Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu has proved to quite fun after a pretty mediocre opening episode, but unfortunately quite a lot of that mediocrity seems to have returned with episode four.
The basic premise of the episode itself is rather run-of-the-mill, with Haruka, Yuuno and company tailing one of the maids, Hazuki, around town on her day off after suspecting that something is bothering her. While this episode has its moments (Haruka's little Shana turn is almost worth the price of admission alone), it ends up as a classic case of misunderstanding the situation, coupled with throwing in a bit of fan service whenever humanly possible, which ends up leaving this instalment bereft of much of both the humour and charm of earlier episodes.
Even Haruka's moments of endearing cuteness don't really shine through - Again, she works a lot better as over-enthusiastic otaku than as a generic good-natured, nieve and shy girl, and this particular episode gave next to no chance for her to show her most lovable side.
All of this isn't to say that this could be counted as a bad episode, but it was hardly enthralling, nor did it have either the emotional or relentlessly cheerful power of the last two episodes. Indeed, the reason for Hazuki's supposed malcontent was never even revealed in the end, which left me feeling rather like I'd been cheated out of those twenty-five minutes of my life.
Yes, Haruka is very sweet, and I want to see more of the mysterious girl Yuuno has bumped into twice (no, not just because I want to see more of her underwear collection), but the main characters really need some meatier, or at least more entertaining, storylines to get involved in.