As fans we all have certain moments while watching anime that really capture our hearts. A moment or a scene that we really experience as closely as is possible with a fictional event. Everyone has their own. They may not always be the most technically well done scenes, the most artistic, or those with the most significance to a story. But something about them connects with each of us in a very strong manner. In this editorial I list ten of my own, and invite you to list yours in comments. Or even to write your own post and put a link to it. Join me as I nerd out about my favorite moments and hopefully communicate some of their significance to me as a fan.
NOTICE: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. I have chosen images and headers that are not spoilers in and of themselves, but if you haven’t seen the series (and don’t want anything spoiled) for Char’s sake scroll down to the next one! I would also ask comments to be setup in a similar way so that people can read the first line and know whether to skip it for spoilers or not.
The idea for this article originated from Scamp over at Bokutachi no Blog. He wrote a similar list of his own favorite moments after an off-topic comments exchange in one of his posts that we had concerning Code Geass episode 22 (though the post was about an episode of Hetalia, go figure.) Just so you know, he’s cool with me stealing using the format, heh. This is why the fandom is great: conversing with each other, sharing ideas and influencing each other in turn! *clenches fist to chest and cries manly tears of respect* Now, my ten moments, in something of an order leading up to my singular favorite. As a note, I attempted to find a video link for each scene, but in some cases it wasn’t possible to find one that doesn’t need to be fast-forwarded to the scene I wrote about, or in two instances clips that have no English subtitles (I could have picked an English dub for one, but it was pretty terrible.)
10. Kidou Senkan Nadesico episode 16
SCENE 8:24-9”25, sorry, couldn’t find English subtitles in an online video and you wouldn’t want to hear the dub.
Megumi: “We’ve all been tricked! These people are…”
Akito: “Human beings. Descendants of those expelled from the moon.”
Megumi: “Why are you stuck fighting such an old war?”
Akito: “You don’t understand. This has become our war!”
The crew of the Nadesico has just discovered that Nergal has been hiding the fact that the Jovian Lizards are actually humans that were forced off of the moon and then Mars a hundred years ago. Megumi and Haruka find the escaped pilot of one of their Gekigangar mecha and aid him in his escape, leaving with him to try and find out what’s really going on. But Akito has seen enough of the war that the Jovians have brought and now is solely focused on their destruction.
The fight with Akito in the Lunar Frame against the Gekigangar sent to destroy the Nadesico as it undergoes refit was perfectly grim and tragic because it was understandable. Akito kept fighting against the Jovians, humans or not, with a fury born of his personal experiences in the war. Mars, the death of Gai, the refugees in the lunar base. He’s not like some typical anime characters (usually antagonists) who keep fighting because they’re convinced that they’re right, or won’t listen to anything that contradicts their ideals, or because it’s all they know how to do. Akito started out as a cook not a solider, he’s listened to the broadcast, and he knows that his enemies are humans that have been wronged in the past. But he doesn’t care. The war is starting to turn against the Jovians, he’s endured and witnessed suffering at their hands, why turn back now when they’re finally getting what they deserve for what they’ve done? The way Akito’s change from reluctant to dead set was presented suspended that rational part of my brain for a time, the part that would go along with what the rest of the crew was trying to do (stop the war), and made me feel his hatred towards the Jovians control his actions, facts be damned.
9. Cowboy Bebop episode 05
Fay ends up captured and used as bait to lure Spike into an ambush as we get our first major glimpse into the history that Spike and Vicious share. The scene in the abandoned cathedral still echoes through my memories. It wasn’t so much for content (though it is important to the story) but for the way in which the scene was presented. The organ music combined with electric guitar during Spike’s walk to the cathedral, the lack of music during the action scenes, and the choir music as Spike fell through the window set up a great atmosphere in terms of sound. Visually I thought the episode was the best combination of two of the major visual and thematic influences in the show, Film Noir and Hong Kong crime/shooter movies. The cathedral was cast mostly in slanting shadows and the color scheme almost entirely black, purples, and blues. The way the fighting was done reminded me more of the classic A Better Tomorrow instead of later films that often added a little too much (or way too much) stylization and acrobatics to the gunplay. Spike and Vicious have their personal duel and exposition ending in a draw when bombs go off and throw Spike from the building amidst flashback to his past and of Julia. Though the beginning really made the scene for me. “In the Rain” being played while Spike walked up to the front of the cathedral under an overcast sky has stuck with me ever since.
