Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anime Best of 2013, Part 8: Top Episodes/Moments

No need for much of an introduction here; it's simply my favorite episodes and moments of 2013. (This excludes first episodes, which I already covered in my introduction.)

Be warned, though, that this post is a major spoiler minefield! I'll be hiding most of the content behind black bars so that you can choose what you get spoiled for, but even then, proceed with caution.

A couple special guests have thrown in their tiles for this part.



Top 10 Moments

This list is for individual moments as opposed to entire episodes, which will be the next list.

Special rule: No finales will be part of this list, as those are reserved for the third and final list.

#10. White Album 2: The concert

There's no point in calling this a spoiler; the concert is even previewed in the first episode. When it is played out in all its glory (albeit spread out across two episodes), it is definitely a highlight of this show. I'm a bit of a sucker for concert scenes, admittedly, and the whole music aspect was definitely the part I liked about this show more than the romantic drama.

#9. Sunday Without God: Ai's last moments with her father

[At the end of episode 3, Ai finds out that the mysterious man, Hampnie Herbert, is indeed her father, but once she finds this out and the two meet again, Hampnie's wish is finally fulfilled and he is able to die. Afterwards, (and while the credits are going), Ai allows her father to stay "alive" in the world so that the two of them can spend one day as father and daughter, before Ai finally buries her father properly. While this was my favorite moment from this show, it is just one of many major, emotional moments in this show, with the finale also being really good, and another episode being my favorite overall.]

#8. Monogatari Series Second Season: Mayoi's farewell

[Speaking of emotional farewells, perhaps there are none more emotional than Mayoi's in Onimonogatari. It's definitely one of the saddest moments for me, as Mayoi was one of my favorite characters from this series, so it was painful to see her go. However, she does get a very nice and emotional farewell here. Yeah, maybe having her kiss Koyomi goodbye is a bit… weird, but it's still fitting for her.]

#7. WataMote: Tomoko gets a hug (from Megumi)

[In WataMote, Tomoko almost never gets a break. She might occasionally have a kind-of good thing happen to her, but there's always a sense of pity in each case. But, during the culture festival in episode 11, alone and feeling down again, she gets her first true break when Megumi, the friendly culture festival chairman, while in a mascot costume, sees her, and realizes how alone she's been, and thus she gives her a balloon and a hug. To have gone along with Tomoko and all the bad things that happen to her, for her to finally get a moment of genuine kindness is definitely a very memorable moment.]

#6. Rozen Maiden Zuruckspulen: College Jun makes a contract with Souseiseki

[This is definitely one of those moments that caught me by surprise. With the various dolls all battling to try to be the one College Jun makes a contract with, the one thing I did not quite expect was not only for Suiseiseki to be carrying the "late" Souseiseki's ring and getting Jun to make the contract-making kiss for it, but also with Kirakishou's stand-in body actually being made from Souseiseki--and for said contract to actually "revive" Souseiseki (albeit requiring the sacrifice of Suiseiseki's Rosa Mystica). What follows is a surprisingly touching moment between Souseiseki and her new master. I've always felt Souseiseki to be one of the more under-appreciated dolls in this series, so this moment was a nice surprise and definitely one of my favorites.]

#5. Stella Women's Academy, High School Division Class C3: Yura cheats

[It was my fault for assuming that this would be another happy show about cute girls doing stuff, in this case play with airsoft guns. I mean, it all looked so cheerful in the first episode… when did this show suddenly become such a grim look at human nature and depravity? One can definitely start seeing the signs of Yura's breakdown as she gets so caught up in her desire to win--and to beat Sonora's rival Rin--that she stops allowing the others in the club to have fun. But the moment that really seals the deal and shows that this is not just another cute-girls show is in episode 8, where in the 24-hour tournament, she cheats and shoots Rin after she's taken a hit herself. This is definitely not a happy moment, but it sure is the moment that really defined the kind of show this was, whether you liked it or not.]

#4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: The passing of the whalesquid

[There are some anime moments that really are just best experienced. One of those is this moment from episode 7: Ledo has found out that the Hideauze that his former society had been fighting for so long also exist on Earth as whalesquid, who are frighteningly powerful but only attack when threatened, and as such are revered by the Gargantia people as gods. Then, a large herd of whalesquid are reported to pass the fleet, and the entire fleet shuts down to let them pass by undisturbed. The moment where they pass by is incredible, equally beautiful and terrifying, with at least one close call that also passes by silently. It truly is something that has to be seen to be believed.]

