It is time to celebrate with another Top 10! Having hit 200 posts on this blog and with Space Dandy having finished its series run [so far I hope] I figured now would be the best opportunity to talk about some of the best directed episodes out of all the anime series I have ever seen. Most of these don’t even hit my top 10 Best Anime Series, but had some really awesome individual episodes. I am sure Space Dandy in time will make this list but for now, here is what makes the cut.
What styles of music can capitalize on creating stronger scenes? How does animation influence this? What sort of voice acting does it take help push the story along further? It is actually all of these elements that create good storytelling, and without good episode directors we can’t have shows the remain solid. There have been a couple of anime seasons in the late 90’s, early 2000’s and some of the best landed in the past 10 years– anime series that have very solid episodes.
10. Dennou Coil Episode 2
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: Madhouse Studios
- DIRECTOR: Mitsuo Iso
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Mitsuo Iso
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Toshiki Inoue
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Takeshi Honda
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Kazuya Murata
- MUSIC: Tsuneyoshi Saito
For its time, Dennou Coil was an astonishing imaginative anime series about children developing connections within the real world via augmented reality eyeglasses. This was a show that was so captivating in how it portrayed its children, and the introspection into the adults way of life with technology at the fore front. This episode not only was able to pull together a diverse collection of songs but also able to generate some of the wildest sound effects for 2007.
Isako’s role call with her virtual pets had one of the best musical pieces in the entire show, and we had very strange background effects to back this up! After the first episode, this one successfully immersed us into its strange world by not telling us exactly what was going on with the download packets but showing especially towards the end there.
I really like how much the grandmother portrays the lightly tainted evilness against the virtual pets– illustrating the gap that children and adults have with the use of technology. Fantastic episode and an abnormal mystery series that I highly recommend my readers to check out!
9. GOSICK Episode 12
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: BONES
- DIRECTOR: Hitoshi Nanba
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Kazuki Sakuraba
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Mari Okada
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Hinata Takeda [Original Character Designer]; Takashi Tomioka, Toshihiro Kawamoto [Character Designs for Anime]
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Jun’ichi Wada
- MUSIC: Kotaro Nakagawa
It is a shame that Bandai Entertainment USA closed its doors right before this anime was to be released in 2012 of May as it would have been a huge success. Would have loved to hear what the English dub would offer for this.
This was one of the best series to air in 2011 that had one of the coolest and catchiest opening songs. Being one of my favorite shows of that year, it is a 1920’s mystery series that follows Japanese native Kazuya Kujo and the book worm Victorique de Blois going all around Europe to solve cases. This show had its great share of awesome episodic adventures I really enjoyed the Levithan episodes, but this one episode had to be the best of the best as it took the mystery portions of the show and sidelined it to develop Kazuya to great lengths. Aoi Yuki’s best voice work and the girl she portrays [Victorique] is very funny and authentic in her pretentious behavior.
It is summer vacation and Kazuya decides to decline a trip with Avril to stay with Victorique in their quiet days together. He reflects on his childhood and why he studied abroad, and I’m very glad that we got this episode sooner rather than later we get a better view of how he’s able to solve the cases so headstrong. Compared to Victorique’s intelligence it is a nice balance and this was an episode that took a break from all of this to define how compatible they are together. Loved the rain scene as it shows how stubborn she is and how hard Kazuya tries to protect her.
8. Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales [Bakeneko Arc] Episode 11
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: Toei Animation
- DIRECTOR: Kenji Nakamura
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Toei with Michiko Yokote
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Michiko Yokote
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Takashi Hashimoto
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Kenji Nakamura
- MUSIC: Yasuharu Takanashi
Out of all the stories in Ayakashi this 3-part arc was my favorite, but to sum up which one had been the best out of the three it had to be the final episode– as it had revealed so much by the end! You might know Takahiro Sakurai as the voice of Psycho-Pass’ Shogo Makishima and Code Geass’ Suzaku Kururugi but here is probably one of his better roles– the medicine seller. A mysterious traveling doctor in the same vein as Ginko from Mushishi but that he vanquishes demons sometimes using a hidden power, and it is in this third act that we see his bizarre design take form.
The story takes place during the Edo-period of Japan where a strange cat monster has a vendetta against a family, and the Medicine Seller unravels the corruption within the people of the household. This was awesome, because for the first two act everything was fairly low-key but here we get to hear and see the ferocious monster that the family has plagued beyond despair, and the grudge it holds!
The Ukiyo-e style presented itself so well here and one the most realistic and tough scenes to watch had to be the part where the members of the family were grotesquely murdered against the backdrop of the wall. As horrible as it was it depicted the level of hatred this monster had held on for so many years, and the vast love it had for the woman that protected this lonely cat long ago.
