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previous entries:
favorite AMVs of 2018 (honorable mentions)
favorite AMVs of 2018 (#40-31)

30. jgndfjnbjnx03vcjxn
editor: reice
anime: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
music: Nine Inch Nails – “The Lovers”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9774

AMVNews

From its opening shots, this AMV feels shrouded in mystery, a sense that is only enhanced by its near-unsearchable title and that odd feeling you get anytime you find an editor who doesn’t put their stuff on YouTube. While it’s not a horror AMV, there’s an ominous sense of dread that always seems to be closing in…which is the last thing you’d expect for a video featuring so many scenes of characters playing baseball. Yeah, we’ve been around this block a few times before. Kyon’s befuddlement at his classmates’ behavior or his sense that something’s amiss shouldn’t be the least bit surprising at this point, yet it’s never felt stranger or more unsettling as it does in this AMV. There’s a subtlety and restraint in this work that’s rarely rewarded by big audiences, all the better to bewitch the lucky few who may stumble across it for years to come.

29. Technicolor Dreamer
editor: Kireblue
anime: Little Witch Academia
music: Todrick Hall (feat. Superfruit) – “Black & White”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=203896

This year’s winner of my “What is an AMV?” award, “Technicolor Dreamer” also just happened to be as far as you could possibly get from the grating, edgy FX-fests that the hobby became inseparably associated with in 2018 (and which I will lazily continue to keep comparing to every other video on this list, probably). Refreshingly sincere and totally unconcerned with resembling anything less cartoonish than Little Witch Academia or less cynical than post-“Glee,” YouTube musical theater (okay, honestly I’m not really sure what to call this kind of music), “Technicolor Dreamer” weaves its sources together into a sum greater than its parts.

28. Frontier Psychiatrist
editor: DopplerDo
anime: Trigun
music: The Avalanches – “Frontier Psychiatrist”

DopplerDo indulges in excessively literal lyric and music sync whenever possible in this AMV, invoking the same goofy delight as the original music video. That’s probably expected for this song and has already kinda been done. Editing in subtle visual glitches to mirror the sounds of not just vinyl scratching, but also the clicks and pops of the actual records sampled for the song, is the kind of above and beyond level attention to detail that just blew my mind once I finally took notice of them after a couple of viewings. Prior to that, I was too distracted by the freakishly perfect pairing of the song’s western movie sound cues and Trigun‘s over the top gunslinger action scenes, which make these two iconic sources feel made for one another.

27. Rocks Off!
editor: Prostrate Constantly
anime: Love Live!
music: The Rolling Stones – “Rocks Off”

Pairing up this kind of anime with this kind of music would probably seem inconceivable to most editors, to say nothing of what most AMV viewers expect in 2018 (or at any time since the dawn of moe anime). There’s practically zero built in crossover appeal between these sources, but the actual editing of this AMV supplies most of its sense of surprise. Relying almost completely on straight cuts with extensive use of simple cropping or layer masking, “Rocks Off” resembles a cut-and-paste collage that’s constantly rearranging itself through split screens or the frequent pileup of multiple frames. Sometimes this recalls effects of yore like “window blinds” or “piano keys,” further leaving the viewer with a sense that this AMV exists outside of time as we know it. This description probably makes “Rocks Off!” sound like something that it really isn’t, so maybe you’ll just have to look for yourself. I won’t try to describe the detour into “experimental film” present here, suffice to say that it’s one of the strangest left turns I’ve ever seen an AMV take, and that it somehow works.

26. Pleader
editor: tonbonthemon
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
music: Alt-J – “Pleader”

“Pleader” succeeds with much the same appeal as tonbonthemon’s “Shinji In the Flesh?,” playing off Eva‘s epic story and magnifying its already grandiose qualities into something that feels even more towering and timeless. I really don’t know what this song has to do with Evangelion, but I’m completely on board with tonbonthemon’s vision of a world where it makes perfect sense (the hymn-like elements of the song set the tone for Eva’s apocalyptic themes, even though much of this video is less doomsday-fixated than you’d expect). “Pleader” is a little pretentious at times–Dictionary.com defines “pretentious” as “making an exaggerated outward show; ostentatious,” and “ostentatious” as “intended to attract notice,” take from that what you will–but it rewards patience and finds a way to make a perennially overused source feel different than it ever has before.

