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New AMVs don’t get a lot of love on this blog. That’s something I’d like to change but I still haven’t found a useful or enjoyable way to sort through the new videos that are being posted on Youtube every day to find new releases worth sharing. There’s no way around it; this would mean watching a lot of AMVs that I don’t have any interest in, which would be fine if I was writing this back in 2006. But what constitutes a boilerplate, run-of-the-mill AMV in 2016 is very different from what I grew accustomed to back in the mid-2000s, and I often find it difficult to actually sit through more than a couple videos of these before needing a break. I don’t like to rant about this because I know fully well how this kind of complaining comes across, and I really do believe that there’s a lot of creative work going on in the hobby that I’m completely unaware of that I’m writing off without a second thought. The last place I’d expect to find that would be a channel called Daily Chill (“your daily dose of various music“), but here we are.
It’s a frivolous matter to get hung up on, but is “Daily Chill” supposed to be a channel or an actual editor? Is there even a difference? With half of the videos on the channel being EDM/chillout tunes playing over a background picture or a looped gif — yes, this is a thing and I think it goes a lot deeper into Youtube than I’ve dared to dive — it’s hard not to get the impression that it’s a music-focused channel. Maybe there are videos made up of clips taken from anime series, but is that just a means to an end to showcase the songs? No, it doesn’t matter and I’m trying not to care, but… I just hate vocaloid and J-Core and nightcore and how easy it has been for this music to thrive when paired with anime iconography in the laziest ways imaginable. Take away the background images on any of this stuff and it all goes away very fast. Daily Chill does not use any of this music — its videos feature tasteful, polished, laid-back EDM, with an irritating exception or two — so what am I ranting about? Well, when I look at this kind of approach to pairing music and anime/manga and how it has become so ingrained in Internet culture, I can’t shake the feeling that it’s slowly absorbing everything around it, including AMVs, and becoming the well-accepted and celebrated default way to mix music with Japanese media. Even when it’s done well (as it is here), it’s hard for me not to feel suspicious about where it’s inevitably leading. If I try to explain this any further, it will have to be in a future entry.
Now that I’m done looking, sounding, and acting like the cantankerous asshole that I’m so set on never becoming, it’s probably a good time to talk about this video, which (so far) is the best thing on the channel. I haven’t seen many good Kyoukai no Kanata videos, which sucks because I really did enjoy the series. Even taken out of context, its scenes are beautiful to look at and seemed to have so much potential for good videos (whatever those would look like, I don’t know). And unlike some other light novel adaptations (go ahead, take your pick), I felt a real attachment to the characters and their relationships resonated with me and felt as believable as they can probably ever be when it comes to animated storytelling. I won’t speculate on why I feel that way, it’s a matter of personal taste and re-reading my long-abandoned draft of a review of the series (last saved apparently 2 years ago) gives me few clues about exactly how this series was a success where others only introduced me to realms of cliches I never knew existed. KnK was definitely packed with cliches, but it worked with them in entertaining and endearing ways and, most importantly, knew when to drop them in service of the believability of the scene and the characters. Ileia’s “Whoarriors” probably needs no introduction and has aged a lot better than the 2014 time-capsule that it could have been. “I See Fire” was another piece of solid editing and proof that you shouldn’t judge an AMV’s creativity by its title. And that brings me to this video, which may or may not have been inspired by an internet meme rooted in one of the most creatively-dead subcultures on the Internet, but succeeds in spite of its trappings.
The first thing you notice about”i doubt my love” isn’t the editing or the concept of the video, both of which are pretty straightforward, but the basic look of it, which I both love and feel hesitant to praise, maybe because it’s only a matter of time before a thousand other editors run their videos through the same scripts or filters to get the same effect (heck, this is probably happening already). This kind of 3-D color-blending (for lack of a better word, I really don’t know what any of this is called) isn’t really new, and it even shows up in a few of Daily Chill’s previous works, none of which felt like fully fleshed-out ideas, especially compared to how it’s employed here. One factor that makes this video involving and convincing in on a level that many comparable videos weren’t — to say nothing of a fun but ultimately confused concept like this — is how receptive KnK is to these effects. The effects are complimentary to the quality of the original footage and the result is both natural-looking and kinda hypnotic. Describing original anime footage as a “canvas” for effects would probably be the best way to describe everything that I think is wrong with AMVs today, but it’s a useful way to consider why some retro-flavored effects work better with certain anime than others. KnK receives this treatment in a way that absorbs the effects into a homogeneous whole, or at least makes a convincing case for how analog-invoking effects can still work with shiny new digital anime.
