This might be the hardest one yet. I find it difficult to think back on single episodes of shows I’ve watched and have a particular kind of favouritism toward them over the rest, because I simply haven’t reflected on them enough to confidently explore any. It’s especially hard to choose a favourite episode from the series I consider having consistently great episode after great episode. It’s not something that’s ever occurred to me to think on and figure out until recently.
I do have a few picks though, but they are all really easy choices among a lot of people’s favourites, so don’t take this as my official favourite single episodes of anime list, rather a fill-in until I mull it over more. That’s not to say my picks here are disingenuous, as I do believe these episodes do a lot in their own right and rank very highly among my favourite episodes in the shows themselves – what I consider the height of each series here. Though they may not necessarily turn out to be my absolute favourites after this.
Fate/Zero Episode 11
Here we have a dialogue between three kings: Saber, Archer, and Rider. The episode is mostly dedicated to them discussing their different ideologies of what it means to be king. It’s an exposition piece, and works well as such. And it captured my intrigue without losing my focus, or interest for that matter. A lot of things happen or get talked about, but I don’t feel I can discuss them all here. What’s interesting is to see these characters, who are supposed to be enemies in this game of death they play, set aside their opposition for one night of drinking and discourse.
Psycho-Pass Episode 11
The primary hook of this episode is the rhetoric and presentation of Makishima against Akane’s values. The reveal of Makishima as this anomaly that can’t be analyzed by the SIBYL System, making the Dominator utterly useless in this exchange is the necessary conceit for this rhetoric to be delivered and for Akane to be faced with a great conflict of decision. Makishima offers Akane a choice by throwing her the shotgun as he holds a knife to her friend’s neck. The choice being to shoot and kill Makishima, almost certainly dooming her Psycho-Pass to turn black, or allow her friend to die at the hands of the criminal they’ve been pursuing. This made their behaviour even more of a spectacle. I’m thoroughly gripped and fascinated by Makishima’s goal during this confrontation. The execution of the moral quandaries in how it plays out is awesome, and more than enough to give me terror for those few seconds.
A similar confrontation was executed in Trigun between Vash and Legato, where he is forced into a situation to either kill Legato or let others die. Here, Vash is very much defined by his moral view of the world and now it is being challenged to its extreme. Legato could kill Vash, but would rather play both villain and victim to his downfall by being the sacrifice for Vash to make the decision that would destroy that ideology, or at least taint it. The nuance is different, but the effect is essentially the same. Both Akane and Vash are made to feel extreme inner conflict of their morals by antagonists who want to see them break, if only for one moment.
Bakemonogatari Episode 12
There is much to love about Bakemonogatari, but the episode I want to highlight is the one where Senjougahara and Araragi go out on a date. What I find interesting most out of all of Bakemongatari is Senjougahara’s romantic development with Araragi. She’s in a power position and feels she owes him a debt for saving her, at least initially. Araragi is tempted by the idea and her imaginative suggestions, but ultimately they want to be on equal grounds, and as much as I’d love to discuss how they get there, the point of this episode is to enjoy the moment of them being together.
After an exchange between father and boyfriend of daughter, Senjougahara returns to the car and brings Araragi to a place where I was rather arrested by the whole sequence. Araragi and Senjougahara lay next to one another on the grass, stargazing and pondering their relationship. The heartwarming level of intimacy and adorable straightforwardness here makes the story far juicier than I initially gave it credit for. An overall goodness of character. I felt like a winner watching this episode.