My ten favorite AMVs from 2016, presented in an easy-to-read format that bucks the whole trend of actually trying to make these kind of prestigious round-ups look more inviting than a bunch of blocks of text with no pictures!
Back When We Belonged
anime: Ah! My Goddess
song: Pat Benetar – “We Belong”
I don’t know if there are any other active editors working so squarely within the “old school” approach to AMVs as shumira_chan, who’s never had much use for the visual effects or meta-elements that characterize modern AMVs for most viewers today. Back Where We Belong is the perfect example of how she operates, using sources that are as far from “hip” as possible in 2016 and crafting an honest, heartfelt video that seems to harken back to a simpler time (whether that’s 1984 or 1993 or sometime in the during the golden age of AMVs, it’s hard to tell, but cover that mix and let it stew and you’ll get right idea). By employing a couple extremely effective passages of quick cuts and some key scenes that perfectly match the song’s brilliant shifts in dynamics, shumira_chan has made another video that’s undeniably slow but hits all the right notes in all the best moments. Surprisingly emotional, not necessarily because of the dramatic content of the clips employed, but the more in the conviction of their presentation.
Blithe and Bonny
song: Photay – “No Sass”
Undoubtedly the coolest video I saw last year and definitely one of the prettiest, Blithe and Bonny utilizes some of familiar-looking sources and leaves you feeling like you’re watching them for the first time. I’m at a loss about how to describe this video, what really makes it different from all the other AMVs that use these kind of sources in this kind of a video, other than to just say everything. It is beautiful and trippy, certainly dreamlike but always presenting the viewer with a clear image and leaving very vivid impressions with every scene. It’s refreshingly mellow and chilled out but upbeat and always engaging. I enjoy it as a monument to the death of EDM and dubstep, which are still with us but finally lost their stranglehold on the entire hobby as the default instrumental soundtracks of choice. This video, not to mention a few others on this list you’re reading right now, stands as proof that once-unapproved sorts of electronic music that might have been considered too strange, eclectic, soulful, musical, can lead to great videos that people actually love. Blithe and Bonny shows how taking risks, ignoring expectations and following your bliss can lead to something special.
anime: Tokyo Godfathers
song: Sleeping at Last – “Sun”
We’ve had six years to get over the death of Satoshi Kon, but you know what? The niche he carved out for himself, not just in his personal style of filmmaking, but in the entire realm of mature, adult-oriented animation, still sits completely vacant. Watching Fiat Lux brought these thoughts to the fore, but it’s far from the first Tokyo Godfathers AMV that I’ve ever seen. It may, however, be the best. This is basic editing at its finest and gives me honest hope that people will still be making and enjoying “simple” AMVs for many years to come. I first watched this two or three days before Christmas, and I’ve got to say that I’ve never seen an AMV/had an AMV-experience that felt more timely or appropriate given the circumstances. Fiat Lux is arranged, basically, as a condensed, linear version of the film Tokyo Godfathers, a creative approach I don’t have very many kind words for (no matter how many times I’m slapped in the face with great videos that just happen to resemble that framework). It not only succeeded in rekindling my love for the film, but was a genuinely moving work in its own right that felt remarkably necessary, an uplifting end to a year that — forgive the cliche — really needed one.
anime: Patlabor 2: The Movie
song: Loess – “Lll6,” Kettel – “Teeth, Wait”
The world of ambient AMVs has never been anything but a minuscule pursuit that’s easy to overlook and not entirely impossible to catalog in its entirety if you were so inclined to do so. Fishes is not a perfect AMV — the placement of certain cuts feel determined less by the editor’s design than by the original length of the clips being used — but it establishes a very unique mood early on, and its use of decidedly dated-looking but gorgeous animation gives it a distinguished, organic feel that inevitably sets it apart from nearly any other AMV you’ll watch any time soon. The icy drone of the music featured couldn’t compliment the grey, chilly visuals any more fittingly; the video feels cold. Maybe the fact that it feels like anything at all is what makes it unique within this microgenre of AMVs. IGNOTUM has only edited a handful of AMVs over the past few years, throwing out any traditional ideas along the way about how to please an audience and just doing their own thing. This is the long-form AMV I was wishing they’d someday make and it more than lived up to everything I was hoping for.
