Earlier this week, I took a look at Anime Content Expo’s “Kami Kai Theater” feature, wherein fans and industry people voted on which special episodes of anime shows deserved the title of “kami kai”, or divinely good. In that article I promised that I would provide a top ten list of episodes of anime from days gone by that I felt were overlooked by the selection process. As I noticed while I was looking over the list, and others noted it as well, the selections are plagued with recency bias. Some of this was necessary, as the criteria limited the scope to anime that was created between 2000 and 2012. Despite having over a decade to work with, only three of the anime represented of all twenty-four was from the pre-Haruhi days (Fruits Basket, s-CRY-ed, GITS:SAC). Of the rest, some were barely a year or two old. While I couldn’t disagree with most of the selections, I do still feel that there were some overlooked episodes from some great anime that time has forgotten.
Before I begin, let me again state the general criteria from the first article. Everybody has their preferences for what they think makes a truly great episode of a show. Thankfully, the “kami kai” requirements are fairly obvious when looking at the 24 choices. Thus, I can use some already established basis and add on. Personally, I think a “kami kai” should not only be an episode that moves you, but must also be technically sound in direction, animation quality or art style, sound, and music. For story contents, the episode should logically fit into the continuity and be memorable for what happens. The episode does not necessarily have to define the series, because a singular episode can remove itself from the usual story flow and still be epic, but it shouldn’t be jarring either. Finally, the episode has to entertain. Lots of potentially meaningful episodes have been forgotten because they’re just too fucking boring.
Kindly note that I also will not be using any examples from the series already selected. I already quibbled on the various merits of selected episodes from a specific anime last time, and the main purpose of this article is to point out shows with “kami kai” episodes that have been forgotten. Besides, it gives me more to write about. As for the list itself, I ordered it from episodes of shows I find most understanding that were overlooked (whether due to my own personal tastes or relative obscurity of the show) to criminally snubbed (episodes from significant series that should not have been forgotten about). Also, these will only come from shows I’ve actually SEEN. If you feel I’ve overlooked something, it is probably because I haven’t seen it, and you’re more than free to share your examples below in the comments.
#10. Kure-nai Episode 6 “Light Shines Over Your Head, Doesn’t It?” (Vintage 2008). So the first one on this list isn’t a surprise, mostly because I confirmed in in the previous article’s thread when someone pointed it out. Unlike some of the following episodes, I can forgive this one being snubbed. I don’t think more than six people watched Kure-nai, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have gotten the same level of joy out of this particular episode I did.
Why is this episode great? Well, it fits into the “removed itself… without being jarring” qualification, though I suppose I’m stretching the definition of “jarring” in this case. For those who haven’t seen it, the episode starts out innocently enough, with the four apartment residents practicing for a local community play. After some struggles with two of the most nauseatingly tone-deaf people, and some surprising interest from unlikely sources… well… everybody just kind of “gets into” the mood in the most bizarre… and fucking awesome… way possible. To be blunt, Kure-nai, for one half episode, turns into Glee, and it is epic.
#9. Chobits Episode 14 “Chi Entertains” (Vintage 2002). Studio Madhouse has put out some quality shows over the years, but it seems to me that whenever they get together with CLAMP, we get something special. Card Captor Sakura, Clover, and Kobato all gave us some truly memorable times. In my mind, though, they did their best work with this title, and, especially, this episode.
As another episode that starts off fairly routine, what really got me was that, by the end, I wasn’t sure Chobits was the same show anymore. This is the first of the episodes that would involve Hideki finding out the truth about the people he knows and finding ways to help them. Thus, this episode works for the viewer as a wake-up call that while the persocom revolution has helped humans, it was really a double-edged sword that would also hinder humanity. What is really odd about this episode is how prophetic it is several years later. In this episode, Hot Teacher Babe Miss Shimizu reveals that her husband has neglected her for a persocom, and as a result, she’s been filling the void in her heart in another man’s arms. At the time, I felt like this was only an allegory to the rising trend of online gaming effecting marriages, but in 2003 it really wasn’t as widespread as it would become. Now, I feel like this is not only an allegory to that, but also a warning against the current obsession with inanimate characters amongst the otaku fanbase. The nicest touch is at the end of the episode, where Hideki witnesses the truth for himself, with the Rie Tanaka song “Ningyo Hime” playing into the background, and still going as we roll credits. Just a perfect scene executed beautifully
#8. Heaven’s Lost Property Episode 2 “An Airborne Prismatic Panty Adventure” (Vintage 2009). Caught you off guard with this one, didn’t I? I’m sure there are a lot of people who loved Sora no Otoshimono as much as I did, and for those of you that did, this episode needs no introduction.
