This is definitely going to be an entry short on substance, one I just feel like posting for the sake of acknowledging that, yes, this actually happened and boy does it feel weird to look back on from a distance of over a decade.

Released only a month after YouTube.com was activated and opened to the public, “Project REM Sleep” wasn’t the one of the biggest or most unique multi-editor AMV projects to come out of the mid 2000s, nor was it the most technically-savvy or impressive video in its time, to say nothing of how it looks fourteen years after its debut. It’s been all but forgotten today, but it’s an interesting time capsule worth revisiting, if only to get a sense of what AMV culture was like at the time and to catch a glimpse of what an average AMV might have looked like smack dab in the middle of that decade. If you’re curious about or nostalgic for the golden age of AMVs and want an unfiltered sample of what it was like (not necessarily reflected in any of the most popular videos from the time that the average anime fan might know about today), this project is as honest of a sample as you’re going to find.

My fascination with this video–presented here only in part on YouTube, perhaps a relic of the early years of the site when uploading longer videos came with significant restrictions–hinges on my past obsession with and current apathy towards the music of REM, a feeling which pretty much mirrors how their legacy has changed over the years (if not for all of the reasons that kids today generally don’t care or know about them much at all). It shouldn’t be surprising that a band whose biggest successes came throughout the 80s and 90s wasn’t really able to ride that wave into and through the 00s, certainly not any more surprising than, say, how Grand Funk Railroad wasn’t really building a fanbase through the era of grunge and gangsta rap. None of this prevents this from still feeling tremendously weird to me, just because I remember when this band was very popular, hearing them on the radio, seeing kids at school wearing their t-shirts, watching their videos on MTV at friends’ houses (no, we didn’t have cable, truly a double-edged sword for a kid who would have watched the shit out of it every day if he had), etc. This is all natural nostalgia talking, probably completely incomprehensible to anyone under 30 and old hat nonsense to anyone over 50. I turn 40 tomorrow and it’s… probably no big deal but certainly a weird thing to think about as I continue to dabble away my days mining the bowels of all things youth culture past and present for… I don’t really know, to be honest.

Hard to say if REM was ever The Biggest Rock Band In The World or not, a title that might have been perpetually out of their reach thanks to U2 and Nirvana. Still, despite their humble indie roots (way before such a thing was remotely marketable) and lack of any discernible image, they had four top ten hits and were central to alternative rock from before it even had a name all the way until that very name lost all its meaning. The landscape of post-grunge, mall punk and nu metal didn’t leave them much wiggle room for a proper third act in their career, but then again, how many bands really get one in rock and roll? This was the state of REM as the ridiculously prolific OtakuForLife organized this MEP in late 2004, recruiting a handful of editors to “[use] the power of REM and a ton of shows.” In terms of technical quality, the MEP is all over the place, but considering the challenges associated with organizing such a project in 2004–actual comment on the audio from an aspiring participant: “I wish I could hear the mix but that filesize of 88.8 mb would take over 9 hours to send and bleh.”–just getting it finished in a couple of months was a major accomplishment in itself.

The entire MEP can be downloaded from animemusicvideos.org. I pity the viewer who actually does so without either knowing what they’re getting into or at least understanding just a little bit about why I find old videos like this as fascinating as I do. Obviously, this AMV suffers from the sort of inconsistency that plagues most MEPs, only heightened by the digital divide of knowledge and resources that made breaking into the hobby a much more tedious challenge back in the 00s than it’s been throughout this decade. There are varying frame sizes and other technical issues here that were likely just easier to ignore than attempt to rectify, and I imagine that getting the video done required a certain amount of compromise that wouldn’t fly quite so well today. But even in the disjointed sense of flow that these problems contribute to, it’s charming to soak in the variety of ideas and sources that each editor chooses to work with (a compliment that probably sounds way more condescending than I intended it to). Yes, this looks and feels very different than most MEPs that are made today, not simply because of the age of the sources but the unpredictability and stylistic shifts that occur from segment to segment. I’m not writing this entry to express my preferences in the battle of old versus new, just acknowledging that things have changed and… maybe that’s okay.

