, and in this first one Mami has all the power and relishes wielding it.

Mami tells Mizuhara she didn’t book her to rag on her profession, but now that she knows she’s a rental, she couldn’t stay quiet. She doesn’t like the fact Mizuhara and Kazuya have had a fake relationship this long, and aside from deeming it bad for Kazuya, just watching it in practice pisses her off “a teensy bit.” None of her words are that harsh or cruel, but Yuuki Aoi’s expert delivery and Mami’s odd expressions make them feel like icy daggers.

Because this is a show where Everything is About Kazuya, Kazuya feels it’s his duty to not only eavesdrop on Mizuhara and Mami’s date, but pretend to be sick and excuse himself from work to follow them. Mizuhara rewarded him last time he did this, so why wouldn’t he do it again? He has an excuse ready to go: he doesn’t want Mizuhara to bear the brunt of Mami’s hate.

Meanwhile Ruka is left holding the bag, wondering if Kazuya was serious about making them official. Kazuya finds Mizuhara and Mami on a bridge about to wrap up the date, but not before a “rematch” of sorts, only this time with Mizuhara having a slight rhetorical edge.

Mizuhara asks Mami straight up how she feels about Kazuya, as she’s sure Mami still occupies a special place in the guy’s heart. Mami doesn’t take the bait, but tosses the question back to Mizuhara, suspicious that in a year of fake-dating, she’s fallen for Kazuya for real. Mizuhara simply states “He’s my boyfriend”, not adding the “rental” part because at this point, until the end of their contract, whether it’s a rental or not is irrelevant.

Mami considers that a dodging of the question and turns to leave, but Mizuhara grabs her hand and tells her they’re not done. As scenes of Kazuya crying about Mami flash by, Mizuhara tells Mami how being a rental girlfriend helped her realize the importance and difficulty of falling in love. She asks if Mami ever faced Kazuya’s feelings head on, in good faith, seriously engaged with his love, or considered that he may be the one to make her “happy for life”.

Mami tells her to buzz off under her breath, and states that all of that is between her and Kazuya. Fair enough, but Mizuhara wins this round. She knows Mami wouldn’t have bothered with this date if she didn’t care one way or another about Kazuya. Of the three lead women, Mami is the one most unready, unwilling, and unable to reckon with her feelings, preferring her cool, aloof, gives-no-fucks, bored-with-everything…facade.

That night, Kazuya is waiting by Mizuhara’s door when she comes home, confessing he saw and heart what she said to Mami, thanking her for having his back once again, and apologizing for not being able to do those things himself. Mizuhara then shocks Kazuya by apologizing in turn, for not being able to secure him a real girlfriend (apparently Ruka doesn’t count!).

As she’s suggesting he consider asking Mami out again, for closure if nothing else, Kazuya steps up to the plate, as he did with Ruka, and says something he should have said long ago: “You’re the one I want. It’s gotta be you.” At last, some progress! Only no, he immediately recants, saying he wants her “as a rental girlfriend”, before rushing into his apartment with a curt good night.

Yet another disappointing, immensely frustrating moment of failure for Kazuya, who comes away from the incident thinking it’s a sure thing that Mizuhara isn’t into him. Meanwhile, next door, a blushing Mizuhara wonders WTF just happened. I have no doubt if Kazuya had made it clear he truly did want her as a real girlfriend, it would have been better for both of them, whether Mizuhara accepted or rejected him.

Instead, as a closing montage indicates, it’s still very much anyone’s game when it comes to winning the Kazuya Sweepstakes. Sumi’s out there doing her job with renewed confidence, Ruka smiles at the phone background of her and Kazuya, Mami is utterly bored to death by her latest rich old dude, and Mizuhara is still showing up early for dates with Kazuya.

They’re still rental dates, and she’s still a rental girlfriend. I get it; that’s the name of the show. And the point of the show wasn’t really about Kazuya to end up with one girl over the others, but to explore the different ways in which we fall in love, now made more complex and at times strange via new technologies.

