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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.