Volume 1 of the original release of Cowboy Bebop on DVD (released by Bandai in 2000) includes a music video for the series’ opening credits song. Even with one of the most iconic opening themes in all of anime, it’s really hard to make an engaging full-length video with series footage that’s not only spoiler-free, but also character and plot-free. And it shows.

By the time we get to the Volume 4 DVD there’s a little more to work with and another AMV is included as a DVD extra. And that’s most definitely what it is, although the DVD authors refer to it as “music clip” rather than an “AMV” (for reasons I won’t speculate on, but was certainly tempted to). This time around, the more ambitious “Tank! (BEBOP AV EDIT)” does a much better job of holding the viewer’s interest as well as distilling the various elements of the series down into a four and a half-minute video. DJ Food don’t really do much with the song, let alone take it to the the kind of funky heights reserved for their better-known associates, but they surely knew that radically transforming it would probably piss off more people than it would impress. As for the video itself, fellow Ninja Tune artists Hexstatic are credited with the actual editing (also presented on their own Vimeo channel… in the wrong aspect ratio), which may earn them the honor of being the best-known AMV editors than no one knows of as AMV editors. Or something like that.

The appeal of AMVs as promotional tools may seem obvious but if I’ve seen any other “official” AMVs like this, created/commissioned/signed off on by the studios or licensing companies, they’ve slipped from my mind. Special cases like this, in which the song of choice is straight out of the anime being edited, make for the most rare and perfect circumstances that eliminate the legalities that have dogged AMVs since the very beginning, or at least until AMVs were big enough for anyone to notice. In other words, this kind of thing probably wouldn’t happen again any time soon. Of course, talking about a pre-Youtube (not to mention pre-Org) era when DVDs reigned supreme has very little to do with our world today, where the remix rules all but is ubiquitous enough to render any individual effort relatively redundant. By now, there are surely a (few) hundred other Cowboy Bebop AMVs out there that follow the exact concept of this one, mirroring its flow and reusing most of its shots. But when this DVD was released, maybe it was the only AMV that some anime fans could get their hands on. Maybe it was the first AMV that some people ever saw. Maybe it was legitimately cool in a way that we can never experience again. It surely had an intangible but undeniable value — both to the company that included it on the DVD and to the fan who purchased it — that’s been lost over time. None of this context will present itself to the viewer who somehow stumbles across it in the depths of Youtube, but the same could be said of most videos on the Internet.

Such is the fate that’s overtaken almost every AMV that’s been shared online over the last 15 years. Even “classic” AMVs eventually fall into obscurity. But life goes on.

The link between anime and science fiction fandom is all but invisible or forgotten today, but the dystopian future/techno-themes of Blade Runner, Snow Crash, Neuromancer, even the Terminator films or the Shadowrun games, made for a efficient gateway into anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and eventually Serial Experiments Lain. This is all second-hand knowledge, of course, I wasn’t there for any it but the dream of the 1990s lives on for anyone who’s still nostalgic for the days when the future still held the promise of gritty cyberpunk cool. None of those future visions came to pass, but so it goes for every generation.

The soundtrack to all this was the electronic pop music of the time, driven by drugs and technology (but mostly drugs), which teetered on the edge of new wave and rave and techno and whatever this was. This is a continuum that purely exists in my head, of course. The idea that real computer hackers, whoever they were, were all sitting in the dark and listening to electronic music (and not something like Rush or whatever) is pure fantasy but I won’t let you take that away from me.

This video is certainly a part of that tradition and for that I love it. And on its own, I just dig the vibe of it, which is just really chilled out and oozing with the style and attitude of the days when anime was still an exotic subculture and the Internet still felt like an unexplored and forbidden playground, vast and infinite and unspoiled by the forces that shaped the rest of our culture. Of course, after Hackers, The Matrix, Facebook and Farmville and an anime industry that begrudgingly releases one “hard” science fiction title for every hundred adolescent rom-com series, it’s hard not to feel cheated out of such an alluring future that, cybernetic implants and all, seemed so much more within our reach than the flying cars of our parents’ adolescent dreams.

