Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu
Also known as: Haruka Nogizaka's Secret
Yuto is an ordinary guy who stumbled into the beautiful most popular girl in school at the library. To his surprise, he sees she's dropped an anime magazine. Haruka is a closet anime fan and begs him to keep her secret. While Haruka was stressed about the situation at first, she finds it a relief she can finally share her secret with someone else. Is love in the air? Yes. Will these two ever get together? Probably. Will they ever kiss without being interrupted? That's a tough one to answer...
Before I say anything else, Haruka Nogizaka's Secret isn't completely terrible. I sound down on it because of its many many problems, but it's a fairly easy watch if nothing else. Compared to every other show it "borrows" from, well I'm not sure I'd recommend it, but this anime has it's fans too.
Haruka Nogizaka's Secret is basically a collection of cliche anime stuff seen many times before, collected into a single show - but too much in the same show, and poorly executed. Haruka is the super smart beautiful ultra rich popular girl (and world class pianist among other things) who has a secret love of anime. She of course falls in love with the no personality generic guy who learns of her secret. In fact all the girls seem to like Yuto because he's such a ... nice guy. *cough* While the relationship is the focus, it fails to become a cute romance by stumbling horribly into contrived situations to make it happen. Instead it's often awkward and cheesy (especially with the dialog), but it's easy to see what it was trying to do, so forgivable in that respect.
The romance is tame even if the innuendos aren't, but things are helped along by the other characters trying to get them together. Often this was where I thought the comedy worked, but the secondary characters help the show along in other ways, even if totally unoriginal and dumb.
Haruka's love of anime is supposed to be a secret, which this anime often uses as a soapbox platform for preaching to the choir (anime fans watching an anime). Then it oddly forgets about it. In fact there are many story points the anime "forgets", then sporadically remembers. Between the poor romance, predictable run of the mill episode happenings, and core plot holes; the story is pretty messy. Considering how most aspects are rather absurd, it's hard to take serious, which is why the occasional jab at class differences is really hard to swallow - yet it tries this anyway.
Season two (Purezza) strangely changes from the "cute romance" vibe into a tacky fan service vibe. The first episode even has "white fog" added to cover up inappropriate material. This really changes the mood, and much of the "cuteness" evaporates. The artwork is cleaned up a little, and more characters are added; Other wise the anime continues to stay mired in the bland stuff it was doing before, although the comedy still works occasionally. The end story of Haruka "accidentally" becoming an idol is mind numbingly stupid.
Occasionally anime features an anime within the show; often silly satire programs. In season two, Haruka becomes a fan of an anime titled "Nocturne Girl's School Lacrosse Club". Only snippets are shown, but over time the Lacrosse Club overcomes the usual school adversaries... as well as get chased by cows on another planet, and fighting some intergalactic empire - all while in their Lacrosse uniforms! It sounds like such a hilariously weird show, I'd absolutely love to see it made.
With little accomplished in two seasons, it's not exactly nail biting suspense in how it will end (Finale). This four part OVA series puts the anime into overdrive in good and bad ways. A girl who had a (seemingly pointless) crush on Yuto the entire time is FINALLY utilized. The OVAs resolve issues with Haruka's past, the couples' inability to say how they feel, and a few other things. Finale takes the cliche path of "everyone unite to storm the enemy fortress" for the end. It's stupid intentionally, which is a more fun approach than the unremarkable end I expected. I will say this series actually has a satisfying conclusion.
While I'm critical of the problems, I don't hate Haruka Nogizaka's Secret. Even if it's terrible at romance, it's mostly forgivable due to the sentiment. Whether you can continue to say "it's the thought that counts" as it continuously stumbles into mistakes is a tough call. The drama is particularly bad, as it goes out of its way to invent it, and 90% of the problems could have been avoided if Yuto grew a spine and said how he felt. It's REALLY frustrating that way. Haruka Nogizaka's Secret isn't as funny as it wants to be, but I got a few laughs too. This anime fails because it tries too hard, yet never makes the effort to do anything even remotely fresh either. It can be an okay watch as a fluff brained typical anime romance thing, but many other titles do this so much better.
Mika: So did you do anything? ... like kissing?
Yuto: There's no way. We're still in high school!
Mika: Whoa.. That's old fashioned. What era are you from?
Toka: What's your name?
Toka: I got it. From now on, you are Rodriguez!
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