I used to be really into making lists, especially at year’s end when I couldn’t help but join in as all my favorite magazines, websites and (especially) fellow Internet-posters would tally up their favorite music and films of the past twelve months. This was an annual ritual for me that I’d always put a ridiculous amount of preparation into, and the satisfaction of completing a lengthy list that I felt strongly about was, justified or not, a really satisfying sensation. In hindsight, I think this was a big waste of time but realistically I can’t think of anything else I’d have been doing instead that I wouldn’t say the same about. I’ve been busier than ever over the last two years, which has lead to a decline in the efforts that I put into this sort of thing and left me feeling like I’m doomed to become one of those people who gives up trivial stuff he enjoys because of… life? Even more detrimental to my regular list-making impulse was the breakdown of most of the Internet communities that played a huge part in motivating it in the first place. It’s hard to keep a message board going strong for over a decade, but the departure of key members, technical breakdowns and awful moderation (completely cutting off new members is a death sentence for any forum) slowly but surely whittled down my favorite board into a pathetic shell of its former self that signaled the death knell of its usual end-of-year music polls, which had all but become the engine for keeping the board going in the first place. For lack of a better term, general list-fatigue probably wore me out on doing this more than anything else, though.

I’d put the same effort into making lists for movies, but here’s where time and money really became a limiting factor into what I could do. Looking back on 2015, almost every movie I saw in theaters was a big studio release, and our regular trips to the city to see hard-to-find films were all but put on hold. What was my favorite movie of 2015? Inside Out? Star Wars? Those were legitimately good films, but not enough to justify making a list. And putting albums aside — my top 50 is a shaky top 10 this year — putting together my usual singles/songs list didn’t even cross my mind this year. I’ve heard all of two songs on this list and I’m afraid to dig any deeper to see how out of touch I’ve actually become at this point.

My AMV-viewing habits are kind of unusual and help to ensure that I probably miss out on a lot of good stuff every year (which I’m okay with if that means finding it next year or eventually even later). Half the time I spend watching AMVs is re-watching old favorites or digging through old videos of years past for forgotten gems or horrid-yet-fascinating disasters. Still, there were a lot of great videos released this year that I feel compelled to recognize in some way. This isn’t and could never be anything close to the list and commentary compiled by CrackTheSky over on his blog. And due to the effort he put into his list and the overall redundancy of my own selections, I wasn’t sure if there was any point to me posting a list of my own at all. And yet, here it is, not an extensive BEST AMVS OF ALL TIME 2015 manifesto, but a quick review of what I enjoyed most and hopefully a few words about the how and the why of it all. This is only a top ten, and since a short list dominated by a handful of names wouldn’t have been very fun, I’m limiting this to one video per editor. No countdown tension here: these are in alphabetical order because I’d rather get this done quickly than fuss over the order of it.

The Creepening
editor: Chikasole
anime: The Flowers of Evil
song: Jaymes Young – “Two More Minutes”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bu7Lj6_ngs
So yeah, usually I won’t watch a video if it features a title I haven’t already seen. I’m super-paranoid about spoilers when it comes to anything that I have even the mildest interest in eventually watching, and I’m sure this video is full of them. But rules are made to be broken, right? This is probably the coolest video I watched in 2015, which is probably a weird impression to have of something so unabashedly disturbing. I could do without the text — pleasing to the eye as it is — but there’s else nothing I’d want to change about this video. Howard Hawks’ quote about what makes a good movie (“Three good scenes. No bad ones.”) surely applies to this AMV; there’s too many memorable moments to list, which is usually what you get whenever there’s such a perfect synthesis of mood and seemingly effortless sync in every sense of the word.

Death Grips x Serial Experiments Lain AMV
editor: Bry__
anime: Serial Experiments Lain
song: Death Grips – “Hacker”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znzKqRF5c04
The continued exponential growth of Youtube has safely ensured that we all have enough videos to watch for a lifetime. This is true even speaking strictly of AMVs, a fact I came to grips with long ago but never understood the importance of until now. Even with a handful of giant channels dominating the site (and sometimes attempting to profit off it), there are still a number of self-contained microscenes with almost no connection to them, not to mention the Org, the convention circuit, or any of the expected hubs of activity in the hobby.  The “candy” AMV scene is probably the most notable of these (try as they may to ape and eclipse some of the best-known AMVs out there), while on the fringe, fans of vaporwave (a genre I feel extremely ambivalent about for reasons I don’t have room to ramble on about here) continue to mine the past for incidental brilliance like it’s still 2011. Occasionally, this takes the form of AMVs, ones which usually revel in repetition, slow-pacing and an aesthetic that’s too complicated to try to explain in a brief blurb like this, but has little to do with mirroring the styles and trends of popular editing.

