After a slightly auspicious start, the last episode of Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu succeeded in going a long way towards winning me over. After what was really quite an adorable second episode, the first segment of episode three seemed like a return to cliche-dom, with Yuuno visiting Haruka to study for tests - Cue, err... 'womanly' distractions, eyes meeting over a dropped eraser, and so on. Similarly, we were also introduced to Haruka's fiesty younger sister, which again seems to be something that has been done a million times before in exactly the manner seen here.
After this however, things actually picked up a little, with Haruka's secret almost being revealed only for Yuuno to cover up for her. Despite this, Haruka locks herself away for days out of a mixture of shame and worry for Yuuno for taking the rap. From here, we see a far more likeable to side to both of the lead characters again, with the episode closing out in a suitably interesting fashion.
While there's so much you could pinpoint about this series that is far from original, treading on old ground isn't always such a bad thing as long as you have good characters and suitably interesting situations to place them in. With that in mind, this episode is a perfect example of that philosophy, with the 'home study' section of the episode proving to be not just predictable, but also not particularly entertaining, whereas the second part of this instalment also made it pretty easy to see where things were going, yet carried itself reasonably well on the characters involved alone. In other words, this time around characters trumped the storyline, and by enough of a margin for me to continue to broadly enjoy this series despite its lack of anything even approaching innovation.