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Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu - Purezza
Date 22 Dec 2009
Despite the original series of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu striking us as a rather run-of-the-mill series despite some moments that were either cute or funny in equal measure, such a tepid response to this anime born from a series of light novels wasn't enough to stop a second series getting the green light. So it is that this autumn also saw Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu - Purezza (Italian for "purity" if you're curious) hit Crunchyroll, continuing the story of budding romance between Ayase Yuuto and Haruka Nogizaka despite the best attempts of the rest of the world to come between them.
Ironically for a series that labels itself with a subtitle denoting purity, this second series of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is anything but - While the first season of the show had its moments of traditional fan service, at times this tendency goes into overdrive here, to the point where on occasion the screen is obliterated with steam to protect our virgin eyes (or rather, to promote DVD and Blu-Ray sales in Japan when the steam is magically lifted for those releases), while at others almost every camera angle seems to have been carefully chosen to ensure that the underwear of whatever character is on-screen at the time is in full view.
This flurry of fan service only serves to detract from the core tenets which made the first series watchable, while also trying to lead Yuuto astray by introducing new female characters or upping the ante with existing characters in a way which certainly makes for sufficient plot points to fill an episode here and there, but not really enough to draw the viewer in or ever get them to think in terms beyond rooting for the show's main pairing. Thus, all of the best moments of Purezza come when Yuuto and Haruka are together, with the sweet character dynamic between the two continuing to be the best part of the series and with plots that invariably give the otherwise slightly geeky Yuuto the chance to be a hero, even when episode after episode inevitably ends with frustrating aborted kisses and confessions in an utterly clichéd manner.
What all of this adds up to is a rather unsatisfying feeling that perhaps this series should have left things as they were at the end of its first twelve episodes - Yes, Purezza does contain the odd great comedy moment in its own right (Haruka's father's impression of Gendo Ikari, complete with Ode to Joy playing in the background, is a gem in itself that shouldn't be missed) and yes, it does end with what seems to be a satisfyingly definitive finish unlike so many other series of this genre, but that doesn't really paper over the cracks of the show's viewing experience as a whole. In a way, looking over both series of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu feels a bit like looking over the career of Christina Aguilera - It all starts out as innocent fun with a slight twinkle in its eye but ends up becoming ever more desperate to keep people's attention, resorting to showing off more and more flesh in an attempt to keep its male-dominated viewers hooked. The fact that this series is book-ended by a hot springs episode at either end says it all really, and it's genuinely a shame that some decent characters and moments are lost or otherwise not fully realised in the midst of all of the pandering to otaku.
At the time of writing, Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu - Purezza can be viewed in streaming format from Crunchyroll - The entire series is now available to be viewed on the site by premium members, with 11 episodes available free to all members.
Japanese audio, English subtitles - Available in Standard Definition, 480P and 720P streaming resolutions.
Purezza is often anything but, as fan service aplenty detracts from most of the show's better points.