Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza
Fall and winter go by this season, and Yuuto Ayase and Haruka Nogizaka are getting along pretty well now. But trouble looms over their budding relationship when other girls start sharing feelings for Yuuto..
The phrase "once is enough" is a debatable one. Some movies, television shows, books, and video games on the occasion have sequels that often surpass the original in every way.
I bring this up because I feel that that phrase holds water in the case of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza. The sequel to the fairly popular Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu that I reviewed last summer, Purezza takes the somewhat credible prequel series and drags its name in the mud. While not entirely devoid of saving graces, there's a lot less to praise as opposed to the original.
One of those problems does not involve the art, which is about the same level as the original series. The voice cast is almost entirely the same, with a few new voice actresses here and there as well. Presentation was never the original series' problem, and it isn't here. The background music is still forgettable and bland, though the opening and ending themes are somewhat better this time around, and much more animated as well. The only new recurring character this season, a shy, loli maid named Alice, is a cute addition to the cast and more than welcome.
The problems in Purezza mainly lie in story development. If you recall from my original review, one of my biggest criticisms of the original series was the lack of exposure on heroine Haruka Nogizaka's secret otaku lifestyle. This time around it's even featured less so - episode 2. That's the only episode in the entire season that revolves around her anime otaku nature. The rest of the series mainly airs clips from a made-up lacross anime whose characters (and voices) are the same as the main female cast. This would be fine if the lacross series was cute or interesting or funny - but it isn't. It's just there, sometimes used as a plot device even!
In fact, Haruka herself is almost absent from a third of the episodes! The series might as well have been renamed Yuuto Ayase's Harem, since that's what he spends doing more often than not. The pain begins in episode 3 when Yuuto becomes a butler to a first year high school rich bitch named Touka Tennouji to earn money for a Christmas present for Haruka. She treats him like dirt for the grand majority of the episode, and it's not until the end of the episode that he finds out the (convoluted) reason for her behavior. It's like a really bad episode of Hayate the Combat Butler, only with a girl who makes Nagi Sanzen'in look like an angel in comparison.
Shiina, who we all thought was over Yuuto near the end of last season, now of a sudden has the hots for him again, most noticeably in episode 7, where he and her mischievous friends come over for a visit with her when she breaks her leg when happily humming to herself about how Yuuto got her hair comb in the very cold river in winter. (Yes, that's seriously the plot of the episode.) They share a few cute scenes, and then...she disappears from the series until episode 11, given one small bit in the final episode regarding his feelings for him. Ouch. Poor Shiina.
The nadir of Purezza, however, comes in the form of episode 8. If you remember from the first season, Mika, Haruka's little sister was and far and beyond the biggest supporter of their relationship. But then Mika invites Yuuto to her all-girls school, where he gets sneers until Mika's friends notice him and bring him to their class. The girls then act incredibly stupid as they stare at him as if he's the first guy they ever saw in their lives, as well as sit on his lap, much to a jealous Mika. Then Yuuto is forced to watch a stupid play done by Mika and her friends, which has Mika dressed up as a magical girl and kissing the villain at the end of the play. Then after school Yuuto and Mika are locked in the school, where she forces herself on top of him and tries to get him to kiss her by force, upset that Yuuto doesn't find her "sexy". Oh yeah - did I mention there's fan service and panty shots of girls no older than 14 in this episode? You know, just in case the series bastardizing Mika's character wasn't enough of an insult to the viewers.
Episodes 9 through 11 return to Haruka, but Yuuto also spends a good chunk of the time managing a pink-haired idol wench named Milan Hinemiya. Like Touko, Milan starts off hating Yuuto and gradually likes him more. She's not as bad as Touko, but the arc, its set-up, and its conclusion are so by-the-numbers you have to wonder why they even bothered. I'll admit the end of episode 11 with Yuuto and Haruka is pretty cute, and that's about it.
The Haruka-centric episodes fare a little better. Episode 4, the Christmas episode, is fan-service heavy but still cute, especially the end of it. Episode 6, which has Haruka dragging Yuuto alone to a special spot on New Year's Eve following al legend her mother told her about, results in a scene that took 19 episodes to finally happen. Episode 9's first half also marks another big milestone in their relationship. The final episode, which is a hot springs episode, has a convoluted second half that would have been cute had it not been in 400 anime before.
I also have to note that despite the "Purezza" subtitle, there's a lot more fan service this time around, especially from Haruka! And trust me when I say that no recurring female character is spared - not even Mika or the new blonde loli maid, Alice! I should also point out that Alice (and possibly Milan) is the only worthwhile addition to the cast - everyone else is uniformly unlikable. At least she somewhat gets her own episode, which is probably the highlight of the season.
Overall, I didn't care much for Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza. The original series was no classic, but it at least had its good points, as well as some cute, sweet moments in its main couple. And while Yuuto and Haruka's relationship does eventually move forward, it's too little, too late. There's just too much mediocrity to get through the better parts of the series. Unless you thought Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu was one of the best titles of 2008, you can safely pass on Purezza.
Season two gets two stars. There are some cute Yuuto/Haruka scenes every now and again, but all the filler / harem nonsense could (and should) have been cut out to reduce this second season to an OAV instead. Add a star if you like cute girls. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: While the series isn't particularly dirty-minded most of the time, fan service is still fairly common, including some from Haruka's little sister, Mika! Innuendo isn't uncommon, either. Yuuto's sister and homeroom teacher are still as drunk as skunks too, the former providing the bunk of the series' slapstick / violence.
Version(s) Viewed: crunchyroll.com stream
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza © 2009 Yusaki Igarashi / ASCII Media Works / Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu Purezza Committee
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