7. Sakamichi no Apollon [Kids on the Slope] Episode 9
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: MAPPA
- DIRECTOR: Shinichiro Watanabe
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Yuki Kodama
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Yuuko Kakihara
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Takashi Hashimoto
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Yui Umemoto
- MUSIC: Yoko Kanno
Could not have asked for a better staff to adapt the winner of the 57th Shogakukan Manga award of Yuki Kodama’s incredible coming-of-age love story between teenagers. Studio MAPPA is making a big name for themselves especially this year with three projects under their belt– Zankyou no Terror, GARO: Honoo no Kokuin and Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis.
This episode was fueled greatly by Kanno’s amazing skills at composing jazz pieces to enhance the love triangle that this show built up in the previous episode. Sentaro’s heart-felt apology to Ritsuko very much showed the childhood bond they share and illustrated how different Kaoru was in the group. He’s stuck on the fence between the classical piano training he had when he was a kid and this style of jazz that was slowly emerging inside of him. This was the one episode that impressed me in terms of music because of how heavy handed it was in developing the angst of Sentaro towards Junichi stealing his woman Yurika.
The animation techniques that this show utilizes is called rotoscoping and here is where it paid off immensely. The train scene at the end was the emotional component I had been wanting to see in this show– Junichi finds his resolve to share his pain with Yurika a woman he has fallen deeply in love with. That piano piece highlighted the balance of the parents disapproval to counteract the authenticity of the love that these two youths shared for each other. Amazing episode! Reminds me of the classic american romance films of the 40’s and 50’s.
6. PHANTOM: Requiem for the Phantom Episode 8
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: Bee Train
- DIRECTOR: Koichi Mashimo
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Gen Urobuchi
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Yousuke Kuroda
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Kimi Yanoguchi
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Tatsuya Takahashi
- MUSIC: Hikaru Nanase
Oh, Bee Train where have you been lately? Since Hyouge Mono which was an engaging realistic series about samurai living in the Sengoku period there has been this long absence of any anime produced by them.
The same director of that series helms Phantom, an action romance series about assassins. I couldn’t have thought of anyone better than the music composer of Noein to write the music to this, all the tracks were astounding beautiful and somewhat haunting. This was probably the strongest episode of the entire series, as it revealed Zwei’s real name and that the doctor was betraying the organization! The doctor has so much drive to push Ein in following his orders worsens the situation here!
And this was just the tip of what happens here as McCunnen showing Zwei his passport before he had his memory wiped develops to the point where he even calls his real family in this episode! It’s this level of sensuality that McCunnen gives off to Zwei that allows for his interest in learning of his past that much more alluring.
I think what amazed me the most about this episode was how Tatsuya Takahashi took a sensible approach at developing assassins that could lightly handle emotions. The scene where Zwei taking the bullet out of Eren was breathtaking!
This was my favorite soundtrack of 2009!
5. Cowboy Bebop Episode 24
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: SUNRISE
- DIRECTOR: Shinichiro Watanabe
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Shinichiro Watanabe
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Keiko Nobumoto
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Toshihiro Kawamoto
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Tensai Okamura
- MUSIC: Yoko Kanno
I bet some of you are surprised this didn’t make it higher on my list. I do enjoy Bebop a lot but there were some better written episodes than what we had with this show. As a whole this series surpassed everything I’ve seen since 2014, yet this episode was so emotional it could not be left out.
Faye Valentine the strongest female character of the show finally gets a chance at understanding her past. We get to see the young girl she was so many years ago, and how the home that was destroyed would change who she was: a hard luck woman that finds her own place in the world. As much as this episode was about Faye, Tensai Okamura did wonders at seamlessly weaving in Ein’s father into the mix. A computer genius of a hacker that when she finds her dad, is left in the most childlike state, and ends up leaving the Bebop with Ein.
A powerful episode of the two reoccurring women of the show that are both on entirely different journey’s in search of who they are and who they will become. Yoko Kanno provided an awesome guitar rift in the beginning, and the end song Call Me Call Me sung by Steve Conte allowed a necessary finale to the story arc of these two people ending their adventures on the bebop.
4. Mushishi Zoku Shou Episode 4
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: Animation Studio ARTLAND
- DIRECTOR: Hiroshi Nagahama
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Yuki Urushibara
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Hiroshi Nagahama
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Yoshihiko Umakoshi
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Nobukage Kimura
- MUSIC: Toshio Masuda
I would have said all of Mushishi Season 1 and Season 2, but this was my absolute favorite: a story about a young man possessed by a mushi on his hand that lured animals for hunts and in turn had to sell rotten flesh. Every episode of this show had spectacular sound effects that gave life to each Ginko tale, but this was haunting. I believe what sold me were two scenes in particular– at the very beginning when Ginko was unsure of what he saw at first and frightened by being unable to move noticed it was that of a man, his reaction was felt so genuine. The second was how well cut this episode was, especially when the crows were attracted to his hand and in the end result took his arm.
Second out of this was Episode 6 with the beautiful woman living gaining eternal youth by a mushi and a generations of one family’s dark secret . I love this series!
