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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
anime: Ah! My Goddess
song: Pat Benetar – “We Belong”
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
song: Photay – “No Sass”
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.
anime: Tokyo Godfathers
song: Sleeping at Last – “Sun”
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.
anime: Patlabor 2: The Movie
song: Loess – “Lll6,” Kettel – “Teeth, Wait”
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.
song: Floex – “Casanova,” Floex – “Ursa Major,” Floex – “The Castle”
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.
editor: Farm AMV
anime: Dragon Ball Super
song: Linkin Park – “Crawling”
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.
anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
song: Georgy Sviridov – “Time Forward!”
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
anime: One Punch Man
song: Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”
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.
song: Brookes Brothers – “Daybreak”
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!
anime: Diebuster (Aim for the Top 2!)
song: Brookes Brothers – “Paperchase (feat. Danny Byrd)”
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.
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
This AMV showed up in my “recommended” feed on Youtube last night and I’m still trying to figure out why. Watched it on a whim because…it had to be good, right?
It’s definitely possible that this is not the original title of the AMV, but since it doesn’t appear to be listed on the Org, there’s no telling for sure. This video was posted on Youtube by the user NiteGodess over 10 years ago with the disclaimer, “I did not make this, I found it.” The only name given in the end credits is “JENNY PRODUCTIONS,” which is attached to a few other AMVs on Youtube and can be traced back to the editor Misao_chan on the Org. Her final AMV was posted to the Org just two days after NiteGodess uploaded this one to Youtube. Misao_chan hasn’t been heard from since, so precisely why this effort was never properly cataloged will likely remain a mystery. This same AMV was reuploaded to Youtube six years later by a different user who provided even fewer details about its origins. Its second appearance many years after the original upload could be a complete coincidence, or evidence that it somehow may have found a few more pre-Youtube fans than one might expect.
(A third instance of the video appearing on Youtube could be counted if one considers Flyingdownward’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” which tacks an extra minute of mid-2000s anime clips onto the end of the original AMV and re-scores the whole thing with a blown speaker-quality mp3 of Nicki French’s cover of the immortal Bonnie Tyler classic [credited to the A-Teens by the “editor”]. Flyingdownward’s channel hosts at least 70 AMVs, although it’s anyone’s guess how many are simply altered versions of other editors’ works. Her most successful AMV, “Euro Dancers – Anime Mix,” has racked up nearly 140,000 views over the past ten years.)
NiteGodess’s description lists the song used in the original AMV as “Wish You Were Here” by the band Within Temptation. The end credits of the song list the musical artist as Blackmore’s Night. A search on Youtube for “Wish You Were Here” with “Blackmore’s Night” yields “about 25,000 results.” Searching for “Within Temptation” and the song title lands “about 21,300 results.” The top hit for each, along with several other results, all seem play the exact same recording used in this AMV. I have never listened to either of these bands, and reading about them for the first time, it appears they have no connection to each other whatsoever and certainly no shared members that would create any confusion among fans. To top it all off, this mournful, tragic song is apparently a cover of (wait for it) an original composition by the same Jock Jamz hitmakers of “Cotton-Eye Joe,” a fact I will surely need some time to come to grips with.
Even by the usual standards of AMVs edited in 2002, time hasn’t served this video well. There are ten different titles listed as source material and the video quality ranges from occasionally acceptable to borderline unwatchable. This will be a dealbreaker for pretty much any viewer who’s gotten into this stuff since 2010, which isn’t to say that resolution is the only problem this video has. The text (visually unappealing in every way possible) attempts to organize the scenes into thematic chunks and convey a profound message that’s ambiguous at best and collapses when nudged by the slightest amount of analysis. And yet, without those bumpers breaking the video into little pieces, the project might be nothing but a series of random clips. Maybe that’s all it is, anyway.
With no context for any of this, I just sat back and watched “In Every Story…” and went through the usual motions of wondering just what it was that the editor was going for, what inspired their idea and where they found their motivation to find and collect all these clips (there are over 200 cuts in this video, yes I actually counted). Somewhere in this detached, uninterested state of attention, I found that I was actually kind of sort of enjoying it. It’s a visual mess, packed with subtitles and alternating aspect ratios and no discernible musical sync. It does not work as a traditional AMV and, assuming one can pinpoint the actual goal of the editor who pieced it together, it’s unclear if it’s really working on its own terms, whatever those might be. There’s no clear relationship between the themes of the lyrics and the content or arrangement of the video clips that were used. Technical improvements and years of inherited editing savvy did nothing to make any of these issues go away; you’ll have no trouble finding loads of AMVs made in 2016 that suffer from these same problems. And yet, I haven’t seen anything recent that approached the experience of watching a video like this, which achieves an unlikely hypnotic effect in its repetitive roll-out of clips arranged into loosely similar scenes, mini-compilations of characters being slapped around, striking magical poses, running into dangerous situations, etc. This is every bit as disjointed of a concept as it sounds, but if these descriptions somehow pique your curiosity, then you may find this organized randomness charming in spite of itself. I don’t want to oversell this as some kind of accidental genius, it’s just a weird relic of a transitional time in the hobby and I guess I happened to be in the right frame of mind to latch onto whatever subliminal magic it’s channeling beneath the surface.