Fanservice anime are VERY hard to make into a great show. You have to be so ridiculously over-the-top in some way for it to be memorable, but it takes a pure bit of genius inspiration to make a single episode of it legendary. It is also extremely hard to do a “no-pan” episode and make it work, but when you look at the story in the context of everything going on, not only does it work, but it’s fucking brilliant. Much like Kure-nai, above, the payoff for this episode is what seals the deal. I don’t know about you, but there is nothing out there in anime that has quite reached the level of absurdness as a flock of panties flying south for the winter. I shit you not, go watch the episode. It was so impressive, that even people who never watched the episode were aware of that particular scene, because it got spread around on YouTube for a brief period as a popular internet meme. Hey, you can’t buy that kind of free advertising, and for that, this episode has to be recognized for it’s greatness.
#7. Paradise Kiss Episode 11 “The Stage” (Vintage 2005). I remember thinking at the time this aired that what we had seen was magical. However, I think that pretty much only works for the very beginning, where, for the first time, we get to see not only the hard work of the ParaKiss group pay off, but we see “Caroline” begin to accept her place in all the previous 10 episode’s events.
Let’s get this out of the way: I did not expect to actually like ParaKiss. I watched this one at the behest of an Anime Academy mate who was already a huge fan of the manga. I’m still not sure it was a great anime, but, at least for one episode, it really stood out. I kind of wish the scene at the beginning would have lasted a bit longer, with Yukari wearing the ParaKiss dress on the runway and doing her thing, but we were getting near the end and stuff had to give. The rest of the episode involves her maturing as she recognizes not only what she and George are all about, but what everybody else means to her. In this regard, she flips roles from an onlooker to the role of the heroine, as she was meant to be. Brilliant writing make this a tour-de-force for shoujo lovers, but anybody who likes a good coming of age drama should adore it as well.
#6. RahXephon Episode 19 “Blue Friend” (Vintage 2002). A lot of people dismissed RahXephon as a mere “Eva-clone” without much thought, but I honestly find those people to be incredibly narrow minded. There are definitely similarities between the two shows, but, in my opinion, BONES does enough with this title to separate them are two completely unique and thoroughly enjoyable shows on their own merits. Though I suppose choosing this episode wont help prove my point.
As deeply probing Eva is on psychology and mental trauma, to this point RahXephon had managed to avoid such things, instead focusing on more fundamental human interactions to drive the main plot. Here, though, we get a particularly traumatizing event that would leave our hero forever changed. But enough of that shit, this episode is really memorable for the god damned awful twist the writers threw at us just to torture our souls. We’d known all along that the Dolems were tied to someone in reality, and that killing them resulted in someone’s death, but for God’s sakes why did it have to be Hiroko? And more importantly, why did you have to show us the effects of her Dolem being slaughtered on her in such detail? She deserved better… we all did…
#5. Eureka Seven Episode 26 “Morning Glory” (Vintage 2005). A lot of people tell me that watching the first half of Eureka Seven is like trying to mow grass with a toothbrush. Personally, I understand their frustration. E7 has a very long buildup, with a huge world and a big cast that need to have their backgrounds fleshed out and their motivations explained. But, for those who stick with it, the climax to the first season coupled with the roller-coaster ride that is the second season make it all so fucking worth it.
In this case, Renton has been through a lot, and has finally found a semblance of familial happiness in the arms of Ray and Charles, but circumstances require him to reject their offer of a normal childhood. In this way, Renton is “leaving the nest” and starting on his path to manhood. Likewise, Eureka is on her own path to understanding love and what it means to be human. Their paths cross in the most beautiful way and amidst a flurry of combat. Gorgeous in it’s execution from start to finish, with beautiful animation, and magical musical scores that emphasize the importance of every scene, this is an episode that would not be matched by anything before or after.
#4. Mai-HiME Episode 18 “—The Beginning” (Vintage 2005). Yeah, I know how Mai-HiME ends, and, no, I don’t like it either. When you do considering the way too squeaky clean resolution to the HiME Carnival, I suppose this episode doesn’t quite have the same impact. However, at the time, with a rabid week-by-week following that included yours truly and NHRV retiree Sorrow-kun, this episode is what started the ball rolling towards tragedy. I remember us being quite tense over what would happen in the next few episodes, and we weren’t let down at all. Until the end.
As for the episode itself, what better way to start a series of tragedies but to begin with one? Betrayal from within, and a misunderstanding brought on by further betrayal, causes the fragile agreed upon truce between the HiMEs to shatter instantly. Though each one knows what will happen as a result of fighting each other, a rage fueled bloodlust prevents them from keeping their better judgments in line. With Mai trying in vain to hold things together, she will instead end up feeling the greatest effects of the coming tragedies, and it will forever change her.
