Other Reference: Kiseijuu Ep18
A few days ago, in the early-morning of downtown Tokyo, a blanket of snow decorated the usual concrete pavements and made things really inconvenient for the hard-working salarymen who were probably more concerned for whether the trains would get them to work on time. For us, anime fans, it was a reminder that some of the unforgettable moments between our favourite characters took place while they too were being pelleted in the freezing cold.
As the turn of winter hopefully brings us more scenic moments, we at Honey’s Anime present to you our list of Top 10 Anime Snow Scenes.
10. Kanon 2006 (Episode 10)
Of the three big adaptations of Key games made by Kyoto Animation, it should come to no one’s surprise that Kanon, being the one set in winter, would have some of the greatest snow scenes in anime. The bigger challenge is picking the best among the many emotional moments dispersed throughout its run.
Unlike Air and Clannad, Kanon is possibly at its best nearer to the beginning when its character interactions felt a bit more natural before the dramatic developments later in the series. Being less apt than Clannad in creating a coherent overall narrative that combines every heroine’s stories, the climactic scene of Makoto Sawatari’s character arc ends up being just as memorable, if not more-so, than the “main” heroines’ stories.
As Yuuichi finally realises that the girl in front of him, who seeks nothing more than his affection, does not have much longer in the world, he devotes to her his undivided attention and a promise of love that he will be unable to fulfill. Dawn breaks to Yuuichi sitting alone in the snowy mountain, having lost an important someone who he did not learn to treasure until
9. Kara no Kyoukai: Shuushou
If you’re one of the lucky ones to have seen Kara no Kyoukai films the year they came out, the experience may have been burnt into your mind as one of the most technically brilliant displays of animation quite possibly there ever will be. Fans of the series are glad to know that the glorified epilogue consisting only of one scene, the first meeting between Mikiya and Shiki, might possibly be even better looking.
To set the scenario, Mikiya and Shiki have survived the horrors of the film series and everything should have rightfully ended with the masterpiece of the 7th film. Mikiya is walking up a hill under the falling snow, possibly to make his way home. On the way, he notices Shiki looking out the scenic vista with an expression he has never seen on her before. It doesn’t even need to hit him that he finally sees the part of her that he always wanted to see.
Shuushou is the final piece of the puzzle (before Mirai Fukuin) that franchise fans didn’t know they needed to complete the story. It’s almost an unnecessary bonus that this short episode easily contests for the most visually appealing use of snow in anime with the best of this list.
8. Girls und Panzer (Episode 9)
The rookie Japanese high school tankery team, Oarai High School takes on the veteran Russian-themed victors of last year’s tankery tournament, Pravda is in the disadvantageous stage of a snow-filled trench battlefield no less. Our protagonists’ tanks suffer serious damage in the initial scuffles and are driven into an abandoned building, where they are given the ultimatum of cutting their losses by surrendering or fighting to the end.
The beauty of Director Mizushima’s shows is his ability to make his characters’ actions elicit strong emotions through a short time-frame. The Oarai tankery rode a wave of unexpected success to reach where they are, the semi-finals of a national tournament with immense glory even if they lose. It is only then that the true cost of their defeat is revealed, that if they lose, their school will be gone by the next year. Even though our girls are determined in mind to win, their spirits have fallen apart in the face of insurmountable odds and the burden that they shoulder.
Starving and cold under the roof of the freezing shack, main lead Miho is pushed to consolidate everyone’s spirits. And thus, in a desperate effort doing the only thing that comes to her mind, we have the cringiest yet also one of the most heartwarming anime snow scenes.
And if this scene doesn’t work for you, there’s a brilliant sequence of the Russian tanks riding to battle with Russian folk music playing in the background just one episode before.
7. 5 Centimeters Per Second
Right behind Hayao Miyazaki and the legendary Satoshi Kon, Makoto Shinkai is probably the next most prolific director for cinematic anime. 5 centimeters per second, quite possibly the masterpiece that stands above the rest of his repertoire, features one unforgettable moment between its two lead characters who overcome a harsh snowstorm and years of unclosed distance to share a special moment together.