I find this video weird and interesting, but all things considered, I may never watch it again. Even as an object of nostalgia, it’s not much more than a stand-in for the hundreds/thousands of AMVs from the era that were made, shared, screened, and eventually lost to time. It captures the spirit of an age in the same hazy, nonspecific, fragmented detail that we remember it in, illuminating nothing we hadn’t already seen or leaving us with any threads to take hold of. It’s a past that remains out of focus, largely forgotten by its own creators, regarded as a small-time, inconsequential ephemera that’s sure to be left out of the Internet/fandom histories that geeks created, cast aside and are busy re-writing into a tale of solely focused on the big winners: social media empires, video games, meme culture. Sure, this video feels unstructured and disorganized, but it’s a product of a mind that was free and working on the fly without any of the influence of the social networks and sites that steer today’s young artists and DIY remixers to predetermined goals and models of “success.” The Internet in the early 2000s was a mess, but in hindsight that was a beautiful thing. Subcultures and niche communities lived in the shadows and were genuinely weird. Editors of videos like this one, no matter how flawed their works may be, were still pioneers in their own right. If we forget about all of it, that’s fine. Inevitably, that’s what we’ll all think of it, that is, when we even think of it at all.
AMVs don’t come much simpler than this. It’s not even “deceptively simple” in the way that we usually praise this kind of stuff, it’s as obviously simple as you can get and that’s a pretty risky move considering how tough it can be to keep a viewer’s interest without a deeper concept to string them along, not to mention how easily simplicity can be mistaken for laziness. If you haven’t watched Haibane Renmei then you’ll probably have no idea what’s happening in this video, but you might still be able to tell that most, if not all of this video, is clips taken from a single episode and possibly not even rearranged out of order. Watch any random Naruto AMV from ten years ago and you’ll see why this is rarely a good idea. But I think it works well enough here, probably because this is just about as perfect of an anime-song pairing as you’ll ever find.
Even for a nine year-old AMV, there’s something left to be desired from the quality of the video, and the initial scenes lose some of their impact from some lip flap that could have been corrected with a little bit of effort. I’d love to see what a cleaned-up version of this video would look like, but I wonder just how much it would really change the overall experience. This is a small, intimate, quiet little AMV, not a big blockbuster subjected to endless remasters and remakes, and if it results in insignificant improvement for a video of that scale, it would likely make little difference for an AMV like this.
This video was edited by neocinema AKA MasterV, who edited at least 3 AMVs in the mid 2000s and seems to have left the hobby (last logging into the Org exactly 1 year after this video was released). They left behind a Youtube channel that doesn’t seem to have been touched in 9 years and a website that seemed to be a film blog of sorts. Maybe there was more information about this AMV on it, but by the time the Wayback Machine had crawled the front page in 2007, it was too late. We do, however, get a look at what life was like in 2001 for the aspiring digital filmmaker.
Today is the first day of fall, and while the scenery in this video is a little too green for the occasion, you’ll have a hard time finding another AMV with such an autumnal feel as this one. How anyone can take it slow while drinking one of these is one of life’s biggest mysteries, but this AMV will help take the edge off.
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.
Maybe this could have been a great AMV even if it hadn’t fitted so nicely into my preconceptions of what a Madoka + Bjork video “should” look like. Thing is, once I saw what the source combination was, I not only was ridiculously hyped to watch it, but I suddenly also knew exactly how an AMV featuring this anime and this song had ought to fit together if it knew what was good for it. Of course, I had no such conscious thought but I certainly wasn’t ready approach this video objectively (assuming that I ever do when it comes to any AMV), and if I wasn’t fully aware of it, I certainly had an inkling that this was going to be a big disappointment if it dared to depart too far from my expectations. Finally watching the video, those expectations weren’t merely met, but totally realized both in terms of style and theme. So why did I feel so ambivalent about this?