25. tunnels in the air
editor: Siar Mortal
anime: various
music: Louis Cole – “Tunnels in the Air”

I had to take screencaps from this video and plug them into a recognition engine to figure out what any of the sources used in this video were. Turns out they’re from a bunch of different titles, and no, they’ve got nothing at all to do with one another. Don’t know what else I was really expecting, given how I have no idea really how any of the images in this video relate, nor do I have any understanding of how watching them infers meaning or actually provokes the emotional response that I’m experiencing when I watch it. And yet, here we are. Maybe not the most abstract AMV of the year, but certainly the most cryptic. Strange how that still makes for such a mellow video so pleasant to sit back and watch (brain surgery scenes included).

24. (Day)dreaming
editor: rgb
anime: Hibike! Euphonium
music: Michael Andrews – “Cellar Door,” “Liquid Spear Waltz”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9916

“Man this video has a strong aura to it,” one YouTube comment says about rgb’s “(Day)dreaming.” There’s a strong sense of something spiritual or mystic coming off of this AMV, even though the scenes from Hibike! Euphonium it shows are relatively ordinary and mundane. This AMV has a meditative and mellow vibe to it, but it’s not a “chillout” video by any means. The sparse effects applied to the beautiful footage make a convincing “less is more” argument, though others will still disagree.

23. Cross My Heart
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: Katanagatari
music: Walk the Moon – “One Foot”
download: https://www.animemusicvideos.org/members/members_videoinfo.php?v=204092

“Cross My Heart” has all the best qualities of a lively action AMV, a thoughtful character profile and a lighthearted, fun video that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Perhaps that last part stands out the most, as there’s a cheerful optimism in it that’s infectious and immediate even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the source material. Even thought there’s very little time spent presenting anything that looks like hand-holding exposition for the viewer, it’s quickly obvious who and what this AMV is about, and almost immediately it’s hard not to feel caught up in it. Every kind of basic sync you can think of is masterfully employed here, and while I wouldn’t hold this video up as something for aspiring editors to try to reproduce, I really wish more of them would take the time to watch something like this and consider how every part of this works as well as it does or why the editor made the choices he did.

22. MY2007
editor: tomik
anime: Naruto
music: Linkin Park – “Faint”
download: http://amvnews.ru/index.php?go=Files&in=view&id=9606

Extrapolating a stranger’s life story from a title that may not be as literally biographical as it sounds is probably a stretch, but doing so would explain so much about this AMV. tomik has no other editing credits online, at least according to AMVNews, YouTube or anything I could find via Google. It may be their only AMV, one ostensibly kicking around in their head and/or in unfinished production over the last eleven years (or possibly knocked in just a couple of weeks last May, who knows?). Could “MY2007” really be an ode to their days of Naruto fandom, an expression of the enthusiasm they felt toward the series in their younger days that they were unable to bring to life until over a decade later? It certainly looks like a product of the specific sort of passion that was swirling around the series back then, the kind of vision that was brought to life in so many classic AMVs that defined the hobby during the 2000s and spawned countless edits of the sort that were widely mocked over the past decade (but are actually aging pretty gracefully compared to current trends). “MY2007” makes no apologies for its celebration of Naruto as a potent and addicting adrenal agonist, reminding us that, yeah, this really was a high bar of both action and emotional storytelling that resonated with a huge audience, which is actually way more fun to celebrate than to mock or pretend you were never completely obsessed with in the first place.

21. Hard Reset
editor: DopplerDo
anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica
music: Kaivon – “Heartbeat”

The sheer number of Madoka AMVs and DopplerDo edits on this list almost convinced me that finding a place for “Hard Reset” in this list was redundant or unnecessary. Released three weeks ago when most of what you’re reading was pretty well planned out, I thought about saving this for next year. The problem is, it’s way too good to just ignore. I actually wonder if I’m underrating it here. I’m really at a loss to describe what makes this video so good, because it’s there’s no single quality that stands out for me as the reason why I’ve somehow found a way to watch it more than anything else that this editor released in 2018. The effect work in this video is as complex and elegant as you’ll ever see, but extremely purposeful in following the groove of the song and squeezing out the emotional themes of this series.

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My ten favorite AMVs from 2016, presented in an easy-to-read format that bucks the whole trend of actually trying to make these kind of prestigious round-ups look more inviting than a bunch of blocks of text with no pictures!