Complaining about text in AMVs is just beating a dead horse at this point, so I won’t do it here. I didn’t mind the text in this video, which refreshingly breaks from simply narrating song lyrics and is either . The video is “dedicated to someone special” but the messages we read are a confusing clash of gratitude (“i’m lost without you”) and spite (“i didn’t lose you, you lost me”), which requires a whole new reading of KnK to even remotely apply to Mirai and Akihito. Dropping these kind of lines into videos is kind of a Daily Chill trademark, although I was never really intrigued or moved by it in any of his (her?) previous works. Is the editor quoting dialog from these series (many of which I haven’t seen)? Are these intensely personal works created to exorcise emotions from a broken relationship? Are these phrases worked into Daily Chill’s videos solely to give them an air of world-weary heartbreak or ambiguous mystery? Who knows? The very fact that I’m left curious enough to wonder about it at all probably proves that it was far from a vacuous creative decision.
Up until now I really haven’t said anything at all about how this video was actually edited. There’s little here to really dig into. It’s very simply edited, with cuts landing on simple drum beats, rarely breaking from the 4/4 rhythm, and just enough moments of internal sync that pair up with interesting little parts in the track to keep things interesting. If this is a video that indulges in effects up to the point of excess, its actual construction is very restrained and unsurprising. Simple, however, does not imply that it’s ever predictable or boring, but that’s a matter of personal taste, isn’t it?
Potentially pretentious hallmarks all considered, something about this video just makes me want to give it the benefit of the doubt and buy into the world that it’s selling us, both because of a ton of intangible factors (get me into a good song I’d never heard before and you can probably get away with anything) and the fact that DC really does get better, even if only in increments, with each and every full-length video they put out. Much of the latest content on the channel has been in the form of short snippets of AMVs, which may be collaborations and/or iron chef-style videos. Technically, those are interesting enough, but I look forward to more full-length videos to see just where this editor is going next.
I just read CrackTheSky’s latest post about Studio Ghibli AMVs and it got me to thinking about these kind of videos, how I view them and emotionally respond to them and how that’s changed over time. “Miyazaki at Night” is one of my favorite Ghibli-themed AMVs and possibly the last one that left any kind of special impression on me. While there’s nothing flashy or especially surprising about how it’s edited, it establishes a unique tone and identity for itself through its unconventional choice of music and scene selection and refreshingly patient pacing, giving it an appeal that sets it far apart from other videos working with the same material. I love this video for what it is and find it interesting on its own terms, not necessarily just because of how it compares to other Ghibli videos. BUT comparing it to other such videos is an impulse I can never completely drop given how, consciously or not, so many of its predecessors tend to follow the same patterns or aim for the same emotional targets. The way these films subtly reference and recall one another, not to mention the special strain of sentimental nostalgia that Ghibli/Miyazaki films tend to invoke, practically invites this approach to editing. The first “Ghibli AMV” I ever saw, which both typifies and perfects this approach, was dwchang’s “Here Comes the Sun.”
I should probably note that I’m not claiming that this video was the first of its kind. “Memories Dance” — infuriatingly not on Youtube, as most Ghibli-content is automatically taken down from the site sooner or later, fair use or not — was released nearly three years before “Here Comes the Sun” and shares the same reverence for Studio Ghibli and many of the common themes and visual motifs that appear throughout many of its different titles. Others may have come even before that. But “Here Comes the Sun” was not only the first time I’d encountered such a concept, but also one of those formative viewing experiences that was so novel and pure and — have your favorite emesis receptacle ready for this one — real that I truly wish I could go back and re-watch it again for the first time. Mind you, this was at my first anime convention in 2004, in a packed contest screening that we had to wait in line for about 30 minutes to be allowed to enter (which is probably when Eva Bebop was shown) and where watching fan-edited videos in a dark room on a big screen implanted some nebulous sentiment in my head that I’m still trying to shape into something that’s productive and enlightening and not merely obsessive or fruitlessly nostalgic.
Countless editors have been bitten by the Ghibli bug since then. Even when they’re done very well, these kind of videos have a hard time really getting through to me anymore. I guess the concept simply doesn’t carry the same sentimental weight for me that it used to, not even as newer films (Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo, The Wind Rises) continue to expand the universe of cross-referencing characters and scenes that make these videos so emotionally provocative. There’s still endless potential for editors to make tribute-style AMVs that break this mold, which I really want to see more of, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with the impulse to create a traditionally epic, sentimental and optimistic video that mashes together shots from Kiki and Porco and Totoro and Mononoke. Who wouldn’t want to do that? But anyone who does would be doing themselves a big favor by watching this first. Either they’ll discover that the great AMV they want to make already exists… or they’ll hopefully be inspired to put their own twist on it and come out with something completely unexpected.
Or just throw a bunch of clips together with a random song and text all over the screen. It literally doesn’t matter, people will watch it.