Episodes that Stand Out
I think we all have an episode or two from every series we watch that really stays with us, that personally hits home in some way or another. And in some cases, a particular episode from one series will resonate with many people. It doesn't always make sense why those episodes hit us so hard, but usually they speak to a universal human quality - true love, devotion, sacrifice - that epitomizes some emotion that we would like to experience or act out ourselves. What follows is a select list of episodes and their parent series that made enough of an impact for me to remember them.
Noir / Season of Hell (13)
This episode has such a ridiculous name. Honestly, for such a beautiful episode, the name doesn't fit at all. This episode is essentially a love story between Kirika and a man who was formerly in the French Foreign Legion. The two meet when Kirika happens to notice him painting alongside a river, and they quickly form a quiet bond. Kirika even begins to take up painting herself, a skill that doesn't fit her profile as an assassin. Of course, the love can't last (Mereille says so herself) and it ends in tragedy - Kirika's love dies, and she is left to regret the fact that she ever opened herself up to such weakness.
Of all of Noir, this is the only episode that really touched me at all. The others felt so contrived, so caught up in the "girls with guns" moniker that they couldn't breathe. But this one...there's real chemistry between our female lead and her artistic, romantic interest. Both are people of few words, who accept the other for who they are without question. On some level it's actually a very child-like love, an innocent pureness pervading the whole thing. Of course, that's why one has to die, because love like that can't exist in an evil world. But the man's parting words really hit home, his loving acceptance of Kirika even to the end really makes you wonder about him: "don't worry about it, it's fine." Even when everything obviously isn't fine (he's dying even as he speaks those words), he has the courage and discipline, like the soldier that he is, to put on a strong front.
Record of Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight / Death...A Gentle Heart Passes On (7)
For a series with such lackluster animation overall, I don't think there's anyone who can forget the amount of money poured into this one sequence for a character who was, in the end, quite minor. Orson was definitely, as my friends call him, "a badass," but not one who necessitated such an expenditure of the tv show's budget (the animation in this five minute sequence is OVA quality, whereas the rest is so poor I'd prefer not to keep witing about it).
So what happened? Orson, a mercenary, sacrifices his life for his partner's - Shiris.
The sacrifice itself plays out in true dramatic form, with Orson going berserk (literally - he allows the God of Madness to take control of his soul) and wiping out a large group of Ashram's soldiers in order to save Shiris. The most dramatic moment comes when Orson has cut down the last of the Marmo soldiers, and the only person left is Shiris, who willingly offers herself to Orson.
Orson's sacrifice on its own is touching, but Shiris' utter realization of what it means for her is that much more dramatic. "Strike me down. Because it's my fault that you're going to die."
Karekano / Her Difficult Problem (4)
In every most memorable episode, music plays a deciding role in the emotions that we feel. However, in on other episode is music such a huge player as in Karekano. Yukino and Arima are in the "talking" stage of their high school relationship. Arima has already confessed his love to Yukino, and now it's Yukino's turn to respond. Does she, or doesn't she? Well, she thinks she does, but she just can't quite get around to responding. What follows is the most bizarre set of confession attempts ever in anime (but, strangely enough, quite true to real life). And finally, the climax.
You can't get the kind of climax that you have in this episode with still frames. You have to have some body, and the body for this episode comes in the form of the music. We all know how to feel when we hear certain kinds of music - feel happy, feel sad, laugh, cry - the emotions are practically mapped out for us. However, it takes a certain kind of musician to be able to tweak the emotions in a way that doesn't feel forced. And somehow Shiro Sagisu pulls it off. One moment we're laughing at Yukino's antics, the next we're feeling the soft strings of nostalgia pulling at our hearts.
That's what Karekano was for me - like a sweet memory of the past. And this episode crammed all those feel-good moments that I had during high school, and those pure, fantastic moments that I experienced with my first girlfriend, into thirty minutes.
Having already done three episodes thus far, I'm going to hold off on the rest till later (and there are plenty more to come). And the episode I wanted to do (one from Rahxephon, guess which one...) I didn't even get to this time. Oh well.