song: Floex – “Casanova,” Floex – “Ursa Major,” Floex – “The Castle”
No one even begins dabbling in video editing without first watching tens of thousands of hours of television, movies, and clips on Internet. So it’s understandable if even the most inventive AMVs still feel like imitations of other works that both the editor and their viewers have soaked up over the years. This is inevitable, forgivable, and not the indictment of creative plagiarism that it probably sounds like. I guess what I’m getting at is, even at their most creative and entertaining, AMVs almost never give us anything genuinely new that we haven’t already seen in some shape or form in our screen-addicted lives. The AMVs of lolligerjoj may be some of the only works to come out of this hobby that have managed to truly transcend it and use video — video that just happens to be anime footage — and break any new ground. Even if Ghost Audition doesn’t startle the viewer with a wealth of new ideas like some of lolligerjoj’s past works, it’s possibly the most effective synthesis of his signature ideas to date, and due to its near-exclusive use of Studio Ghibli-produced material, it provides a spoil of emotionally-rich, beautiful images for lolligerjoj to twist into new shapes. As brilliant as Into the Labyrinth and GEHIRNSTURMEN were, they always left me wanting a video like this, one that embraces the viewer instead of pummeling them with violent imagery or aggressive dubstep drops. It’s a beautiful piece of video art that grabs your attention and gives you that momentary feeling where you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at, and wondering why you don’t get to experience that feeling more often.
editor: Farm AMV
anime: Dragon Ball Super
song: Linkin Park – “Crawling”
I’ve only encountered mentions of “anime music videos” outside of the fandom on a handful of occasions; in every case, they were all related to discussions of Dragon Ball Z or Linkin Park. Even if the stereotype hasn’t been relevant for about a decade, it’s proven persistent enough to suggest that it’s probably never, ever going away. While it’s a phenomenon that’s been the butt of a thousand jokes over the years, none of those jokes were ever as fun as this video, which skewers the legacy of the Linkinball Z video while singling out the latest series of the franchise, Dragon Ball Super, for its occasionally embarrassing animation quality. As someone who’s never watched more than a couple of Dragon Ball episodes from any of its different series and was completely out of the loop when it came to its newest incarnation, I had no knowledge of this series or any of the criticism it might have rightfully drawn. Absolutely none of this background is needed to enjoy every second of this video. One personal takeaway from this that may or may not have been intended: Koku’s Rage, as much as it’s poking fun at a very unintended legacy of a certain strain of AMVs, is also celebrating what made them so enjoyable and meaningful for so many editors and fans. The hilariously tacky-looking fighting scenes, soundtracked by the lamest possible cover of Linkin Park’s “Crawling,” are juxtaposed with fragments of what look and sound like a competently-edited and sincerely-composed Linkin Park/Dragon Ball action video. As unoriginal of an idea as that may be, the glimpses of it feel like a tribute to the enthusiasm that sparked each and every such video, a celebration of learning how to selectively dump one’s creative self-consciousness (or the adolescent psychology that makes this act kind of a second-nature), even against your better judgement, and just making something.
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
song: Georgy Sviridov – “Time Forward!”
