Ah, Nogizaka Haruka, which is probably better known as "that other show about an idol girl who turns out to be an otaku except it was made before OreImo".
The premise is simple enough: a girl who seems pretty much perfect on the surface is an otaku and a random guy finds this out, resulting in...
...and I'm guessing they kind of ran out of ideas what they'd actually do after that, since just about every imaginable anime series staple is somehow crammed into merely 12 episodes. After episode 9, I threw out a mostly joking statement about this series following a cliche checklist in the What are you watching? topic, into which another member replied with a bunch of cliches I'd forgotten. They managed to include all of his suggestions, save for Christmas/New Year's, in the 3 remaining episodes.
Well, the cliched situations are just settings for the main dish of the series: romance. And it hits another stumbling block here: the romance isn't subtle at all, and it actually feels half-forced at times... both out-of-universe and also in-universe. There's the eternal trip-and-fall-into-close proximity which is used multiple times, but the decisive thing here is that it seems basically every single character's reaction to Yuuto and Haruka hanging out together fits neatly into two categories: "Let's hook them up right now!" and "He's such a loser and doesn't deserve her and I'll break them up right now!". Pretty much no middle ground or third options exist, and about no one just doesn't care, either...
...with the possible exceptions of some of their schoolmates, who were sadly left with bit parts while the screentime was hogged by Haruka's little sister, maids and a couple of drunk women Yuuto lives with who all seemed hell-bent on hooking them up and eavesdropping behind the nearest door, wardrobe or bush to the degree I start wondering if these people don't have lives of their own, family or not.
As for the main couple, Yuuto started out as a somewhat snarkier version of the usual protagonist, but started bending over backwards to accommodate Haruka pretty fast. Haruka, for her part, bugged me somewhat since the show seemed to poke me in the ribs and whisper "Hey, look, look. Look at Haruka. Isn't she adorable, eh? Eh? The best, isn't she?" constantly. She was portrayed as basically perfect from the start and the few things that could be considered flaws (being an otaku, her drawings, getting K.O.ed by raunchy doujins) also seemed to be there to just add to the moè. And then there's the overreactions which seemed to border on unintended emotional manipulation at times. Fainting over a doujin you want being sold out? Really, now.
But then there was the saving grace in this show for me, Shiina. She was introduced as the kinda-but-not-quite second love interest since the plot was already railroaded and going at full steam towards YuutoHaruka4LifeVille, so there wasn't really ever any doubt, so I guess "hopeless suitor" would actually sound better. I liked her for the sheer fact that while Haruka, despite being a nice person at heart, blatantly overreacted and caused drama and trouble whenever things went wrong somehow, Shiina was as nice but also level-headed (a refreshing rarity amidst heroines who seem to be contractually obligated to be either painfully shy, obnoxiously bitchy or just plain oblivious) even when being rejected and was able to converse with Yuuto normally as a person instead of Most Definitely A Love Interest. Too bad he was basically snatched away whenever talking to her, which didn't help with the forced feeling at all.
Not much to say about the other characters since they were pretty predictable in everything they did with the maid Hazuki being about the only one who reached some sort of depths. The other maid is an especially bad example, I don't think she did anything as an individual, making her little more than a smugly smiling, teasing, eavesdropping accessory behind Mika.
Visually the series was nice enough, no complaints in that department. No fuck-ups in animation I'd notice, anyways, soundtrack was pretty unmemorable and the voices were pretty much what you'd expect. Solid enough. Plot-wise it was mostly episodic with the exceptions of the 3 first and 2 last episodes. Cliches notwithstanding it was fine, and the finale was pretty alright despite also being predictable.
All in all? It's not a bad series idea-wise and I won't pass up a romance, but it gets hit pretty hard by going through way too many things we've seen a hundred times and overeager shipping in-universe which makes the romance in question a bit cringe-worthy when it doesn't feel like it's happening at the characters' own pace, but on onlookers' terms instead. And the characters I found the most interesting ones got shafted in terms of screentime. If you like a bit ecchi-tinted romances and don't mind many, many matchmakers and/or are just starting anime and therefore haven't seen the festivals and beach episodes enough to get bored of them, this one's alright. Anyone else, well, don't put it on top of your watch-list, I'd say. Almost nothing new here. 5-ish/10
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