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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.