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Red Alert, edited by Kwasek in 2001, was one of the earliest AMVs I ever stumbled upon, maybe even the first, leaving just the kind of big impression on me than you’d expect. It’s been nearly fifteen years since I first saw it, and more than any other video, it’s probably formed my baseline of what I think an AMV should do. Granted, if I’d come into this game just a few years later via the flood of rushed-out Naruto AMVs in the mid-2000s, my first impressions could have been molded in a very different direction, and there’s no telling if I would have latched onto this whole thing for more than a couple of weeks, if that. I’m sure that both this blog and any videos I’ve cobbled together over the years would never have come to be if not for the existence of this AMV and the auspicious forces that brought it into my life. That might not be the most profound of any of my real-life sliding doors scenarios, but it often leaves me wondering just what on earth I’d be doing right this minute if turned my attention to anything else on that day (for instance, unplugging and packing up my computer to move like I was probably supposed to be doing that afternoon).

I ought to add that Red Alert has not solidified my expectations for how an AMV should look. The visual quality of this work is by far its weakest link. Time has not been kind to it, perhaps rendering it totally unwatchable for a vast segment of younger viewers for which even DVD-quality anime in a 4:3 aspect ratio can be a hard sell. I’m accustomed to the flaws of this video, the blocking and ghosting/aliasing that’s evident in most clips, and am not the least bit bothered by any of them. I’d be intrigued to see a remaster cut with Blu-ray footage, but I expect that would be a very different video altogether and I wonder if I’d even recognize it at all. While I’m suspicious of people who would try to exalt the virtues of certain pieces of media due to their inherently undesirable flaws (“it takes a special kind of person to appreciate pops and clicks and imperfections in their music,” etc.), I have to admit that the 240p resolution (or 232p, to be more precise), complete with awkwardly-handled speed changes in certain scenes, gives it a dated look and a magical quality that I can never get enough of (forget artificial VHS grain, I’m still waiting for a handy filter that will give all new AMVs this turn of the century-flavor). As a product of its time, I doubt that many viewers were troubled by its less-than-pristine video quality when it debuted, so aside from pointing out the obvious, it seems rather pointless to grouse about it any further today.

It could be the rare dichotomy between Kwasek’s confident editing and the lackluster video quality that gives this video a character that I can’t quite put my finger on. There’s no breakthrough idea here that’s really groundbreaking, but this video shines with clever moments of sync, some competent, tight action editing that knows when to give way to slower scenes or even (during brief moments where sound drops out of the song altogether) the occasional blank space on the timeline. The dazzling scene selection nails both the distressing and celebratory nature of the song, capturing both the elegant beauty and effervescent, bubblegum-packed fun of the series. While Kwasek only occasionally pairs the lyrics to scenes in any literal fashion, every element of the video works together to channel a vibrant sense of excitement. It’s a great example of a simple but solid concept that communicates a passion and enthusiasm for the anime being used. It’s what I’d consider a “pure” AMV, an elitist distinction for sure, but one that persists in the taste-centers of my brain. Despite being a fan of this video for a long, long time, it’s never quite managed to nudge Sailor Moon anywhere close to the top of my watchlist, so I sometimes wonder if I’m grasping what this editor has set out to channel or if it’s all just my personal interpretation of the series. I hope I still get some fan points for playing through the arcade game (and not on a ROM, but on one of only two existing machines in the USA).

Even if “Red Alert” is one of my favorite songs of the 1990s, I have never been the biggest fan of Basement Jaxx, or at least not compared to some of the other “big” electronic artists from that same era. That said, I just picked up a copy of Remedy at Goodwill for a dollar, and was surprised to find myself familiar with and really digging most every track on it. The album holds up in surprising ways, not just in itself over time, but against the contemporary inheritors of its legacy in 2017. Basement Jaxx run circles around all the bad boys of EDM in songwriting, production, musical chops and the conviction in their fondness for the different sounds they explore and styles they borrow from. For example, it wasn’t until very recently that I realized I’d probably heard this song no less than a hundred times over the past year; I can sort of understand how a flaccid, soulless skeleton of a song like that can fit into the muzak playlist I’ve been subjected to at my side-job since some time last year, but much less so how it could be a global sensation without ever leaving the smallest impression on me whatsoever. I mean, sure, on an abstract level I understand the social climate of our world, the economics of the music industry and how the most passive consumers of pop music would be as receptive as they were to an offering like this one. Maybe it’s still hard to accept that this would be the song that people would latch onto, but the winners and losers of music the music world have never had to make perfect sense.