#3. The Eccentric Family: The return of the Fake Eizan Electric Railway

[The first half of the penultimate episode of this series is The Eccentric Family's own brand of insanity. In one way it is more than just that, though, as it starts with Yajirou finally overcoming his guilt over being responsible for the death of his father (in part thanks to learning the truth about that) and then, with the help of some liquid courage (tanuki love that stuff), he transforms into a sentient, high-speed tram determined to take his brothers to rescue their mother. What follows is a crazy ride full of fun moments as they have to deal with some annoying Ebisugawa antics, all the way until Yasaburo tries to  get an airborne tram closer to the Friday Fellows' hangout using a tengu fan… and leading to one of the funniest moments of the past year.]

#2. MAOYU: Elder Sister Maid's speech

[It was really hard to determine the order of these last two, as they were both easily the best moments of 2013, and individually they are pretty much tied, so I have simply ordered them by how much I liked the series they came from. That said, Elder Sister Maid's speech (while appearing as the Scholar/Demon King) is something of a beauty: a riveting speech about the true nature of freedom in the face of persecution from "religious" officials. For her, it is a landmark moment as it represents her growth from a powerless serf to one who can bear the image of the great Scholar. For the world itself, it stirs an outright religious revolution where the people no longer blindly accept the words of human leaders as gospel. In terms of the sheer impact, this moment is unrivaled.]

#1. The Pet Girl of Sakurasou: Misaki's graduation speech

[The level of impact of Misaki's graduation speech isn't quite as world-changing as the above speech, though being able to stir up an entire student body to oppose a corrupt group of authorities is pretty darn good as it is. And while her speech does give a sense of Misaki's growth over her time at the school, it is more notably an expression of just how close the members of Sakurasou are are how important they are to each other. And considering that is one of the themes of this show, this speech is truly an important moment in the show, and for a show which I have grown to love its characters as much as I have for this show, it is definitely my favorite moment of 2013.]

Top 10 Non-Finale Episodes

In contrast to the above list, which looked more at individual elements from episodes, this list concerns episodes as a whole.

Special Rule: This list looks specifically at non-finale episodes--that is, episodes that do not close out a series' main storyline for the season. Note that a finale episode is not always the last episode (for example, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU's finale episode is its second-to-last one).

#10. Attack on Titan, Ep. 13

[If Attack on Titan is good at one thing, it is crafting epic combat sequences of humans versus titans. Or, as the case may be, titans versus titans. In this case, Titan Eren must control his Titan form to take a boulder to block a hole in the wall and keep more Titans from getting in. Meanwhile, the other humans must support him by taking down the Titans trying to stop him. It is a difficult battle and one that won't come without big losses, but it is definitely humanity's greatest stand against the Titans, and it is exciting to watch.]

#9. Sunday without God, Ep. 6

[There's a lot going on in this episode. Ortus's secret is revealed, and it's one that shakes up Ai's world, making her question the morality of the gravekeepers' job of burying the dead, as she wonders if leaving the dead to be is also a perfectly fine way of living. Add on a great display of friendship between Ai, Ulla, and Kiriko, as well as the birth of a new life, and you have the makings of a great episode.]

#8. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya, Ep. 6

[All this episode really is is a battle between Dark Saber and an Archer-possessed Illya. But man, is it epic. It is an episode filled with such incredible action throughout that it really is something to watch. Here's hoping there's more where this came from next season.]

#7. The Flowers of Evil, Ep. 7

[In my opinion, The Flowers of Evil is one big trainwreck where the enjoyment comes from seeing these unsuspecting characters slowly but surely fall into ruin. And nowhere is the trainwreck more glorious than in episode 7, when Kasuga finally gives in to his desire to let go of his inhibitions and, along with his partner-in-crime Sawamura, vandalizes his classroom, all depicted in slow motion and over a more melodic version of the unusual ending theme. It's a very memorable moment, though the moments leading up to it are great as well and make the whole episode one of 2013's best. For extra fun, their mess of black paint ends up painting the series' representative "flower" on the ground… a fact that serves more purpose than just being randomly symbolic.]

#6. Chronicles of the Going Home Club, Ep. 7

[This show started off kind of weak, but it did get much better as it went along. The highlight of this show is definitely episode 7, which can basically be described as such: most epic game of shiritori ever. (Shiritori is a game where you must say a Japanese word that starts with the last syllable of the last person's word, though here it's played with a twist.) At least, that's what makes up the first two thirds. The last third tops it off with a nice, heartwarming tale of Natsuki's birthday, providing a great capper to an already great episode.]

#5. Oreimo S2, Ep. 9

[I've said this many times before, but the ninth episode of the second season of Oreimo is the best episode of the entire series, after which… well, you know. Bad endings aside, episode 9 marks what I wanted most for these characters: a full reconciliation and newfound closeness for the Kousaka siblings, and Kuroneko's full inclusion into their group. (Say, wasn't that what her "dream" in her notebook was?)]

