It took me a week longer than I thought it would, but what else is new?

The back half of this list can be found here, but these are my top ten AMVs of 2017.

10. Stay the Same
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: Oregairu 2
music: 泉まくら – “School Road”

Plenty of high school and light novel series attempt to create “complex” characters, place them in settings the audience will find familiar and create a situation that viewers perceive as both mundane and deeply profound. The Oregairu series is one of the few I’ve seen that really succeeds in doing this in a way that feels authentic or relatable (imho), a process that takes two seasons to really stew and reveal themes that would be otherwise hard to swallow delivered by a story more eager to oblige viewers’ fantasies and preconceived notions right off the bat. “Stay the Same” takes a nuanced approach to the complex sentimentality of this material, not trying to explain the series or dumb it down into a more easily digestible form but leaning into its melancholy tone with no hesitation. Hanging these scenes on a warmly bittersweet-sounding Japanese hip-hop tune–a unique sound with no English-language counterpart I can think of at all–leaves viewers like me to soak in the emotional resonance of the lyrics, which convey a feeling of weary patience and assurance despite the language barrier that’s keeping the true meaning under wraps for me. The editing is as smooth as the music, punctuated by well-timed quick cuts and occasional zoom-outs that don’t betray the understated, gentle flow that makes this AMV relaxing, for sure, but also disarmingly intimate and comforting.

9. Blood Stained Uniform
editor: lunalove125
anime: Kill La Kill
music: In This Moment – “Blood”

If you’ve stumbled across this blog from animenano (please tell me someone has in the last five years) or from who knows where on the Internet, the following disclaimer will probably be helpful in getting a feeling of where I’m coming from. I really don’t listen to nu metal or metalcore or whatever you want to call this stuff. I didn’t when I was younger, and what I listen to now probably sounds like this to most people. There’s no better word for it: musical prejudice probably keeps me at arm’s length from a lot of AMVs, meaning a lot of good videos will need some other tantalizing bait to lure me in. In this case, that would be Kill La Kill, which I like, maybe even love, the more I think about it. And while rage is not an emotion I really think I need any more of in my life, I can’t deny that a ferocious-sounding woman like this at the mic is going to win me over more times than not. The song itself is that perfect example of how packing enough hooks in a piece of music that I think I won’t care for will inevitably convert my tastes and make me forget why I put up walls in the first place. Oh yeah, this is some of my favorite action editing of 2017. It’s as straight-forward of an approach to this material as you can imagine but it all works, resulting in an emotionally-charged, intense celebration of KLK‘s excess of violence and other concerns that just floors me every time I watch it. This editor (going by lunalove125 on the Org and a different name on Youtube, take your pick) got considerably more attention for her other video released in 2017 (and c’mon, it was totally deserved) but “Blood Stained Uniform” was my go-to action AND rock video this year and maybe my favorite Kill La Kill video of all time, no small feat when you realize that it does all this without the one thing that editors and viewers love most about the whole series.

8. 100% Salt
editor: PieandBeer
anime: Mob Psycho 100
music: Cold War Kids – “Miracle Mile”

Most Mob Psycho 100 AMVs I watched last year were very focused on its action scenes, playing up this angle with heavy, intense music that accurately showcases their brilliance but at the expense of exploring everything else that made the series so wonderful. Not to keep praising videos for all the mistakes they don’t make, but “100% Salt” does not fall into this trap. It’s another persuasively fun PieandBeer AMV that oozes the same joy of videos like “Minimum Wage” and “Something Fishy,” balancing the most kinetic visual scenes with elements of drama and humor. I first saw this video during this year’s AWA Pro and it was definitely one of the standouts. Since then I’ve realized it’s not just one of the best videos of that contest but one of the most interesting visions this editor has shared with us yet.

7. No Limits!
editor: UnluckyArtist
anime: various
music: 2 Unlimited – “No Limit”

This is the first year I’m bothering to actually rank any of my favorite AMVs with this year-end list, but if I’d made the hard choices last time around, UnluckyArtist’s “Blithe and Bonny” just might have been number one on my 2016 list. “No Limits!” is a work of somewhat less sophistication or, um, artistic maturity, but I love it all the same. The second of his decade-themed AMVs, “No Limits!” is inevitably tied to our nostalgia for the 90’s anime series featured or our feelings for the general aesthetic of this kind of anime from those years (again, secondhand nostalgia, you probably weren’t watching this stuff when it was airing, and that’s fine); it’s old enough to look dated but still undeniably cool enough to impress us, especially if you’ve come to take it all for granted some twenty-odd years after it was fresh and new. Imagine the biggest, coolest Toonami bumper collage ever assembled, one you’re 12 years old and up watching with friends sometime after midnight, maybe not necessarily what that would look like but what it would feel like to experience. I don’t want to get your hopes up too much but this is as close as you’ll get to that moment.

