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.