Back When We Belonged
editor: shumira_chan
anime: Ah! My Goddess
song: Pat Benetar – “We Belong”
link: https://vimeo.com/202554335
I don’t know if there are any other active editors working so squarely within the “old school” approach to AMVs as shumira_chan, who’s never had much use for the visual effects or meta-elements that characterize modern AMVs for most viewers today. Back Where We Belong is the perfect example of how she operates, using sources that are as far from “hip” as possible in 2016 and crafting an honest, heartfelt video that seems to harken back to a simpler time (whether that’s 1984 or 1993 or sometime in the during the golden age of AMVs, it’s hard to tell, but cover that mix and let it stew and you’ll get right idea). By employing a couple extremely effective passages of quick cuts and some key scenes that perfectly match the song’s brilliant shifts in dynamics, shumira_chan has made another video that’s undeniably slow but hits all the right notes in all the best moments. Surprisingly emotional, not necessarily because of the dramatic content of the clips employed, but the more in the conviction of their presentation.

Blithe and Bonny
editor: UnluckyArtist
anime: various
song: Photay – “No Sass”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2ffCXaP-sk
Undoubtedly the coolest video I saw last year and definitely one of the prettiest, Blithe and Bonny utilizes some of familiar-looking sources and leaves you feeling like you’re watching them for the first time. I’m at a loss about how to describe this video, what really makes it different from all the other AMVs that use these kind of sources in this kind of a video, other than to just say everything. It is beautiful and trippy, certainly dreamlike but always presenting the viewer with a clear image and leaving very vivid impressions with every scene. It’s refreshingly mellow and chilled out but upbeat and always engaging. I enjoy it as a monument to the death of EDM and dubstep, which are still with us but finally lost their stranglehold on the entire hobby as the default instrumental soundtracks of choice. This video, not to mention a few others on this list you’re reading right now, stands as proof that once-unapproved sorts of electronic music that might have been considered too strange, eclectic, soulful, musical, can lead to great videos that people actually love. Blithe and Bonny shows how taking risks, ignoring  expectations and following your bliss can lead to something special.

Fiat Lux
editor: PieandBeer
anime: Tokyo Godfathers
song: Sleeping at Last – “Sun”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWltxUkxxbE
We’ve had six years to get over the death of Satoshi Kon, but you know what? The niche he carved out for himself, not just in his personal style of filmmaking, but in the entire realm of mature, adult-oriented animation, still sits completely vacant. Watching Fiat Lux brought these thoughts to the fore, but it’s far from the first Tokyo Godfathers AMV that I’ve ever seen. It may, however, be the best. This is basic editing at its finest and gives me honest hope that people will still be making and enjoying “simple” AMVs for many years to come. I first watched this two or three days before Christmas, and I’ve got to say that I’ve never seen an AMV/had an AMV-experience that felt more timely or appropriate given the circumstances. Fiat Lux is arranged, basically, as a condensed, linear version of the film Tokyo Godfathers, a creative approach I don’t have very many kind words for (no matter how many times I’m slapped in the face with great videos that just happen to resemble that framework).  It not only succeeded in rekindling my love for the film, but was a genuinely moving work in its own right that felt remarkably necessary, an uplifting end to a year that — forgive the cliche — really needed one.

Fishes
editor: IGNOTUM
anime: Patlabor 2: The Movie
song: Loess – “Lll6,” Kettel – “Teeth, Wait”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBKFhK4xQTM
The world of ambient AMVs has never been anything but a minuscule pursuit that’s easy to overlook and not entirely impossible to catalog in its entirety if you were so inclined to do so. Fishes is not a perfect AMV — the placement of certain cuts feel determined less by the editor’s design than by the original length of the clips being used — but it establishes a very unique mood early on, and its use of decidedly dated-looking but gorgeous animation gives it a distinguished, organic feel that inevitably sets it apart from nearly any other AMV you’ll watch any time soon. The icy drone of the music featured couldn’t compliment the grey, chilly visuals any more fittingly; the video feels cold. Maybe the fact that it feels like anything at all is what makes it unique within this microgenre of AMVs. IGNOTUM has only edited a handful of AMVs over the past few years, throwing out any traditional ideas along the way about how to please an audience and just doing their own thing. This is the long-form AMV I was wishing they’d someday make and it more than lived up to everything I was hoping for.