Very “old school” editing, which is surely to be expected for any video this old, but worth mentioning if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s a hard to describe style (but it most definitely exists!), and probably declined in popularity over the years as this kind of visually-detailed animation became more and more rare. I guess I didn’t want to have to say it, maybe because it’s going to sound as painfully obvious as it is, but this decline in the overall look of anime (at least in terms of emphasis on visual detail and the time spent actually showing said detail, a shift caused more by economic needs than creative ones, to insultingly simplify a complicated issue) took away the richest and most striking visuals that, so often, lent themselves to a slower, more traditionally-storyboarded style of editing than what we have now. I don’t believe that any anime series ever matched the visual beauty of the film. Practically speaking, expecting that from a television show isn’t realistic. Only a few other films have successfully created such a astounding-looking world, at least in the way that Ghost in the Shell was able to make me feel like everything I was seeing was uncanny and yet familiar, realistic, believable in a way that shouldn’t be, completely foreign but immediately understood. So much of the film consists of shots, big and small, where nothing concerning the plot is actually happening, but which still look gorgeous and completely captivating all on their own. Whether in film or television, modern anime isn’t quite as interested in these atmosphere-building, symbol-laden shots. I could speculate on why but you’ve heard it all before. I’m definitely not saying that old anime is better than new anime. Don’t twist my words like that!

Something about living in a world where looking like this was actually something to aspire to just made you feel like anything was possible.

I don’t have any strict criteria for what AMVs or editors I choose to write about here. There’s little reason to celebrate the usual suspects that don’t really need the attention, which is why most of this “series” has been devoted to editors who haven’t gotten a lot of credit, and to the weird and/or virtually unseen AMVs that don’t fit in with the award-winners and/or videos that rack up views in the six-figures. I guess I’ve gotten wrapped up in the idea of how cool it is to find something awesome that’s been widely overlooked or unnoticed… as if those videos aren’t popular solely because they’re just too damn uncompromising or cutting-edge for mass appeal. But along the way I’ve also posted about a few really well-known AMVs, not because I felt like they needed yet another champion — I’m not so deluded to think that I hold the kind of influence for my posts to actually impact the popularity or reputation of anyone’s works — but because they just resonated with me in some weird way that I had to say something about. And those responses haven’t always been the most eloquent or insightful, nor have they always been positive — these days, I question whether or not a lot of those hate-posts really served any purpose — but I always wanted to put them out there anyway because I can’t stand the idea of this stuff just existing in a vacuum of nothing but Youtube comments that may as well be posted by spam-bots. Whether or not someone’s work is “important” doesn’t really matter, if it’s left an impression on me that’s unique or different or weirdly sincere or whatever, then I just want to acknowledge it outside of its element and hopefully Google will eventually help someone stumble across my rambling sentiments and discover a cool video that they never would have otherwise found.

This is one of those AMVs that doesn’t really need any help or extra hits. Heck, it’ll probably be one of the AMVs that people remember most from this year. It’s possibly the most ambitious AMV I’ve ever seen, packing in more visuals and effects than anyone can actually take in in a single viewing. At least that’s true for me; even after having watched it a half-dozen times, I’m still spotting things that I’d missed the first few go-rounds. I can’t begin to imagine how much time and work must have gone into the making of this… which in itself doesn’t make this a masterpiece or anything, just to be clear. But if that’s not worthy of a pat on the back, I don’t know what is. Some people don’t care for this video at all, and I definitely understand where they’re coming from. It’s funny how coming across a single dissenting opinion like that, even if it’s the only negative criticism in a sea of likes and upvotes, actually makes me want to watch it more than I would if literally everyone was fawning over it. There’s so much crap on the Internet that it’s become a challenge to artistically offend anyone who’s spent enough time knee-deep in it, so for anybody to take the time to object to anything, let alone something this well-produced, does more to pique my curiosity than steer me away from it.

At first glance, this isn’t the kind of AMV that I usually seek out. It’s actually the kind that I’m quick to be extra-critical of, either because I’m generally not a fan of these kind of effect-heavy videos, or because I’m gradually growing less and less amused by the whole meta-AMV approach to editing (in particular, this is a complicated response on my part that I don’t know how to unpack without getting into self-contradictory territory, stay tuned). But I can’t help but feel really impressed by its seamless merging of live action and animation. It’s surely not the first AMV to explore this territory (or the first in 2015), nor will it be the last, but the interaction between the two modes of video is intrinsic to the concept of the AMV to an inseparable degree that’s probably unmatched. It’s quite a ride and it never goes more than a few seconds without doing something to surprise you, which you really can’t say about too many other AMVs.

I can’t write this entry without adding that, normally, the second I see you include Trollface in your AMV is the second I turn it off and never come back. Maybe that’s a little unfair but just because I’m on the Internet right now doesn’t mean I’m here for the fuckin lulz, okay? Obviously, I stuck around to watch the whole thing. Getting the song stuck in my head for a few days kept me thinking about it, much more than I expected that I would. And all the while, I couldn’t stop asking myself, is this really a good AMV? It wasn’t a masterpiece (right?), but it was still definitely good. Maybe it was very good. If nothing else, I felt like it was certainly worth watching, if only to have an opinion about — whether or not I’ve actually formed one at this point, I don’t know — and for the purposes of being able to talk about AMVs in 2015. Was it anything? The only thing I’m sure about is that it’s definitely something.

