Haruka Nogizaka seems to have it all - Looks, refinement, intelligence and a kind nature despite her wealthy family, all of which aids to make her one of (if not the) most popular girl in her school. But what is the secret which she hides from all and sundry that the title of this anime, derived from a series of light novels and currently available on Crunchyroll, refers to?
Despite going to great lengths to keep her real passion from both friends and family, it's a chance encounter in the school library with one Ayase Yuuto that threatens to blow her secret wide open - A meeting which reveals to his abject surprise that Haruka is in fact a closet otaku. Luckily for her, Yuuto is a kind-hearted soul and all-round nice guy, and despite her panic at being discovered she soon realises that Yuuto has no intentions of broadcasting her secret to the world - Far from it in fact, Yuuto ends up nurturing and encouraging her otaku proclivities, and before we know it a budding relationship is building up between the two.
From here, we enter pretty traditional anime romantic comedy territory, following in the footsteps of Love Hina and the like - Although this isn't quite a harem series per se, it has no issues with surrounding Yuuto with girls who take an interest in him (including Haruka's own younger sister) and thrusting him into awkward situations with them on a regular basis in the name of both comedy and stirring up the relationship pot. Add in Yuuto's placid and gentlemanly nature, and you'll probably be struck quite frequently with feelings that you've seen all this before somewhere.
While so many of the scenarios drawn up by Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu are utterly predictable, the saving grace of the series as a whole is undoubtedly the dynamic between main characters Haruka and Yuuto - No matter what insanity surrounds them (and some of it really does push your suspension of disbelief somewhat), both the male and female leads remain really quite lovable in their own naive yet ultimately adorable ways. This leads quickly to a situation where you practically stop caring about the temptations that are thrown Yuuto's way, and simply want to see more of him spending time with Haruka - A piece of emotional manipulation which I imagine is the point of the series at a deeper level in all honesty.
Beyond that neatly portrayed relationship however, there's not really anything that stands out to make Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu a must-watch series by any stretch of the imagination - It's a pretty hit-and-miss affair on an episode by episode basis, and if you aren't excited by the blatant male otaku fantasy of running into a beautiful, kind and intelligent girl who just happens to be obsessed by anime then the broader circumstances of the series begin to look pretty paper thin. That leaves this particular offering with the label of "generally entertaining fluff" - It'll probably produce a few laughs and knowing nods as it rolls out the odd anime reference here and there, and that could even be enough to convince you to watch this shows second season (Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: Purezza, currently airing on Crunchyroll as well), but as romantic comedies go its neither the funniest nor the most convincing love story ever told.
At the time of writing, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu can be viewed in streaming format from Crunchyroll - The entire series is now available to be viewed on the site by premium members, with 10 episodes available free to all members.
Japanese audio, English subtitles - Available in Standard Definition, 480P and 720P streaming resolutions.