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.