As you may have noticed in our last Anime Pocket Reviews, we at The Culture Cove have now reviewed 100 anime series! You can see the list here – and yes, every single one of those titles has been reviewed right here. We’re more proud of this than we should be, really….
Anyway, to celebrate we’re looking back on some of our favourite moments over the many series we’ve seen over the years.
According to MyAnimeList, we have seen over 1,800 anime episodes!
That is a lot of anime, but even in that rainbow-coloured sea of drawings and the occasional machinima robot, there have been certain episodes that have stood out above the rest. Some that stay lodged in your memory for years and push a series, and the medium as a whole, to new heights.
But what makes a great anime episode?
There are so many factors that can influence the quality of an episode. The biggest factor, so often, is the episode before it, and you’ll notice that most (but not all) of our favourite episodes are from high-ranking series. However, a great episode usually falls into one of two categories: either it is an episode that breaks out from the norm of its series or genre to showcase its own unique flavour; or it is an episode that makes the most of a vital plot point, with an excellent sense of weight that sits with you throughout the entire remainder of the series.
With that in mind, these are The Culture Cove’s Best Ever Anime Episodes!
Of course, beware of potential spoilers!
Anime Gataris (2017) – Ep.11: “Our Friend Kouki’s Second Betrayal”
Anime-about-anime’s super inception!
With her real world and the world of anime beginning to warp into one, Minoa begins to find herself on the outside of her own reality.
Anime Gataris was already an excellently funny anime series poking fun at the many much-loved clichés of Japanese anime. However, the penultimate episode takes this one step further. In fact, it’s more like 100 steps further. Minoa’s world falls into such disrepair that her real-life anime world turns into an actual anime world, one which she is the only one aware of. Highlights include her getting hit by subtitles, being thrown through her school day in the form of a montage, the title being subtly changed from Anime Gataris to Gataras (meaning “Anime Non-Talk”) and a literal fourth wall! While it does continue the story, this is actually an episode that can almost be watched on its own as a gloriously detailed and hilarious look at the pitfalls of anime norms.
Attack on Titan (2013) – Ep.1: “To You, in 2000 Years: The Fall of Shiganshina, Part 1”
The tragic beginnings.
Setting the scene of a world where humans live behind walls protecting them from gigantic titans before the colossal titan appears, knocking down the once impenetrable barrier that had protected them for hundreds of years.
Now, there’s an argument that I only believe this because this was the first ever anime episode I saw, but I still believe this vehemently – there is no better first episode in a series than this one.
It is a nearly faultless opening. First it sets up the world simply and easily, then through the day-to-day adventures of the three main characters you discover not just about them but also the nuances of the landscape – the slight public displeasure at the sight of the Scouts is portrayed besides Eren’s deep desire to join them and see the outside world, creating a deep and real environment. That all happens before the epic twist of the colossal titan, before the final note is played when Eren’s mum is killed. It’s a tragic episode but it’s easy to forget that before that the episode does a fantastic job of building a deep, vibrant world from scratch in record time and with great creativity. A truly excellent episode, and probably one of the biggest reasons we reached ten series, let alone 100.
Code Geass (2007) – Ep.22: “Bloodstained Euphie”
So sudden, so stupid, so morbid!
A discussion about Japan’s future takes a dark turn when rebel leader Lelouch loses control of his mind powers around Princess Euphemia.
This is up there as one of the most morbid moments in an anime series I’ve ever seen. First, though, a bit of backstory.
Japan is ruled over by Britannia, a British-style colonial monarchy in a robotic world. Lelouch, a young genius and societal rebel, accidentally inherits the power of Geass, which effectively gives him the power to control the action of anyone he looks at. In the end, while his closest friend joins the ranks of the national Brittania army, Lelouch becomes the disguised face of the rebellion attempting to liberate Japan. By the time episode 22 arrives a moment of peace is dawning, and a Special Administrative Zone is set up by the Brittanian princess Euphemia and Lelouch where people can live as Japanese.
What follows is one of the most ridiculous, cruel and dramatic twists in any series. Lelouch, letting his guard down for an instant, jokes to Euphie about her killing all the Japanese gathered in the zone, not realising the Geass is now permanently activated. The princess promptly picks up a rifle, walks out to the crowd, and begins mowing down the audience! The civil war breaks out worse than ever, with the series diving into the first season’s final war.
Despite how ridiculous the cause of this dreadful moment is – although this crazy cause almost makes it more mouth-watering – the episode is actually carried with a fantastic sense of tragedy. The innocent princess who has longed for peace is turned into a personification of the bloody war she wished to stop. Her soldiers follow her, unaware of the real reason behind what is happening, a highlight of the series as a whole. In this series of double-meanings and identities, there is no stronger one than this forced upon her, the bloodstained Euphie.
Darling in the FRANXX (2018) – Ep.6: “Darling in the FRANXX”
A powerful turning point.
Squad 13 are called to assist Squad 26 with the protection effort as their plantations connect, meaning that Hiro will ride with the enigmatic Zero Two for the third time, something fatal to her previous partners. However, as their mission begins, the squad discover how unprepared they are as they face a Klaxosaur onslaught like they have never seen before.
A very recent entry here, but one that I think deserves its place alongside the others all the same. If you read my Half-Term Report on this series, you’ll know that I was a huge fan of this series from the very beginning. It brought us a beautiful, old-school style of animation and combined it with the more modern tastes of anime, namely a desire for emotion and conflicted characters. The series had been building nicely but this episode – poignantly named exactly the same as the series whole – was a crescendo of everything Darling in the FRANXX did so well.
