Kill la Kill – 12

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Nui Harime and Ryuko fight, and Nui’s flippant attitude enrages her more and more until Senketsu explodes out of control, merging with Ryuko into a grotesque monster. Mikisugi and Kinagase’s efforts to neutralize her fail. Satsuki dons Junketsu and steps in to put Ryuko out of her misery, but before she kills her Mako races to Ryuko’s side and slaps her back into coherence. Satsuki bans Nui from Honnouji. Days later Satsuki tells Ryuko thanks to her battles, she’s helped her perfect her Goku uniforms, which she’ll deploy immediately to conquer the western academy administrators.

Amidst all the outrageous, expressionistic, sometimes psychedelic as-all-get-out Trigger action, this episode was a ripe opportunity to explore the relationships the arch-rivals Ryuko and Satsuki possess. First of all, Nui Harime is basically a thoroughly irritating thorn in everyone’s side, but to Satsuki, she’s also something of an employee. If Nui were to blatantly disobey an order or otherwise oppose Satsuki, there’d be hell to pay, hell Nui isn’t immediately interested in seeing.

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Jakuzure, meanwhile, is one of Satsuki’s officers, unqeustionably obedient and at the mercy of her whims. Like the other Elite Three and the rest of the student body, Satsuki is essentially their goddess. Then you have Mako: Ryuko owes her very life to the very nearly suicidal intervention of her best friend Mako, who didn’t merely save her out of the kindness or love, but also to repay a debt: when Mako was drunk on power and lost, Ryuko brought her back.

What that means is that Mako is no underling, servant, or acolyte of Ryuko’s—they are equals. Amigas. Buds. They keep each other honest…and alive. Even Satsuki sees this, and acknowledges Mako by name as Ryuko’s savior. There’s a glint of appreciation in her face, as we kinda doubt Satsuki wanted victory the way it was going. And though it’s highly unlikely she’s wired this way, given her affluent upbringing, it’s possible that for a nanosecond Satsuki was jealous that Ryuko had a real, true friend: something she didn’t.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

The Top 20 Episodes of 2013

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We’ve sat through 544 episodes of anime in the 353 days of 2013 there have been so far, a not-excessive-at-all 1.54 episodes per day. The following are the twenty episodes we enjoyed the most, comprising 3.68% of the total; the cream of the crop. These episodes stuck out, and in every case had a significant emotional impact on us, whether that emotion was elation, despair, excitement, fuck-yeah-ness, etc.

We realize there are still twelve days left in the year, and many shows save their best for last, but rather than replace the episodes on this list we’ll merely add them. Accompanying each of our 20 choices is a quote from our review of it. Let’s dive into the cream:

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20. The World God Only Knows III – 10

“This is the second time in two days we’ve dealt with an episode in which the bad guys…puts our heroes’ backs up against the wall…Last week’s diversion to Point Rock was a little flimsy, but the raised stakes work here…Keima completely abandons pretense and tact. He mutters things out loud that he’d normally only think…in the end, he’s the cooler head who rejects going out in a blaze of glory”

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19. Kyousougiga – 06

“The more we learn of Yakushimaru’s past, the more it seems like he was the victim of a mad scientist/priest…Yakushimaru didn’t sign up for any of this…but he’s stuck…there’s a striking contrast between the playful bliss of the siblings’ past and their over-the-top sparring in the present…Myoue’s beads, Yase’s brawn, and Kurama’s tech smash into each other in a brilliant amplification of rough-housing”

Team Mizusawa

18. Chihayafuru 2 – 19

“[Taichi] grabs luck by the scuff of the next and gives it a good shake until it finally favors him. Of course, he didn’t win just because of luck. It was a team match and it was a full team effort. It was also, not surprisingly, the best match of the season to watch. With the table so deftly set and the pieces in position and the stakes loud and clear, all this episode has to do is let ‘er rip”

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17. Kotoura-san – 03

“Once Kotoura is in the hospital, peeking in at a battered Manabe, thinking about how he doesn’t mind getting hurt for her sake, she chokes, and decides to run (though, obviously, not for good).What she has yet to learn is that part of letting people get close to you is accepting that sometimes they’ll get hurt, and so will you. It’s not her fault, nor anyone else’s. It’s just life”

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16. Golden Time – 06

“we were expecting Banri’s “just friends” situation with Kouko to be drawn out a little more to underline how miserable it’s making Banri to be around someone who doesn’t share his feelings…but all the conditions necessary for him to let Kouko go—and confront Linda—were met this week, and in short order…In a superbly emotional, adrenalin-charged moment that nicely skirted the edge of schmaltz, [Kouko] gives him the straight answer he had been awaiting for years: No, she doesn’t want them to be apart. Yes, she loves him too”

15. Maoyu – 01

“We love anime with a Final Fantasy-like epic vibe to them, and this series truly delivers…FF can be a bit stodgy, taking itself too seriously…that’s not the case here, as there’s a nice balance of the serious thematic elements of a huge war, while also finding time for tongue-and-cheek moments…the entire situation is a bit absurd, and the series itself is aware of this, but it’s not too winky, either”

Misaka Mikoto

13/14. Toaru Kagaku no Railgun S – 14/15

“Had Touma not been worried about his friend…he may have sat in that room with Kuroko as Mikoto let herself get killed…but he was worried, and he wasn’t going to let her sacrifice herself for such a limited return”