Mind you, this was all about two years ago, when I first downloaded and watched this video and then forgot about it for more than a year. Looking back, I’m still struggling to understand why I underrated this AMV for so long. The color bar effects in the very beginning of the video seemed unnecessary — which is perhaps the worst thing you can say about them, really — and didn’t feel like a part of the video so much as something “layered” onto it. Or something like that. Never mind that Puella Magi Madoka Magica interweaves contrasting visual elements in every episode, dropping characters into settings that break all the rules about how anime is supposed to look. Admiring its unconventional style but being critical of an AMV for doing the same thing on a much less audacious scale is a curious response, indeed.
Coming back to this AMV some time last year, I couldn’t believe how I’d taken it for granted because it really is a terrific Madoka video. It plays off the mood of the series very well, not shying away from its darker themes but somehow conveying a hopeful message through it all, expressing both the sorrow you’d expect as well as an unexpected but most welcome sense of joy. There’s plenty of action packed into this video but it’s hardly a mindless pileup of the series’ many (undeniably dazzling) fighting scenes like so many one-dimensional (though often entertaining) Madoka AMVs tend to be. As for the music, this is not a song that lends itself to lyric sync very easily. And yet, there’s never a noticeable passage where the editor isn’t squeezing out interesting visuals that take their cue from the lyrics. As superficially pretty as this all is, it’s all in the service of a vision that leaves the viewer with strong impressions of the characters and a stylized, emotionally-charged glimpse into their conflicts. I believe that most AMVs attempt some of these tricks or at least find different ways to arrive at the same results. In other words, in terms of structure this will probably look like many other AMVs that you’ve already seen, although those videos (whatever they were) were likely nowhere near as visually compelling as this one or possessed a vision of the series and its characters that feels quite as inspired as “Madoka Nebula.” Well, that’s just my opinion and a matter of taste. If you believe that this is a better Madoka video, who am I to disagree?
There’s nothing in this post that I necessarily want to take back, but having a couple months to think about that list and to (re-)watch more AMVs, I’d like to mention a couple of notable AMVs that probably should’ve been mentioned there but weren’t. These were all well-received and went on to become, by one degree or another, “popular” videos that were widely-viewed and got lots of attention. Maybe that worked against them when trying to decide whether or not to include them on my list. After all, why shine a spotlight on videos that so many people had already seen? I don’t know the best way to go about making a list like that might be, but writing-off AMVs because they’re too popular is surely one of the worst ways to go about it. These three videos have stuck with me since I first watched them or finally broke down my misplaced skepticism. They’re not hidden gems, but they deserve all the attention they’ve received and more.
The Fangirl Chronicle
editor: Celia Phantomhive
anime: Watamote, Free!
song: JViewz – “Far Too Close” (Pegboard Nerd remix)
Despite her increasingly desperate attempts to make friends and make the most of her new life in high school, Tomoko Kuroki finds herself in one embarrassing situation after another throughout Watamote, a cringe-inducing comedy that polarized viewers between empathizing with her self-destruction and laughing at her misfortune. Discovering an anime like Free! would certainly give her a much-needed break from the trainwreck of her daily routine, and that’s just what happens in this AMV from Celia Phantomhive. I’ve never watched Free! but know enough about it to say that Tomoko’s euphoric reaction to the series is satisfyingly in-character, and frivolous as her triumph may be, it’s hard not to get caught up in her much-overdue joy. This is a misleadingly simple-sounding concept requiring a clever sleight of hand to actually pull off. There’s a lot of potential to jumble this project and its interweaving layers of different narratives into a big mess, but the end result is a delightfully upbeat video that’s easy to follow and, as AMV fanfiction, serves as a sweet coda to Watamote‘s somewhat ambivalent ending.
song: Huoratron – “New Wave of Mutilation”
This isn’t a video I’m eager to attempt to describe, either because I suspect that my words won’t do it justice or because I think that it’s a video that deserves to be experienced and judged first-hand — even though this AMV is not for everyone! — rather than picked apart and explained by some donkus with a blog. Although I’m forever on a quest to find the most artistic, unique, or strangest AMVs people have made, watching this one leaves me feeling completely out of my element and dumbstruck for anything resembling a meaningful response. There’s really no precedent to this sort of thing in the world of AMVs and the more I think about it, the less I’m sure that I’ve ever seen anything like it in any music video anywhere at all. Don’t get me wrong, this stuff really is what gets me most excited about AMVs, which even at their most creative rarely present such a challenging or visceral experience for the viewer. Maybe in its own way, it’s actually kind of pretty. Or is it?
