It almost seems fateful that I was exposed to Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu just after I wrote my last post about Otakuism. After watching episodes 1 to 4 of it, it seems clear to me now why there has been an explosion of Nogizaka posts across the blogosphere. Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu depicts a world where otakus are made fun of and jeered at in general societies such as school. The main protagonists, Nogizaka Haruka and Ayase Yuuko, two highschool students live in such a world, and as a result of relationships and plain old clumsiness, fall victim to the anti-Otaku society that they live in. I'm not a resident of Japan so I'm not sure if the situation is that extreme there, I certainly hope not. Alright, time for the Nogizaka Haruka jump-in-and-join-the-fun-superpost. Warning: This post is long and filled with spoilers
I love how Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu starts off with a cheerful little anime called Clumsy Aki-chan, an anime that would play a pivotal role in bringing the characters in the show together and bring out the stereotypes in the characters of the show. I think this is good use of a plot device to create a story out of what would have become a slice-of-life story otherwise. Clumsy Aki-chan constantly lies in the background only to be brought out sometimes to bring the characters closer together and give the story some life.
"Yaaa! We need more sake!"
Moving on, Ayase Yuuto, the main male hero in this show is, like about 90% of all anime, depicted as the "Lucky Guy" type who lives with women who are not careful about their bodies. I have absolutely no idea how these women live, and how Yuuto ends up living with his teacher (blonde), who happens to act and look very much like a slut, along with his sister, who is more conservative dress-wise, but still is pretty much a drunkard his teacher is. I'm sure there is a backstory there which will eventually be revealed through a series of flashbacks and storytelling that will lead to more tears and emotions. Of course, let's leave it at that for now and move on to the title star of the show.
Nogizaka Haruka, the main female protagonist is, again, as present in 90% of anime, depicted as a rich daughter of some obscenely wealthy tycoon and is talented (well, not exactly as you would see later in the show) beyond all human reach, making her the idol and model student to which all students aspire to become. It seems its these characters in anime that really drive many otaku to pursuing their dreams and desires. Some of which are good and productive, some which are not so. Good and productive ones are otakus who strive to become the next generation of artists, musicians and even anime distributors that continue to support the anime industry in the future, whereas less productive ones are the ones who scour real life places shown in anime dressed up as not their own gender and creating commotions and weird acts around unsuspecting innocent civilians, and probably are the ones to earn otaku their bad name. Of course, Nogizaka Haruka, being the perfect girl she is, also harbors a deep dark secret...
Well, maybe not so deep and dark, but certainly a cute loveable secret. You see, Haruka is an otaku. The reason she hides it is pretty plain with the anti-otaku world around her and stuff. She is the victim of very strong peer pressure to not be an otaku, however much she loves it. It's pretty sad for her since she can't come clean with her hobby because of the potential of tremendous emotional blows as a result. Though, its hard not to blame her too. In my early years of anime fandom, I was quite embarrassed to tell anyone that I was an otaku. Only lately, with enough exposure to the more carefree western society was I slowly able to proclaim proudly my hidden interests. Of course, this wasn't before meeting with sideway stares from fellow students and peers alike.
Man, I'm not sure how Yuuto's friend is allowed to bring these to school. I'm picking lax school rules. Coming from a chinese school in an asian country I've seen students getting sent to the principle's office for bringing liquid paper to school. Of course, you may argue that those are tools of vandalism and are rightfully banned from schools, but anime figures and magazines are serious distractions to students. If a student brings figures and magazines to school, chances are they are having trouble separating their work from their play and need some attention. Though, I guess this is just another plot device to bring out the fact that Yuuto has a friend that takes his anime-fandom very very seriously.
Of course, Haruka isn't so upfront about it, and even tries the weakest disguises in vain attempts to hide the fact that she borrows Innocent Smile magazines to read. What can I say? She is pretty desperate to hide her identitiy while still preserving her hobby. This part was really cute where Haruka actually hit the bookshelf because she was blocking her own vision with her bag, and Yuuto so happened to see it.
