As my mirroring of the 12 Days of Christmas continues and my countdown grows in momentum (Take that, properly ordered society!), I’m left hitting a noticeable brick wall again and again as I try to think up more post ideas. In retrospect, it was probably better to start from the beginning and actually write the posts in their proper order to build up confidence, but I’ve stupidly dealt these cards to myself. With that out of the way, I decided to go with the most shocking or most over the top moment of each season. These were the shows that didn’t need to go to such great lengths to put on a riveting spectacle, but they answered the call to arms and put together something that thoroughly impressed me. Since I’ve written about it for the past two seasons, and as much as I’d like to put it on the list, Penguindrum will be conspicuously absent.
So here are the four shows that ratcheted everything up to eleven for one moment, and it should go without saying that if you haven’t seen these, THERE ARE MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Madoka Magica makes the list again, and it won’t be the only repeat from my Top 12 list. As far as most of the anime viewing community was concerned at the time, it could have ended with it all being Madoka’s Orange Rescue induced delirium brought on by a particularly frisky and date rape-y Homura, and it would have still sold like Faustian hotcakes. Everything else in the plot was tightly wound up right until that point, and it had the moe charm to win over the less scrutinizing part of the fandom if the ending went belly up.
Yet, against the odds and prior examples of anime endings generally shooting themselves in the foot, Madoka Magica decided to just say “Fuck it, she’s God now (Spoiler alert)” and actually make it work. Madoka undid everything that Kyuubey had sewn before and made it impossible for little girls to become liches in the future… while unfortunately still leaving dark energy to coalesce. What’s more, it had a perfect sense of closure while leaving everything somewhat open-ended so Homura could further her mahou shoujo career. It was a beautiful display, touching, everything an anime ending should be and more.
No, the ending does not make the list. I felt it crass, manipulative, completely drawn out, and out of touch with the rest of the show. It was the expired piece of ham on the otherwise immaculate chocolate mousse and will hereby be never mentioned again in this post.
Aside from that moment that shall not be named, there was one more bizarre moment: our curious MAN-ma. It was a moment that came out of left field, but instead of making us (Or at least me) laugh at just how ridiculous the idea was… it was disconcerting. Atsumu was a kid still completely consumed by grief who had a strange way of coping, and this odd little display drove that point home more than any group wailing session could. It wasn’t that it was subtle; you can’t really put on a performance like that and have the impact of the scene hinge entirely on eyebrow movements, but it was a surprisingly heartfelt moment that worked in spite of what it was working with.
Despite having more moments to choose from than your average bear, Steins;Gate had one moment in particular that struck a chord with me. It illustrated perfectly how far gone Okabe was because of the whole nasty business with SERN, and made me wonder if he had any human thoughts aside from keeping Mayuri alive.
Once Okabe found out where SERN Agent Moeka lived, he tracked her down with the initial pretext of discerning the location of the IBM 5100 from her contact. However, instead of taking her phone, he proceeded to let his desire to get revenge for her continuous killings of Mayuri overtake him. So she couldn’t call for help, he held her down and essentially broke her down to square one through verbal abuse. Our formerly eccentric, likable mad scientisto took a turn for the darker as he berated Moeka almost nonstop. It was a shocking, profound moment that let the audience see how bad things had gotten for him, and it left me in stunned silence the entire time. Not a pleasant moment, but one that I’ll remember for years to come.
Fittingly, the example I’m using is from Episode 11. The episode consisted entirely of Rider being concentrated awesome, extolling the virtues of being a king who uses his subjects to further his own ends to Saber, a monarch who entirely opposed such a notion, taking a naïve martyr-like stance on the matter. Not only did he put her in her place verbally, giving her a lot to chew on, but he showed his true power… summoning an army of Macedonian soldiers in his own little pocket of space-time to eliminate all in his path; soldiers that seemed tickled pink to be part of his army.
It’s for his boundless charisma and endearing machismo that Rider rounds off this list, his ability to command respect from even the irritatingly haughty Archer that makes him one of the best characters of the year, in one of the best episodes of the series that fleshed him out well. Rider’s force of personality is undeniable, and his exploits and ramblings in this episode are a testament to that.