Just Funkin’ Dandy
anime: Space Dandy
song: Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
Little by little, my completely insane and irrational disdain of Bruno Mars finally melted away last year and I suddenly found myself weirdly enthralled by his songs whenever I’d hear them on the radio or in a store or at work (save for this pile of crap which I will literally drop everything to turn off or flee from if necessary). But if “Uptown Funk” was a hit, I somehow never heard it until encountering this video, which should have been the AMV that defined 2015 but was somehow eclipsed by this and perhaps even this. No matter. “Just Funkin’ Dandy” was a great AMV that oozed with the cool confidence of its source material and actually seemed both fun and hip enough to pass for something entertaining and potentially-viral enough to step out of the AMV world’s unfortunately (but undeniably) uncool shadow, if only for a minute. This didn’t happen, but not because the video fell into any of the trappings of effect-heavy AMVs; it’s polished and refined to a degree that better resembles professionally-commissioned work than than anything put together by a lone editor on their own time. Even without the framework of the comic book page-effects, which can hypnotically slip by almost unnoticed thanks to the keen focus on internal sync (and some of the most effective lip-sync I’ve seen in an AMV), it’s just a feel-good AMV that could be a pleasant surprise for uninitiated casual fans and a real joy for those viewers who’re ready and willing to bask in its suave charm.
Finding a good AMV with Prince music to post this week wasn’t easy, but after much digging I finally discovered one that I really, really like. And while I haven’t seen this anime, this is one of those AMVs where that’s not really necessary to just sitting back and enjoying what’s happening on screen. How faithful is this series to the “real” Romeo and Juliet? Who cares!
Of course, putting an AMV with Prince music in it on Youtube was always a takedown waiting to happen (although some videos have somehow managed to slip by unnoticed for years), so it comes as little surprise that the original video was automatically muted by Youtube (who, free of charge, suggested the generic EDM track that’s now replaced “I Would Die 4 U”). The end result is an AMV that… isn’t bad, but to admit that would kind of be an insult to the editor and anyone who’s tried to edit an AMV with a thoughtful eye to how scenes relate to lyrics and an ear to how cuts can be placed according to the rhythmic or melodic elements of a song.
I have no Prince anecdotes to share here, so go read whatever Bono or Win Butler are saying about him (which is probably a lot unless they’re still telling everyone stories about all the times they hung out with David Bowie).
I’d originally planned on posting something about Elcalavero’s newest AMV, which I’m actually a much bigger fan of than the one I’m posting here, but why post something so accessible and entertaining when you can continue to alienate potential readers instead?
This AMV was made a couple of years ago and isn’t the strangest Serial Experiments Lain AMV I’ve ever seen (and never could be) but it goes beyond ditching plot and characterization more than most Lain videos ever dare to, which is saying a lot. It’s also one of the best ambient AMVs I’ve ever seen, which is a subjective categorization but most of us give genres a bit of leeway when it comes to AMVs.
I don’t have much to say about this. Stuck on writing a few different posts right now so I wanted to knock something out before the end of the month. These posts get shorter and shorter…
Don’t give up on this just because it begins with a series of still frames that will probably leave you wondering if your video player is frozen. It gets better after the first 20 seconds, but anyone hoping for a typical Trigun AMV should probably turn back now. There’s no shortage of the iconic action scenes from the classic series, but here they’re handled in a way that feels sort of… subdued? The epic awesomeness of these scenes don’t hit you over the head like you’d expect, but they still sneak up on you when you’re not looking and pull the rug right out from under your feet. Or maybe even when you’re actually looking right at them, which would be even more unexpected! I’ve never had a rug pulled out from under me and I’ve only ever seen it movies or cartoons or comics, so I don’t even know if it’s a real thing. But it’s a saying that everyone knows so it had to come from somewhere, right? Is it something people used to do all the time and now it’s just gone out of style? I don’t even know if that really describes how I feel about this AMV but it’s a start and maybe we’ll get there yet.
I’d actually been meaning to watch this for a very long time, since it comes up everytime I go looking for AMVs set to music by artists I like. I really like kid606 and have been into his music ever since, incidentally, around the same time I first got into AMVs. And wouldn’t you know it? I really, really like Trigun, too. Took me long enough to finally see it, but now that I have I can finally talk about anime with people whenever I take my time machine back to 1999! I had no idea if this video was going to be any good, but I had a hunch that it was going to be interesting and it certainly fulfilled those expectations (your mileage may vary). This certainly isn’t a depressing video but it really nails a certain sense of detached or repressed regret, which, intentional or not, is certainly appropriate for a character like Vash. You won’t re-experience the sense of dread or fearful remorse that hangs over so much of the series, but any editor striving to encapsulate that in a single video might be biting off more than they can chew.
I don’t know what to say about the shot at 2:38 and the few others like it that follow except that you really can’t complain about them being expected or too predictable.
Cross this video with Nopy’s Sky Journey and something else that I’ve yet to see in an AMV and you might get the video that I’m currently trying to make and will probably finish sometime in 2020 if I don’t pick up the pace sometime soon.