I’ve known about this AMV for a really long time. We’re talking years, here. And I’ve known, more or less, what it was all about and also that it was supposed to be really good and maybe even important. I put off watching it for so long because I hadn’t gotten around to watching Trigun until a few months ago, and I didn’t want my experience of this video to be ruined (or tainted) by spoilers. And to get the most out of it, I’d want to know what I was looking at and understand the context of it all. I think this was a smart move, yet at the same time maybe it’s like someone putting off listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band because they hadn’t yet watched Help!. Maybe that’s an arbitrary comparison but maybe it’s not. For a long time, when critics or music fans of a certain age would discuss the greatest album of all time, Sgt. Pepper’s was always part of the conversation. That’s not really the case any more, nor would most Beatles fans even call it the best Beatles album. Likewise, this AMV was a bfd for a long, long time, and hung around the top of the best AMVs list for most of the 2000s. Fewer fans recognize its pioneering status today, but no video can stay trendy and popular forever (find any other fifteen year-old AMV that actually has and prove me wrong).
Of course, utilizing two of the most popular and iconic anime series of all time probably helped ensure its popularity, and it probably would have been well-received if the editor (E-Ko, who disappeared from the hobby over a decade ago) had put in even as little as one-tenth of the effort that they spent on it. But having put in that extra 90% (or 900%, I guess?), the end result is the video we have now and it’s really startling how well it all paid off. Where did I first hear about this video? At a convention panel years ago? “It’s a cool video, it makes Spike and Vash look like they’re really fighting each other!” At that point, those kind of AMVs had already established themselves as a genre in themselves (and, conceptually, have changed very little in the years since) and I couldn’t imagine how yet another one was going to impress me. Rather than watch it and decide for myself, over a very long period of time I went ahead and let my own vision of what this video probably looked like slowly form in my head. I highly recommend doing this with something in your life, as it’s a very humbling experience when you finally give in and see how much the real thing puts your ideal vision to shame.
My first impression of this was one of complete surprise. This wasn’t simply two sources slapped together to to kinda sorta work together, but a video that presented an actual story that was easy to follow, required almost no suspension of disbelief to accept on its own terms, and was assembled more convincingly than anything else like it that I’ve ever seen. Even when they don’t completely win me over, most AMVs usually like this leave me feeling very impressed by the sheer effort that was spent on their creation. That’s certainly the case here, given the amount of masking that was required to bring the characters from these two series together into one world. And yet, the end product feels so seamless that it somehow feels completely effortless at the same time. I realize that doesn’t make any sense but these are just my impressions and when a video or any piece of art can make you feel comfortable with such contradictions, then you know it’s doing something special.
This AMV has stood the test of time not because it was “innovative” or “ahead of its time,” but because its pioneering use of effects was all the service of bringing a simple story to life. Maybe that could be said of a lot of AMVs, but how many have felt like such a natural extension or cohesion of two different worlds? I won’t attempt to search the archives of fanfiction.net for the depths of Cowboy Bebop/Trigun crossover episode stories, but I’m sure they’re out there. I honestly wonder if any of them at all could possibly bring together both series’ elements of comedy and action into such a perfect balance as “Tainted Donuts” does. This is hardly a bold proclamation; declaring that this video is a classic and twisting a couple of superficial observations into the shape of critical insights tells the average viewer nothing they didn’t already know or would quickly figure out on their own. But even if spilling ink over this AMV only serves to acknowledge its existence, that’s still a post that’s been overdue far too long.