Kazuya was almost always abysmally hard to watch, but that was kind of the point too. What kept me coming back were Ruka, Mizuhara, Mami and Sumi—in that order—as much care was put into their voices, character designs, clothing, and personalities. They were the stars, while Kazuya was an unfortunate but necessary variable in the equation. If RaG were to return for a sequel, they’d be the ones who’d bring me back.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 25 (Fin) – Another Lovely Day in Academy City

Last week ended with Mikoto firing and Doppelganger seemingly fading into white, but the Railgun missed on purpose. Mikoto wanted to give Doppel a chance to stop fighting, shed all the slime mold, and live a normal life as she is. But ultimately Doppel doesn’t want to go on living.

Her threats were just a smokescreen for her true objective. She never actually gained a soul, which makes her continued existence a torment. By destroying herself she’ll end that torment, and by destroying the dataship and killing Kuriba, she’ll prevent another her from being created.

The dataship crashes and much of Doppel’s body blasted away, but Mikoto doesn’t kill her, and Kuriba survives. The chief doesn’t believe Doppel has no soul and even pulls a gun on Kuriba, resulting in her accidentally getting shot in the gut. The chief flees, but Misaki tracks him down and “rewinds” his memories so he’ll start over from “behind square one”.

Thanks to Shirai arriving at the scene, Kuriba is poised to make a full recovery, while Doppel was allowed to die with dignity. The next day is bright and sunny and Mikoto enjoys a nice coffee al fresco with Kuroko, who can’t help but ask for a kiss in return for her help. Kuroko, in turn, is teased by Misaki, and when Saten and Uiharu show up, they are in awe of the “Queen” and Hokaze Junko.

We cut to a parting scene with the Scavengers, who learn that due to their client’s bankruptcy they won’t be paid for their work. Leader once again proves her title is well-earned by fighting to get her team’s levels increased as consolation for the cash falling through, while it’s ambiguously revealed when Naru strips him down that Seike is a boy, or the “blue” ranger of their group.

More season housekeeping ensues, including the triumphant return of a fully-recovered Kongou Mitsuko (how I’ve missed her) finally getting to (accidentally) meet Mikoto’s “sister”, whom she nicknames “Ii-chan” (after “1”0032). We also see Misaki with Mitori and Dolly, and they agree to take things slow in terms of loosening their dear friend’s training wheels of normal life.

As Kuriba convalesces in hospital, she has a dream with Doppel, who notes that her creator has always been unable to separate her research and objectives from the rest of her life. To that end, she offers Kuriba a list of issues with her present cyborg designs that she should iron out. When she wakes up, Kuriba thought at first it was her guilt causing the dreams, but admits the possibility of a part of Doppel (beyond the organs used to save her) lives on in Kuriba.

Mikoto then departs the hospital with her schoolbag behind shoulder, and back out into the lovely sunny day in Academy City. Kuroko, Saten and Uiharu are waiting up for her, eager to go someplace good to eat. Mikoto doesn’t care where, as long as they’re together.

With that, Railgun T (as in “T”hird…I can’t believe I never realized that before) comes to a pleasant and satisfying end. Well, satisfying in that everything was resolved nicely, but to be honest I’d much rather watch a fourth Railgun than a fourth Index or second Accelerator. I’m among those who watched the first Railgun prior to watching the first Index, and while Index is regarded as the flagship series, Railgun has been and always will be my number one.

Appare-Ranman! – 13 (Fin) – Crossing the Finish in Style

It’s Final Boss time, and the battle with Gil takes on a decidedly Final Fantasy flavor, in no small part due to everyone’s outrageous costumes and the fact that Gil remains one tough customer even outnumbered nine to one. There’s a lot of bullet-dodging and slicing and Xialian and Al hitting nothing but the air around the speedy Gil, but thanks to a well-placed firecracker Gil is sufficiently softened up for a final showdown with Dylan and TJ, the latter finally revealing his steely gaze!

While the Thousand Three go at it, the others chase down the runaway train packed with explosives headed to Chicago. Al and Xialian leap aboard and take out the guards, but the train has no brakes and Al can’t break Sofia’s chain. Their only hope is for Appare’s ramshackle boat-car to take a position in front of the train and give his hybrid engine everything it’s got, slowing down and stopping the train just in time to avert disaster.