Unfortunately for her however, her attempt to disguise herself lets Yuuto find out what she's been doing. Yuuto however, has an otaku friend, so he has no idea what the big deal is about Haruka reading something like an anime magazine. How dense. I guess when you are friends with the devil, monsters are no big deal. Not that Haruka is a monster. *dodges tomatoes and stones
Oh we must not forget, Ojou-samas must have the "Imperial Guard" to protect her. This group however, seems pretty well exaggerated. Sasuga experienced anime makers. I'm sure these animators and producers have produced many many anime shows before this. I just don't remember any of the names and none of them are familiar to me, but this show is obviously the work of pros.
The story goes on to start pulling them close together by lining up a situation where they sneak into school to change the records so Haruka's name does not get called out on the loudspeakers for returning a book late, since people finding out that she had such a book would mean they would think she's an otaku, which is a big big no-no for her. So, unsurprisingly, she enlists the help of the one person who knows her secret, and asks him to help her in her mission to save her pride. Most of this, now that I think of it, is pretty standard stuff for a romance/comedy show, but I didn't laugh much, I just enjoyed the lightness and predictability of the story, and of course, scenes such as the one below:
Here's a long stitched shot of Haruka not being able to get up. Make sure you guys don't go blind from this. I think I actually understand how she feels, anyone who has run through a jungle for as long as the sun is up and coming into the beach from a swamp would understand how difficult it is to get up again after sitting down. Though, I would think the school is less of a jungle.
That doesn't really look like a website but, okay. It seems Yuuto, now actually knowing a girl otaku, is getting interested in finding out what the fuss is all about. Somehow, whenever we boys meet a girl, we tend to like to find out more about her interests. This is such an accurate depiction of that fact, and the producers have done an excellent job in subliminally transmitting the message. I wish I had that sort of l33t storytelling skillz.
Of course, when you do that, and the school's beauty is close to you trying to explain all her interests to you and having a nice conversation, you automatically become the school's most hated person, and mysteriously red eyes start to glow all about you and surround you in this aura of jealousy, hate and killing intent. Of course, this is a very strong feeling so you're not likely to miss it if you struck gold.
Combo image of SD Haruka in ultradere mode. Someone needs to create a youtube loop with a catchy song and these three images to start another moe moe explosion. Somehow, artists these days are so good they can make practically any character look SD, chibi, adult, realistic, bishoujo and traditional-artform-like and still maintain their character. These are one of the things I really admire about modern anime artists.
Episode 2 also shows some flashbacks on why Yuuto hates to go to Akihabara. Of course, if a cute girl asks you to go, I'm sure no one is in a position to say no. I haven't had such an experience before but after seeing the kinds of trauma these people go through, I'd rather not.
Haruka in a nice one-piece dress... Ahh... How much more moe can one be? If there was ever such a cute thing in the train station, I'm sure she would earn more money in ads per day than what those adsense links would earn in years.
Down here in New Zealand we don't get much of shops like these. Back home in Malaysia however, I do remember seeing some shops chock full of figures line up densely on glass cabinets against large windows. The huge number of figures such as the ones in this scene makes it scary to think if they all suddenly came alive, what would happen to us? They could easily form a city and separate country of anime figures, after which every one of us would start applying for citizenship in that country.
This girl looks like she is cosplaying as that girl (what's her name) with pink hair from Nanoha. Gotta love the fang. Tsundereness at its peak. It's just... to put it in the words of a certain blogger I know... Awesome sauce.
This scene is an awesome depiction of the difference between gaijins and nihonjins, though I'm not sure if that's the case anymore. The majority of Japanese people that I have met are a bit taller than me, and I'm not exactly short compared to westerners. Or maybe the fact that westerners are very large people have already be engraved deep inside Japanese minds.
It's my first time... ^_^;
Another highly explosive moe stitch shot. This show is starting to show itself as very stitch-friendly indeed. I wonder if it was done on purpose. Meido Haruka For the Win.
