Last episode, I was pretty tough on what I felt was Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu's turn towards mediocrity. Episode five certainly doesn't assuage those feelings entirely by any means, but it has at least softened my feelings towards the show a little again.
It was pretty inevtiable that this was coming, but this latest instalment well and truly sets up the kind of love triangle that we've come to expect from any series like this, as Yuuto bumps into Shiina yet again (third time lucky!), only to find that she's also transferred not only into Yuuto and Haruka's school, but also into the same class. We know all about mysterious transfer students from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, but really, this kind of coincidence is the kind of thing that can only happen in anime.
After quickly endearing herself to the class with her multitude of talents, we soon learn that the chink in her armour is swimming - Unfortunate, with an inter-class swimming competition coming up. With this many coincidences in a row, I'd have been tempted to pack in school and buy some lottery tickets, but instead Yuuto and Haruka offer to help Shiina out by teaching her and improving her swimming technique. Cue a rather predictable swimming pool-based episode, with a little bit of beach episode thrown in for good measure (albeit without the beach - You'll understand if you watch it), complete with leg cramps, trips to the school medical room, fan service and so on.
This is all the kind of thing we've seen too many times before to mention, although to be fair this episode just (and I do mean just, by the skin of its teeth) about pulls it off courtesy of the really rather likeable nature of the main three characters. They all seem like normal guys and girls, and that helps to keep the show grounded while setting up that inevitable love triangle in way that never felt too convoluted. This at least allows me to somewhat ignore the ridiculously transparent build up to Shiina needing to be rescued (we don't need to see her legs while swimming a thousand times to get the picture that she might get a cramp, come on guys), and the "seen it all before" nature of the episode as whole. Yes, we have seen it all before but hey, given the smattering of decent main characters I feel like giving Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu a free pass - This time around, at least, particularly with the promise of some more Haruka as otaku-based shenanigans next episode.