Anime: Ah! My Goddess (OVA)
Song: “And We Danced” by The Hooters
shumira_chan has been releasing videos in this vein for the last several years — charming old-school AMVs that are often riddled with enough small problems to keep me from getting too into them, with maybe one or two exceptions. The Last Dance is the first video that she’s released since she started (although they were apparently actually edited years ago) that has completely captivated me without exception. It’s energetic and emotionally enthralling, using the original Ah! My Goddess OVAs (a source, by the way, that always draws me in for some reason) in expert fashion, taking all the most fun scenes and managing some really savvy lyric sync throughout the entire video. There are really brilliant uses of internal sync throughout as well, and never once does it give you a moment to look away — not that you’d want to, anyway.
I’ve said this kind of thing before of my favorite videos, but AMVs like this just go to show the importance of mastering the basics, because this is a dead-simple video and yet it’s so much more effective and memorable than nearly anything else released this year. All the effects and beat-heavy editing can’t save a video if there’s no heart in it, and with The Last Dance shumira_chan demonstrates the potency of knowing your source and editing around it, rather than trying to force it into a mold it was never meant to fit. Its momentum and force is entirely internally generated, but shumira_chan manages to give us a window to its inner workings, and wouldn’t you know it — it’s the most uncomplicated thing in the world.
Anime: Your Lie In April
Song: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem
When I watched Your Lie In April, while I loved the anime, I groaned a little inside because I knew that it was going to be an immensely popular source for AMVs, and I could see it easily getting pigeonholed into weepy drama videos that I would quickly get sick of. It’s been shocking to me, over the past couple years, to see how versatile the source is, and how many creative ways editors have tackled using it. Although I’ve gotten kinda burned out on it myself (or at least I thought I had), 2017 had a couple more examples of unique ways of using this source. Audacity is one of the best.
Forgoing any hint of romance or tragedy, Audacity instead takes a wholly leftfield approach by using Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” as its backing track. Hip hop of any kind is not something I ever would have envisioned working with a source like this, but maybe that just goes to show that I don’t have a big enough imagination, because what pwcagal272 does with this song is jaw-dropping in its consistency — she has every opportunity to drop the ball and royally eff this one up, but deftly avoids every potential lyrical hazard and rhythmic trip-up, keeping things unwavering, never taking her eye off the end goal. I don’t know how she possibly made this work as well as it does, but maybe I should take notes, because the lyric sync and pacing are so on-point that I had a hard time catching my breath.
Although I’ve seen other YLIA videos focus on the pressure to perform that Kou constantly finds himself under, typically it’s in the context of his relationship with his mother; this is the first video I’ve seen that explores his own internal drive to succeed, a perspective that lends his character a different dimension, and feels entirely fresh in its own right. The video gets massive points for being surprising for its approach as much as for its execution, and I can’t really understate just how different and refreshing this video was. In retrospect, this song feels perfectly at home within the confines of YLIA‘s world, but I don’t blame anyone for letting two years pass before they were put together. It takes a super keen eye and a certain amount of guts to attempt something so seemingly unorthodox; would that other editors were this adventurous.
Song: “Up And Up” by Coldplay
Why do you create? Even if you’re not an AMV editor, if you’re here the chances are good that you’re at least a little artistically-driven — why is that? What is it that drives us to want to make art? Is it to display our individuality to the world? To inspire? To bring new things to life, just because? There’s no wrong answer, and this video is possibly the all-time best AMV example of examining the creative process in a visceral, meaningful way. I can’t imagine someone watching this and not feeling at least a little inspired, or, conversely, doing a cross-examination of themselves to figure out where that drive to design and shape comes from, and to what end it’s driving one to.
It’s an absolutely stunning video from a visual perspective — Sunlight (the editor, not the video) goes nuts with his compositing skills, creating wholly new and surreal scenes from familiar anime, playing with perspective and color and text and making the whole video feel like a storyboard for some new, fantastical narrative he has in his mind. There’s no real “story” here, exactly, just a lush outpouring of pure, unbound imaginative freedom. This is about the closest I feel I’ve ever gotten to being inside another editor’s head — the abundance of ideas is truly overflowing in this video, but never overwhelming. And you can’t take it all in in one, two, or even three viewings. There’s so much to look at, to anticipate, to soak in, and it simply does not get boring. It’s absolutely, heart-burstingly gorgeous.
This video is a loving celebration of animation; perhaps even more, it’s a reverent homage to the art of AMV editing; but above all, it’s a love letter to the imaginative force that drives all editors to do what they do, and although it may not look quite like this in every editor’s brain, there’s a sense that Sunlight wants to share his passion with us all in as unfiltered a way as possible. Quite simply, a more profound statement (in AMV form) has not been made about the art of AMVs in a long, long time (if ever), and Sunlight’s magnum opus is probably the best way it could ever be said.
Song: “Turn It Up feat. Anna Nordell (Bionick Bootleg Remix)” by Bombfunk MCs
Old-school videos had a lot of currency this year; besides shumira_chan’s The Last Dance, Copycat_Revolver had 2006 AD, and we also got a loving homage in the form of UnluckyArtist’s No Limits! But none of these videos, however good or great they were, matched the near-perfect Finest Hour, a video that completely rocked my expectations and took every element to the next level. I feel like it doesn’t do justice to this video to simply talk about all the obvious elements like the spot-on beat/internal sync, the carefully restrained effects use, and the excellent pacing. You can see these for yourself, and Cenit’s been around long enough that he knows his way around making a video. There’s nothing surprising in any of this, although it all contributes to my love for it.
