Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
Haruka Nogizaka is considered to be the perfect girl: smart, talented, and beautiful. What nobody knows, though, is that she's secretly an anime/manga otaku! Her secret lies in jeopardy when a boy in her class, Yuuto Ayase, finds out about this. He promises to keep her hobby a secret, but that might be harder than he (or Haruka) thinks it will be.
Welcome to Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, a series based on an unfinished light novel series (which I swear is a requirement to have each anime season now in Japan). For those of you expecting another Lucky Star, prepare to be surprised - this series plays more like a romantic comedy than anything else.
And that's where problem one with this series creeps up; Haruka herself. Haruka being a closet otaku could've been used to great comedic effect. Unfortunately, the series never really goes that far with that part of her character; not only does Yuuto find out early on about Haruka's secret, but even her parents later approve of her hobby, pretty much destroying the whole "secret" aspect that's in the damn title of the series.
As for Haruka herself - she's pretty much every aspect of an anime girl the people on 2chan go ga-ga for. Smart, cute, friendly, apologetic, and clumsy, with big breasts, giant expressive eyes, and long, brown hair to go with it. Haruka feels less like a character created by a person than she does someone who looked at an issue of Megane Magazine, copied what he liked best from a bunch of other girls, and put them altogether into a single girl. While it's nice that she doesn't really get jealous or angry easily, and that her otaku nature can sometimes be both cute and funny, Haruka herself is probably the hardest thing to stomach about this series, and her high-pitched voice (provided by Mamiko Noto) doesn't help.
What about Yuuto? He's the nice guy with glasses, pretty much, getting someone embarrassed on the occasion with the clueless Haruka, whom some of the cast mistake as a couple. The first season doesn't really go much into this beyond to the level of "aww, they're blushing", though. Instead they're pretty much just friends. I actually like how the writers kept Yuuto and Haruka's relationship from getting too rushed. At the same time, though, I wish they expanded on it as well. Oh well..I guess that's what the second season will be for.
The series also has a "second love interest" for Yuuto in the form of the more tomboyish Shiina. Unlike most romantic rivals in anime, she doesn't really go out of her way to be malicious to Yuuto or Haruka; in fact, she likes them. And expect for a single episode that complicates Yuuto and Haruka's friendship, this easy-going attitude of hers technically makes her a failure of a second love interest. (She doesn't even appear in the final episodes!)
Haruka also has a little sister, Mika, who's a rarity in little sister archetypes in that she isn't overly clingy or a complete jerk. While childish and mischievous, for the most part she is supportive of her sister's friendship with Yuuto, and I'll even admit her setting up the two in various situations to advance their relationship is even somewhat cute at times as well.
The Nogizaka family also has two maids. One, Hazuki, is stoic, blunt, but also has a soft side; she mainly serves Haruka. The other maid is Nanami, who's mischievous and a bit of an oddball, much like the girl she's the caretaker of; Mika.
In fact, the only side characters I didn't care for are Yuuto's sister, Ruko, and his teacher Yukari, who are helluva annoying characters who spend most of the series drunk as skunks. They do little more than make Yuuto's life miserable, and in the his sister's case, treat him like garbage. Thankfully they're not in the show often, but when they are they do little than eat up screen time.
Now that I've described the characters, let's talk about the typical scenarios in this series. You have the "revelation" episode (where Haruka's hobby is found out by her parents), the episode where the cast wonder what a certain character is doing on their day off, the school festival, the obligatory jelaousy episode (Haruka walking in on Yuuto and Shiina), and the birthday party (the season finale, in this case). And since Haruka is an otaku, we also have an episode where Yuuto is dragged down town with her to buy anime/manga goods while also avoiding his otaku friend from school. Again, if you're expecting Lucky Star-caliber otaku humor, look somewhere else.
Art-wise, the show is fine. With the exceptions of Yuuto and Haruka (who looks like she stepped out of a hentai visual novel, with a design way too engineered to be "cute"), the rest of the character designs are somewhat appealing, although inconsistent in quality. The animation's okay, though there's not a whole lot going on in this series anyway. The voice acting in general is fairly mediocre, with Mamiko Noto giving a very strained performance as Haruka, and most of the female cast have fairly high voices as well. The music, including both the background music and opening/closing songs, are not the least bit memorable.
Honestly, it was hard for me to even write this much on Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu Nothing really sticks out as being particularly bad, but at the same time there's nothing particularly good about it, either. It's pure mediocrity from beginning to end in this series. Despite some cute girls and the occasionally amusing scene, there's nothing I can really recommend about this show unless you think the concept of a girl otaku sounds like the set-up for a fantastic anime. (You'll probably be disappointed by the outcome, though.)
Perhaps the second season will blow me away, but this first season is pretty mediocre. Add a star if you like cute girls. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: The series is not afraid to put Haruka in situations that reveal her well-endowed body. There's also plenty of fan service from most any other girl in the series as well. Yuuto's sister and teacher also have a habit of drinking a lot, but they're of age, so that's not a big deal.
Version(s) Viewed: Pre-licensed fansub
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu © 2008 Yūsaku Igarashi / ASCII Media Works / Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu♪ Production Committee
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