Ah, there have been many epic anime scenes, and there shall surely be many more!
I’ve already mentioned my favorite scene, but there are so many more to choose from! One Piece is rife with epic scenes, and all my favorites have them in one fashion or another. Heck, even fairly terrible anime can have epic scenes which make them worth watching.
But for the single most epic scene ever in anime… I have but one choice which springs to mind and absolutely beats down any and all contenders for the throne.
I remember the first time I was watching Attack on Titan (I still think that’s a badly-translated title). This is a very… intense… anime, and I am an emotional pushover, a “softie.” There were redeeming qualities, but I was seriously questioning if it was worth it to watch the whole show. I mean, the entire story revolves around how these giants are eating people, such that humanity is pushed to the brink of extinction, and they don’t shy away from the horror of it. There are bloody, graphic messes we see, and there are horrors we don’t see, so it’s using both methods to paint a grim picture for humanity.
We even saw Eren, the supposed main protagonist, die horribly, yanking his friend forcibly from a giant’s gullet, though he doomed himself to die instead.
Until we learn how he managed to survive being eaten alive, the story shifts to his friend and, we can assume, eventual romantic interest, Mikasa. Her story illustrates that the giant aren’t remotely the only evil in the world. The entire story of Attack on Titan displays humanity at both its best and worst simultaneously, as Mikasa has seen. When bandits killed her parents, it was Eren who arrived just in time to save her, and he did this in part by helping Mikasa stand up and fight for herself.
The result was not pretty, as two children killed three grown men, but it was the only alternative to death.
Mikasa was always the better fighter, but from that moment on, Eren became Mikasa’s strength. Any conflict he went into, so did she. Any difficulty which arose, she overcame, to help Eren. So when she finds out Eren is dead, it’s a dangerous blow to her heart and soul. Her will to fight, to kill, is amplified, but her will to survive is deadened. When she’s dealt a blow that grounds her, her weaponry rendered all but useless, her will to fight deserts her.
She gives up.
Up to this point, no matter what good thing seemed to happen, things just kept getting worse and worse and worse. Even in those moments of hope and clarity, of defiance, there was tragedy. People kept getting up to fight, and kept getting knocked down and eaten by giants. Everyone was dying, and Mikasa was about to as well. It’s a perfectly human thing, to fight and fight and fight… and then stop. We’re dealt one blow too many, we lose one friend, one loved one too many, and our hope dies. We fall down, and we don’t get up.
I’ve watched this scene countless times, and it’s burned into my memory.
Mikasa is sitting, her knees on cold stone under a dark, gray sky. Her eyes are closed, and she sits in calm repose, having accepted her fate. There is a giant approaching her, its steps a slow, thunderous rhythm in the ground and the air. Something red and fleshy is pulsing. She holds only a small knife in her hand. There is nothing she can do. She’s lived a good life, she reasons, especially in a world so cruel and beautiful. The giant bends down, reaching for her, and she is ready to die.
Quick as a wink, she lashes out with her small blade like it were a tiny lightning bolt in her fingers. She scores a good hit, cutting deep, and leaps away to avoid the other massive hand swinging for her, crashing into the stone wall as she lands on her feet.
Mikasa herself is surprised. She thought she had given up, and as she keeps evading the giant’s grasp, she wonders: why? Why is she still fighting? What’s keeping her going, when she had already accepted her fate? What is it?
Light begins to fall in shifting shafts from the clouds, the sun poking through. Even as the giant’s shadow blocks it again, the light shines from above.
Deep within her, and from long ago, Eren’s voice rings throughout the whole of her being, with one absolute command: fight!
Tears spring to her eyes as she realizes what she almost did. She almost let herself die, which is, to her, the same as forgetting Eren, forgetting everything he ever gave her, forgetting every moment they had together. She apologizes to him, and swears, even as a second giant is now closing in on her in addition to the first, she will never give up! She will fight! She will survive! She will live and remember what Eren taught her!
She! Will! Not! Give! Up!
Pure sunlight pierces the clouds again, finding her, bathing her, as she screams in defiance of death and despair.
That moment, right there, was when I knew I could and would watch the rest of this anime.
It’s followed swiftly by two more epic moments, but these are intertwined and rooted in the moment Mikasa stands up again.
The first is, even as she screams in defiance, she is saved… by a giant. In fact, it’s that “second giant” which was “closing in on her.” This one kills two giants, and keeps killing them, slaughtering them wholesale, much to the surprise of the humans who are watching this.
The second is, as Mikasa puts words to what she felt when she saw one giant kill another, and roar to the heavens in fury. To her, it felt like the she was seeing the reification of mankind’s anger. Everything they have felt, being hunted, trapped, invaded, eaten… this absolute fury has found concrete form and voice in this one giant which kills other giants. Seeing this, Mikasa was first confused, and then exalted.
These three epic moments, particularly the first, are what I personally entitle:
“Mikasa Finds Hope.”
I do not recommend Attack on Titan for everyone, or even for most people, but this is, to me, one of the single most epic and inspiring scenes in all of cinema, let alone anime.
If only because it helps inspire me, after I’ve been knocked down, to get back up.