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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previous entries:
favorite AMVs of 2018 (honorable mentions)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#40-31)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#30-21)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#20-11)

This is the last entry in my list of my favorite AMVs of 2018 (click on the above links to read the rest of it first if you haven’t yet). Past years’ efforts, much shorter as they were, still took longer to finish and publish than planned. No surprise that it happened again this time around (it’s a long story, you don’t want to know). I’m mentioning this not so much to complain or apologize as much as I hope this paragraph will be a good reminder to me next year when I sit down to do this again with the best of intentions.

The end of these results will be followed by short list of videos that just kinda missed the cut, good stuff I loved but couldn’t quite find room for here. If you want to imagine those videos as #41 through #50, be my guest. There will also be a link to a playlist of all the videos here. I’m watched it today while putting together furniture, it’s pretty good!

One last thing, if you like this list but want one with actual analysis instead of navel-gazing anecdotes and glittering generalities, please check out CrackTheSky’s year-end list of his favorite AMVs. There’s a number of pages to his countdown, so make sure you read them in order. Just click the link, you’ll be glad you did.

I appreciate your interest in this list and in this blog in general, every little bit of feedback is encouraging. Even just the occasional bump in views that I sometimes see while logging in to post something new is all the confirmation I need to know that this blog still isn’t quarantined from the rest of the Internet, that people are still somehow making their way here and occasionally clicking around a little bit once they’re in the door. I know people don’t really read blogs anymore and that they’d rather get their opinions and commentary from YouTube videos. You’re free to skim through these entries in the most passive way you can, but that’s still going to demand way more of your attention than throwing on someone’s video essay or review, which is probably going to be way more entertaining while also allowing you to do something else in the meantime. These half-baked blurbs and walls of text aren’t the sexiest thing you could be looking at right now, but thanks for giving them a chance.

10. I Think Loud
editor: AMVAR
anime: Serial Experiments Lain
music: SKY H1 X NUNU – “I THINK LOUD (WHY BE BLEND)”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love Serial Experiments Lain. Probably because I love the visuals of the series (the animation, Yoshitoshi ABe’s character design, etc.), I tend to enjoy Serial Experiments Lain AMVs more often than not. Am I especially receptive to them to the point where editors need not craft a perfect video to win me over? Like, just make something fittingly abstract, ideally with music I like and a concept that lets me soak in my cyberpunk Jacuzzi for awhile and I’m good to go? Then again, could it be that the source material naturally inspires editors to make decisions that match my personal taste? Does the ambiguity and mystery radiating from these scenes just repel predictable editing and motivate the sort of ideas that just gel with my tastes? I keep turning over these questions in my mind as I watch this AMV, which may look like a strange pick for me to rank quite so highly on this list (especially if this is your first time here, welcome). I really don’t know why I love this AMV as much as I do. It’s very loosely edited, but the montage style of seemingly random scenes is faithful to the spirit and ideas of Lain, or at least my personal experience and interpretation of the series. The way the images just seem to float by on top of the music just works for me (this has nothing to do with the name of the genre that this track is listed under, I swear) and helps create an unparalleled feeling that the video is going to crash or burst at the seams at any minute. This is the only AMV credited to AMVAR so far, but I’d really love to see them try this again, or anything at all.

9. Maple Leaves
editor: Bry_
anime: various
music: Jens Lekman – “Maple Leaves”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bry_’s videos are definitely AMVs, but don’t seem to draw much inspiration from anything else being made in the hobby. His early work, which I’d describe as very heavy on effects, looks comparatively raw next to his explorations in masking over the last two years. “Maple Leaves” is probably more accessible than his previous AMV, although trying to imagine a convention audience‘s reaction to an AMV with spliced in footage of Mark E. Smith serves as a reminder that this is probably pretty far from the average anime fan’s wheelhouse. In spite of that, I can’t imagine how the average AMV viewer (this blog’s favorite strawman for everything wrong in the world, come to think of it) could see this and actually find a way to take their eyes off the screen before it’s finished. “Maple Leaves” is impressive not only as a technical achievement, but in how it works against every “rule” of editing that’s out there right now. The cut and paste aesthetic of this video is the polar opposite of the visual perfection most editors strive for, deliberately or accidentally evoking a Fall album cover vibe that feels like a flipping through a homemade zine. Unpolished by design but a million miles removed from the experience of watching yet another AMV fed through the VCR grain effect to get that raw authenticity everyone’s after, “Maple Leaves” doesn’t look or feel like any AMV you’ve ever seen.