8. Toradora! episode 16
Several important events happen during the school festival in this episode, but to me the crowning moment of awesome of the Taiga X Yusaku arc was when Yusaku was dejected from his (seemingly) one-sided love for Kanou, and Taiga decides to do what she can for him. Despite being in love with him, Taiga takes out her boken and hunts down Kanou after telling Ryuuji to stay by his side while she helps him the only way she can. Finding her in a classroom, lit with heavy, yellow beams of late afternoon sunlight, calls her out for being a coward about her feelings and challenges her to fight. She accepts and the fight goes from shinai/boken to fists, each combatant powered by their feelings for Yusaku even though one turned him down and the other know he’s not interested in her. Eventually Taiga calls Kanou a coward and she then admits that she turned Yusaku down because she knows he would follow her even if it wasn’t in his best interest. While it was melodramatic to express their opinions on each other and Yusaku by fighting, it was a hell of a powerful way to do so, and not so far fetched given the intensity of their feelings and their personalities. And it was the high note that the original Taiga X Yusaku arc went out on. As Taiga and Kanou are restrained by their classmates, Yusaku enters, saying that he was glad to have fallen in love with Kanou, and Minori also watches from the sidelines. The beginning of the next drama arc begins here just as the previous one ends, as Ami returns Taiga’s photos to her and speaks some story altering words to Minori.
7. Gundam 0083 episode 12
Kou races to catch up to the colony and the Zeon forces guarding it, engaging in fierce combat as he makes a desperate run in the GP03 Dendrobium straight for the colony. The countdown to the point of no return, past which it will be impossible to divert the colony from Earth, is announced several times in the middle of the battle. But despite the best efforts of Kou, the Albion and other EFSF forces, the hijacked colony passes the point of no return. The defining moment for me was when the operator on the Albion announces “The colony…has passed the point of no return.” Absolute silence on the bridge and in the GP03′s cockpit. At that moment, despite all they did, there was no more that could be done (to their knowledge, Bask Om had one more card to play) and it sank in quietly, with just those words and silence. The silence spoke more than anything that could have been said by any of the characters, it descended over the Albion and over my mind like a fog. It was shocking and confusing and made you feel how despair and the desire to do something were straining against each other in the characters’ minds. Whether or not you had seen Zeta Gundam first or not (I had not), what happened was both dire for the characters and those on Earth, but also went against your expectations as a viewer. What do you mean the bad guys win?
6. Initial D Fourth Stage episode 08
There were several moments of pure awesome in the various seasons of this show (if you’re a car fan like I am), but this one has always been my favorite and has always impressed me with how several great components all come together to make a great decisive moment in this race. Keisuke in his twin turbo FD3S Mazda RX-7 vs Kyoko in her nearly identical model FD, only modified with a large single turbo. Always a hothead to a degree even with his more recent training under his brother, Keisuke is having a difficult time with the roughly paved roads that he races Kyoko on. But slowly he starts to understand and learn, slowly adjusting the pressure he applies on the accelerator by tiny increments to stop from spinning the rear wheels. As he does this ‘Right Now’ by Dark Angels starts playing, a wonderful combination of eurobeat with some rock guitar. The two FDs are very close, making the same moves and as the music continues there’s even a point where Kyoko’s taillight light trail stays on screen after she breaks and then Keisuke’s brakelight fits the exact spot and brakes at the same point. SO COOL! Kyoko wants to keep racing with her crush, hoping to bring the match to a second round by keeping ahead. But while she’s thinking about this she’s distracted and lets her tires slip on the rough pavement, and letting off the gas causes her boost pressure to fall. Keisuke instantly notices and figures out the weakness of the single turbo, that it takes more time to spool up. Going around a corner, he slightly bumps her rear fender with the nose of his car, causing her to let off the gas for an instant, bringing them neck and neck as they exit the curve. Here Keisuke’s twin turbo system has the advantage, using its greater acceleration to get ahead before Kyoko’s more powerful single turbo can spool up. The music, the matching moves, the importance of the different turbo systems, Keisuke learning to control himself despite his brash nature, it all just came together to form a nearly perfect moment of racing.