This AMV (frustratingly untitled, as so many videos seem to be these days) comes from an editor working squarely within that scene, but amps up the effort past the typical aimless drifting or 90s fetishization you’d expect by several orders of magnitude. There’s nothing “vaporwave” about music from a band like Death Grips and Bry__ cuts this video with the pace that you’d probably expect with it. It’s a jarring four-and-a-half minutes that wrings every bit of ominous weirdness out of of Serial Experiments Lain, works it into a rhythmic fit of gltchy footage and anything-goes effects and splatters you right in the face with it. There have been plenty of AMVs that run Lain through the meat grinders of nu-metal or Matrix-club trance, but this is the first rap AMV I’ve seen for the series and it’s also one of the best, period.

Follow My Lead
editor: Koopiskeva
anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Baka and Test
song: Girl’s Day – “Female President”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtuS2YGZM9w
I don’t care how many AMVs you’ve made or what software you’ve mastered in the process, none of that can fully prepare anyone to make something like this. Even with all the care in the world devoted to crafting a set, lighting it, and actually using photography in a video (to say nothing of the tedious work of accurately matching the choreography of the original video to a frightening degree), there was never any guarantee that any of this was even going to work. But the synthesis of live action with animated clips feels completely natural, integrated so smoothly that you’ve got to wonder if viewers might’ve overlooked it altogether (anyone who still needs convincing or craves a different experience should check out the all-dance version of the video). At this point, it was hard to imagine how an editor like Koopiskeva — wait, are there any others? — might return after such a long hiatus. He may not have topped himself here, but pulling off something as completely unexpected as this may have been an even bigger challenge with an even bigger reward: a rare AMV with no true precedent and a completely unique viewing experience.

Get Better
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: The Tatami Galaxy
song: Bleachers – “Get Better”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uyQYeTt-Vc
Honestly, Victims of the Night was my favorite CrackTheSky AMV of last year and I was looking forward to writing about it here. Tragically, it seems to have been removed from Youtube, or at least blocked in our part of the world, so I’m posting the also-amazing Get Better here in its place. But I’ll mention Victims of the Night anyway because I have a real anecdote that I wanted to share and I don’t want it to go to waste! We saw the video as part of the AMV contest at Anime Central, and although it didn’t win, it elicited the most enthusiastic response from the audience, surely none of whom showed up expecting to watch a Kimagure Orange Road video. On the ride home that night, my girlfriend commented out of the blue about how much she’d enjoyed it, despite having zero familiarity with the anime or even the song. One of the first videos to use “Shut Up and Dance” (preceding dozens or perhaps hundreds of others, all of which have been removed from Youtube save for those featuring cover versions of the song or the most grotesquely pitch-shifted versions of the original you could possibly imagine), Victims of the Night was definitely “old school” but felt every bit as vibrant as any brand new 1080p dance video. I know that reads like blurb hyperbole but I assure you it is not.

Having actually seen The Tatami Galaxy and knowing its story and themes, Get Better presented itself to me with meanings and a familiarity that I can’t bring to Victims of the Night, so fairly comparing the two is kind of impossible for me right now. Get Better isn’t necessarily better or worse but it feels staggeringly bigger, not simply in the sense of using a newer and more vibrant-looking source, but in how it pairs the anime and the song together to tell a story, deliver a lighthearted but sincerely hopeful message and invoke a genuinely cathartic response. So yeah, the lyric sync in this AMV is some of the best I’ve seen in a while, and the internal sync brings the whole thing to life in a way that elevates it beyond there mere act of pairing an anime with a suitable song and hitting all the beats.

It’s hard enough edit a single AMV that’s really great; only a couple of editors were able to do that more than once last year (PieandBeer, UnluckyArtist, Copycat Revolver, to name a few). As prolific and consistently great as those editors were (and still are!), I feel like the half-dozen (or so) AMVs released by CrackTheSky over the last twelve months represented a prodigious creative tear that was on a whole other level. I haven’t seen all of the videos he made before 2015 (there are quite a few!) but those I have seen are very good. Still, what he did last year amounted to the kind of big leap that you can count yourself lucky to witness up-close if you ever get the chance.