8. Sualenritsgom
editor: Elcalavero
anime: Grave of the Fireflies
music: Anna Von Hausswolff – “The Marble Eye”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=204003

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sualenritsgom” filled me with a sense of dread like I’d never experienced while watching an AMV, a feeling that only built with every passing second and left me feeling strangely uncomfortable and convicted by the scenes of Grave of the Fireflies in ways that no other AMV using the film ever has. That in itself isn’t a noteworthy accomplishment, given how most Grave of the Fireflies AMVs that I’ve seen either sentimentalize the film or literally just mock it. Elcalavero doesn’t try to change the meaning or context of any of these scenes, but his video conveys depths of pain and despair that I probably pushed back against the last time I saw this movie (a long time ago, mind you) and desperately wanted to escape from. There was no way out from it this time. I find this AMV to be an emotionally devastating watch, which is strange given how it really doesn’t lean on the film’s most disturbing scenes at all. It’s the least exploitative GotF video I’ve ever seen, and somehow the most effective.

7. Deep Blue
editor: DopplerDo
anime: Evangelion 1.11, Evangelion 2.22, Evangelion 3.33
music: MISSIO – “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tried not to make any huge understatements over the course of writing this list, so I think I’m entitled to one at this point. DopplerDo made a lot of great AMVs in 2018. I don’t know if “Deep Blue” was his best work or not, but it was the video that got me into his stuff and obsessing over when his next edit would appear in my YouTube feed. Oh yeah, it was my favorite, too. “Deep Blue” taps into the dark and moody side of the Evangelion films, succeeding as the sort of intimate, character-driven psychological study that many of my favorite Eva videos are. It somehow does this even though it’s packed front to back with intense action scenes that should snap me out of this mode but never do. The effects in this video are mostly comprised of overlaid images and crossfades, somewhat simple on the surface compared to some of his other works, but very sophisticated and subtle. This is a polished, stylish video in every way possible, but its tricks have a stealth-like quality to them that you appreciate without really noticing even as you’re watching them. I can’t imagine an Eva fan who wouldn’t connect with this, nor can I imagine anyone remotely into AMVs who wouldn’t be impressed by it on a technical or artistic level.

6. Aberration
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: Mushishi: The Next Chapter
music: James Blake – “The Wilhelm Scream”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=204124

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Dreamy” or “dreamlike” is one of those words that’s used to describe AMVs so often that it’s kind of lost its meaning. Few AMVs actually deserve it as much as “Aberration” does, a video that drapes its scenes in an ever-thickening fog of layered tracks and blur effects. While Mushishi isn’t about dreams, its stories of people’s encounters with the edges of reality as we perceive it make it a perfect subject for a video that is constantly pulling in and out of focus such as this. The effect is disorienting, perhaps like watching a video through a series of soft filters flickering in and out of the field of view. I love what this does to my brain, but I suspect no small number of viewers could have a very different experience of it. Other AMVs might highlight Mushishi‘s drama or characters better than “Aberration,” but they probably don’t channel the otherworldly weirdness of it quite so effectively.

I suppose I’m a little inconsistent on my critique of AMVs that straight up copy existing music videos, coming away less impressed by a work like “Sunlight” than pretty much everyone else who watched it and suspicious of how its mimicry was being received as inspiration (or something like that, I dunno really, this isn’t a hill I care to die on), all the while being just fine with this for the dozen-plus years that I’d known about it. This is a concerted remake of a music video, but it’s such a left-field, unexpected source of inspiration that it can’t simply pile on references that the audience has already been trained to respond to. “Aberration” isn’t a frightening watch or a difficult video, but it would rather chew you up and spit you out than try to “win” you over. If the experience leaves you feeling lost or confused, then surprise, you’re normal.

