The first two Madoka films felt like money grabbers to me and seemed kind of pointless. It doesn't really do anything different or significant enough compared to the TV series which is why I think they are significantly worse. Compare that to say something like the Hanasaku Iroha movie, which added a lot of depth to Satsuki's character and linked three generations of the Matsumae family. It actually had a purpose and point to it. The third move I actually had a lot of problems with since the drastic changes seemed to make everything that happened in the TV series "pointless". I did like the fight between Mami and Homura though, that was probably the highlight of the movie.
I'm sorry but that chocolate eating scene made me facepalm . I didn't find it moe at all but annoying . But then again you already know about my dislike of Chitanda overall and that she took far too long for me to care about her. That last episode though I have to agree, it was absolutely fantastic.
As for FMP, you're right in that it wasn't a huge leap but TSR was better than the first season overall. The first season had some filler and slow pacing issues particularly in the middle which had some irrelevant mediocrity which TSR largely avoided. The premise, characters, tone, execution of the series though was similarish in both the Gonzo's first season and Kyonai's second season.
One of the key reasons why I like Steins' Gate a lot (aside from its premise) is because of the main character. Okabe is one of the best male leads to come out in the last few years and he was an absolute blast to watch. This scene remains to be one of the most hilarious things I've seen in anime to date.
I'm curious as to what you think the first two Madoka films did significantly worse than the TV series, as the only major changes I remember noticing was that Mami's backstory got cut and the lack of "this comes later" teaser at the beginning. I actually thought the films were paced better.
I absolutely loved Shin Sekai Yori's world building and utterly engrossing plot (aside from the weak second quarter or so - oddly enough also the stretch of Hyouka I thought was weakest). But I love Hyouka's character subtleties - particularly in the later episodes - and ultra-expressive animation more. Some of this make come down to taste: I know you're not a Chitanda fan, whereas I dig the loads of details put into how she was animated - ie. her eating the whiskey chocolates in the background during that one episode, or her "deer in the headlights" look after Irisu finishes advising her on how to persuade people. And I freaking love the ending scene.
Aside Hyouka my favourite KyoAni shows are probably Haruhi 2006 and Kanon 2006, though part of that may be nostalgia talking. I'd probably consider them for a top ten list but eliminate them fairly early on. I did like their work on FMP, but I'm not sure I consider it the great leap forward from the Gonzo animated first season that many people do.
Madoka is a contender for the lower half of my top ten but I'm not sure I have enough personal bias towards it for it to win. PenguinDrum isn't quite my thing. Steins;Gate was great but I just don't find it memorable enough for me personally. In places it reminded me of the visual novel Ever 17 and I liked that better (and if Reckoner reads this, yes, that's despite the slog of having to clear some rather "meh" routes to unlock the true one).
It certainly was a great series and over time I began to like it more, but I'm not too sold on it knocking off some of my "nostalgic" favourites. Even then, there has been "better" series in recent years like Shin Sekai Yori, Steins Gate, Mawaru Penguindrum or Madoka Magica (the movies don't count, they are significantly inferior to the TV series) or series that just completely clicked with me like Bunny Drop or White Album 2. Nor do I "fag" over Hyouka as I so do with the likes of say something like Tari Tari, and that series isn't part of my personal best either.
I do think it's possibly Kyoani's best series, but in a way it's not much of a competition when one is not a big fan of Key and although Haruhi and FMP were great, don't think they are as good as some people claim it to be, particularly the former.
There seems to be a little bit of turnover in the bottom part of my favourites list (the high 8 to low 9/10 range), but my upper half has on the whole remained unchanged with the exception of Cross Game, which might be the best sports/coming of age series I've seen. I only finished in the past year as well. Brought me to tears by the end of it, and not in some sappy melodramatic someone dies kinda way, but because it was bittersweet as hell.
I've had a lot going on and just haven't been inclined to get into a lot of online discussions. Not so much plain busy (although now that school has started again there's that too) as just feeling like my schedule is kind of... "cluttered" with stuff?
I don't think I'd let on just how high I'd rank Hyouka and part of that is that it's been a while since I reassessed some of what was on my favourites list anyway. However, I'm pretty sure I've done quite a lot of gushing about the show - if not to you than certainly to people I've wanted to get to watch it.
So I tried to come up with a personal top ten list, but that seemed hard. But that was hard so I decided to try and do a personal top five. Which is still hard because I can't decided whether I liked Shin Sekai Yori enough to overcome by nostalgia for and tendency to fanboy about Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu.
But the four shows that easily made the cut were... three Shaft shows (Moon Phase, EF: A Tale of Memories and Bakemonogatari) and Hyouka.
I feel like there's a witty self-deprecating quip that needs to be made here but I can't quite place it.