The most common response I’ve encountered from viewers of this video is its resemblance to “Communist propaganda,” which, upon reflection, is not at all incorrect (and was my gut-reaction the first time I watched it). I do wonder what else this video might be about, the degree to which it may (or may not) draw upon uniquely-Soviet styles of art and graphic design rather than the simple idea of “propaganda” that most viewers immediately reach for, what the choice of music might mean beyond invoking a generic idea of The U.S.S.R. in the typical Western viewer’s mind (and/or how the context for this piece has changed over the years), or the degree to which the editor really finds a connection between Soviet-era socialism/militarism and Evangelion‘s themes of sacrifice (or just its elegant montages of heavy equipment and giant weapons moving like beautiful machines, I don’t know). I find this interesting because I am 99% sure that its editor (qwaqa) is Russian, and I’m willing to bet that the images in this AMV have far different and specific meanings to him than they do to the majority of the viewers. Then again, qwaqa may be deliberately playing up these images as cartoon-ish Soviet kitsch, but it’s anyone’s guess as to why. The simplest explanation is that it all just looks cool, and definitely unlike any other AMV made this year or possibly ever.
Singular Strike Gentleman
anime: One Punch Man
song: Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”
I’m still trying to understand how One Punch Man inspired so many dreadfully serious and violent AMVs last year, especially considering how its irreverent, lighthearted tone was so widely-praised as inherent to its basic appeal. Glitzer’s One Punch Man AMV does not make such mistakes with its material at all. Singular Strike Gentleman isn’t just a big, fun AMV, but one of those that has charisma and a wholeheartedly positive, fun vibe. Like, for real. There’s no cynicism or Internet humor or mean bullshit here. This video just makes you feel good, and aside from that, it just feels big. You feel engaged in it, maybe like one of those old AMVs you watched a long time ago that got you into this stuff, and feel glad that it’s popular and wish even more people would watch it. It’s a relief to still be entertained by stuff like this.
song: Brookes Brothers – “Daybreak”
I follow countless editors who’ve been making AMVs for over a decade (or much more!), but they’re the exception to the rule. The typical AMV editor is usually good for a video or two, released anywhere from a few days to a year or so apart, before silently bowing out of the editing scene and never coming back. Those editors who stay active and release more than a handful of videos over a couple of years’ time, whether they’re active in the community or not, are truly few and far between. Rarer still are those editors who put together that lone video or two, seemingly retire without any fanfare, only to re-emerge years later with something new. When Nopy released a couple of videos back in 2004 — each cut together with very basic editing software, they are very much a product of their time and bear the marks of an ambitious but inexperienced and ill-equipped hand — only to leave his Org account untouched for over a decade, it would have been a safe to bet that he, like hundreds of other editors who graced the pre-Youtube era of the site, would never be heard from again. His release of Sky Journey in early 2016 wasn’t only the end of a remarkably long hiatus, but was evidently the end of a transitional period of some sort that changed his approach to editing, refining both his ideas and technique. Whatever happened in the time that passed, he returned with a better eye for scenes and a sense of flow to his editing that wasn’t there before. Sky Journey fits squarely within the mold of a certain kind of AMV that I’m actually kind of burnt out on, which is why I was so surprised to find myself so wrapped up in it. I’d sooner just broadly recommend it and have the viewer find out what’s so special about it on their than to try to describe it. It’s time well-spent!
anime: Diebuster (Aim for the Top 2!)
song: Brookes Brothers – “Paperchase (feat. Danny Byrd)”
With no perceivable effects beyond some deft camerawork, VY CMa is a simple, bare-bones video that builds an irresistible sense of momentum with its use of high-energy scenes and continuous internal sync. The tone that’s achieved in this video is one that’s regularly pursued by “big” AMVs — either by dipping into a deep crate of OP footage or flirting with professional-level effects — but rarely realized to the degree that’s on display here, which benefits from the focus and cohesion of working with a single source. Am I truly a Gainax fan if I’ve never dipped my feet into the Gunbuster/Diebuster universe? Who knows, but after watching this video, the necessity of doing that has never felt more urgent.
Kanadajinn – And I Run
KazKon – The Atlas Syndrome
Xophilarus – Bi Time High
TheNanashi – Ebb and Flow
Xophilarus – Garbage Can
Elcalavero – MutiretnI
chibidani – No More Lost Time
UnluckyArtist – Screaming Artist