Why bring up “Closer” or this AMV (edited by AceMVFX in 2016 and closing in on a million views) at all? I had a point I wanted to make about “modern” AMVs like this and how workshopped and formulaic they feel, especially contrasted with an AMV like Kwasek’s…and how, wouldn’t you know it, it kind of reminds me of how a bland, by-the-numbers, superficially raunchy but calculatedly inoffensive product like “Closer” feels next to a fleshed-out composition like “Red Alert,” which channels a dynamic and eclectic mix of house, funk and soul music, conceived by human beings for a purpose other than racking up Youtube plays by the billion. But that’s a battle I ought to know better not to fight.

Like most pop songs that achieve some level of success, “Closer” owes its appeal to its chorus, in which Halsey and Andrew Chainsmoker recall some of the seemingly inconsequential and mundane, yet privately significant details from the scene of a failed relationship. My feelings about the song aside, it could still be fertile ground for an editor up to the challenge of pulling off some of the most difficult lyric sync I can possible imagine:

So baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover
That I know you can’t afford
Bite that tattoo on your shoulder
Pull the sheets right off the corner
Of the mattress that you stole
From your roommate back in Boulder
We ain’t ever getting older

AceMVFX doesn’t completely ignore the lyrics of the song, as there’s just enough lyric sync to suggest that he’s indeed not only fluent in English but actually set out to edit with the lyrics in mind (or at least in the beginning).  But while scene after scene soon drift past with little to no connection to those lyrics, the editor treating them as universally-applicable signifiers of vague romantic sentiments instead of the hyper-specific details they are, the failure to pair every insipid detail of the song with an appropriate visual is not where this video slips off the tracks. It’s not even a matter of the editing itself or any technical issues in the video (although the aspect ratio errors beginning at 3:12 should have been caught and could easily have been corrected). Because the “story” in the song is personalized, focusing on the details in the lives of a single couple, any attempt to illustrate it in a fan video using two dozen different characters from completely different anime series just shrugs off the narrative of the song altogether. What’s left is a series of random clips starring a constantly-changing cast of characters, wiping out the element of the intimate and personal altogether. Bouncing from series to series, invoking one ostensibly romantic scene after another with no context or apparent confidence in their ability to carry the weight of the video for more than a couple of bars, the emotional weight of each clip is sucked dry and feels dead on arrival before it’s able to communicate any feeling whatsoever. No amount of lyric sync or editing savvy can rescue this defiantly ridiculous concept. But because the simple thrill of recognition (Koe no Katachi! Sword Art Online! Z-Kai Cross Road!!!) is the payoff that viewers are trading in their time and attention for, and because more sources in an AMV is almost always perceived as a mark quality and sophistication, the simple fact that the video makes no sense at all is not a complaint that viewers of these kind of AMVs will be lodging any time soon.

Of course, I realize this AMV is not made up of “random clips” at all. That may be the best way to describe their effect, but even the most casual viewer will observe that the titles pillaged for the video are all obvious choices; they’re relatively new, boast a high production value and have been road tested in countless other multi-source AMVs, usually multi-editor projects, which this AMV bears a peculiar resemblance to in its segmented blueprint and could easily pass as. Granted, there’s no indication that it is an MEP, neither in the video description nor mentioned in the end credits (or lack thereof). The increasing homogenization of MEPs, in which editors are selected based on their ability to work in an impersonal style, crafting an assembly line product devoid of any personality or individual touches, may very well have come full circle and be driving the creative direction of single-editor AMVs like this one (or so I can only speculate). After all, if the Youtube AMV scene is driven by these piecemeal projects, in which networks of contacts are formed for the purpose of trading likes and subscriptions, breaking from the now-popular format of these videos stands to be a risky move for any editor looking to continue building their brand and amassing followers.

In conclusion of this arbitrary comparison, likely performed as an excuse to marinate in the comforting familiarity of my own preferences and biases, my preference for one of these two AMVs over the other is strong. I could double down and say what I think this means about the state of the hobby, or I could disown my convictions with an apologetic shrug (your opinion is as valid as mine, etc). You’ll get neither of these today.

Did you know “kwasek” is Polish for acid? Other sources translate it to “citric acid,” and is sold to the masses as a food additive. A very quick Google search tracks down the real-life Kwasek himself, still alive and well on social media, but if I ever reach out to him for anything, I’ll try to think of a better way to break the ice than that.