The jeopardy in this episode came not only from the mission itself but from the hearts of the people – Ichigo fears for Hiro’s life, not just because of the fight but because of the stories behind his strange new partner Zero Two, and while not being honest with herself it’s clear that she sees him not only as dangerous to Hiro but also as a rival to his heart. That undercurrent plays out despite the series being from the point of view of Hiro himself, which opens the window to the other side of the argument. The fight itself is bigger and more dangerous than before and the ending shows Zero Two in a brand new light, one that is in some ways heart-warming and inspiring but at the same time also showcases how very dangerous she is. This mix of human emotion and huge-scale war is beautifully directed, with fantastic use of music and particularly light, making this an epic watch that not only wraps up the opening few episodes but also gives the series an even higher springboard to continue off from.
Kokoro Connect (2012) – Ep.10: “Putting into Words”
The joy of overcoming youth!
Still being tormented by the mysterious Heartseed, the five members of the school culture club are on a field trip when Inaba is forced to come to terms with her feelings about Taichi.
Now this is an interesting one, as this is a series that we haven’t actually reviewed! Due to a strange situation in which we weren’t even sure we had completed the series, Kokoro Connect is one of a small group of shows that we have watched but not reviewed. Still, this episode deserves special recognition.
At the time, we weren’t really into this series. Kokoro Connect did a good job of portraying really natural, uncut teenage friendships, but had a weird sci-fi element and was generally quite blasé. Maybe it was because we took our eye off the ball that this episode suddenly jumped out at us like nothing in the genre has before!
That being said, something like this had slowly been building. Inaba was the orderly member of the group, the mother directing the kids around. However there were inklings that all was not right in her own world. That makes this one of the most natural teen episodes you can ever see. Inaba’s emotions bubbling over on a field trip, Iori discovers that the strong girl she was friends with is actually a self-deprecating mess, quashing her feelings for the sake of the group’s happiness. She is in love with Taichi, but so is the spritely, cheerful Iori, so she had conceded in her head to her friend, pushing the two of them together while remaining quiet about her own feelings. Fearful that she will be found out for the weakling she is and that her friends will leave her, she panics when Iori finds out, only for her rival in love to in fact urge her on.
While written down this may seem like a simple, dime-a-dozen teen romance story, the execution on this is flawless. Once a side-character, Inaba is thrust into the centre of the story in a way a lot of people can relate to. Despite the sci-fi backdrop the scenario feels so natural, so when the ending scene in which Inaba not only comes to terms with herself but also tells her crush in no uncertain terms how she is going to steal his heart arrives it is such a high, a joyful, relatable teen moment that leaves you smiling just as widely as Inaba herself!
Psycho Pass (2012) – Ep.11: “Saint’s Supper”
The psychology gets too real.
With Inspector Kogami injured during his fight with the robotic hunter Senguji, it is left to rookie Akane to pursue Makishima and save her friend from the man’s clutches.
Psycho Pass is another fantastic series – a beautiful futuristic world run by a dystopian system, creating a thoughtful crime drama that asks serious questions about the morality of its world. Their society is run by the Sibyl System, a supercomputer of amazing security technology, where every person is monitored and their mental state assessed. Criminals are found by their Crime Coefficient, meaning that police are almost able to capture criminals before they commit crimes based on their mental health.
The beginning of the series predominantly follows Akane and the others chasing down maniacs across the cyber-city, which helps to make Makishima one of the most engaging villains in any anime series, with his sense of calm and philosophical thoughts almost eerie in comparison. However, the meeting at the end of this episode – effectively bringing the first half of the series to an end – is one of the single best moments in anime. Not only does it deliver one of the major plot points in Makishima’s ability to dupe the seemingly perfect system, but it also shines a bright light on the main character’s personality, while also changing it as a result of the horrifying conclusion!
Thoughtful dialogue plays out a moment that is not only vital in the series but is also quite graphic in an already strong series. It pulls no punches, delivering straight As in every department.
Re:Zero (2016) – Ep.18: “From Zero”
The art of creative simplicity.
After dying another painful death, Subaru reawakens determined to escape his cycle of tragedy with Rem.
While an important moment in the story, this episode lacks the gravitas or twists of other episodes in this list. It is a quiet, simple episode that doesn’t really do anything. So, how does this make it onto our list?
From Zero is probably one of the most beautiful episodes I’ve seen. Re:Zero is a series full of fantastically directed moments, especially given the main characters unique ability to die again and again. However, From Zero is a rare port in the storm – the 26-minute episode simply consists of a deep conversation between the main character Subaru and the now famous side-character Rem.
Yep, no action, and very little drama. The episode notably runs slightly longer than the average anime episode, giving the writers time to create a beautifully organic conversation. Subaru starts off a bit crazy from his latest death, urging the young, love-swept Rem to run away with him. The conversation builds so naturally from there, talking about their time together before Rem confesses her already clear love for him, and it ends with her convincing him to stay and help. It is an incredibly simple episode, but its this simplicity that highlights the incredible creativity and licence given to the creators of one of the most original series created in recent years.
What are your favourite anime episodes? Let us know what ones we missed, and why not check out where your favourite series ranking on our 100-long Anime Ranking page?
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