Created by several of the founding members of Gainax (about a year before their studio even formed) to commemorate the 1983 Japanese science fiction fan expo Nihon SF Taikai (AKA Daicon IV, Wikipedia explains it better than I can), this video is comprised of 100% original animation, so referring to it as a traditional AMV by any sense of the term wouldn’t really be correct, no matter how many people have surely done so over the years. But it is funny how, despite its status as both a commercial project and a legitimate piece of wholly original art, it still managed to fall victim to the classic downfall of thousands of AMVs that would follow in the decades to come. Set to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Twilight,” the creators’ failure to secure clearance to use the song would eventually cement their project’s legacy as a historical curiosity, hardly a “lost” classic but definitely an important work that was never able to take advantage of the proper VHS/DVD release it surely deserved in one form or another. Even as FLCL keeps going strong (nigh on fifteen years and counting), arguably its most noteworthy inspiration and point of reference remains virtually unknown to a lot of its biggest fans. Then again, it’s here on the Internet for all to watch today, which is surely a more efficient means of it finding an audience in 2015 than having any official DVD release… but I’m not holding my breath for those first million views to roll in any time soon.

Don’t confuse my fondness for this short film as any kind of tacit approval for the continued use of unnecessary on-screen lyrics in AMVs. Nothing could be further from the truth!


Movies are made to be watched in a theater on a big screen. I always considered that a no-brainer but I’ve actually come across people who consider that an antiquated and wrong opinion, so I guess I can’t really state it as the fact that I’d always assumed it was. As for myself, I’ve always found that going to a theater, sitting in the dark with an audience, and watching a huge, projected image with high-quality surround sound to be a much more immersive and heightened experience than watching anything on my television or computer. How could it not be? Watching a great movie in a theater can feel like an event in the way that watching the same film at home usually cannot. Can watching Netflix on your phone give you the same sensation of escape as actually going to the movies? You tell me.

AMVs aren’t movies and the conference rooms they’re shown in at conventions aren’t theaters, but I feel that all the same factors are at work, along with the intangible experience of the convention itself. The feeling of being a room with 5, 50, or 500 people who like the same weird stuff that you do — specifically, speaking — is something that you just won’t get out of the two hours you spent at the local multiplex watching Jurassic World, surrounded by strangers whose interests probably aren’t anything like yours at all. But that’s another matter altogether separate from the bigger, brighter, louder sensory experience that you’ll get in such a setting, especially compared to the confining little displays that we typically watch AMVs on. Where am I going with this, anyway?

About four months before making my first AMV (a predictably terrible but also pretentiously boring waste of time, don’t bother), I went to Anime Central and attended an Iron Editor panel/contest/sitting party and really enjoyed it. I wasn’t caught up in whatever it was that the contestants were editing; the audience was only given a few glimpses at their works in-progress, anyway. What I did enjoy was how the hosts got the audience involved in games and showed a bunch of AMVs. Some were old, some were new, all were very upbeat and perfect for the context of the evening, which wasn’t about anything other than just having fun. “Rostrogen 2” was one of them — apparently the sequel to this AMV — and it really took me by surprise because this was probably the first time I’d ever seen one like it. And by “like it” I’m referring to multi-sourced, upbeat action AMVs that feature short clips packed with vivid animation, action sequences, scenes of characters posing, “powering up” and doing other cool-looking things, with occasional lyric sync but primarily relying on internal sync and transitions that blur the line between where one clip ends and another begins. They’re neither “action” nor “dance” videos, not strictly speaking. But at their best they can feel like a cross between both, which is probably why I couldn’t resist this one.

None of this was running through my head the first time I watched “Rostrogen 2,” probably because I wasn’t aware of how it might have been fitting or defying the conventions of these kind AMVs. Instead, I was simply caught up in its exuberant spirit and in the scale of the presentation, which made it one of those rare viewing experiences that wasn’t only surprisingly enjoyable, but genuinely joyful. This was not simply because of its positive and celebratory tone, but because it struck a chord in me that I’d never really felt from an AMV before, one that made me reconsider the limits of what the whole medium was even capable of emotionally evoking. Not sure if it’s inspired me to make anything that’s even remotely as affecting or technically impressive, but if I had to pick a single catalyst for why I started editing, it would probably be this AMV.