3. PSYCHO-PASS Episode 11
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: PRODUCTION I.G.
- DIRECTOR: Naoyoshi Shiotani
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Gen Urobuchi alongside Production I.G.
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Gen Urobuchi
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Akira Amano [Original Character Designer]/ Kyoji Asano
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Hirotaka Endo
- MUSIC: Yuugo Kanno
When this aired it has such an impact on me especially after seeing how the writers and the director here developed Yuki involved in the situation with Kogami and Makishima. Katsumi Chou gave off this eery feeling of Senguji that reminded me a lot of the PM incident with the women from that one Ghost in the Shell episode. Women in despair and the lack of oneself based on the ideals of robotics.
The inclusion of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy beautified the difference in the Sibyl System and hardened criminals to its core. We’ve got a guy who’s seen war and sacrificed his body to live longer as a robot, to experience the thrill of killing, and alongside him is Shogo Makishima that poses an even bigger question against the system that is built in service with the Inspectors and Enforcers. How can the system accept rational thinking killers? Yuki’s cries for help as she is being tortured showed off the lack of humanity the show’s main villain Makishima has.
Heck the gunshots Akane fired off just proved how much the bureau at this point in the anime were useless with their Dominators. A system that is constructed based on a trust that the people will be honest and unwavering in their emotions.
I am very curious to see how well Tatsunoko Production will handle the second season after the strong impression the first season made on me.
2. Shinsekai Yori Episode 19
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: A-1 Pictures
- DIRECTOR: Masashi Ishihama
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Yusuke Kishi
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Masashi Sogo
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: YORI [original character designer]/ Chikashi Kubota [Main character designer]
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Naomichi Yamato
- MUSIC: Shigeo Komori
This is a series that classifies itself as an adventure fantasy series, but with this one episode it allowed for some of the best horror at least for me that I have ever seen.
We had a very talented animator on this, Takahashi Kojima. As he made this episode probably the most beautiful episode of Shinsekai Yori surpass all the rest! The facial expressions throughout this were tightly animated and drawn with such detail! I would love to see this guy do the designs all the way through a horror series.
Genuinely scared the Doctor and the patients at the hospital were left haunted by the Friend’s attacks, and only wanted to escape from the hellish nightmare. What was strange about this entire episode was how authentic the score had been. Aside from Itsuka Tenma no Kurousagi, Shigeo has written close to nothing for a TV series but here he captured the scary scenes amazingly well!
The best part for me out of this was when Satoru, Saki and the others were hiding inside the room keeping the door tightly shut upon hearing the sounds of the Fiend’s footsteps. Best sound effects for an episode I have ever heard! Too bad the rest of the series could have pulled together so tightly as this was!
1. Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo Episode 11
- PRODUCTION STUDIO: Gonzo
- DIRECTOR: Mahiro Maeda
- ORIGINAL CREATOR: Alexandre Dumas
- SERIES COMPOSITION: Natsuko Takahashi and Tomohiro Yamashita
- CHARACTER DESIGNER: Mahiro Maeda [original character designer]/ Hidenori Matsubara [character designer]
- EPISODE DIRECTOR: Michio Fukuda
- MUSIC: Jean-Jacques Burnel, Koji Kasamatsu and Reiji Kitazato
I am a huge fan of Alexandre Dumas novels, as the story of Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorites, and when I heard Gonzo would be adapting his novel I was feeling nothing but glee.
Going back to 2004 there were quite a few anime compared to today’s season standards that captivated me: Samurai Champloo, Boogiepop Phantom, Paranoia Agent, the first three seasons of BLEACH, Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig, Mahou Shoujotai, Gantz, MONSTER, the list goes on including BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad and this.
The character designs are so lushous and those designs on every person’s outfit that moved were very detailed and unique. I don’t think I have ever seen a show do something like this ever before or even after the fact! This episode had so many people involved in such little time– the car scene where Franz, Morrel, and Raoul de Chateau-Renaud kidnap Valentine, the Baron Danglars decision to break off Eugenie’s engagement to Albert and the culprit that tried to poison the Villeforts is finally revealed!
Albert offers the innocence in the show that suddenly right here dissolves as the Count discusses with him the inevitability of life, without coincidences. Albert doesn’t show emotional here how he’s change but what we do see is the resolve in him to. Fukuda did one heck of a job at creating this dynamic of Albert on the side of the Count, and Franz’ theories of the Count being more than what he is. The conversation between them and Franz’ words about a deep darkness of the real Count is foreshadow enough that things are definitely NOT what they appear to be!
What made this episode have a huge emotional impact on me was the music, the direction with these classical pieces struck scene by scene so well! When Heloise got exposed by his own husband for the poisonings where she was lying on the floor laughing against the mirrored moving pictures were a visual feast!
So with that ends my 200th blog post on Episode Direction and as we move into another season of anime I hope that there will be more that deliver such a strong impact like these anime episodes did.