5. FLCL episode 01
From the first ‘tap tap tap’ of drumsticks as the instrumental version of Bran New Lovesong began, the scene where Naota runs feverishly to meet Mamimi on the bridge struck me and carved a place in my mind for the density, melancholy, and futility of what was expressed in it. The everyday life where ‘nothing extraordinary happens’ that Naota is both discontent with and accepting of is challenged by the arrival of Haruko, but what does do about it? He runs full speed back to it by running, out of breath to meet with Mamimi again. She’s once again smoking, and the first closeup is of her crumpled cigarette with “never knows best” written on it, seeming to comment on both her and Naota’s lives and their weird proxy relationship with each other. After this visual, as the song continues, Naota arrives with the left over, stale bread for Mamimi and he brings up the basis of their relationship and Mamimi’s with his brother in a way that was not spoken of before. He first asks if she likes him, and she replies with a list of similes “like a panda with a mean face…or the smell of a chalkboard eraser, or a Sunday when you wake up and it’s been raining”, an odd list that is still very real in its sublime and melancholy descriptions. She embraces him in the one-sided way that they’ve been doing things, and the atmosphere of the scene is just absorbed by watching it. Naota as a proxy for his brother, Mamimi not letting go now that he’s left for America, the desperation of Mamimi’s life, and their mutual acceptance of such a hollow but still desperately important relationship. They’re sad and kind of despicable, but you certainly feel the static desperation of the characters, accentuated by the music and set on the streetlight-lit bridge in the middle of the night.
4. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann episode 26
SCENE, key part starts at 3:50, sorry no subtitles.
Nearing the end of the fight, the crew of the Chou Ginga Gurren Lagann is caught by one final trap and imprisoned in a false reality that’s meant to give everyone their own personal dream and trapping them in this appealing illusion. But eventually Simon sees through the recreation of his childhood, breaking the illusion’s grip on his mind. As this happens he meets Kamina again. There they stand in rays of sunlight breaking through the clouds, the two leaders and friends together once more. The line that brought the moment to the highest point for me was when Kamina, after a word of encouragement, remarks to Simon that he’s grown taller than him. The time shift and aging of the main characters was one of the best parts about this show, but here is the culminating moment, when Kamina, great though he was, has now finally been eclipsed by his former younger follower. He’s now a hero in his own right, leading everyone on after Kamina and no longer the kid idolizing his brash sempai. His old friend is obviously proud of him, and they share a parting look and moment before Simon says it’s time to leave, leaving both the illusion, his best friend, and the shadow that he grew up in.
3. Honey and Clover season 2 episode 12
This scene! It’s the last moment of my all time favorite series and it was so bittersweet that I’ll never forget it. All the other storylines, characters, and dramas have been resolved, and now Takemoto boards the train to leave Tokyo for his architecture restoration job when Hagu comes to see him off at the last minute and hands him a gift. They embrace, then place their hands next to each other on each side of the window, and as the train moves away Hagu chases it smiling and teary-eyed until she reaches the end of the platform. Sitting alone in the empty train car Takemoto opens the gift to find a stack of bread…and in between each slice honey and a four-leaf clover. His memories of her come flooding back as tears stream down his face and “Inaka no Seikatsu” by Spitz begins to play. All his memories of Hagu and thoughts about their failed love come back as he stuffs the bread into his mouth as if both trying to take in the memories like the bread and as a way to ease his emotions. Despite their love never materializing, the last line of the series is Takemoto’s “I’m glad that I fell in love with you.” Finally there’s a last montage of the other characters as the ending theme plays. This whole episode was an emotional experience just for the fact that a series I loved so much was ending, but the final scene at the train stations/on the train was the peak of it all. I cried. I felt emotionally and physically drained of all energy. And I still can’t listen to “Inaka no Seikatsu” or “Split” anymore. Hearing the music just brings back this scene and feels like my insides are being twisted. It was a great ending, keeping with the genuine emotional expression of the entire series as well as its realism; not everything works out for a happy ending, but you should still treasure the moments anyway. Gah, I need to finish up the part about this scene, I’m starting to feel that emotional drain again just from writing about it.