Haruka in shokku mode another one of the wonders in this movie. Never have I seen such a lively and round character in an ojou-sama-who-is-good-at-everything-type. Most of the time they are just arrogant tsundere lolis who overpower everyone around them all the time.
Man, I'd so act like that if I get a gashapon I want. Not that I am into those things or anything.
Okay, maybe Haruka isn't good at everything. At least she knows that water is blue. Well, I think that is water...
Sakurazaka Hazuki, Haruka's chief maid of the house. Somehow, all the maids, servants and loyal people of the ojou-sama's in the anime world are surnamed Sakurazaka. Is it a stereotype? Or is this true? No seriously I have to ask. Sometimes these things can be real.
Haruka's house is one massive complex. Look at the corridor. I think actually walking down that corridor was what Yuuto and Hazuki spent the better part of 30 minutes doing.
Nogizaka Mika. Haruka's sister. This over-energetic loli seems to think that her panties are ordinary clothes. The anime is full of fanservice because she exists. After looking at the way she shakes her skirt so hard that you see green and white stripes, it makes you wonder how some girls are full of embarrassment and others have none at all. Maybe she is filling in the role of the 'easy' type? It would be cool if all of a sudden Yuuto dumps Haruka for Mika. Now THAT would be an epic story.
Nanashiro Nanami, another one of Haruka's housemaids. Somehow rich people get all the fun. What's up with the sunglasses though?
Gotta love all the energy from a 14 year old. It almost seems as if she is trying to hint Yuuto at something.
Much obliged. The traditional misunderstanding scene. Though, in this case since Haruka is such a carefree air-headed character, she's pretty dense and so won't even think any further that what she is seeing. Though I think deep inside Haruka would just want to slap Mika </emo> Ahem. Never mind me. You don't know how much I want this to be less comedy and more dorama.
Yuuto's heroic attempt at saving Haruka's image only caused everyone to start whispering away about how disgusting Yuuto is. "There is no way Haruka would be looking at that stuff hahaha". "Haruka is so kind" Poor Yuuto, but good for him. Haruka is saved. That's all that matters. Though, Haruka didn't seem to happy about it...
Oh my someone is trying to be a rival now. This 3rd year can go to hell. He doesn't know half of what Haruka's about and he's trying to point Yuuto in the right direction?! I can only go LOL.
Of course, the story must not go on without Haruka explaining to Yuuto why she feels upset about what Yuuto did. Though, it seems they quickly reconciled and Haruka feels more comfortable now about being an otaku, and what it means to be one.
Though the other characters are always quick to misunderstand. Mika seems like she knows a bit too much for her age. What do their parents do anyway!?
LOL. The guy again. This fella reminds me of Brera Styrne in Macross Frontier. Someone who is trying his best to replace the protagonist, but is destined to fail.
Whoa. Nice sparkling bishounen wants to do the impossible
He seems to have forgotten what one of Haruka's l33t skillz encompasses. Man, perfect ojou-samas going tsun and telling off people and even executing a flashy Judo move is enough to keep her attractiveness going for decades.
See? I told you he's destined to fail.
Haruka's l33t Judo skillz pwn t3h b0yz
In episode 4, there wasn't much to see, much less talk about, except this piece of Gold, accompanied by a cue of Hishoku no Sora's chorus
Shakugan no Haruka! Now all that's left is her exploding into fire and taking out a sword longer than herself and pwning all the tomogaras around her.
Complete with the complementary URUSAI URUSAI URUSAI!!!
Overall, this anime is a light hearted, nice sweet little anime. There isn't any deep plot or storyline, just a bunch of characters to go "awwww" over. Each episode has some references (albeit not as many as Lucky Star) to other anime, but doesn't take it too far. It also tends to show a bit too much Haruka moeness, but that's what anime is all about, so no complaints there. Overall, a nice anime, and manages to climb just high enough to enter my watchlist.