The yellow cassette I had of Automatic For the People unexpectedly blew classmates’ minds when I bought it into school in eighth grade for an English assignment (the last tape I ever bought, I think). Yes, that’s all I’ve got for today.

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I said I wasn’t going to do one of these again, but here we are. One last entry on a couple of cool videos I missed out on last year but can’t live without.

Robots in Motion
editor: Allaire
anime: Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
music: Racoon Racoon – “Young Wolves”

Despite its beautiful animation, sparkling with the sort of retro charm that’s a lost art in the world of pure CGI we’ve been living in for most of this century, not to mention its unique approach to worldbuilding, non-traditional or at least unexpected characters and a plot that’s so actually slice-of-life that it makes most modern titles in the genre feel like contrived and busy sitcoms by comparison, there really haven’t been very many AMVs made from the Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou OVAs. Then again, most OVAs released in the late 90s and early 2000s are just as commonly overlooked by AMV editors today, assuming they weren’t already given a pass when they were fresh and new, so this probably isn’t the newsflash I’m building it up to be. Since watching YKK and its sequel (Quiet Country Cafe) last year, I’ve found a handful of great AMVs cut from its four episodes: BarnardNG’s “A Lonely Fairy,” kyle_m’s “Yokohama Weather Report” and ImoodyI’s “sun set” all use the beautiful visuals to great effect in crafting thoughtful mood pieces that reflect YKK’s quiet tone and unhurried sense of wonder. Even this week, a new YKK AMV appeared in my feed that I’m sure I’ll get around to discussing at some point in the near future. Allaire’s “Robots in Motion” is different from all of these works, however, in that it doesn’t lean into the mysterious and post-apocalyptic themes of the series, not only eschewing the ambient, chilled out tone of those videos–an approach which I generally seek out and enjoy on the whole to a very biased degree, and am very surprised to find myself actually enjoying a pivot away from–but viewing the series in more grounded, human terms, structuring the AMV around a traditional song and exploring more universal interpersonal themes. It’s an approach that somehow feels conventional or even “safe” but yields an intimately emotional return on the material that I’ve never experienced before.

Like its source material, “Robots in Motion” is intensely unhurried and curiously inviting, its scenes depicting a world stripped of modernity and its stressful social trappings. I suppose I’m at a point where I’m inclined to describe most AMV editing as “simple” so long as it doesn’t involved a great deal of effects or unconventional, highly-stylized cuts, and Allaire’s approach to threading together a handful of vignettes between the two main characters of this AMV certainly fits this “simple” descriptor. “Robots in Motion” is composed of mostly straight cuts, occasional soft crossfades and zooms and pans so slow and subtle that it’s really impossible for me to tell if they were even a product of the editing process at all without going back and watching the original OVAs scene by scene. AMVs like this hammer home the fact that I’m overthinking and probably oversyncing most of what I’m trying to edit myself these days. It is perfectly fine and sometimes essential to just slow down and let the scenes breathe in a space where emotions have room to echo. Or something like that. Appreciating the humanity of this video might seems like an odd takeaway, but I think fans of these OVAs will understand exactly what that means.

Sora
editor: moezychan
anime: Kemono no Souja Erin
music: Kaida Yuki – “Roku Tousei”