5. M0MENTS /// Follow You Down
editor: AngelMaeVictory
anime: Hunter x Hunter
music: Gin Blossoms – “Follow You Down”

 

 

 

 

 

AngelMaeVictory had a prolific 2018, releasing about thirty full-length videos on her YouTube channel. About half of them were traditional AMVs, some of which I really enjoyed. The other half of her uploads were videos in a series she titled “M0MENTS,” “because the videos here are all inspired by little and big moments of my life with the people I love.” These weren’t AMVs in the usual sense of the word, some resembling lyric videos, others featuring looped graphics, animations and recurring effects with minimal or no editing to speak of. In the description for the first two videos of the series, she specifically notes that the video you’re watching is “not an AMV.” This disclaimer was not applied to any other videos in the series, but even if it was, there’s no way it would have kept this video off of the list you’re reading right now.

I could easily write more about “M0MENTS /// Follow You Down” than anything else on this list, which might sound like an insult to so many of the other efforts here, inspired products of imagination and toil that were labored over to varying degrees that–correct me if I’m wrong, I’m just gonna go out on a limb here–this video probably wasn’t. The ridiculous simplicity of “Follow You Down” is its entire appeal, or perhaps the entire “joke” if you’re inclined to view this AMV as some kind of troll video, which I obviously don’t. In the context of the other videos in AngelMaeVictory’s “M0MENTS” playlist, it makes perfect sense and doesn’t seem strange at all. Maybe the only legitimately strange response to it at all would be to actually evaluate it as an AMV, which I’m attempting to do in a very public and embarrassing way right now. I could also make this very personal and talk about the memories this video calls to the front of my mind and how I feel about those mundane but still meaningful experiences today, but like I said, I could go into the woods on that account for thousands of words. I actually set out to do just that but came to my sense just in time.

I just wrote a long paragraph about recording songs off the radio as a kid, about the obsession and attention that was required in getting a semi-listenable copy of a song onto a cassette, about the “mixtapes” we made that had nothing to do with mixtapes as they’re romanticized as a part of hipster culture, but were these constantly-changing, low quality things that we made due with all that we had and all that we were able to catch as songs drifted past us on the radio, and we liked it that way. This was probably going to be embarrassingly cliched, so I’m not going to elaborate on it any further. While this video honestly evokes those precise memories, however embellished they might be, nostalgia alone doesn’t explain why I love it. I have not seen Hunter x Hunter and have no idea what these characters are sitting in such rapt attention and listening to, but that attention and stillness and focus on a song is something I haven’t truly experienced since my life became cluttered with a million distractions. It’s a weird paradox that I could just sit and listen to music back when I was an energetic kid, content to do little more than watching the inner reels turning round for minutes at a time, while I’m now totally consumed by the nagging feeling that there’s surely something else I’ve got to be doing with myself instead.

I’d still like to say something about my nostalgia for this song, how the scene in the middle of the AMV (you’ll know the one when you see it) actually makes perfect sense, or how most editors would apply the Ken Burns zoom to these clips and how much of a mistake that would be. I’ve barely scratched the surface of this weird video, probably the most unexpectedly affecting AMV thing I’ve ever watched, and accomplished nothing but possibly insulting other editors with my comparatively short take on their brilliant works and convincing anyone still reading this that I’ve lost my mind. If I got you to watch all of this video in the process, it was worth it.

4. Daydream | Return
editor: ZephyrStar
anime: Azumanga Daioh, Nichijou, original animation
music: The Postal Service – “Such Great Heights”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=203631

 

 

 

 

I don’t know what makes an AMV deserving of a sequel, but expressing an original concept and sense of character bodes better for a follow-up effort than popularity alone. “Daydream” was a fine enough standalone AMV, but certainly unique enough for further investigation if the editor ever felt like revisiting its themes. Whatever that might look like, and of course, however long that might take. ZephyrStar’s production of “Daydream” occurred between 2004 to 2007, so maybe it was fitting that its sequel would take even longer to finally wrap (nearly five years this time around). The mere existence of long-term projects like this fascinate and inspire me, but even after glimpsing scenes of it in progress over the past year or two, I can’t say I ever expected to see it finished or imagined that it would actually live up to anyone’s hopes. “Daydream | Return” not only feels like a real return to the universe of its predecessor, but recaptures the same magic on an HD scale while retaining its simple charm. The original animation is an even bigger accomplishment this time around, melding with the anime scenes in perfect harmony and creating a convincing world that feels organic and convincing. This was as original as a creation born from remix origins can possibly be and proof that just about anything you can imagine is possible if you’re committed enough to bringing it to life.