After an unbearable separation, Takaki and Akari realise that the end of their emotional relationship is near as Takaki will soon follow his family to an island too far for them to remain meaningfully connected. Knowing this, the two plan for one last meeting, bringing closure to what they know will never be. Even then, as Takaki travels train-by-train, facing hours of delay due to a snowstorm, he perhaps wonders that maybe even mother nature does not want anything to be made from his innocent relationship with the girl he loves.
However, his efforts are surely rewarded when he realises that Akari, who never stopped waiting alone in the station, shared his feeling of dread and the sheer happiness of knowing that once again, they were reunited. It may not have been for long and in the grand scheme of their lives, it certainly did not mean much. But when the pair wanders to the tree under the snow and acknowledged their feelings with a moment of intimacy, we all knew that it was something worth remembering.
6. Ookami Kodomo Ame to Yuki (Wolf Children)
Since Wolf Children follows the lives of its titular half-wolf siblings from the time of their conception to over a decade later, the part where they’re forced into exploring the Japanese countryside to escape from the strict conditions of the city, gives us many an eye-candy to enjoy.
There’s something to be said here about contrasts and the masterful way Mamoru Hosoda shows Hana, the endlessly persevering mother of the siblings, finally enjoy herself after years of backbreaking work to support her children. Not only do they escape the confinements of a society that cannot be relied on, the three are finally able to run free among the endless natural landscape.
Dashing through the snow-buried forest in a gorgeous display of what modern day Japanese animation is capable of, Hana and co. escape reality for just a bit in the midst of what may be best described as a dreamland of snow and distant mountains. Even though we know that the harsh reality of loss and growing up waits around the corner, this scene best represents the escapism that people need, even if it is just a little bit, to keep going. And even then, it does not take long for Ame and Yuki, two children who were never meant for the human world, to quickly find themselves in life threatening danger at the expense of their mother’s constant worrying.
5. White Album 2 (Episode 12)
“Everytime I see the snow I’ll remember...”
White Album 2 is probably the least-seen anime in this list, partially because many viewers may have the misconception that it is a sequel to the first White Album. This is certainly not the case, as White Album 2 stands independent as a cream-of-the-crop offerings to the romance anime fan and a truly mature approach to high school love relationships.
Unfortunately, the show’s best feature is its ability to put the audience into very uncomfortable situations where we’re not quite sure how exactly to feel. After learning that main lead Haruki’s romantic relationship with Setsuna, who for all purposes is as kind and thoughtful as any high schooler can be expected to be, might possibly have been the greatest personal error he could have made, we finally see Haruki confess to the true love of his life, Touma, hours before she forever leaves to another country.
Having always hid their feelings for one another and knowing that they have reached a stage where their relationship cannot be forgiven, the pair connect for the first time in utter betrayal of whatever feelings they have for Setsuna and completely changing the nature of their precious friendship. In a moment of dramatic irony, the snow that was supposed to serve as a remembrance of the best times of their relationship becomes the catalyst for them to err in the worst way possible.
4. Aria the Natural (Episode 26)
“I wonder what kind of adult Alicia-san wanted to become?”
Akari Mizunashi is one of the most memorable protagonist’s of the 2000s by virtue of her unending optimism. Even then, she wouldn’t be anywhere near as nuanced if it wasn’t for two other great characters, her mentor Alicia and the mysterious yet joyful city of Neo-Venezia.
In one winter outing with said mentor, Alicia begins to roll a snowball out of the blue, letting it form into a progressive larger snow boulder. On the way, many other people from Neo-Venezia, complete strangers to the two, kindly and enthusiastically help out one by one until they reach the seaside. In doing so, she imparts to Akari her own insecurities from when she was younger and what gave her strength to become who she is.