6. Timeless
editor: hamstar138
anime: various
music: Avicii feat. Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”

These kind of AMVs are fast becoming their own genre if they haven’t already, and they’re one of the few where I feel that excess is a virtue in achieving the editor’s ambitious goals. You can’t really have too many sources in one of these, nor have I seen one yet that gets to be too sentimental. hamstar138 definitely brings more to this video than to any past-to-present “ode to anime” I’ve seen before. While the concept isn’t new, nor is hamstar138 really putting any kind of a fresh spin on it, I believe that anyone who likes this kind of thing will be deeply satisfied by the effort that’s on screen here.

“Wake Me Up” isn’t a bad song. If there’s anything bad to say about it at all, its greatest sin is being overplayed in chain restaurants and sporting events, but over the past five years I’ve grown pretty sick of it. I really don’t like bringing so much discussion of these videos back to my feelings about the music they use, but it’s worth mentioning here because I think it actually matters this time. I loved every second of this video, felt that the song was fittingly uplifting and not just employed for its recognition, and when I hear it on its own now, I can’t help but smile. This is a bigger achievement than you could possibly imagine. This isn’t the first video to follow this formula and it won’t be the last, but even if/when it’s topped by whatever work inevitably includes more titles and spans an even greater history of anime, duplicating the heart of this AMV won’t be quite such a simple matter.

editor: Bauzi
anime: Serial Experiments Lain, Genius Party
music: Röyksopp & Robyn – “Sayit”

No, I don’t consider 2 Unlimited or any of the 90s Eurodance groups to be “techno” (this is my prerogative but probably a bad opinion). Nor do I really consider Scooter or The Prodigy or anything in this to be techno, either (just to be clear, the AniMix is awesome either way). The kind of music I do think of as techno has never been very appreciated by people involved in making anime music videos, a fact that’s probably not surprising at all to anyone but myself. This is a very long-winded, unfortunately snobbish way of getting to the point of how I’ve always wished there were more techno videos in this hobby, a lament on the level of complaining about the dearth of polka or blues AMVs. Don’t hold your breath, they’re just not gonna happen. Yeah, lolligerjoj’s “GEHIRNSTURMEN” certainly does the trick, but speaking solely of the music alone, it’s packed with more violent aggression than groove and is deeper into the realm of dungeon torture music than I ever really want to listen to.

Röyksopp are not the techno gurus I was expecting to inspire such a video, but I also didn’t know they’d transitioned from tasteful downtempo tunes to banging tracks like this. Bauzi’s synthesis of the track with the eternally iconic cyberpunk masterpiece Serial Experiments Lain and Perfect Blue animator Hideki Futamura’s contribution to the film anthology Genius Party (still unseen by yours truly) is as perfect a blend of the kind of the sounds and visual themes you could ask for in an AMV like this, but as a capital-T Techno AMV, the editing of “HYPERLUST” is also a creative reflection of these sources. Bauzi refers to his creative approach as glitchart, probably as accurate of a description as possible, but one I’d rather leave out of the discussion. This isn’t a meme, it’s just great editing and the product of recognizing the common themes in sources that work across different mediums toward a common vision. The premise of the video (calling it a story is perhaps stretching the term a little too far) is easy to follow, the inventive and dazzling visuals, standing as some of the most compelling effects I saw in anything last year, never overwhelming the viewer’s ability to keep up. It’s an uncompromising and kinda brilliant work of art.

