One per series. This list took 20 minutes just to find out the order of. I really, really, really love every episode on this list. I’ve seen literally 6,000 anime episodes (Yes, I know that isn’t very much) and these are the top 15. Some of these could be considered spoilers, so read at your own risk.
15. Carnival Phantasm Episode 9
Saying that this is the funniest anime episode of all time is no overstatement. I hesitate to put it on the list, but it’s so fucking hilarious that I can’t leave it off. Because comedy is very subjective, all I can say is that I thought it was funny. And that this list took me about 20 minutes to figure out the order of, and this being last was by far the easiest.
14. Fate Zero Episode 23
Holy shit where do I begin? It has two excellent fight scenes, for one. The rivalry between Rider and Gil’ may be my favorite part of Urobuchi’s prequel epic, and it all comes to a head here. After the stunningly heartwrenching episode 22, which pushed the series to it’s most human, this episode brings that humanity to a seemingly inevitable, but completely crushing finale. A quick note. Waver wanted to join Rider’s army. Go check back to episode 11, when Rider’s NP is first used. Notice anything?
13. Clannad After Story Episode 18
This is where ranking these got next to impossible. I doubt Clannad AS would be nearly as good without this masterful episode that brings Tomoya’s character arc to a close. Clannad succeeds at having very even peaks of happiness and sadness, as to make each side even more potent. This episode is the top of the happiness peak, and it really shows. A simple, but very effective, hug to the audience.
12. Parasyte Episode 23
The capstone of Parasyte’s thematic depth and power, this episode was godly. It’s pretty much impossible to pick a Parasyte episode for me. I questioned a lot if 18 or 23 should be on the list, and as you can see, 23 won out due to how utterly Parasyte it is. A small, down to earth, but poignant, climax to a story that needed just that. My favorite philosophical quote from the whole show is from Migi in this episode. Simply put, he said that people who say they are “protecting the Earth for the Earth’s sake” are bullshitting, and implies that Shinichi spares Gotou for the sake of Gotou, and Shinichi’s own sanity, rather than hiding under a facade of making the Earth happier. It hit close to home for me, as most “protect the Earth” messages are always ruined for me by people comparing animals to plants or rocks. Parasyte doesn’t do that. Parasyte doesn’t even say “don’t eat meat” or something along those lines. It just asks the audience to think about the cycle of life, and this episode presents that perfectly.
11. Toradora Episode 19
Ahhh, the perfect contemplation on love. Toradora 19 is a triumph of emotion and raw feeling. It’s realistic, and rolls in it’s 100% earned pathos. Toradora isn’t a tragedy, and neither is this episode, but it is an emotional mindfuck far more potent than any episode of Clannad. It deconstructs the general concept of “Love” in anime. Ryuuji and Taiga shouldn’t feel bad for their childish crushes, but shouldn’t chase them either. Taiga realizes that she should be with the one that changes her the most for the better, while Minorin and Ami try to get Ryuuji to realize what they’ve known the whole time. Add to that the timing of “Lost my Pieces” and the iconic status of this episode as “The Christmas Episode” and you have a jaw dropping rom-com episode that blows every other show of it’s genre out of the water.
10. Bakemonogatari Episode 12
As much as Toradora’s romance is thematically brilliant, it still comes off as a bit too cutesy at times. Bake’s romance is strengthened infinitely by the fact that none of the dialogue in this show is exposition. As such, the characters get to shine more than all else. This episode is all dialogue, but it’s Bake’s soothing finale, and it shows how much these characters have grown. You don’t notice the whole show because of how subtly it’s going on, but when this episode comes around, you realize just how much they’ve developed. Especially Senjyougahara, who’s nearly a different person. The trippy directing helps a ton, but what really seals the deal is the last few minutes. It’s Mushishi levels of calming, Toradora levels of adorable and Parasyte levels of character depth. It really is a shining star in the anime medium, and one you shouldn’t pass up.
9. Katanagatari Episode 12
An absolutely brutal beat down of the entire show. It’s the ethos of the show in 50 minutes, but damn is it painful. I can’t even slightly spoil this masterpiece. Just go watch it for yourself.
8. One Punch Man Episode 12
The most fun anime episode I’ve ever seen by a long shot. While it doesn’t nearly reach the emotion or depth behind the other episodes on this list, the amount of excitement it gave me more than made up for it. It’s like what DBZ looks like to little kids. Fucking jaw dropping.
7. Shirobako Episode 19
The episode that gave me my life back, pretty much. When I watched this episode, I was in a point in my life where I didn’t know why I had begun writing, or what my passion really was. Aoi bursting into tears, as Andes Chucky tries to convince everyone that the sun will rise another day, had me crying like nothing else, and I have no qualms admitting that. This is the most personal choice on the list, but it means so much to me that it had to be here. It gave me my passion for writing back, and reminded me why I care.
6. Hunter x Hunter Episode 135
The only episode on the list that literally needs no explanation.
5. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Episode 63
Quite possibly the most perfect final fight in all of shonen. It wraps up all the themes and character arcs perfectly, works in every character, and has some intense emotional moments. The animation is excellent on every field, and the voice acting, in English and Japanese, enhances the story ten fold. I can’t even see a flaw in this episode. It’s perfect.
4. Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 Episode 7
Heart wrenching emotional wreckage, meaningful introspective pondering, marvelously depressing atmosphere and directing. This episode is torture, but it hurts so good. Legitimate emotion at it’s finest, folks. Night of the Chimera’s Cry is a standalone masterpiece, and damn near good enough to be it’s own story, separate from the rest of the series.
3. Your Lie in April Episode 22
The first ten minutes of this episode are white hot passion and emotional gravitas turned up to the ultimate degree using dynamic angles and dramatic music. The second half is the unraveling of the entire show, which warrants a re-watch solely because of these 10 minutes. Kirameki, the song that plays during the final third is the most beautiful way I could think to send off this series. It ends with the quintessential execution of the “keep moving forward” theme, and in the most Shigatsu way possible.
2. FLCL Episode 6
An insane spectacle of epic proportions. The most down to earth crazyness I’ve ever witnessed. Each episode of FLCL teaches a meaningful lesson about life, that, while meant for teenagers, even some adults can’t grasp. This final episode brings it all to a simple phrase. “Don’t try to be more mature.” No one has the answers in this world. Never (no one) knows best. Even if you don’t accept or care about the beautiful coming of age story in FLCL, the hilarity and sheer badass flare of this episode is more than enough for it to be one of the best anime episodes of all time.
1. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Episode 11
I mean, what else could take the number 1 spot? While not as perfect as the previous few episodes, this episode preaches something far more important. Self recognition and becoming one’s own person. I already have a rather lengthy explanation of my feelings on this episode, which you can go check out here