The feeling of getting caught up in an AMV and realizing you have absolutely no idea what anime you’re watching is one of those delights that I used to enjoy all the time when I was first getting into this hobby. Naturally, watching more and more anime over the years (and more and more AMVs) has rendered this experience less and less common. But with more anime being released than ever, surely I’d be revisiting this experience on a regular basis for a long time to come. Right? For a number of possible reasons, that doesn’t seem to be the case. So coming across an AMV like this, beautifully featuring a title I’ve never seen much less even heard of, is one of those too rare instances that both cautiously grabs my attention and tempers my expectations (all too often, there’s immediately apparent reason why said anime has gone underutilized by editors). moezychan’s “Sora,” an AMV made from the 2009 anime Kemono no Souja Erin–based on a series of Japanese novels that somehow only just crossed the pond last year and got an English language publication–beautifully preserves a traditional (non-isekai!) fantasy anime that never hit it big in the west and doesn’t seem to be available to watch in any form outside of video piracy routes (which might as well be a graveyard of dead links at this point, for all I know). Sentimental and adventurous, there’s a genuine sense of wonder and passion in this video. Soundtracked by an opening theme to another anime that I’ve never seen (sung in Japanese, unsurprisingly), there’s not a single element of this AMV that presents me any recognizable thread for a viewer like me to grab hold of or any intertextual meaning to it that I can understand. It feels completely out of place in 2019, not only because of how it looks and feels but because I get the sense that the editor made it completely for themselves with little expectation that it would provide a return on her investment with views, likes or social validation. I love it as an upbeat and beautiful video that somehow feels huge and intimate at the same time.

A New Heart
editor: Sean.PNG
anime: Princess Tutu
music: One Republic – “Feel Again”
link: https://akross.ru/index.cgi?act=video;id=5075

Perhaps no anime has been defined by a single AMV in the way Princess Tutu was and still is. This doesn’t bode well for anyone looking to create their own AMV with the series, but thankfully this didn’t stop Sean.PNG from trying. I caught a few glimpses of “A New Heart” when it was still a work in progress, as Sean.PNG would occasionally livestream some of his editing sessions. Even though I enjoyed it in its unfinished state, for some reason I never rushed to watch it when it was finally released in full and it kind of just fell off my radar until a couple of months ago. This was a shame, as it’s really one of the most moving drama videos I’ve seen in… a long time.

I don’t mean to imply that this AMV moved me to tears–perhaps still never having seen Princess Tutu had a lot to do with this, a problem I’m working on solving–but that the editor absolutely nails all the critical points in the song, squeezing every ounce of emotion out of these scenes when it matters most. The result feels tragic, hopeful, romantic in the capital and lower case sense of the word, somehow never sappy and certainly never boring. “A New Heart” is another fantastic work from an editor I really need to stop taking for granted.

Arsonist’s Lullabye
editor: Cneq
anime: Boku no Hero Academia
music: Hozier – “Arsonist’s Lullabye”
link: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=203863

Why this video, out of all the My Hero Academia AMVs that were released last year, somehow got through to me when so many others didn’t, I really have no idea. My expectations for this weren’t exactly optimistic, as this song (and most others I’ve heard from this artist in other editors’ AMVs) would seem to set the table for yet another dour, overly-serious take on one of my favorite series. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that approach, and given how I actually enjoy My Hero Academia at its most serious, it’s strange that I would be turned away by edits that explore that very same mood. Maybe I’m just burned out on this approach, but somehow Cneq’s work squarely within that emotional space, with little compositional variance from most comparable works in the same vein, just seems to stick and make the world-weary, tragic tone of the material feel strangely earned and unexpectedly palpable.

Can You Feel It?
editor: Silent Hero Studios
anime: Little Witch Academia
music: Sheppard – “Geronimo”

Long before I ever watched this AMV, I despised this song. I was irritated by its unconvincing positivity, which probably says more about me than the song itself, although I’m willing to admit that my response was spawned by having to hear the chorus for this song in some awful television commercial (for iced tea or vacations or something, idk) that was constantly airing three or four years ago. I could literally feel these feelings melt away as I watched this AMV, which by no means has me running out to buy a Sheppard CD or anything but feels fittingly appropriate given the way Akko wins over both her friends and enemies throughout Little Witch Academia with her positive attitude and refusal to give up. “Can You Feel It?” isn’t an unusual take on the series by any means, but it’s effectively upbeat to a degree that most other AMVs focused on the series never quite manage to achieve. The editor does a great job of keeping pace with the song, but also knows how and when to break away from simply cutting on predictable points. I was already on board with everything he was doing through the first verse and chorus, but the faster cuts that are suddenly introduced at the 1:08 and 2:03 mark just took this video to the next level for me. The version of this I watched at a convention had no onscreen lyrics or text (not that it even bothers me all that much in the YouTube version), a fact I want to point out lest anyone think that I didn’t notice or that the editor doesn’t care.