I’m Alive!
editor: Hirou Keimou
anime: Your Lie in April
song: Magic Man – “Texas”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPhXHhSu8No
I started writing a blog entry on Your Lie in April a few months ago, and I doubt I’ll ever finish it because it’s really gotten out of control and I don’t think I can rein it back in at this point. I’d love it if I could just talk about the series itself but instead I keep trying to talk about how it made me feel and why I related to it and why it is that I might feel that way and whether that’s a good or a bad thing and whether or not that matters… I don’t remember where I left off at this point but unless I have a burst of inspiration coupled with a temporary block in whatever self-consciousness is (probably wisely) holding me back, it’s probably never going to get posted.

One issue I keep digging into is the angst and tribulation experienced by the main characters, and how a viewer could “enjoy” watching such a depiction. Even if there’s an appetite for empathy at work here, I hesitate to bring that up as a valid emotional response to the series because I feel like it risks cheapening the emotional impact of the story. Sometimes feeling bad for someone else (in fiction, ideally) actually feels good! I’ve done a horrible job of explaining this in a few sentences, but what it boils down to is that I’d usually prefer watching a story about people in distress than one that’s all about comfort and happiness, so obviously this sort of thing is my bag, baby.

So it’s funny how this AMV emphasizes the happiness and fulfillment experienced by the characters, and has really made me call into question whether or not that was the whole point of the series in the first place. I’m Alive! does not turn the whole series on its head or put any kind of “positive” spin on its events. It’s simply optimistic and hopeful and, while not omitting the conflicts in the story, captures the series at its most joyful. This shouldn’t seem like such a radically unexpected move, and maybe it isn’t at all, but it’s so different from my personal perspective that it feels like a revelation.

Knucklehead McSpazatron
editor: Nellogs
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
song: Two Door Cinema Club – “Undercover Martyn”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5mrMSq6xk0
This video still feels very new to me, but I have a feeling that I’ll still be watching it years from now. Lord only knows how many Evangelion AMVs I’ve seen at this point. Even some of my favorites have been derivative. It’s all been done! Or so I thought before I watched this. No one is ever going to ask me what anime music videos are or ask me to show them one as an example, but if they did, this would probably be the one I’d reach for (pray this never actually happens, it would inevitably turn out really weird for both us). Heck, will someone who knows what they’re doing just embed this at the top of this entry?  We need to reclaim achievements like this as a universal reminder of what this medium can accomplish.

Magical Morphin Power Rangers
editor: UnluckyArtist
anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
song: Ron Wasserman – “Go, Go Power Rangers”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5OJL22UiNU
“Parody” has never been my favorite AMV genre, but who doesn’t love a well-done movie trailer or television opening? This video not only succeeds by nailing a source combo that’s instantly recognizable, but is expertly-crafted to make a seamless product that’s convincing enough to stand on its own.

Neapolitan
editor: Copycat_Revolver
anime: various
song: Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ie_Y0A2xXoU
You’re on your own with this one. What does it all mean? That’s up to you to decide.

Oneiro
editor: PieandBeer
anime: Paprika
song: Beck – “Dreams”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyvTBGrkqo0
No AMV on this list grew on me over time quite like this one, which I certainly enjoyed the first time I watched it but didn’t give much credit to. Paprika is a movie with so many cool scenes and I’ve seen it featured in a few AMVs that played out like simple compilations of its most psychedelic and twisted visuals. That’s cool and everything, but never leaves much an impression on me. In the hands of a lesser editor, maybe that’s the kind of video Oneiro would have been, but PieandBeer syncs nearly every shot in a way that’s purposeful in hooking the viewer and bringing the film and the song into a synthesis that feels like it was meant to be. This was the first time I heard “Dreams” and now I can’t ever listen to the song without thinking about this AMV (as a bonus, PieandBeer’s audio edit shaves the song down to its most essential parts; even the radio edit of this song goes on for a minute too long). Paprika isn’t an old movie, but it’s refreshing to see someone pluck it out of the “old” sources pile and really do something exciting with it.

