Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu

Title: Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu aka Haruka Nogizaka’s Secret
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: Studio Barcelona/Geneon Entertainment
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 4 Jul 2008 – 26 Sep 2008

Synopsis: Nogizaka Haruka is like her school’s princess. She’s beautiful, rich, academically and musically gifted, and idolized by her fellow students. Ayase Yuuto, on the other hand, is fairly normal, not terribly popular, and has a close friend, Nobunaga Asakura who’s an open (and raging) otaku. However, one day Yuuto finds out that Haruka has a secret and that she too has a fascination with Akiba culture. Haruka is mortified by what would happen if this ever gets out, but Yuuto promises that he’ll protect her secret.

The Highlights
Female lead: An implausible construct of moé elements.
Side characters: When not obnoxious, one-dimensional plot devices.
Premise: An interesting issue is turned into a plot device.
Comedy: Mostly low-brow dreck.
Cliches: Invoked frequently; neither well executed nor lampooned.
Final episode: The worst episode in the series.

I’ve made no secret about what I think of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu, and if there is a consensus, it’s that this anime is clichéd, shallow and predictable. But there’s no debate that this is a genre piece, and while I’ve never been one to question the value of a good genre piece, I don’t think this show falls into that category. It’s not so much that we’ve seen most things in this anime a million times before… it’s just the fact that we’ve seen most of this a million times before, and done better.

There are two components to Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: the comedy and the romance. The contemporary premise really calls for a more witty and probing sense of humour, the type that defines Genshiken(1,2) or the more satirical, less eclectic moments of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, but this show’s comedic style is more reminiscent of Shuffle!, with a hint of Lucky Star’s references for the sake of it. Clichés are frequently invoked, but there’s not enough of a sardonic sense to convince me that they’re there to be parodied, just merely homaged. On the whole, the jokes, particularly when they’re otaku-orientated, are low-brow, outlandish and unsophisticated, generally lacking any edge and are too frequently predictable and sometimes even repetitive. The character driven humour is slightly better (ignoring the jokes derived from Yuuto’s incredibly obnoxious teacher and sister) and while the character interactions are sporadically amusing, “sporadic” is all there is. The interactions are hurt by the fact that the characters are tepid, and this also invariably detriments the romance.

The romance happens to somehow be simultaneously straightforward (read “bland”) and implausible. Haruka herself is transparently designed to be a composite of every otaku’s dreams come true, while Yuuto has as many unique characteristics as a can of soup. Haruka is completely implausible: she’s passionate and knowledgeable about anime, but is completely naïve when it comes to sex. She’s completely innocent of the romantic process, but she’s always the one that initiates things with Yuuto, asking him out on pseudo-dates or holding his hand. Add in several other very moé qualities and the voice of Noto Mamiko (which I thought was a miscast) and it becomes painfully clear that Haruka targets a very specific set of otaku-held ideals. It goes without saying that it’s not a very good basis for character development, but completely ironically, Haruka gets the most in the entire series. This speaks volumes about just how little character development this anime offers. Almost every other side character turns out to be a plot device, including Shiina who makes so little impact on the story that she may as well not have been there. Yuuto himself is more tolerable than the average shounen romance male lead, but that’s like saying cutting your fingernail is more tolerable than pulling it out.

The premise is another plot device, and doesn’t get dealt with to any satisfactory extent. Haruka’s secret could have been anything, but they went with otaku which appeals to the base. But the show hinders itself by asking to be compared with anime that are simply better. Romance kicked off by two characters forced to share a secret? Karin. Straightforward romance where the main coupling is inevitable? Lamune, Itazura na Kiss. Offbeat shounen rom-com? School Rumble. Otaku comedy? Genshiken, Lucky Star. Yes, I said it, Lucky Star is both funnier and has more comedic dexterity than this, and that’s saying a lot.

The Rating: 3
3/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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