This entire blog entry was inspired by watching Kazu’s “Can’t Hold Us,” a video I was extremely impressed by but eventually felt so ambivalent about that I spent several paragraphs praising it only to tear it down and eventually find myself feeling completely uncertain about how I felt about it at all. Deleting every sentence of that to acknowledge the raw joy “Can You Feel It?” instead was a no-brainer and I hope it’s obvious why.

After the passing of David Bowie and Prince, I hastily knocked out some entries here dedicated to AMVs made with their songs. Though it’s the sort of unfortunate prompt that I was sure I’d return to eventually, it’s not something I was planning on making a regular habit out of. The death of Keith Flint last week did not seem like an occasion for me to talk about Prodigy AMVs, partially because I’d already done this, partially because I always thought of The Prodigy as literally Liam Howlett and no one else. Flint was associated with Howlett from the beginning (or in the group, if you prefer), left his biggest mark on their music with his vocals at the height of their worldwide success… and I assumed (for some unknown reason) had played a much smaller role in the band in the 20+ years since then. This assumption was uninformed and incorrect. What really truly took me by surprise was the outpouring of grief and appreciation for him that I saw across social media and some of the Internet communities I participate in. I won’t say it wasn’t deserved, I just didn’t see it coming on such a scale.

Keith Flint’s death didn’t initially prompt me to write this post, but it did eventually lead me back to discovering this AMV, a multi-editor project released in 2010. It was not, as I first assumed, the Prodigy MEP organized on the Org over a decade ago that eventually sputtered out and never came to be. Except for jforce123, editor of one of my favorite AMVs ever, I was unfamiliar with everyone involved in this project. Multi-editor AMVs in 2010 were still largely focused around specific themes that would, ideally, draw editors with a common vested interest in the project, as opposed to the popular song/few guidelines mindset that most MEPs are structured around today. In this vein, “The Prodigy Gundown” is very much a pre-YouTube sort of MEP, a project with a unique sense of identity and purpose. It’s an absolutely indulgent, ugly, deranged mess of a video, but one that’s inherently more interesting and watchable than any typical post-2012 (give or take a year, idk) group project that inherently resists creativity, rewards conformity and has encouraged an extremely interchangeable style that’s spread to thousands of YouTube editors. (This is absolutely a blanket statement I should further defend, but it’s a tangent I can’t possibly contain in a few sentences and definitely not the point of this entry.)

Every segment of this video is edited in a hyperactive, high-energy style, occasionally with great precision, more often with the same kind of reckless aggression that mirrors the tone of the music. It wouldn’t be fair to describe all of the music of The Prodigy in such terms, especially tracks from the first phase of their existence (as well as kinda overlooked stuff like this), but this MEP skews heavily towards their post-Fat of the Land (1997) material, which I’ve never particularly enjoyed for more than a couple minutes at a time at most. My personal bias in this is pretty strong, as I’d always assumed that Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned (2004) and Invaders Must Die (2009) were widely recognized to be disappointing follow ups to their most popular album. My opinion on this hasn’t really changed, but I now understand that these albums have their fans, and it’s a very different, much more devoted fanbase than the one they’d first found in America in the age of electronica and “Amp.” Hence, “The Prodigy Gundown” is heavy on their 00’s material and doesn’t even get around to any of the big hits until “Breathe” and “Firestarter” finally appear halfway through. The effect initially feels disingenuous, like watching a classic rock band play a concert frontloaded with new songs that no one in the audience paid to hear. Then again, editors of this video seem to view The Prodigy as a band that really hit their stride in the 2000s rather than a product of the 1990s, which, you’ve got to hand it to them, is a unique perspective on their music that I wasn’t expecting. Their collective insistence that, yes, these songs are just as good as “Out of Space,” “Charly,” “Firestarter,” “SMBU,” etc., may initially seem ridiculous. Over the course of this fifteen minute AMV, it slowly begins to feel plausible and convincing.

