One of the biggest inconsistencies in my writing, a source of frustration I haven’t been able to identify or think clearly about up to this point, is an inability to stick to an objective or subjective voice in my discussion or critique of any of the AMVs I post about on this blog (and even framing most of the observation-based writing I dump here as “critique” is really pushing it, but that’s a whole other matter). Discussing why an AMV “works”/is good/is worth watching is not the same as explaining why I like it, but I often conflate these ideas without a second thought. Likewise, discussing why an AMV does not work is not the same as exploring why I think it’s “overrated” or exploring possible reasons for why I don’t enjoy watching it. Once again, I would love to discuss this video in terms of how it succeeds by obeying the “rules” of AMV editing or how it demonstrates the intangible qualities of flow. Whether it’s due to my own shortcomings as a viewer or writer, or that I’m just projecting a host of very personal ideas and feelings onto it that few others will experience as they watch it, I am almost certain my efforts to build a case for this AMV in objective terms is already doomed, try as I may to convince myself and anyone else reading this that I’m doing just that.

Posts like these are where I usually echo the virtues of old-school AMVs, how they stand the test of time because they excel in the timeless basics of good editing, “rules” as true today as they were back then. This usually boils down to rehashing the concept of sync, whatever form it may take, a quality that the video I’ve posted above is almost completely devoid of. Without traditional lyric sync or internal sync, and an observable but barely-there sense of external sync, there won’t be much here for fans of modern AMVs to grab onto. I still believe there’s value to this stuff outside of the dopamine rush we expect it to reward us with, but honestly I have no idea what anyone’s experience of this video will be or what other rewards it could possibly deliver.

Even in the heyday of the golden age of AMVs, TaranT’s “Only Time Will Tell” surely felt like an old-school throwback of a video when it was released in 2004. That’s inevitable given the extremely-dated footage from 1986’s Windaria, an anime of a certain visual aesthetic that’s aged in fascinating ways by today’s standards (judging solely by the clips seen here) but likely looked static and bland to anime fans in the early 2000s. The song, an early effort in the brief career of country/disco diva Susan Anton, was the somber closing theme from Ralph Bakshi ‘s 1977 science fiction cult classic The Wizards. Needless to say, this stuff wasn’t going to blow people’s minds, a fact conceded by TaranT in the video description: “Technically, this video was an exercise in creating cinematic crossfading. It works well with this music and theme, but the result is not something that will get people hopping. This video is for those more contemplative moments.” Re-write that statement into its complete opposite and it would be a good description for the most popular AMV released on that same day. You can probably guess which of the two I’d rather watch in 2018.

“Only Time Will Tell” is as low-key of an AMV as you’ll ever find, composed of barely over a dozen cuts of low-quality footage and an mp3 that sounds muffled and muted compared the best quality version of the song that I can find online. These may be technical shortcomings, sure, but they don’t necessarily undercut the video in what it sets out to achieve. If you’re going to actually watch this AMV, you’ll have to lean into it a bit, listen more closely and look at it with a little more attention than you’re used to, handle it with the attention and care you would an old book with a loose binding and brittle pages. Allowing yourself a purposeful two minutes with it won’t change your life, but if you’re the least bit nostalgic for old AMVs or this particular bygone era of their history, experiencing this video on an intimate level might be the sort of thing you’ll dig.

That said, AMVs from 2004 are neither rare nor necessarily all that old in the scheme of things, but given the age of the sources in this video, it’s easy to mistake it for a lost video from the early 1990s. But on a deeper level, “Only Time Will Tell” is a sincerely thoughtful meditation on the passage of time, conveying a certain bittersweet nostalgia that’s likely grown more profound with each passing year since its creation. Whether or not the editor intended for the look and feel of this AMV to reinforce those themes, I can only guess, but they really, really do.

In spite of all its technical shortcomings I made sure to rattle off, so obvious that they barely require a mention at all, I still maintain that “Only Time Will Tell” is a competently-edited video. The use of crossfades and slow motion, which often seem smooth and fluid in concept but messy in actual practice, are incorporated expertly enough to give the video a soft, comforting and unhurried feel. Even the feathered masking, as unsophisticated and possibly clichéd as it is here, achieves the desired effect. If you can’t conceive of a simple video like this succeeding as a touching love letter to the past, whether it’s to the films the editor once enjoyed or in reverence to a more romantic ideas, I doubt this AMV will have the emotional heft or editorial chops to convince you otherwise. And that’s fine. “Only Time Will Tell” probably works less effectively as a traditional AMV than it does as a time capsule from a nebulous, simpler time.