Ghost Audition
editor: lolligerjoj
anime: various
song: Floex – “Casanova,” Floex – “Ursa Major,” Floex – “The Castle”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8elOFNmJys4
No one even begins dabbling in video editing without first watching tens of thousands of hours of television, movies, and clips on Internet. So it’s understandable if even the most inventive AMVs still feel like imitations of other works that both the editor and their viewers have soaked up over the years. This is inevitable, forgivable, and not the indictment of creative plagiarism that it probably sounds like. I guess what I’m getting at is, even at their most creative and entertaining, AMVs almost never give us anything genuinely new that we haven’t already seen in some shape or form in our screen-addicted lives. The AMVs of lolligerjoj may be some of the only works to come out of this hobby that have managed to truly transcend it and use video — video that just happens to be anime footage — and break any new ground. Even if Ghost Audition doesn’t startle the viewer with a wealth of new ideas like some of lolligerjoj’s past works, it’s possibly the most effective synthesis of his signature ideas to date, and due to its near-exclusive use of Studio Ghibli-produced material, it provides a spoil of emotionally-rich, beautiful images for lolligerjoj to twist into new shapes. As brilliant as Into the Labyrinth and GEHIRNSTURMEN were, they always left me wanting a video like this, one that embraces the viewer instead of pummeling them with violent imagery or aggressive dubstep drops. It’s a beautiful piece of video art that grabs your attention and gives you that momentary feeling where you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at, and wondering why you don’t get to experience that feeling more often.

Koku’s Rage
editor: Farm AMV
anime: Dragon Ball Super
song: Linkin Park – “Crawling”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa_qO_2yENQ
I’ve only encountered mentions of “anime music videos” outside of the fandom on a handful of occasions; in every case, they were all related to discussions of Dragon Ball Z or Linkin Park. Even if the stereotype hasn’t been relevant for about a decade, it’s proven persistent enough to suggest that it’s probably never, ever going away. While it’s a phenomenon that’s been the butt of a thousand jokes over the years, none of those jokes were ever as fun as this video, which skewers the legacy of the Linkinball Z video while singling out the latest series of the franchise, Dragon Ball Super, for its occasionally embarrassing animation quality. As someone who’s never watched more than a couple of Dragon Ball episodes from any of its different series and was completely out of the loop when it came to its newest incarnation, I had no knowledge of this series or any of the criticism it might have rightfully drawn. Absolutely none of this background is needed to enjoy every second of this video. One personal takeaway from this that may or may not have been intended: Koku’s Rage, as much as it’s poking fun at a very unintended legacy of a certain strain of AMVs, is also celebrating what made them so enjoyable and meaningful for so many editors and fans. The hilariously tacky-looking fighting scenes, soundtracked by the lamest possible cover of Linkin Park’s “Crawling,” are juxtaposed with fragments of what look and sound like a competently-edited and sincerely-composed Linkin Park/Dragon Ball action video. As unoriginal of an idea as that may be, the glimpses of it feel like a tribute to the enthusiasm that sparked each and every such video, a celebration of learning how to selectively dump one’s creative self-consciousness (or the adolescent psychology that makes this act kind of a second-nature), even against your better judgement, and just making something.

Red Herring
editor: qwaqa
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
song: Georgy Sviridov – “Time Forward!”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3suKgluaoXE
The most common response I’ve encountered from viewers of this video is its resemblance to “Communist propaganda,” which, upon reflection, is not at all incorrect (and was my gut-reaction the first time I watched it). I do wonder what else this video might be about, the degree to which it may (or may not) draw upon uniquely-Soviet styles of art and graphic design rather than the simple idea of “propaganda” that most viewers immediately reach for, what the choice of music might mean beyond invoking a generic idea of The U.S.S.R. in the typical Western viewer’s mind (and/or how the context for this piece has changed over the years), or the degree to which the editor really finds a connection between Soviet-era socialism/militarism and Evangelion‘s themes of sacrifice (or just its elegant montages of heavy equipment and giant weapons moving like beautiful machines, I don’t know). I find this interesting because I am 99% sure that its editor (qwaqa) is Russian, and I’m willing to bet that the images in this AMV have far different and specific meanings to him than they do to the majority of the viewers. Then again, qwaqa may be deliberately playing up these images as cartoon-ish Soviet kitsch, but it’s anyone’s guess as to why. The simplest explanation is that it all just looks cool, and definitely unlike any other AMV made this year or possibly ever.