2. Code Geass season 1 episode 22
Where were you when Season 1 Episode 22 happened?
Talking about this scene is what inspired Scamp to write the post that inspired this one, and I think I’ll reprise some of the comments I made on his blog for this amazing moment. While on a much smaller and infinitely less serious level it’s kind of like one of those historical milestones that otaku point too like the regular public would the Moon Landing, Kennedy Assassination, 9/11 attacks, etc. The moment it happened kind of crystallized in everyone’s memory. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first saw it. And after it happened, everything changed. Eupehmia has put together a plan for Japan to be run autonomously, Zero/Lelouch is onboard with his Black Knights, and all of a sudden his Geass becomes permanently active and a casual remark forces Euphie to order the killing of any and all Japanese. Not only was it a huge and sudden plot twist, but Euphie’s death at Lelouch’s hand early in the next episode began Suzaku’s journey to hatred and nearly Titans-level obsession with rooting out the enemy (which just made him even cooler in my eyes, both he and the Titans had good reasons even if they went overboard at times.)
For me I was in my Temple University Japan dorm room on study abroad one afternoon after class. It was a nice sunny day outside and I was relaxing after class and catching up on the shows I was following that season. It was such a rush of emotions as I had no way of knowing that it was coming. My mind just kept racing between ‘WTF’ ‘what now?’ and ‘OH S*** THEY DID FORESHADOW THIS SLIGHTLY!’ while I kept alternatingly yelling ‘what the f***’ at my computer screen and laughing at the insanity of it. It was by far one of the best moments in my years of watching anime.
1. Honey and Clover season 1 episode 15
It may not be as overtly intense as some of these other moments, but when I think of moments in anime that I’ve watched over the years, this one scene has been the one I think back to the most, the one that can definitely point to as a favorite above all others. Maybe it’s because I was a big fan of Mayama and Rika throughout the series, maybe it’s because I’m just a cheesy romantic who is composed entirely of mush on the inside. But this scene just brought things from the depths of despair to the heights of hope and kyyaaaaa for me. After visiting Asai in the hospital Mayama finds out from him that Rika came to visit and mentioned seeing him in the park over the summer, something Mayama though was just his imagination at first and was driving him nuts. In the lobby he runs frantically to find her, finally spotting her in an elevator and running, shaky, slanted camera angle as he does so, to reach the elevator doors and holds them open as “Yoru wo Kakeru” starts playing. Throughout this series the use of insert songs was particularly amazing, this episode being the pinnacle in my opinion along with the scene where “Tamagawa” plays during episode 07. Upstairs they talk, and as Mayama has guessed in his internal monologue, things are still the same and Rika pushes him away again against the beautifully done backdrop of the huge windows and rainy skies outside. After she leaves to visit Asai again Mayama thinks to himself that things need to start again, and hours later that evening he is there waiting with a rental car to give Rika a ride home. But he intentionally (and he admits the selfishness to himself) drives the wrong way to give himself more time with Rika as the car spirals down the Daikoku Fuutou on the Wangan highway amidst the rain and orange lights.
Things start to change with this, though the rest of their relationship is by no means straightforward or easy. But it was a stunning combination of mostly restrained, subtle emotional content, Mayama’s dramatic chance taking, great music, and rich, artistic animation in the still backgrounds and rainy color palette, the placement of the characters both on the bench and in the car, angles from which they’re viewed, and the objects in motion parts such as the car’s blurred taillights. There was a great visual metaphor used in this scene too, contrasting stillness and motion. Mayama and Rika sit still on the bench, discussing the same things and having the same result as their relationship moves nowhere. But then as Mayama makes his play to change the status quo with the car ride, there’s a great deal of movement with the car, the windshield wipers, passing lights, and moving shadows on their faces as their relationship begins to ‘move’ again. And not only was this scene wonderful to watch the first time (and again and again), but elements of it will always be in my mind.