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This blog isn’t dead, I’ve just been very busy for the last two months with work and other responsibilities. And the free time I’ve had to write has all been devoted to this very entry that you’re reading right now, which was intended as an analysis of the world of vaporwave, lo-fi hip hop, and “future funk,” and specifically, how these sounds are paired with visuals in the form of looping anime gifs on Youtube. I’m talking about massively successful channels like Artzie Music, Axian, Emotional Tokyo or ChilledCow, to single out just a few. Several re-writes and a couple thousand words later, most of my thesis was built on speculation and a lot of baseless assumptions about the people who make and consume this stuff. I was still a long way from really understanding what was happening here, so I was in no position to try to explain any of it, much as I wished that someone would eventually do so from an informed and somewhat unbiased position.

Yesterday I woke up to find that Digibro had done all that and more, explaining the background of this nebulous scene in a way that I was completely blind to and discussing why it’s happening right now in a very simple but nuanced fashion. I’m a little irked to have gotten scooped like this — although, now that I know what to look for, I see there was already plenty of discussion about this phenomenon out there already — but I’m also grateful to have the gaps in my knowledge filled to a degree that I just wasn’t going to accomplish on my own. You can just watch this and get an idea of what is going on here, it provides more than enough background for what I really want to talk about.

To say nothing about the creation of the music itself, the act of choosing an animated gif to accompany one’s track of choice isn’t the sort of mindless exercise that I’d once felt tempted to write it off as. Having a sense about what sort imagery is most appealing to viewers doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but the most savvy creators of these videos aren’t simply selecting these clips for how eye-catching they might look on the surface. On the contrary, the most effective of these videos will often present a brief loop of video depicting a moment in time in which very little is actually happening on the screen at all. The repetitive nature of these clips is pleasantly reassuring to just zone out and stare at and even easier to just ignore if you so choose, or so I imagine as I try to put myself in the head of the stereotypical fan of this stuff. For those who are watching, does a scene like the short loop in Digibro’s video — or this or this or this, just to pick a couple off the top of my head — invite the viewer/listener to identify with what’s happening on screen? Does this romanticize the kind of mundane and quiet moments that make up the day in a way that certain viewers will be inexorably drawn to? Does it hammer home the stated emotional theme of the music in a way that the tracks themselves are simply not able to fully convey on their own?

I don’t know if I’m asking honestly or just stating rhetorical questions. I’m hesitant to come out and really say what I think because, quite honestly, I find a lot of this music hard to take for more than a few minutes at a time, and I like Nujabes. I love J Dilla (who doesn’t?). And I find most attempts to emulate or pay tribute to either of them to sound hollow or superficial, which is probably inevitable when listening to efforts from people who’ve been editing music for mere months or weeks. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but if the running similarities between all of these tracks are a big part of the appeal for many fans, it’s probably the single factor that I enjoy the least about this music. But just as soon as I feel resolved in settling on such an opinion, I’m reminded that I’d probably be totally immersed in this world if I was the same age as most of the people getting into it (or that I would be now if I wasn’t so jaded), and that I’ve always wanted electronic and sample-based music to cross paths with anime in some way that wasn’t tied up in the hedonistic, garish worlds of EDM and J-dance. So in many respects, this phenomenon is everything that I ever wished for, technically speaking.

Even more pertinent to the concerns of this blog are the many creators on Youtube who work with lo-fi hip-hop (or related genres like future funk or vaporwave) and anime visuals to produce similar videos, ostensibly with the same audience in mind, but employing more complex techniques in the process. In short, these creators are video editors in the same sense as everyone who’s ever made an AMV, selecting and cutting together scenes that flow with the song in one respect or another. And yet, describing these works as anime music videos is something I’m hesitant to do for a number of reasons, the first and foremost being that, on the surface, any congruence between these videos and the world of AMVs feels completely coincidental. Youtube’s lo-fi hip-hop scene seems to have come into existence completely independent from any aspect of AMV culture, and while it’s probable that at least some of these creators know about AMVs or have even watched a good share of them, they’re still content to operate in their own sphere far away from the Org or AMVCentral, AmvNews, anime conventions, or any of the institutions that make up the fractured but widespread community around the hobby. Call it a case of parallel evolution, I guess.