Since then, I’ve grown a little weary of AMVs that follow this blueprint, particularly as they’ve come to rely more and more on masked transitions — a technique that, in most cases, I absolutely hate for reasons I cannot explain — and the bulk lifting of clips from various opening and ending sequences, a choice that has always struck me as substitute for creative scene selection and a way for editors to cheaply stamp their name on something that’s already well-recognized and designed to trigger viewers’ emotions and memories. Maybe I’m just bitter that, more often than not, these are the AMVs that viewers seem to respond most positively to. Whether that’s reality or just my skewed perception of it, I’m not sure. Should I be taking Youtube and /r/AMV seriously? Who knows! I do know that “Rostrogen 2” still resonates with me today, or at least as much as it still can while I’m sitting here at my computer in my pajamas.

It’s been a while since I’ve had an actual “okay what did I just watch?”-moment quite like this. This isn’t music that I ever expected to hear in a Serial Experiments Lain AMV, and the sensation of contextual disorientation (?) that kicked in around the 0:28 mark was a feeling that my brain honestly had no idea what to do with.

And yet, this is still a fairly standard (though well-edited) Lain AMV, at least in terms of its composition and clip selection. And what kind of music was I expecting to hear in this? A quick skim through the Org — which is probably a reasonably accurate database of almost all of the Lain AMVs out there, seeing how the series’ popularity predated the rise of Youtube — brings up a seemingly-random list of artists from nearly any genre (except rap and country, as usual). I haven’t completely read through all of it and don’t plan on doing so but I’m confident there’s nothing else quite as upbeat and jammy-sounding as this anywhere in there.

Since posting this almost five years ago and having it accepted at a pretty big contest, it appears that its creator never made another AMV. Sounds familiar…

So I actually heard this song playing in a pub last night and took it as a sign, as good as excuse as any to post this AMV, which I guess was sort of controversial back in its time or something. Nothing to say about this one that won’t take the fun out of it for anyone who’s never seen it. Maybe “fun” is a relative term here.

If you love Big Big Truck’s “Failed Experiments in Video Editing” and are craving another classic pre-Youtube meta-AMV, XStylus (who apparently never made another AMV after this one) has got you covered. I know that watching a 6+ minute AMV is a daunting task but you can do it!

If you’re a stickler for the unspoken rules of tasteful editing and flawless footage, you may want to skip this AMV. As for myself, the apparent disregard for those time-tested hallmarks of quality (not) on display here somehow makes it more enjoyable. That’s not to say that I don’t care how a video looks, or that repetitive effects have never ruined a good AMV for me. It’s just that, once in a while, an AMV brings something to the table that really gets it into your good graces despite any “flaws” that it might have. Maybe it’s an anime series you love, or music that you really like. In this case, the second I found out there was an AMV set to “Percolator,” I was sure I was going to love it. That’s precisely the kind of positive prejudice that annoys me when it concerns other people who set their standards aside anytime they encounter a video that uses something that they like. It’s funny how that suddenly doesn’t apply to myself, isn’t it?

I don’t know if “Percolator” was ever any kind of hit outside of Chicago — the big city I’ve always called my own despite never living less than a half hour’s drive away — or if anyone really knew about it when it came out. It was a really weird song to hear on the radio but there it was. I honestly don’t know if this song was ever a hit outside of Chicago. I don’t how people felt about it back then and I can’t imagine how people might feel about it now. I expect that there’s no small amount of listeners who love getting down to Green Velvet tech-house sets — which are perfectly timed with when I leave work for the long drive home every Saturday night — who would mistake this kind of raw-sounding production for technical incompetence. I never felt that way, not even when I was a kid, which sorta makes me feel like I’m part of some special club, which is nonsense, of course. It’s nostalgia, I’m sure, but it’s different from the usual kind of media consumption-associated memories that I normally feel about this stuff and the shared experiences I had around it with other people. It was more personal than that but that’s as close as I’ll come to trying to describe it, assuming that my memories about these kind of things can really be trusted in the first place.

It’s tempting to say that viewers might misunderstand this AMV for the same kind of reasons that EDM fans might scoff at actual Chicago house music. But that’s not very fair to people who, despite their best efforts, can’t help but feel a little nauseous while watching this. Maybe it’s a case of sensory overload. Or maybe it’s just another instance where I find myself attracted to things that most normal people find irritatingly objectionable. It’s like the PTC testing strips, which tasted terrible to everyone in my high school biology class except for me. I definitely don’t think that this AMV is epilepsy fuel but I recognize the fact that some viewers simply won’t be able to make it all the way through.