Paper Farewell
editor: shumira_chan
anime: Video Girl Ai
song: A-Ha – “Take on Me”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkkB7nIZsSY
It only took a few seconds of cutting through those comic book manga pages in the opening of this AMV for me to get goosebumps, but I’ve always adored this song’s original music video. This isn’t a remake of that video but a reimagining of sorts using clips from Video Girl Ai. I haven’t seen that anime and although I know it was something of a big deal when it was made, I can only presume that its true purpose was to eventually end up in this AMV because shumira_chan fits it into “Take on Me”‘s narrative so naturally. With an iconic early-90s anime and probably the essential 80s song, brought together into an AMV that resembles a lost early-2000s classic (all aged in the best possible way), this AMV is a nostalgia bomb that crosses generations and will leave you wondering when it was actually made. This isn’t a novelty, though, but one of several videos released last year by a very talented editor that I hope gives us even more to watch in 2016. edit: I now see that this video is not from 2015 and is actually at least 5 years old. Oops!

Because I already posted my favorite David Bowie AMV some time ago, here’s another that’s not as good but sits right on the edge of good-ness and actually dips its toes in from time to time. It’s six-and-half minutes long so that’s a lot more toe-dipping than you’d expect. Go figure, it’s also another Evangelion video, too.

Of all the David Bowie nostalgia everyone’s indulging in today, I’m pretty sure that almost no one but myself is taking the time to revisit this song. Bowie’s late-90s foray into drum and bass is rarely mentioned as one of his many phases and is mostly remembered as a footnote to his career. But damn, I really love this song. The drum breaks, built from scratch by his band and re-arranged during the recording, carry an urgency and complexity that ought to be reserved for only the most classic tracks of yore. And the shredding on this song is ridiculous. Why can’t this stand up next to any of his hits?

I really love Evangelion, maybe that’s all there is to this AMV but I don’t care.

It’s probably best to just sit back and take this video for what it is and not to analyze it too closely, but of course that’s what these entries are all be about, so once again I’ll go ahead and suck the joy out of another AMV that I really like. I say “really like” because I don’t actually love this video. And unlike a lot of “flawed” AMVs on my hypothetical personal favorites list, I don’t think that its imperfections add to its character or give it a human touch or whatever. Tighter editing in general could have done this video a lot of good. But I could also say that about anything I’ve ever edited.

This was the only AMV that zenjamon ever made, and like a lot of first-time efforts, it’s a single-source video made up of a series of clips pulled from a narrow selection of scenes that play out in lengthy cuts. This approach usually doesn’t lead to surprising results, and whether or not it does here, I won’t venture to say. But like I said, I really like this video and despite its simple take on the marriage of pastoral fantasy with “chillout” music, I think it pulls off the pairing better than almost any other AMV that I’ve seen like it, not by digging deep into a source and juxtaposing clips from it in a complicated or unexpected way, but simply laying them out in a linear arrangement without too much fuss. I try not to use the word “lazy” for this approach (as I used to in the past) because it’s impossible to really know the mindset of an editor or how much effort they may have spent on a video, even after a careful analysis of the finished product. It’s also a misleading value judgement that shouldn’t exist; I can think of more than a few work-intensive, meticulously-composed AMVs that I strongly dislike and just as many simple and quickly-edited AMVs that I’ve found great pleasure in. I’m being totally honest about that, and yet… that video you just spent a whole 3 hours editing is something I’m probably going to view with hesitation, if I even watch it at all. I’m still hopelessly prejudiced against these kind of AMVs, which always need to “prove” themselves to me in a way that slicker efforts from more experienced editors really don’t.

I guess what I’m getting at is the feeling that a good “simple” AMV is the exception to the rule, which is surely some of the most commonly-accepted nonsense out there. I’ve had this AMV on a loop for a half-hour and am still enjoying it, and while I do honestly wonder how this video was made and how much time went into it, I doubt that knowing would change how I feel when I’m watching it. Don’t get me wrong, I did think about how it could have been improved with better-quality video. Little did I know I wasn’t alone: one editor decided to remake the entire AMV using HD footage. It’s largely a shot-for-shot remake, although a careful viewing will reveal small deviations, including new scenes and a somewhat loose interpretation of zenjamon’s original sync in terms of the exact position of the cuts. I’m not sure whether the slight changes improve the AMV or not, but the visual upgrade is undeniably marred by the skewed AR, which supplants the relaxing, healing vibe of the original AMV with a subtle sense of unease and discord. Few people in my life seem bothered by this sort of thing, so there’s a chance that most viewers won’t even notice, but I’m afraid I’ll have to stick to the original 144p Youtube version for now.

 

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!

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