If I was going to dig even deeper — and I realize just how problematic this kind of territory really is — I’d say that the creative motivation for these kind of videos is so different from that of most AMVs that they ought not to be considered in the same terms. Just like users of Tumblr will post, reblog or like an anime screencap for its intrinsic visual qualities, I honestly feel like the creators of the animated gif-based videos that inspired these works are just as unconcerned with the original context of their sources. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, and as a fan of many AMVs that could be accurately described as containing little more than “random scenes,” I’m aware that this is a critique that could be thrown back in my face just as easily as I project it onto others, but that’s an issue I’ll confront another day. And like their gif-looping progenitors, these editors rarely grant their videos the artistic prestige of any traditional titles. Almost always, the video is labeled strictly to identify the artist of the music and the name of the featured track. In that respect, these works serve a utilitarian function, promoting the artist in the same traditional sense that music videos were intended to do in the first place. I suppose there’s something kind of beautiful about that, as it seems to be as big a sign of genuine appreciation as there can be in this little scene. Is the finished video a standalone piece to be understood on its own terms, a product of the editor’s vision and unique relationship with the sources? Or is a video like this created to fit comfortably into an already established mold and not stand out? Is it just a gateway for followers directing them from one piece of content to another?  This brings me to 1171domino, an editor who probably represents the Zeitgeist of this kind of work better than almost anyone else right now.

1171domino has only been releasing videos for the past year or so, but when I first sat down to write this piece, he/she had over 40K subscribers. Two months later, that audience has swelled to over 56K subscribers, and if their most popular videos for producers like saib. or jinsang didn’t turn those producers into lo-fi hip-hop superstars, they certainly provided a level of exposure that they just weren’t going to get from any traditional outlet (just imagine writers for Conde Nast-owned Pitchfork.com slumming it in the ghettos of Soundcloud for actual underground music, it’s not going to happen). Like any editor who doesn’t arrive on Youtube fully-formed, 1171domino’s works range from flawed early efforts to more complex videos that demonstrate a more realized sense of sync and flow, defying the minimalistic, proudly-repetitive videos that the aesthetic of all this stuff was born from. Little by little, 1171domino’s works have begun to look more and more like the AMVs we all recognize, to the point where most viewers would find no meaningful distinctions between the two. There’s still a looseness to their work that feels entrenched in the less-is-more approach of the the gif-videos, a sense that the editing is never taken too seriously or fussed over, which is probably necessary for anyone who’s going to release so many works in such a short period of time. Standard AMV wisdom does not encourage this kind of casual approach, but it’s hard to advise an editor who is, by almost any account, extremely successful at what they set out to do (even if that’s only making “anime/beats“).

If I had to choose one of 1171domino’s videos to watch on repeat or to show off to anyone else, it would be this one featuring music by producer Ljones. It’s got a nice flow to it (as vague of a complement as that is, I hope the gist of it is apparent), feels laid-back in the most pleasant way without succumbing to tedium, captures that carefree and bittersweet feeling of “nostalgia” that so many editors try to convey, and marries its sources together in a way that feels natural and fittingly timeless.

Despite my wishy-washy misgivings, watching this video I find myself unable to make a persuasive argument that it’s anything other than an AMV. How could it be anything else? Well, real or imagined, I perceive a certain difference between the creative intent of most AMV editors and a videomaker like 1171domino, not to mention how their respected viewers will consume their respective works. Is that enough to put videos like these in a whole other box? What I can’t get over is my unfounded suspicion that the use of anime in these videos is coincidental…I guess, and that if this editor knew that he or she could reach a bigger audience by editing with old commercials, found footage or video game clips, that they’d do just that and reap the rewards. I realize that sounds like an attack on the authenticity of 1171domino’s creative motivations (or those of, say, ElFamosoDemon or yotsu, just to name a couple other creators in this space) and that’s really what I wanted to get away from in this entry. But as much as these videos traffic in a certain sense of cool that’s almost never been associated with AMV culture, I rarely get the feeling any of these editors hold any intentions to use the medium they’re working in to say anything at all about the anime source that they’re working with (such criticisms are regularly lobbed at AMV editors, there is nothing new under the sun, I know). Is 1171domino an anime fan? Wouldn’t they sort of have to be, at this point?

Lo-fi hip-hop and anime fan videos existed long before any of this stuff and will be with us until the end. I respect that, at least on the surface, these works have given rise to a community that’s inclusive, promising to connect people across the world in shared moments of solitude and in quiet celebration of simple pleasures. I hope it makes a difference in people’s lives for the best before it faces whatever inevitable backlash it’s headed to and that the toxic irony that will surely suffocate it — a predictable byproduct of anything born out of meme culture — doesn’t infect the minds of any more kids than it already has. Looking at this stuff through the lens of AMVs is interesting, but it’s probably not the best way to understand any of it. What kind of influence this will have on AMVs, if any at all, I can’t begin to predict. I hope this editor continues to investigate these realms of remix culture, to keep creating and eventually spin something out of it that transcends its rigid formula. The last time I had such hopes for an editor (who was, in hindsight, part of this same phenomenon in their own unique way), they quickly disappeared from the Internet along with all of their work. I’ll wait for it to happen again before I start to worry.