Strangely but perhaps expectedly, Aria is one of two entries in this list that captures traditional Christmas values of family and happiness, and does so while beautifully encapsulating the thoughts of its characters. We finally begin to crack the shell of the always kind but somewhat distant Alicia, and we experience the joy and wonder of it through the eyes of Akari as we always do. Aria’s snow scene may not be the prettiest in any senses, but it captures a beauty through the interactions of its characters that not many newer shows are interested in doing.
3. Tokyo Godfathers
“I want to go home.”
In 2010, we lost one of the greatest anime filmmakers of all time, Satoshi Kon. Although Tokyo Godfathers might not be as immediately impressive as the sentimental Millennium Actress or the thrilling Perfect Blue, it embodies Kon’s incredible portrayal of stunning moments of human interactions and his ability to blur reality and combine it with the fantastical elements that make an amazing theatrical story.
The main trio of the movie, a gathering of social outcasts, are panicking as they desperately try to keep an abandoned baby they found safe from a crazy psychotic woman. They find themselves at the edge of a rooftop, the woman carrying the baby like a suicidal mother would as she hangs off in tears, held only by the trio’s efforts. As the comedic and tragic climax of the film would have it, the woman’s grip slips right as she regains her senses.
There are no words worth trusting to describe the moment when not even God would allow for the baby’s death to happen.
2. Clannad After Story (Episode 22)
“The Place Where Dreams Come True”
Even though Clannad is decidedly not the snow-themed franchise of the KyoAni-Key trio of seasonal shows, it outdoes its peers in so many ways that there is no question of its place in having some of the top snow scenes in anime.
Perhaps the real question is why this particular scene is chosen over the more emotionally-taxing death scene just the episode before. The girl in the illusory world, never given a name, exclaims that the end has also come for the robot and her and is glad that they have fulfilled their purpose. The robot desperately tries to keep her alive for just a bit longer, mirroring the life and death struggle that Tomoya and Ushio are facing in the real world. Nothing is given to the viewer explicitly and even at its climax, it takes more than a few rewatches to realise the true significance of this scene.
Yet, considering this as the moment of thematic completion, where the concept of family becomes the rightful victors against all odds and the humble dreams of the ceaselessly lovable characters are finally realised, it simply felt right to highlight the moment that enabled Clannad to become what it was always supposed to be about.
Though it’s not something that should be left as an overthought, the effort put into the visuals of the illusory world has never been topped even in Kyoto Animation’s future works in terms of pure aesthetics. Despite that, the number one scene of this list, also by the Kyoto Animation, rightfully takes it place as the studio’s possibly best ever sample of visual storytelling.
1. Suzumiya Haruhi no Shousetsu (The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya)
It was always difficult to really feel that Yuki, Mikuru and Itsuki were characters when their agenda and priorities always revolved around Haruhi. The solution is simply then: let Kyon do his thing when the very center of their universe is no longer there to keep the world turning.
Realising that maybe his world isn’t that great when without the source of all his troubles, Kyon finds for the first time that he had always taken the people around him for granted. Through his worries is the accompaniment of the only person who has always been by him in his darkest times, a girl who he relied on but never really acknowledged.
When the two find themselves alone on the rooftop as their predicament, for now, comes to a close, we hear Kyon once again consolidating his thoughts in his usual sarcastic tone. It’s almost as if this was but another episode in the group’s usual hijinks, where Kyon settles down after a day of stress and redirects his irk towards Haruhi. But then, when the snow descends, Kyon finally melts the icy exterior of the girl whose attitude was almost as cold as her namesake.
This definitely is not just another moment in the SOS Brigade’s hijinks, for Kyon’s gestures, Yuki’s eyes and the soundless descent of the snow are more than enough to give us the entire story.
Snow in anime, whether it’s to serve as a thematic motif or to emphasize the raw emotions of an important scene, is a staple that holds together many a great moments to our viewing pleasure. It is a merciless reminder that things will take their course regardless of our feelings and decisions, but also a magical phenomenon that many are grateful for and a sight that ties together some of the greatest moments of storytelling.
Is snow something that you look forward to? Is there another winter moment in anime you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comment section below.