“[Mikoto] wasn’t prepared for Touma putting his body on the line…in that moment [he] fulfilled the inner wishes Mikoto had long repressed as foolish: miracles can happen, heroes can emerge, damsels can be saved in the nick of time. And most importantly, she has worth”

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“We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle…You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains”

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12. Kill la Kill – 07

“Like Mako’s family (briefly), this episode had it all. It grabbed and held our interest. It made Ryuuko the architect of her own near-downfall through a seemingly harmless choice. It rocketed us along with the family during their meteoric rise, not skimping on the details of the ritzier life they gain. It slowed them way down when they grew rich and stuffy. Perhaps most impressive was Mako’s transformation from kooky comic relief sidekick to serious foe who doesn’t hesitate to turn on Ryuuko despite all they’d been through. It was a veritable windfall of magnificence”

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11. Stella Women’s Academy, High School Division Class C3 – 04

“This week, the ancient surroundings have a powerful effect on Yura, and there she not only discovers “her idea of airsoft”, but also manages to change history itself…one could dismiss the awesome, fantastical elements of this episode as just that: Yura’s delusions, but…that all goes out the window when Rento sees the same scene as Yura…the ramifications are positively spine-tingling, and elevate C3-bu to a whole other level”

(A Level that wouldn’t be reached again, as Yura’s “power” was rarely used again.)

Kousaka Kyousuke, Gokou Ruri

9/10. Oreimo 2 – 07/08

“We were fully resigned to Kyousuke further stalling or outright rejecting Ruri so that he can continue his dead-end quasi-romance with his little sister. Instead…Kyousuke finally makes the right choice: he chooses Kuroneko. And we couldn’t be happier…”

“If you’re not a fan of Kuroneko or this new union, then it was a pretty rough and tedious episode to watch. As for us, we loved every last moment…They go out a ton, have lots of fun, and Kyousuke ends up learning far more about Ruri and liking her much more than before. We love seeing Kyousuke like this, because lord knows he’s earned the right to have an normal relationship with a smart, beautiful girl who isn’t his sister”

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8. Hataraku Maou-sama! – 05

“Not only was this the most action-packed episode, it was also the funniest by far…with an epic, cinematic feel and a lot of well-oiled moving parts humming along in perfect harmony and formidable speed. But in the midst of all the magic spectacle and comedy, the four core characters stay true to themselves throughout”

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7. Kyoukai no Kanata – 06

“A curious cold open…is the harbinger for perhaps the funniest, most inventive, and most satisfying episode of Kyoukai no Kanata yet…one that helps the show take one more step out of the shadows of its KyoAni forebears…there are times when the characters act a little bit too dumb or short-sighted, but the episode knows this as well as we do…In fact, it revels in it, as things go from bad to worse, despite the gang exerting more and more energy each go-around”

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6. Suisei no Gargantia – 01

“The opening battle is a tour de force of sci-fi mayhem, with a lot of different weapons and formations and tactics flying around the screen. After that thrilling and auspicious start, the episode slows down and takes its time; we go from a fantastic hi-tech world to somewhere that wouldn’t be out of place in a Miyazaki film”

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5. Chihayafuru 2 – 25

“This was a beautiful episode that had Chihaya cooped up in hospital, leaving her little to do but study Arata, think about Arata, talk to Arata, and summon feelings for Arata that she doesn’t understand…Also brilliant was the use of Chihaya’s poetry, as read by Oe (by far the best character in the show at reading poetry) to indicate that Taichi’s window is rapidly closing, and further dalliances only make his climb steeper”

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4. Uchouten Kazoku – 10

“[Ginkaku and Kinkaku’s] petty mischief lulled us into forgetting that the family they represent is not merely a political rival but an existential threat to the Shimogamo family. This week they’re charged with capturing the youngest, weakest Shimogamo, while their father, Soun, takes the lead in executing a carefully-planned takedown that is devastating in its efficiency. The episode oozes with imminent dread that gradually builds like that storm as things go from bad to worse…A day filled with so much hope and promise turns to utter shit for the Shimogamos, many of whom never see what’s coming”

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3. Aku no Hana – 10

“[Kasuga and Nakamura’s] great deviant adventure stalls in its infancy, and isn’t allowed to start back up. Nakamura muses that over that hill could be the end of the world, and until they actually get there, for all intents and purposes, it is… It isn’t until he’s between the two girls, faced with the choice of one, that he completely tears himself down in an effort to make himself undesirable to both”

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2. Onimonogatari – 02

(Monogatari Series: Second Season – 18)

“In the last episode we remarked that Oshino Shinobu is unlike any other entity inhabiting the series due to her longevity, scale of experience, and moral complexity…we knew when we delved deeper into her past, it would be something to behold; and so it was: a bold, indulgent, tantalizingly unique approach is utilized in visualizing Kiss-shot’s epic tale”

Nakamura Sawa, Kasuga Takao

1. Aku no Hana – 07

“Kasuga adds to his sins and the relationship between him and Nakamura becomes even deeper, more intimate, and more fucked-up, culminating in one of the tensest, sexiest, most powerful sequences we’ve ever seen on television, period”