Singular Strike Gentleman
editor: Glitzer
anime: One Punch Man
song: Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kipprnrVwrk
I’m still trying to understand how One Punch Man inspired so many dreadfully serious and violent AMVs last year, especially considering how its irreverent, lighthearted tone was so widely-praised as inherent to its basic appeal. Glitzer’s One Punch Man AMV does not make such mistakes with its material at all. Singular Strike Gentleman isn’t just a big, fun AMV, but one of those that has charisma and a wholeheartedly positive, fun vibe. Like, for real. There’s no cynicism or Internet humor or mean bullshit here. This video just makes you feel good, and aside from that, it just feels big. You feel engaged in it, maybe like one of those old AMVs you watched a long time ago that got you into this stuff, and feel glad that it’s popular and wish even more people would watch it. It’s a relief to still be entertained by stuff like this.

Sky Journey
editor: Nopy
anime: various
song: Brookes Brothers – “Daybreak”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdWEy-yIuMg
I follow countless editors who’ve been making AMVs for over a decade (or much more!), but they’re the exception to the rule. The typical AMV editor is usually good for a video or two, released anywhere from a few days to a year or so apart, before silently bowing out of the editing scene and never coming back. Those editors who stay active and release more than a handful of videos over a couple of years’ time, whether they’re active in the community or not, are truly few and far between. Rarer still are those editors who put together that lone video or two, seemingly retire without any fanfare, only to re-emerge years later with something new. When Nopy released a couple of videos back in 2004 — each cut together with very basic editing software, they are very much a product of their time and bear the marks of an ambitious but inexperienced and ill-equipped hand — only to leave his Org account untouched for over a decade, it would have been a safe to bet that he, like hundreds of other editors who graced the pre-Youtube era of the site, would never be heard from again. His release of Sky Journey in early 2016 wasn’t only the end of a remarkably long hiatus, but was evidently the end of a transitional period of some sort that changed his approach to editing, refining both his ideas and technique. Whatever happened in the time that passed, he returned with a better eye for scenes and a sense of flow to his editing that wasn’t there before. Sky Journey fits squarely within the mold of a certain kind of AMV that I’m actually kind of burnt out on, which is why I was so surprised to find myself so wrapped up in it. I’d sooner just broadly recommend it and have the viewer find out what’s so special about it on their than to  try to describe it. It’s time well-spent!

VY CMa
editor: CrackTheSky
anime: Diebuster (Aim for the Top 2!)
song: Brookes Brothers – “Paperchase (feat. Danny Byrd)”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrElOM12QUM
With no perceivable effects beyond some deft camerawork, VY CMa is a simple, bare-bones video that builds an irresistible sense of momentum with its use of high-energy scenes and continuous internal sync. The tone that’s achieved in this video is one that’s regularly pursued by “big” AMVs — either by dipping into a deep crate of OP footage or flirting with professional-level effects — but rarely realized to the degree that’s on display here, which benefits from the focus and cohesion of working with a single source. Am I truly a Gainax fan if I’ve never dipped my feet into the Gunbuster/Diebuster universe? Who knows, but after watching this video, the necessity of doing that has never felt more urgent.

Honorable Mentions:
Kanadajinn – And I Run
KazKon – The Atlas Syndrome
Xophilarus – Bi Time High
TheNanashi – Ebb and Flow
Xophilarus – Garbage Can
Elcalavero – MutiretnI
chibidani – No More Lost Time
UnluckyArtist – Screaming Artist

I’ve seen a few AMVs that nail a kind of shoegaze-like visual vibe in their use of overlays, blurry slow motion and dreamy atmospherics, but this is the first I’ve come across that actually plays with that music and makes an overt nod to the whole aesthetic. Or maybe I have seen it tried before, but this is the first time it’s really felt so complete and convincing.

Emotive (AKA Cast to Stone, as the AMV credits read) made another shoegaze-flavoured AMV that I want to see but unlike this particular Le Portrait de Petit Cossette video,  it’s promising spoilers so it’ll have to wait.

This is probably the shortest entry I’ve written in a few years but it’s all I’ve got for now.

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