Thing is, these segments are effectively edited in such a way that I actually felt like I was finally hearing these songs in the long-lost context that they were originally meant to be experienced in. Most of the video, seizure-inducing as it often is, seems to exist as the ideal visual expression of their big, dumb, often directionless rage (an easy emotion to criticize, but certain a valid one as any to explore). For example, this is the first time I’ve kind of enjoyed an AMV (or AMV segment) made using Highschool of the Dead. It’s just as gratuitously violent as any HOTD video I’ve ever seen, but it’s the first time I’ve come out feeling like I’ve watched it through the eyes of someone else who thinks it’s, like, the coolest shit in the world. I have similar feelings towards The Animatrix; I’ve never seen an AMV that recaptures the feeling of watching that film for the first time, although Nightbreak’s edit in this video comes close. It helps a lot that these segments all average about one minute, which is pretty typical of MEP projects past and present, but I really get the feeling that it’s a good fit for this video on the whole. These editors love what they’re making and it shows, but most parts would probably outrun their welcome if they played on for much longer. It’s hard for me to explain why I like most of this project as much as I do. There’s an inexplicably consistent sense of flow that runs through every part of it, broken up only by a couple of jarring audio transitions in the song mix that are quickly forgiven and forgotten. It’s not a masterpiece of MEP production, but it’s far more cohesive than it ever should have been.

It’s impossible to talk about this without at least acknowledging the segment for “Girls” (9:01-10:39), the longest single entry in the entire MEP. Although there’s a proper introductory sequence at the beginning of “The Prodigy Gundown,” there’s no end credits, so I couldn’t tell you what source is used in this part. It’s hentai in every sense of the word, somewhat censored but still the most explicit content I’ve seen on YouTube, at least since the earliest days of the site when there were no rules on what could be uploaded. Calling it “offensive” would probably be a compliment (to its credit, I guess, it does look every bit as sleazy as the song sounds), although I wonder just how many viewers who’ve stuck with it up to this point will bail out once they realize what they’re in for. I found the text and “humor” in this segment to be the least necessary, weakest part of the whole MEP, and the first time I watched it, I was sure that there was no way that the video could recover from such a sudden deviation into total smut. Where else could it go? The remaining segments don’t address this problem, just carry on with more action-themed scenes from more traditional anime, and they happen to be some of the most solid segments of the whole MEP. The final minute or so finds three editors juggling multiple sources in quick succession, perhaps a rushed solution to put the finishing touches on the whole thing, but it serves as an appropriately frantic and extremely effective climax to the video.

The cartoonish, macho aggression of The Prodigy has been (somewhat) deservedly mocked over the years, even as they are still respected as originators. Their reputation has always seemed to be in flux, at least among critics (or not!), but their relevance and popularity as a contemporary musical group is far more legitimate than I had previously thought. The zero sum decline of rock music/rise of electronic music over the last decade was a future I would have welcomed at one point in time (although the total migration of rock’s rage into dance music, obliterating the last vestiges of its PLUR idealism, was an obvious side effect I should have seen coming but never did). To no one’s surprise but my own, EDM’s normalization of violence actually turned out to have a ridiculously insidious effect on every aspect of culture it touched, to say nothing of how that actually affected individuals. Now that’s definitely a subjective opinion on my part, as is my belief that dubstep, grimy synthwave and the like never even came close to leaving a mark on the world as memorable as any of the albums or tracks from The Prodigy. Perhaps that’s just a generationally-fueled opinion, but I’m willing to bet that I’m older than anyone else involved in this MEP, not to mention lots of other people I’ve seen online who were genuinely broken up over Keith Flint’s death. In a world where music aspires to function as memes, The Prodigy is still worth remembering and re-experiencing, ideally through their music in all its sonic bluster, but certainly also through the equally respectful and irreverent interpretations of their music in this AMV. “The Prodigy Gundown” is as good of an artist-focused MEP as anything this hobby has ever produced, occasionally flawed but overrunning with enthusiasm and an edge that even a decade in the arms race of action AMVs hasn’t managed to dull.

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