3. ECS.02: Neo-Tokyo
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: Akira
music: Evan Marc & Steve Hillage – “Intention Craft”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=203352

 

 

 

I won’t waste time trying to foist “ECS.02: Neo-Tokyo” onto already distracted people who don’t have a predilection for this kind of thing. It’s a very long AMV comprised of long scenes and music with no vocals. If you’re not down for that, you probably won’t enjoy it. You’ve come to peace with having a short attention span and you’ll definitely never fall for reverse psychology. I realize this will sound weird and unbelievably specific, but I have always wanted something like this to exist. Here it is and it’s actually good. That’s the simplest summary of my feelings towards this AMV, which finally answers the question I’ve always had of what an ambient techno AMV might look like if it someone were to faithfully edit a long track like this in a way that visually flows as slowly and patiently as the music sounds.

“ECS.02: Neo-Tokyo” doesn’t rehash the plot of Akira, although it does trace the film in a linear fashion. The beautiful animation of the film and its use of mise en scène invite the viewer to soak in the details of every shot. Yes, it’s the same material that makes up every other Akira AMV, obviously employed to very different ends. No one gets their head caved in by pipe-wielding biker gangs or disemboweled by a psychic teenager. Those scenes stick in our heads for a reason and work in the context of traditional AMVs, and there’s nothing wrong with those AMVs at all, but they’re not what this video is about.

I love the feel of getting lost in this AMV, the way it induces the viewer into a trance and encourages you to soak in beautiful grime of this dystopian future present world, which admittedly would suck to live in or even visit and provides a hellish existence for the film’s characters, but stands as an aesthetic ideal that viewers of a certain persuasion just long to drink up. This AMV invites you to do just that, and one’s enjoyment of it probably depends on how much their imaginations are drawn to these kind of settings and situations. The sense of sync throughout the video is subtle, working more often on a subconscious level and rarely trying grab your attention. It’s internally present in the scenes and also in the placement of cuts, milky crossfades and dips to black that occur roughly at about the space of a single breath, which is probably why I found this as relaxing as I did. But I wouldn’t call this a chillout video. It’s a more of a meditation, one that will reward all the focus and attention you’re able to spare it.

2. Pachyderm Panic
editor: drewaconclusion
anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
music: Disney Studio Chorus – “Pink Elephants on Parade”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9902

 

It’s not that I don’t like musicals, I just don’t seek out AMVs with songs from them. And yeah, I like Disney, but I kinda also want them to not seep into every crevice of my life, including my hobbies. This AMV is a product of both of those cultural forces, and yet it feels totally foreign and strange and removed from all my associations with them. It’s very much a Madoka AMV, riding on the most eye-grabbing and bizarre scenes from the anime in a way that’s never felt more fitting. Madoka‘s colorful but nightmarish scenes inside the witches’ barriers are featured heavily throughout the video, but even though Madoka AMVs that don’t do this are extremely rare, “Pachyderm Panic” makes them feel appropriately strange and more menacing than we’re used to.

Maybe my reaction to this video was a little biased, given how I grew up watching Dumbo (one of the few tapes we owned, so yeah, we watched it a lot). The nostalgia rush I got from hearing this song for the first time in almost thirty years brought back a rush of memories that I’d really manage to bury in the depths of my brain since we finally swapped out our Betamax player for a VHS (a choice I mistakenly believed was an upgrade for way too long). Did this scene scare me? Uh… a little? How could it not have? I never realized until now just how wild this whole sequenceis on so many levels, and I’m glad I got one last chance to reminisce over it before our memories get a fresh coat of pavement laid on them in a few months.

The thrill of recognition is a powerful force that editors have always tried to exploit, but it will only get you so far. drewaconclusion executes this concept to perfection, creating a trippy, psychedelic masterpiece that’s both a beautiful homage to the source material and something that feels completely new and inspired.