This is probably the simplest AMV I’ve ever posted about on this blog, but it’s one I keep coming back to over the years in spite of any of technical or conceptual “flaws” that may be apparent in its presentation or structure. I probably found it in the first place during a hunt for Boards of Canada AMVs, and I won’t deny that “ROYGBIV” is probably what got me hooked on this video in the first place. But at some point between now and whenever I first downloaded it — I remember that summer where I moved back in with my parents, setting up my computer on the floor of my old bedroom and downloading this and a handful of other AMVs through the dial-up connection they never upgraded from until years later — the extremely basic structure of this video morphed from being an aspect of it that I simply tolerated to being the essential charm of the video that I loved most about it. I have watched more AMVs like this than I can even remember; videos that use a single anime, play out slowly across a handful of scenes and use very minimal editing to weave together their source material. More often than not, it’s neither entertaining nor convincing, and I don’t have a rationale for what makes any video like this work when so many others don’t. Not even in the realm of my personal taste can I explain why I’m so fond of “One Day on the Island” but have felt disappointed by so many other videos that are essentially working from the same approach. Of course, it’s my opinion that this music and this anime (which I’ve never watched aside from this video) compliment each other very fittingly, but I’m aware that’s a matter of personal taste and not an opinion that will be shared by every viewer.

What I do find very interesting is how ahead of its time this video has turned out to be. When lunasspecto edited this in 2006 — the first of a handful of AMVs — it was unlikely that they were inspired by the sort of motivations that drive AMV editors today. I’m talking about AMVs not particularly associated with the Org or conventions or contests or any of the outlets that I’m used to, but a particular scene that seems to be most active on Youtube, existing solely online and very focused on instrumental music and anime sources of a certain vintage. A track like “ROYGBIV” feels especially prescient to this world; a great deal of these kind of AMVs use vaporwave tracks or a particular kind of instrumental lo-fi hip-hop that both feel indebted to the hazy, melodic standard set by that track and other Boards of Canada tunes from almost 20 years ago.

I’m tempted to trace a line from a video like “One Day on the Island” to AMVs like this or this or this or this. For the most part, the editors of these AMVs let the action speak for itself, loosely syncing their cuts to the music and letting scenes play out without much interruption. These editors aren’t necessarily aspiring to make traditional AMVs by tying together aspects of the song with specific themes in the anime they’ve chosen, but rather, seem more concerned with simply capturing a tone that veers towards the mellow, chilled-out and reflective. The music is usually a melancholy hip-hop instrumental — though there are other branches of this school of editing that cater to other related sounds, just no rock n’ roll — and the anime on screen is often older or relatively obscure titles that convey a more timeless appeal and are softer on the eyes than most new anime. Maybe the age of these sources is less significant than the fact that they’re almost never the kind of popular shonen series that are immediately recognizable (and usually paired with aggressive rock or pop songs). While most AMV editors with bigger followings opt to work with newer or more popular anime titles — a chicken and the egg problem, I guess — the editors in this corner of Youtube take a different approach, digging into older or sometimes rare anime titles for their sources in hopes of capturing a vibe that’s immediately relatable to their audience but different than anyone else’s works in the same scene. The audience for these videos is surprisingly huge, with many editors earning four or five-figure counts of subscribers. This is a very different mindset about AMVs than we’ve had in the past and it’s one that a lot of editors and viewers are tapping into.

There’s a certain me-too approach to a lot of this stuff that keeps me at an arm’s length from truly feeling it, or the sense that it’s less a movement or a community that’s interested in anime or editing than it is in using videos as a social currency for accumulating followers and views. This is a bigger topic than I’m ready to write about any further for now, but digging into it is what lead me back to lunasspecto’s debut, reminding me what I loved about it, its simplicity and the mysterious vibe I always got from it. It’s not my favorite Boards of Canada AMV, but while an AMV like Zerophite’s “Pale Moonlight” is exactly what I want and expect from a video like that, “One Day on the Island” just kind of does its own thing and works outside of my expectations or cravings. I’ve always loved it for what it was and I feel like it never really got its due and certainly never expected that it ever would. And it probably never will, but it’s funny to see how the world’s finally caught up with it and its laid-back charms.

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

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.

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?

Then again, this is an UnluckyArtist AMV and if you really needed to be told, that is something that will never let you down

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)
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNfb7fJuAvM
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.

GEHIRNSTURMEN
editor: lolligerjoj
anime: various
song: Huoratron – “New Wave of Mutilation”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QU2yjjdz1k
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
editor: Shin-AMV
anime: Space Dandy
song: Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”
link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhh-0od8VRQ
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).

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