Like the anachronistic outfits and music, you just have to suspend disbelief in terms of physics. If people can dodge and slice bullets, it’s not a stretch for a car to stop a train without derailing it. Dylan and TJ end up defeating Gil but spare his life, giving him to the police like their Claudia would have wanted. Two months later the race is back in operation, and Appare & Co. narrowly beat out Xialian, Al, Dylan and TJ with a thrilling photo-finish that involves going airborne in the final corner.

With the race won, the racers go their separate ways. Kosame is all ready to return to Japan, leaving Appare and Hototo in NYC, but at the last second decides to simply send a letter instead. When Appare does the rom-com last-minute chase for his love and sees the ship has already sailed, he gives a very uncharacteristically heartwarming monologue about how building an airplane and moon rocket won’t be as much fun without Kosame…only for Kosame to sneak up behind him, having never left.

Back in Japan Kosame and Appare’s relations learn that not only are they okay, but thriving in America. All’s well that ends well, and so ends a wonderfully quirky fun adventure series that captured both the thrill of a race on a grand stage of sprawling America and the way the racers grew into a family that banded together to defeat the super-charismatic Big Bad. It truly was…[puts on anachronistic sunglasses]…a gas.

Uzaki-chan wa Asobitai! – 12 (Fin) – The Hanging Out Continues

As expected, last week’s shocking cliffhanger is resolved within the episode’s first two minutes, as Uzaki clarifies she can’t hang out with him because she still has to do her college summer homework. Sakurai closes the door in her face, despite the fact she’s soaked by the rain. Pretty lame fake-out there, to be honest. Also, college summer homework? Sounds high schoolly to me…

When the cafe owner throws out his back lifting something he should have left to his hulking employee, it affords Ami an opportunity to ask Uzaki how she and Sakurai were like in high school. Uzaki basically reiterates that while she was initially intimidated by his scary face, she soon learned he’s a kind, earnest guy. What Uzaki didn’t realize until Ami tells her is that she’s picked up his speech patterns!

On to the next vignette, in which Uzaki, having shown her whole ass (figuratively speaking) to Sakurai when drunk, is determined to get Sakurai into a similar state of vulnerability. Sakaki tells her Sak intentionally keeps his alcohol intake down to avoid showing that side of himself, so she’ll have to work for it.

To that end, she cooks a delicious but spicy dinner for the two, pretends to drink so he’ll keep up, and brings bad shark disaster movies to distract him from his intake. By the end of the evening, Uzaki is successful as Sakurai is very drunk and for once couldn’t act cool if he wanted to, but when he earnestly praises Uzaki’s cooking and lets the word “love” slip, it leads Uzaki to binge drink in order to steel herself.

The end result is Sakaki puts drunk Sakurai in his futon to get a good night’s sleep, and drunk Uzaki crawls into the bed with him. When they wake up face-to-face, they have no memory of what, if anything, happened, and head to the cafe to treat their hangovers with quality coffee.

Naturally, Ami and her dad are eager to hear details about what happened, and are perhaps too amused by the fact neither Sakurai nor Uzaki can definitively state that they did not have a drunken tussle. One would hope that if and when they do it, they’d be in charge of their faculties and, more importantly, remember the experience!

The next college semester starts, and Uzaki has breakfast with her mom and previously unseen(?) little brother. Uzaki spots Sakurai on campus and catches up to his lumbering gait. She’s still experiencing post-summer break shock, and is mostly down in the dumps because she thinks they won’t hang out with classes in session.

Sakurai assures her, perhaps too earnestly, that it doesn’t have to be summer for them to hang out, and that “they’ll always be together.” That last bit brings out Uzaki’s mischievous flesh fang, and we’re basically back to their warm, cozy status quo dynamic.

While watchable and possessed of some nice moments here and there, Uzaki-chan wants to Hang Out! was a pretty ho-hum, take-it-or-leave-it rom-com. Too often the leads felt more like high schoolers than the adults they’re supposed to be. The antics of the Owner/Ami/Sakaki rooting triad grew stale, while the weird Tottori tourism ad episode was…a weird Tottori tourism ad.

That said, Oozora Naomi gave a solid performance as Uzaki, and I’ll be keeping an ear out for her in other lead roles (she’s also great in the far-superior Chio’s School Road). Other than that this show was a somewhat marginal-effort Summer time-passer…which will be back for a second season of hanging out!

Season Average: 7.5