#3. Higurashi No Nako Koro Ni Kai Episode 13 “Massacre Chapter Eight – Finale” (Vintage 2007). With the new Higurashi Daybreak film coming out soon, I am somewhat surprised there was no support for this show anywhere in the votes. Higurashi was huge amongst the fanbase, and was notable for being the first anime that dealt with the moe in a rather unsettling way. Though there are plenty of episodes of greatness to choose from in all three series, this one stands out to me the most.
Why? I think it is actually the realization that, while the team is searching for a miracle, even your best laid plans can fail. Despite Keiichi and co doing their damndest to prevent the death of Rika and, thus, starting the chain of events all over again, they are all killed by the Yamainu, and the real mastermind behind this tragedy is finally revealed. Show of hands, how many of you suspected this was all Takano’s doing? Don’t lie. Despite her obvious “bitch” face and the obnoxious way she talks, we all knew she was one of the victims, so there was no way you could be prepared for a swerve like this. At the end, the true detestable nature of Takano is revealed, as she has no qualms whatsoever about slaughtering Rika in ritualistic fashion while the young girl is still conscious. Horrifying and surprising, this is the episode, out of all Higurashi, that sticks out to me the most.
#2. Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid Episode 9 “Her Problems” (Vintage 2005). I have all but given up on getting another Full Metal Panic anime, which is why this sits second on my list. The criminal levels of indifference or under-appreciation for The Second Raid irritate me to no bounds, but there is nothing I can do about it. Kyoto Animation did such a phenomenal job, too.
After reading the light novels (“End of Day By Day” for this series), this was the episode I was most looking forward to. It was a gripping chapter where Kaname gets a chance to really shine on her own. Not only was I NOT disappointed by Kyoto Animation’s adaptation, but I feel that it is superior in every way to the source material. It takes some great things for that to happen.
The highlight of the episode is when Kaname has to face her would-be assassin with (literally) nothing but a stun gun and her wits. Not only does she demonstrate that some of the stuff Sousuke has tried to teach her has sunk in, but she manages to do it wearing nothing but her skivvies. This is not what makes this episode great. What makes this episode great was the animation quality and the director making sure that voice actress Satsuki Yukino does a bang up job with a range of emotions. In a matter of ten minutes, she goes from angry, to desperate, to frightened, to disgusted, and, finally, breaks down under the weight of stress and weakness. Utterly utterly brilliant episode.
#1. FLCL Episode 5 “Brittle Bullet” (Vintage 2003). There is virtually NO excuse for overlooking anything done by GAINAX, but when it is also one of the most bizarre, subversive, and surreal shows ever put forth by mankind? Well, that just puts my panties into a bunch. And I don’t wear panties. Believe it.
The question you shouldn’t be asking yourselves is “Why FLCL?”, because that’s just stupid. Go watch it and find out why. The question you SHOULD be asking is why I chose episode 5, considering how awesome the series is from start to finish. I think, personally, this is the episode where the series really shined. Oh believe me, it was already glistening before this, but there’s so much here that makes it stand out head and shoulders above the other five episodes. Not only do you have a frenetic style of animation that would be used again later in great shows like Gurren Lagann, but you also get a bit of that GAINAX eccentricity with the pseudo-live action “hand” moving to grip the “iron” (just watch the episode). It also satirically puts the whammy on everything related to gun adoration and gun violence. It doesn’t really judge whether they’re good or bad, just that the people often using such things overdo it to the point of absurdity. FLCL just ramps that up to eleven and goes so far beyond absurdity that I’m fairly sure what they actually said was “it’s awesome, so don’t worry about it”. Finally, as the penultimate episode, it moves things along by giving Naota a swift kick in the ego, by having Mamimi question her place in all things, and provides a revelation as to the importance of Kanti, actually driving the story for what seems like the first time.
So that’s the list. I actually could have thought of a few more, but figured ten was enough. Looking over things, six of my ten are pre-Haruhi, so percentage wise I did a much better job of sticking to the earlier half of the decade, with the most recent show being vintage 2009. I thought about including episodes from Honey & Clover or Kanon (2006), but I couldn’t think of single episodes from either that fit my mold… or I couldn’t remember them. A couple of “almosts” that I recalled but left off the list are Mitsudomoe ep 9, for the next to last segment where there’s no dialogue (but the rest of it sucked); Panty & Stocking ep 6 for the demon sisters; and Level E ep 2 for its trolltastic ending. Only Shin Sekai Yori would get the nod from me for 2012, and the episode I’m thinking of actually took place in 2013, so that’s out.
Let me hear yours. Don’t get mad at me if I haven’t seen your show, just lay it out. If I feel like it, I’ll do a list of the best anime episodes of all time later, which may or may not include any of the shows already mentioned.