4. The Last Dance
editor: shumira_chan
anime: Ah! My Goddess
music: The Hooters – “And We Danced”

Despite my occasional correspondence with this editor, shumira_chan remains an enigma as I still don’t understand exactly when all of her AMVs were actually made or why she’d release them at a slow drip of two or three every year instead of all at once. Just to be clear, I’m okay with this, especially when her works are consistently as good as this one. Like last year’s “Back When We Belonged” (which I’d uploaded to Vimeo until my channel was shut down a few months ago, a problem I’ll finally get around to fixing some time soon), “The Last Dance” is an Ah! My Goddess video, a series I’ve never actually watched but already sort of love thanks to her works. There’s a sincerity in her AMVs that’s at its strongest here, with fundamentally strong effects-free editing that makes the most of every cut and every opportunity to slip in effective internal and lyric sync. The romantic sentiment of this AMV feels strangely quaint today, but that’s part of what makes it feel so unique. Like a love letter or a handmade gift, it’s the kind of work that expresses feelings from the heart in a way we rarely see today.

3. Audacity
editor: pwcagal
anime: Your Lie in April
music: Eminem – “Lose Yourself”

It’s barely been three years since the conclusion of Your Lie in April and as time goes on I’ve struggled to relive the emotions I felt when I first watched the series or encountered so many of the AMVs it initially inspired. It’s hard for me to shake the sense that the dramatic juices of it have been permanently squeezed dry by overexposure; this is more the inevitable fate of any popular series than any sort of critique directed towards this one. I wasn’t expecting anyone to do anything new with this series any time soon. Thing is, pwcagal didn’t really have to. “Audacity” is a traditional AMV in every obvious aspect of the sense, but the use of a song like this injects a new attitude and perspective into the material. In the hands of a lesser editor this might come across like a parody, but “Audacity” is never anything less than thoroughly convincing.

Maybe it seems like a sensible match after all. Your Lie in April and “Lose Yourself” both deal in the sort of serious tones and subject matter that look as compatible as anything could ever be for an AMV. But the dramatic stakes of the series are twisted in a different direction than we’re used to as Kousei’s motivations take a very different turn than we’re used to seeing. I’m sure this AMV will look good and work on a viewer who’s unfamiliar with the series, but those of us who know it well might feel a little more astonished by how much this really flies in the face of everything we’ve seen before. The first 30 seconds gently lures the viewer in, giving them a chance to recognize that familiar intro and acknowledge that, yeah, this is a “clever” idea. Trust me, you might think you’re prepared for how this will play out, but it’s more than you’re ready for and nothing at all like the joke you might have been expecting. The basic premise of this series is rarely questioned by most editors who sit down to work with it, and while pwcagal doesn’t tear down every established plot element or character trait, just coming at it from a slightly different angle helps it feel fresh in ways it hasn’t in a long time. The editing is fluid, confident, somehow reflects both the heavy and delicate elements of the music and illustrates nearly every line of the song except for the few that were edited out so skillfully that you’d never know they were gone if you didn’t read it here.

2. Neon Genesis Evangelion「AMV」Part A
editor: Jurrutt Cuurtnuy
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
music: Factory Floor – “Fall Back”

I was reluctant to include this on the list at all just based on the promise that there would inevitably be more to it in the future, but what’s here is not what you’d expect at all from a typical work in progress video. As the video description suggests, this is part 1 of 3. The final version, as envisioned by the editor, could be at least 10 minutes long. Not knowing what’s going to happen or when, acknowledging that the four minutes of this video had me more excited than anything else all year long, it’s here with no hesitations, a more complete and imaginative work than most editors’ finished Evangelion videos.

Compared to Bauzi’s “HYPERLUST,” (another Techno AMV, the beginning and end of similarities between the two) this video is decidedly lo-fi, an aesthetic choice that’s fitting the eternally 90’s-bound source material. Edited in a rigidly linear fashion, it retraces the episodes from the beginning to end (or at least through episode 24), cutting scenes into short snippets that are instantly familiar-looking but shown in way we’ve never quite seen before. As many iconic shots as there are in this, there are just as many that I’m sure I’ve never seen once in an Evangelion AMV. The heavy repetition of this track and the “flawed” video quality might send even the biggest Eva fans running back toward more traditional tributes to their favorite anime, but then I again I can’t say for sure as this editor has never seemed particularly eager to beg for anyone else’s approval of his work, let alone the focus group-like process of putting it out there into the fandom or the competitive AMV world. I sincerely hope that fans who love this series, electronic music or truly unique AMVs somehow find it, but even if it remains largely unseen by those viewers, that’s probably okay. You can tell that this is a deeply personal creative response to the material that most people just aren’t going to get. It’s not a vehicle to evoke familiar emotions or imitate tropes you know and love, but a mirror held up to your own ideas or nostalgia for Eva, an ink blot test in AMV form.