1. Moonlighter
editor: UnluckyArtist
anime: Sailor Moon
music: Jupiter – “Starlighter”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=204133

 

 

“Moonlighter” is the perfect distillation of everything fun and retro and awesome about “cool Japan,” the 90s, the 2000s (blog house! electro! nostalgia!), everything the a e s t h e t i c meme wanted to express in lazy signifiers that were treated like powerful objects from a lost civilization…which I guess they were. I really don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but building a subculture out of looped gifs, well, that’s the last straw! I’m old enough that I’m not supposed to get it, I guess, but it’s hard to ignore stuff you don’t understand when it starts to redefine stuff you’re invested in and protective of. There’s a book’s worth of context I’d have to give before diving into this critique and I’m certain that the end wouldn’t justify the buildup to it, so that’s the end of that rant and the start of something more positive.

Over the past five years or so, UnluckyArtist has been amazing me on an annual basis and is a regular on this list in a way that no one else quite is. The weird thing about that is that I’ve kind of come to take his stuff for granted, expecting that there’s always going to be more around the corner and that he’ll just keep doing more and more weird shit I never knew I needed until I saw it and then realized I’d never be able to live without. I don’t really associate him with a certain style, so any time there’s a new upload on his channel, there’s really no telling what it’s going to look or feel like. Some of his videos don’t quite click with me, and that’s fine. I don’t go into his stuff expecting to be blown away, so I’m never disappointed when that doesn’t happen. Likewise, I’m delighted AF when it does. He has a thoughtful understanding of what makes a video work, his concepts are clear and consistent, and there’s never any feeling that any of his videos is a slightly more developed version of one that came before it. Each one exists as a distinct work built on a distinct idea. This kind of praise could probably apply to a lot of editors, and yeah, I’m just spitballing here, but the texture and tone of his works always seem to hone in on something specific and unique. Would anyone not familiar with these works identify “Moonlighter” as a video created by the same editor as “Counter” or “Bonnyworld”? That’s a stupid question and it proves nothing. Why do I like this AMV?

This is the most beautiful Sailor Moon AMV I’ve ever seen, and I don’t mean that as a put down towards other editors’ efforts. (If you edited a Sailor Moon video back in 2004 and it looks blocky and gross compared to this, rest assured that the video quality is probably something I’ve grown quite attached to and don’t feel a need to “improve” on.) The soft colors and beautiful backgrounds of this series look better than ever. The simple editing and transitions seem to fit the source material better than anything you’d normally associate with AMVs in 2018, and even though there’s little continuity between cuts, UA arranges clips so there’s always some kind of movement in the scene or in camera motion that carries a sense of momentum from clip to clip. It’s fun and stylish and injects just the right amount of goofy humor into the mix at just the right moments, arriving at a very specific tone that evokes a sense of optimism, urban cool and idyllic adolescent fantasy.

Big surprise: when you write about fifty AMVs (more or less penned in the order they’re presented in here), your brain might just turn into a Jello salad by the time you’re done. There’s so much to love in this video that I’m not really articulating. If I’m able to unpack those thoughts later on, maybe I’ll sneak them in here. I still having new experiences with his older works, so it’s only a matter of time before I see something new in “Moonlighter” that I never noticed before.

Other favorites from 2018:

Radical Yue – “Going Digital

Egnaro – “Believe Be:leave

Alexander Savitsky – “Heartbeat

CrackTheSky – “Family Reunion

year zero – “Iguessuneverbeenlonely

DopplerDo – “Sanity Test

Doomfish – “Auto

Halkio – “Heaven

Buffalo – “Hard Change

Playlist of videos #40-1: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLc3GuT5JoUhMyi-qaflm-vrbKb5zKhQmB

previous entries:
favorite AMVs of 2018 (honorable mentions)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#40-31)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#30-21)

20. Mustache
editor: Doomfish
anime: FLCL
music: The Left Rights – “QY10”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=203988

Both the seemingly random absurdity of this video and the deliberate lack of effort put into the music it features might set expectations for this AMV so low that few viewers will immediately notice how well-crafted this thing really is. Doomfish’s use of effects seamlessly blends into the animation of FLCL so well that they feel like a natural element of the original footage. I know I’m not supposed to think too hard about videos like this, but this is a lot more clever and subtle than it ever had to be, not to mention really well-edited in ways that I didn’t notice until after several viewings. Perhaps this was nothing more than the editor getting “practice using transitions,” but it was the funniest thing I watched all year.