#4. Genshiken Nidaime, Ep. 11

[This episode was dominated by one particularly great moment: that moment where Madarame and Saki finally get to talk and sort out Madarame's feelings for her. It's a moment that we've been waiting three seasons for, ever since Madarame couldn't help but notice that one stray hair on Saki's nose--something that does get brought up in their talk, for the record. And, of course, there's all the usual Genshiken fun outside of that moment.]

#3. Silver Spoon, Ep. 10

[This is an episode that one almost dreads coming: the moment when Hachiken's beloved pig Pork Bowl must go to the slaughterhouse, and Hachiken must come face to face with the reality that farm animals are raised to be killed for food. And this is no sentimental show where the pig manages to get saved; Hachiken does buy Pork Bowl, but he specifically buys his meat, looking to be the one that decides what to do with it. And, of course, that is to make bacon and invite others to a cookout. This entire episode is a great display of the growth Hachiken has gone through over the course of this series, while providing viewers a chance to look at the question of what it means to raise animals for food themselves.]

#2. Outbreak Company, Ep. 8

[The episode that confirmed for me that Petralka was the best character of 2013, this episode is one full of both fun and feels. With Petralka having cracked under pressure and retreated into her room, Shinichi decides that the best way to help her is to simply let her have a taste of the true hikkikomori lifestyle, as taught from his own experience. There are plenty of fun moments along the way, but what really makes this episode is the more emotional moments, like where Galius reveals the tragic past his cousin has been through, or when Shinichi gets to share with Petralka just what it was like living the hikkikomori lifestyle. There's a lot more to this, but I've already written a post on that.]

#1. Tamayura ~more aggressive~, Ep. 8

[In past parts, I have already talked much about Fuu and Chihiro. This episode may simply be the fulfillment of a longtime promise they had with each other, but it is so beautiful and emotional that there really was no way it was not going to be my favorite episode of 2013 (excluding finales).]


Top 10 Finales

Finally, we look at finales. These are the shows that show what it means to go out with a bang, while still perhaps leaving some room for more in a later season. After all, sometimes last impressions are the deepest.

Special Rule: Any show that aired its finale in 2013 is eligible for this list, including those that are primarily 2012 shows. As such, some special guests have made their way into this list.

#10. Free!

[There's a lot to talk about in this finale. Most notable is the way in which Rin finally gets to swim with his old friends, in a final swimming sequence that is simply breathtaking. Of course, there's more to this finale than just the swimming, and seeing Rin finally reconcile with the guys is something worthwhile in and of itself. Sure, their little stunt was breaking the rules and the group was disqualified, but hey, there's a sequel coming, so this finale is a good send-off for this season.]

#9. Attack on Titan

[As if this show would not pull out all the stops for its final episode. The final episode is one epic battle of Titan Eren versus Titan Annie (with some support from the Survey Corps), and it definitely ranks among the best of last year's action scenes. The aftermath is also worth mentioning, setting things up very well for future seasons of the show. It will be a while before that will happen as there's not a lot of manga material at the moment, but nevertheless, this first season ends quite well.]

#8. Haganai NEXT

[Ignoring the blatantly obvious sequel hook (and again, said sequel won't come for a while due to lack of source material), this finale features probably the biggest moment yet for this show: the moment when Kodaka makes his first friend--thanks to some "gentle" prodding from Rika (and by "gentle", I mean "bombard the guy with remote-controlled balls"), the two of them become friends, and Rika solidifies her position as my favorite character in the show, after spending a whole season as my least-favorite. And, of course, it all is part of a great finish to this season… with a horrible tease for the next.]

#7. The World God Only Knows: Goddesses

[Man, was this a finale. Keima awakens the last goddess, Diana gets her wings, Akari shows herself as a fellow demon that comes to Keima's aid (while Nikaido-sensei watches from afar), there's a huge rescue operation of the remaining goddesses, and all the while, Chihiro and Keima finally part ways, much to Chihiro's dismay, but not without Keima feeling some guilt over the whole thing. The final concert, in which the "normal" Chihiro performs "The Memory of My First Love" while surrounded by goddesses, is the last, poignant scene in this incredible finale.]

