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I just finished watching Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu (or Haruka Nogizaka's Secret) and I've got that romcom afterglow going. Wouldn't be nice if the world really were like this? Sure, you'd have to turn off your internal snarker as well as disable all irony detection and sarcasm, but it still sounds like it might be nice.

As you can probably deduce from the commentary sofar, NHnH is a happy anime. It's about Haruka and her secret of being a closet otaku. Our male protagonist stumbles over this fact and helps her keep up the subterfuge until she's ready to reveal it to the world. This causes them to start a relationship through the shared secret which eventually blossoms into something more. Throw in a mixed cast of characters including a potential love triangle, a worldly younger sister, a couple of maids armed with weapons (including a freaking chainsaw), a scary overprotective father and a pair of bottle fairies and it's pretty par for the course as far as romantic comedies go. What is sort of unusual about the series, at least from my perspective is Haruka's secret and her, to my perception, extreme reaction to it and desire to keep it secret.

I'm going to segway a bit because I found her reaction odd enough that I actually did a little more digging. It seems odd to me that Otaku would be such a dirty word. English and America have pretty much borrowed it and here it simply means someone who is a big fan of anime, manga, and sometimes Japanese culture in general. You can't turn around twice in geekdom nowadays without bumping into at least a half dozen self-professed otakus. The best English equivalent might be Trekkie, for those who were die-hard star trek geeks back in the day. That said, 'otaku' is apparently not a harmless term for the Japanese. It's apparently considered offensive to call someone an otaku and they can't understand why so maybe gaijin would self-label themselves as such. I imagine it's like going around and happily telling people you like to watch child porn or have a diaper-wearing fetish.

When you think about it, it's hard to understand why the Japanese would have such a negative view of otakus considering how much anime and manga they churn out as a society. Disney is such a small percentage of American animation but our society wouldn't look down upon the numbers of Disney fanatics out there. Even Trekkie (or Trekkers) aren't so much stigmatized nowadays as seen as just another facet of geekdom. As long as you don't go out of control with it by trying to redesign your volkswagon to look like a starship and calling it the Enterprise-F, no one is likely to make a big deal of it. Then again, no trekkie is known to have killed four girls and tried to insert a zoom lens up the vagina of an 8-year old (in case you're curious) so maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges here.

All in all, it just seemed like a strange thing to have kept hidden as a secret and been so worried about others finding out about. After doing the research and looking into the topic some more, I can see how it might not be a good thing to be stuck with the label of otaku in Japan. Maybe that's why this series ended up being such a sleeper hit. There are probably plenty of hidden otakus out there in Japan watching the show and thinking it might be nice to come out of the proverbial anime/manga closet. It was popular enough that they're producing a second season that's airing right now.

On a sidenote, Haruka is voiced by Mamiko Noto who also does Nodoka from Mahou Sensei Negima, which I absolutely love and is about the only seiyu I can identify with ease. Negima is what caused me to miss two flights earlier this summer as I got so engrossed in the manga chapters I lost track of time not once but twice.

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