19. Vesper
editor: DrPenguin
anime: Made In Abyss
music: Son Lux – “Ransom”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9550

It’s not much of a big departure from any Made In Abyss AMVs that follow the anime’s story in a loosely linear fashion, but “Vesper” shares the series’ knack for slowly introducing a sense of unease and peril into its narrative, subverting the viewer’s expectations and sense of safety. Admittedly, this is probably what most MIA videos try to do, but rarely pull off as convincingly as DrPenguin does in this AMV. The atmosphere feels genuinely eerie and unsettling in a way I didn’t think was possible, and the video is structured and paced in such a manner that it never feels like too many ideas are being introduced at one time. I’m still not sure if the video introduces the anime’s second narrative in a way that’s easy to follow for any viewer who hasn’t actually seen the series, but it may still be the best example of any editor attempting to do so.

18. Dream Sweet In Sea Major
editor: ObbsessiveBookworm
anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
music: ミラクルミュージカル – “Introduction to the Snow,” “Dream Sweet in Sea Major

Absolutely no idea how to describe what I like about this AMV other than to simply describe its concept. This would basically come down to me describing this song, which is as weird and unpredictable of a piece of music I’ve ever heard in an AMV, but one that only provides a basic premise, and a challenging one at that. This video is eight minutes long, but never drags or feels monotonous. The shifts in editing style are as unpredictable as all the little movements of the song, constantly changing like an MEP video assembled piecemeal (although with a consistency of structure and flow). All I can really do is leave this here and hope someone watches it. The less you’re prepared for this, the better.

17. Down the Road
editor: DopplerDo
anime: Cowboy Bebop
music: C2C – “Down the Road”

“Down the Road” wasn’t DopplerDo’s first AMV, but it’s his most viewed work and was the video that pretty much announced his arrival to the hobby at the start of 2018 (or at least so late in 2017 that, yeah, I’m including it here). If it’s not the best Cowboy Bebop AMV ever made, it could still be the most definitive. It’s an imaginative ode to the classical vibes of the series, the jazz, blues and roots music of its soundtrack, its gritty noir setting, a unique vision of the future spliced with nods to the past. It conveys all of this and and is edited with a kinetic flair that makes the series feel exciting and…well, not really new but bursting with energy that’s usually not found in Cowboy Bebop AMVs that treat the series like a staid relic of the past.

16. Colouring of Pigeons
editor: year zero
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
music: The Knife – “Colouring of Pigeons”

“Colouring of Pigeons” doesn’t seem like the kind of AMV that’s extensively planned out before editing, with a stream of consciousness feel to it that gives it a consistent sense of internal logic, even if it’s one that’s not immediately discernible and is completely unpredictable from one second to the next. With an operatic techno track over eleven minutes long, there’s plenty of time for the editor to figure things out as they go (this being year zero‘s first AMV, or at least their first posted to YouTube, I’m inclined to assume there’s some truth to that being the case here). This provides a towering canvas to edit on, and year zero uses that to craft something as huge and alien as Evangelion is supposed to feel. Every minute of this, loosely edited as it sometimes is, is faithful to both the haunting music and the mounting dread of Eva‘s apocalyptic conflicts and psychological inner journeys. I passionately love every second of this, but the last three minutes of this video feel like slipping through a wormhole into another world. I suppose Hideaki Anno deserves most of the credit for that, but I’ve seen a lot of Eva videos and none have left me with the indescribable feeling I have from riding this one to the very end.

15. Magic of Eternity
editor: MadMegatax
anime: Shuumatsu no Izetta
music: Lissie – “Don’t You Give Up On Me”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9670

Even if I’m only watching one or two anime series at a time, barely keeping up with anything current and hardly making any headway through the backlog of older series I still need to get around to watching, I’m still at least vaguely familiar with most anime series or movies that I encounter in AMVs that I watch. That was not the case whatsoever with “Magic of Eternity,” edited from a series I’d never even heard of. This probably played into my enjoyment of it, which isn’t really an objective way of evaluating it, but first and foremost I’m just here as a viewer to enjoy myself, and this AMV, simple as it was, was one of the most likeable things I watched this year and one of my favorite romance AMVs, like, ever. It’s a simple but charming video with lots of heart that got me invested in the characters and interested in watching the series.