#6. The Eccentric Family

[In one room, a number of tanuki are gathered and ready to elect the new leader, with Yaichirou working hard to undo the machinations of Soun Ebisugawa while the other Shimogamo siblings race to their brother's aid. In the next room over, separated by a mere sliding door, the Friday Fellows are about to enjoy their year-end tanuki hotpot, with one member unaware that their prey this year is the Shimogamo mother that he took care of some time ago. And in yet another adjoining room, an old tengu is just trying to have a nice, quiet drink. What happens when the partition between the rooms comes down and all is revealed? Complete, utter chaos. After the chaos is over and the Shimogamos are rescued, Yajiro gets a nice heartfelt moment with his mother, and then we get a nice little epilogue with the former Friday Fellows member Benten, as well as the ever-elusive Kaisei. Maybe not quite as epic as the previous entries, but it's an incredibly fun, exciting finale with its poignant moments that very much befits the nature of its show.]

#5. Saki Achiga-hen: Episode of Side-A

[The first "guest" show in this list, Saki Episode of Side-A is a Spring 2012 show that aired its final four episodes over a period starting from the end of 2012 and going into May of 2013. It's quite a long, painful wait, but it was well worth it for this finale. Shizuno is finally able to show off her true power, which allows her to put a stop to Awai's dangerous power. Afterwards, the four players go forth at full power, with the four players' positions changing frequently and each player proving to be a threat in her own way. Of course, it is the final hand that is truly epic: Awai mounts one last offense to try to come out on top, and for a moment, seems like she has done it… but then she is reminded by Shizuno that the  ura dora that she normally uses to inflate her hand's score are no longer in her territory. The dark horse Achiga comes out on top (though Awai and the rest of Shiraitodai go with them to the finals), and the show closes out with a nice little epilogue that, among other things, show how much this moment was a redemption of sorts for the Achiga's coach Harue.]

#4. Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet

[It's time for Ledo and Chamber to defend Gargantia from Striker and her fleet. They're not alone, though, as the Gargantia are aware of the threat and are far from unprepared for it (and they have some help from some pirates as well). That Amy also flies out to meet Ledo is also great, since we haven't really seen her in action for the last couple of episodes before this. But in the end, it is the final clash between Chamber and Striker that steals the show, as Chamber shows a surprising change from an automated AI to one that has almost human-like behavior… right up to when he goes up to Striker in a suicide attack, while declaring quite poignantly to her, "Go to hell, tin can!" Truly one of 2013's most awesome moments.]

#3. Kin-iro Mosaic

[Wait, what kind of a finale can a slice-of-life comedy about cute girls have? This show might have come from a genre that doesn't typically have notable finales, but it already made its mark with the best opening episode of 2013, and it figured it could end things spectacularly, too. But how would they do it? Well… how about an epic musical about princesses and pirates? This finale pretty much has to be seen to be believed, but it is such an off-the-wall bundle of fun that it easily ranks among the best finales of the last year.]

#2. Girls und Panzer

[Another guest from 2012, this Fall 2012 show encountered some production delays, and as such, the last two episodes did not air until March 2013. The long wait was worth it, though, as the final battle was incredibly well-done and exciting to watch. The finale starts with Miho's team having to deal with the monstrous Maus, which is dealt with in such a great display of strategy and uncharacteristic strength (Hetzers gonna Hetz) that it alone would make for an epic finale. But then they up the ante by bringing everything down to one climactic one-on-one battle between Miho's tank and her older sister Maho's tank, the finish to which is truly spectacular. This show is my favorite from a pure action perspective, and this final battle easily shows why. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, there's a nice moment at the end where the two estranged sisters finally have a chance to reconcile.]

#1. AKB0048 next stage

[Oh gosh, where do I even start with this finale? First of all, the situation: AKB0048's home planet of Akibastar has been taken over by the DES, and their propaganda has caused its citizens to view the idol group with disdain. The girls themselves have nevertheless decided to come out of hiding from underground and put on a concert, in order to take their planet back for themselves. It's not easy; after all, this is not like singing for a bunch of your fans, or even for relative strangers, and if the hatred of their audience was not enough, the DES is out to attack them as well. However, motivated by their love for the people, they persist in singing, and from here, many things happen. Yuuko, who had disappeared since triggering the Center Nova phenomenon, reappears (along with an appearance from the long-missing 13th-generation Acchan), Nagisa becomes a successor to become the 14th-generation Acchan, and Chieri, overcoming her hatred for the DES to sing to one of their soldiers, becomes the Center Nova, among other things. All this is backed by a soundtrack of the group's big songs, and the whole thing is truly inspiring. These musical missionaries have gone through a lot to get here, and this finale of theirs is so rewarding to watch that it is without a doubt the best finale of 2013.]

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With this, I am finally ready to go over all the shows I watched in 2013. I will start things off with the dishonorable mentions, the shows I bothered to finish but can't be bothered to like: the Worst of 2013.


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