1. Fine Without You
editor: DeadInside
anime: Flip Flappers
music: Tame Impala -“The Less I Know the Better”

When I found this video in the last stages of making this list, I barely tacked it onto the very end as an afterthought, perhaps an interesting or unexpected bookend to the back of the list that I definitely felt good about but otherwise had no idea what to make of. In the week or so that followed, my affection for it just grew and grew every time I watched it, to the point where I knew just had to include it in the top ten. Little time would pass before I realized that this video from God knows who was just everything I never I needed right now, the fulfillment of everything I love about AMVs and the cure to my ever festering cynicism about everything that ever makes this hobby frustrating or disappointing. If that sounds absolutely miserable, no, I’m really not. (I loved making this list and I love finding stuff like this that I’d never have come across otherwise if I didn’t have an occasion to desperately poke around for anything interesting or different or attention-grabbing that just wasn’t going to land in my lap if I didn’t try to dig it up myself.) If it sounds hyperbolic, I’m sure it is, but I can indulge in that if I want.

I’m not completely unfamiliar with this anime series. No, I haven’t watched it and I know nothing about it aside from hearing its name in passing a couple times over the past year. I had watched one AMV made from it, one I liked a lot but which I’d rather not compare to “Fine Without You.” I’d never heard this song before, either. Glancing at the lyrics–which I am apparently too hard of hearing to simply understand by turning my ears to them–breaks the illusion of the wonderful lyric sync in this video. This is another video that doesn’t succeed in literal lyric sync as much as it does in honing in on the emotion in the lyrics. That’s as effective and emotionally resonant approach as you want it to be, save to say that I never needed any nudging for this AMV to unequivocally convey a meaning found between the song and these clips edited in this order with whatever fingerprints the editor found fit to leave all over it. Not that DeadInside (AKA SaltElementals AKA Salt AMV) was really leaving any that would distract from the gorgeous, beautiful flow of this AMV. This is a pretty simple video, which I suppose is one good reason why it was as taken for granted as it seems to have been. 500 views in eleven months is neither a lot nor a little, depending on what you’re comparing it to, but I feel it’s not quite enough in this case.

Or maybe this isn’t the simple video I’m quick to judge it as. There’s a lot of effects here, masked transitions, wipes, zooms and camera movements. They’re really all over the place, but at least compared to how I’m used to seeing this stuff happen in videos of this style, they’re often deceptively subtle. It took several viewings before I really noticed many of them at all. Even without an extraordinary amount of rotoscoping (or perhaps any at all, idk), I had to watch the whole AMV at 0.25 speed to finally see some of the seams in this thing and appreciate just how the editor was using effects to create such a fluid sense of movement between clips. Maybe the editor is really going overboard here and it’s just the kind of indulgence in over-editing that’s managing to get me hooked. Maybe I’m willing to overlook some of this video’s flaws when there’s just enough effects and pretty scenes to distract me. Or maybe not. The first ten seconds of this AMV contains some of the most simple yet purposeful editing I’ve seen all year. It’s nothing but simple straight cuts, certainly not “impressive” by any technical measure, but it accomplishes so much in hooking the viewer, introducing the characters and providing a springboard into the rest of the video as the song blossoms into its true form. And as busy as this video gets, there is an unedited 10-second clip near the very end that’s just the most wonderful climax of any AMV I can ever think of. Granted, it’s the sort of beautifully-animated scene that editors salivate at the sight of, usually overuse and abuse, but I love that it was saved for just the right moment here because it’s a perfect reflection of the shimmering beauty of the music and a much-deserved emotional payoff to the scenes that played out in the two and a half minutes that came before it.

Even after “Fine Without You” is over, I don’t really know anything about Flip Flappers that I didn’t before. And yet I do know that I’ve just followed a story I implicitly understood outside of any cues besides the odd lyric or two that somehow stuck to my brain, leaving a well-timed impression that’s the only place where language ever intersects with my instinctual attachment for this stuff. I really don’t know if this is a Flip Flappers summary or just the editor’s private vision of how the series feels to them or something much more random than that. My experience of it isn’t a state I can put into words. Euphoria is too strong a word to use for this emotion, but it’s an irrational sense of well-being and good vibes that I’m content to feel without understanding.