14. It Rhymes
editor: keiichiface
anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
music: They Might Be Giants – “Erased”

I’m sitting here trying to think of how to explain how cool this is and why you should watch it, but the problem is all I can think about is how much I’d rather just be editing my own cool AMV instead. I mean, it could never be as cool or creative as “It Rhymes,” but I’m at peace with that. This could have been a gimmick video, but keiichiface does so much more with it than the initial four panel-concept sets the viewer up to ever expect. This video is currently sitting at less than 300 views on YouTube, which pretty much says everything you need to know about the state we’re in.

13. poorly drawn neko gril music video
editor: leo lide
anime: various
music: Clario – “Pretty Girl” (Vaselin remix)

When he feels like coming up for air from the meme swamp his work is usually mired in, leo lide can make some magical stuff. He has a gift for seeing through the accepted wisdom that most editors buy into and has no use for the traditional ideas of what editing anime clips to pop music is supposed to produce. “pdngmv” is instantly recognizable as a leo lide video for anyone who’s familiar with his creations, or at least watched (and inevitably loved) his last effort within these realms. Knowing what I was getting into still didn’t spare me from that feeling of having my mind blown by the first few seconds of this work, which once against bursts open the boundaries of how cool and cute and unique AMVs can actually be.

12. Moonshine
editor: Copycat Revolver
anime: Space Adventure Cobra
music: The Glitch Mob – “Between Two Points”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=204270

The video for “Girlfriend” has always been the remix I’ve most associated with Space Adventure Cobra, which formed my perception of it as a goofy and fun but certainly dated-looking product of its time. Mind you, I still haven’t actually watched the movie, so my opinions of it are pretty meaningless, just something I feel compelled to mention anyway. (I also thought that The Glitch Mob was a macho brostep group, so seeing their name attached to a moody trip-hop song like this was unexpected, I guess.) Copycat Revolver’s editing is fairly straightforward with few effects (possibly creating the clips at 3:19, I suspect), matching the slow tempo of the song and letting the beautiful footage speak for itself. “Moonshine” completely transforms my perception of the film into something timeless and far less campy than I used to assume it was. The nudity–oh look, I just had to bring that up–doesn’t feel included for shock value or the edgy effect of something like this, but feels appropriate for and integral to the sensual and sophisticated mood that’s fully realized from beginning to end. I’m left a little unclear on the plot of this video, and being as action-driven as it is, I recognize that there is one at work here, but I think “Moonshine” is better appreciated as a subjective series of scenes meant to create a mood than a story to get caught up in. The ending is fantastic, though not in a way that explains what you’ve just watched or tries to offer up a sense of closure. Whatever this video leaves you feeling, just relish it.

11. Diamond Sky
editor: Patrick Castro
anime: Your Name
music: The Beatles – “A Day In the Life”

My perception of Your Name AMVs as a whole is probably skewed by the sample size I’ve purposefully limited myself to, especially after the rash of copycat videos that came out throughout 2016 and 2017 made only using the film’s trailer. Thing is, even after footage of the complete movie leaked onto the Internet and it was eventually released in physical form, few editors seemed interested in doing anything much different with the entire film at their disposal. After a while, it was easy to lose interest. “Diamond Sky” was the first Your Name AMV I saw that radically broke from the sentimental tributes that every editor seemed content to parrot in their works, and it did so in what felt like the biggest, most ambitious way possible. This AMV from an elusive editor (also going by the name Lapu Lapu at times, please steer him here if you happen to know him) plays off both the slice-of-life charm and cataclysmic dread of the film, with the editor finding a mirror for these moods in the whimsical bombast of The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life.” Sure, it changes the original context of every scene in the AMV, but it was about time someone dared to try it. The editing is relatively simple, with the vast majority of clips joined by straight cuts. There’s a crossfade or two in the mix with some sped-up footage in key sequences, but the most noticeable effect is the black and white filter applied to the first and last third of the video, which helps ease the dissonance in bringing this very new film together with a fifty-year-old song (just for starters, it’s also key to the structure and flow of the video in other ways as well). “A Day In the Life” is often praised for its “cinematic” qualities, and while I don’t want to suggest that Your Name ever needed its help in that department, the way the sources are edited together produces an emotional effect that felt immediate and huge and demanding of my attention, less like passively staring at my flatscreen monitor and more like gazing up at a movie screen in a theater.

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