Up to this point I’ve spent a lot of time talking about other people’s opinions instead of the video itself. Ultimately it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it. But whether or not you’re a seasoned editor or a beginner, a casual fan of AMVs or a discerning collector (who’ve been a slowly-dying breed for nearly a decade now), you know the unspoken rules that are supposed to be followed. Never upscale your footage, don’t make a video with inconsistent aspect ratios, only use video ripped from DVDs, etc. The rules aren’t a guide to making a masterpiece, but they’ll at least give your project the potential (however small) to become one.

All that collected wisdom goes right out the window for this AMV, edited nearly ten years ago by setalone. The basic effects used in this video, which I won’t attempt to describe, just work for me. Probably not on their own and maybe not with any other song in the world, but the internal sync between them, the track’s bouncy baseline, unpolished beats and love-it/hate-it “melody,” makes for an unexpectedly hypnotic experience. Or at least it has for me. I have more important things to do than write this entry while it plays on a loop in another window, but seeing how I’m kind of in a trance, they might have to wait.

Essentially, I don’t think this is a truly great AMV, at least not in a traditional sense. The lip sync, possibly not even necessary, doesn’t always hit the mark. While I think the at-times low-quality footage is somewhat fitting for such a raw and gritty-sounding song, the end product could probably have been improved by using DVD-quality footage. There’s jagged aliasing in static shots that has no place in any AMV. But for whatever reason, I don’t care. Maybe I’m burned out on HD quality AMVs where every cut and effect is applied with sublime precision and want to go back to a simpler time? Maybe I want this AMV to be better than it is. I love it, but is that because of how it’s edited or because of the simple fact that even it exists at all? Even by the anything-goes standards of the mid-2000s, this shouldn’t have ever been made (let alone archived for posterity), and the fact that it indeed was is still amazing to me. It doesn’t appear to have ever been popular, which is unfortunate but understandable. It would be nice if more people would watch weird AMVs like this. Better still would be more people editing weird AMVs made in the same spirit that toe the line between being ridiculously creative and potentially-disastrous. Either way, the results are bound to be entertaining.

When I first got into AMVs, it was solely as a viewer. I definitely wanted to get join in and make my own videos, but for a few reasons — technical and financial — I had to put that idea on hold for a couple of years. But I still enjoyed downloading and watching AMVs, and although it seems like an unnecessary hassle today, I enjoyed writing reviews about them. More specifically, they were “opinions,” which is how editors used to get feedback from viewers on the Org back in the pre-Youtube days. I tried to put a lot of thought into what I was writing, which was never difficult because I really relished the opportunity and always had a lot to say in terms of praise, criticism, or general observations. I’d regularly pump out paragraphs and paragraphs of this stuff with little effort at all.

I like this Tsuritama AMV. But I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is that I like about it, or what separates it from all the other AMVs I’ve seen that follow the same blueprint. I think it’s well-edited but I don’t know how to expand on that. My basis for forming opinions about these things is stuck in the mindset of the now-obsolete Org opinion format, where categories like “visual” and “audio” are no longer relevant given how easy it’s become to obtain high-quality footage with almost none of the knowledge that was previously required to get started.

I think this is a well-paced AMV that flowed pretty well from beginning to end. I think the song is a good choice for this series and that this wasn’t a coincidence, but a factor that the editor took into consideration. Sometimes you can just tell these things. This AMV is a good summary of the series (with spoilers) and one that really captures the spirit of it. I know that doesn’t matter in itself, but it’s the sort of thing I always appreciate. Maybe it’s actually more difficult to recontextualize anime clips into something that feels completely different than their original source, but I suppose neither approach is necessarily better than the other. This kind of AMV isn’t very original, but it wouldn’t be fair to hold that against it. Some of my favorite AMVs are obvious knockoffs of other AMVs. Perhaps I should have watched this a few more times before trying to write anything at all about it, but I’ve been really busy over the past few weeks and it’s not going to let up any time soon. Hopefully I’ll be able to allocate some free time into editing and not mindlessly browsing the Internet. After all, I’d like to be able to make at least one AMV that people would enjoy as much as this one.

At first, I was sure this AMV (edited by Os2) wasn’t going anywhere and almost gave up on it.

It wasn’t even two minutes later that I realized I’d made a terrible prejudgement and that I was witnessing what was probably the essential Watamote AMV. And I mean that on so many levels.

I roll my eyes at everything EDM/nu-dubstep but then I remember there was a time that I really loved everything about this and that a small part of me still does.



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