...Even the smile of a cherished person...
|Hatsukoi Limited, episode 9|
I started this post with a scene from Hatsukoi Limited. This is a perfect example of an episode that changes my entire opinion on a series. While it had it's ups and downs, I would say that Hatsukoi Limited is just a fun, fan-service riddled high school romance comedy, so episode 9, "In Full Bloom For Those Memories," really caught me by surprise. It's basically self-contained. It brings the first real introduction to Chikura, as well as her love interest, and it tells her main story from beginning to end right then and there. And it is beautiful, thanks, in no small part to, this beautiful song by Marble.
I could spend all day going over the best single episodes of anime, but there are a lot, and it would be a waste of my time and yours. I'll turn the rest into a list, and we'll call this an "honorable mention" section, although that isn't to say these are at all inferior to the aforementioned. That also isn't to say that this is a comprehensive list. I'm probably forgetting some. Without further ado:
K-On!!, Episode 20, "Yet Another School Festival!"
An intense concert that makes you feel like you're there, followed by an emotional landslide.
Hellsing, Episode 10, "Master of Monster"
An epic origin story that stands high above it's mediocre parent series.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Episode 10, "I Won't Rely On Anyone Anymore"
Also an origin story, interesting and eye-opening, and topped off with a tearjerker.
Yuru Yuri, Episode 12, "Everyone's Poka Poka at Training Camp"
The already hilarious Yuru Yuri goes out with a bang. The entire cast joins up in a fan service-laced mess of hysterical antics.
Bakemonogatari, Episode 12, "Tsubasa Cat, Part Two"
Takes an unexpected detour from the plot to expand on Senjogahara and Araragi's relationship. Chock-full of touching, romantic dialog.
Have you ever seen a "Golden Episode?" Let me know where the gold is in the comments!