No, what stands out most is that there’s a real passion which shines through that’s simply infectious — we get a sense of Cenit’s love for his sources, his love for the craft, and his love of the history of the hobby. I mentioned it in his release thread for this video, but it has strong overtones of an old action favorite of mine, JCD’s Pure Love. Do yourself a favor and watch that video after watching this one, and maybe you’ll have a sense of what I’m getting at here — Finest Hour feels like a direct tribute to that classic, from the slightly cheesy song to the non-stop action and fast-paced editing. They go hand-in-hand and whether or not the similarities were intentional, they summon a sense of nostalgia in me that has nothing so much to do with the age of the song, or the anime, but more to do with a personal connection I have to a completely different era of AMVs. This won’t translate to everyone in the same way, probably — but luckily the ’80s animation and breakbeat-hardcore music can emulate something similar.
But I don’t want to minimize Cenit’s video here by harping on someone else’s work, not least of all because I think Finest Hour is actually the superior video. The fact of the matter is that this video just contains a really unique and perfect concoction of a number of different elements, all of which I’ve experienced before, but never at the same time. It’s really unlike any video out there, at least to me personally, and I truly believe that one of 2017’s highest peaks was this wonderful, adrenaline surge of an AMV. Cenit, buddy, you’ve been waiting for me to really like one of your videos for a while now — let’s do it again next year.
Anime: Your Lie In April
Song: “Saving Light (feat. HALIENE)” by Gareth Emery
WAIT WAIT, STOP SCROLLING. I know you’re thinking of moving on — we just had a Your Lie In April video, I mean come on, but hear me out. Let me first acknowledge that yeah, I could see someone really invested in this list (for whatever reason) strongly objecting to this video being placed so highly, especially given all the stuff I said about Audacity, a few videos ago. But please bear with me here — there’s something about this video that just gets me every time. And while yes, the video’s gimmick has been done before, like, once, I think Saving Light deserves its place here. It’s a romance-centered Your Lie In April video that focuses on the anime’s feature tragedy, but it’s fricking clever, and I don’t want to pass by without recognizing the creativity that went into it.
It might help if you watch this video before reading any further, because I’m about to spoil it for you — the video is backwards. It starts at the end of the story and reverses most of its clips, giving the video this feeling of “rewinding” the entire time. While it is admittedly awkward with some clips, I have to say that I love the idea behind it — it’s ballsy, and easy enough for critical types such as myself to simply write off, but the thing is it works so beautifully with the story and is managed in such a convincing way that I couldn’t help but be captivated by it.
What’s most interesting to me about this video is that through its deceptively simple presentation, it completely clouds the emotional response in the viewer — I’ve never been more confused as to whether an AMV should make me feel happy or sad, and by the video’s end I always end up feeling both simultaneously, and it’s weird. At the same time, though, I like it this way — I know of few other videos that are able to achieve such a unique response in myself, and I always have to kind of mentally prepare myself when I fire this one up.
Where this one fails with some occasionally questionable scene selection, it more than makes up for it in its conceptual framework and some fantastically-edited climaxes. More than that, Player One is the kind of underdog editor that’s so easy to root for — he’s been submitting videos to NDK’s contest for years now and has failed to get in each time, but has been slowly improving each year. While this video didn’t break the chain, in this critic’s humble opinion it was one of 2017’s best videos, as massively underappreciated and unrecognized as it was. Keep your eyes on this guy, he’ll only get better from here.
Anime: Haikyu!! // Haikyu!! Second Season
Song: “Tightrope” by Walk The Moon
If you haven’t been keeping score, this is now Copycat_Revolver’s fifth video on this list (go back through my lists from previous years and you’ll see he’s well-represented on those as well). His presence in the AMV world this year was outstanding — his style and personality as seen through his videos are instantly recognizable, and it’s no secret that he’s one of my favorite editors. He’s been honing his skill for years, and in the past three or four he’s been raking it in. 2017’s apex for him was, without a doubt, Heartburn, which from here on out can comfortably be referred to as The Only Haikyu Video That Matters.
See, I’ve seen a bunch of videos that use this source — I swear there’s a new one in the action category every year that I’ve been to NDK, and they’re all predictable, boring, and mostly interchangeable. The Only Haikyu Video That Matters breaks the cycle by adding some personality and spunk to an otherwise tired anime source; for once I actually get a feel for the characters and the drama of the anime, rather than just having a boring bump-set-spike montage set to hard rock or something. Because, see, C_R actually gives the characters some breathing room here — there’s a sense of development and depth that is severely lacking in your standard Haikyu!! video, and that alone is worth some serious points in my book.
But what really sets this apart is a super specific sync motif that is unique to this video — during each chorus, C_R cuts together a bunch of clips of the various players doing the same volleyball technique, and changes the specific technique in each iteration. It’s a simple but incredibly delightful pattern, and he uses similar techniques at other points throughout the video as well. It all comes together as this fascinating visual theme that keeps your eyes rooted to the screen, especially near the end when the song is at its maximum intensity.
Somehow, through it all, C_R is able to keep a semblance of story and narrative structure to the whole thing. Even if it’s not always entirely clear, or the specifics are lost on someone such as myself who has never actually seen the anime, it’s never in doubt that the video isn’t edited in a random way. Heartburn is certainly Copycat’s best video this year, but it’s also one of the flat-out best videos of 2017. If you’ve somehow been oblivious to his work up until now, let me tell you — you’ve got a deep library of almost universally phenomenal work to look through, and a more reliable editor probably does not exist on the scene right now. Hop in, the water’s perfect.
Anime: Mob Psycho 100
Song: “Miracle Mile” by Cold War Kids
It was a relatively quiet year for PieandBeer, although I could just be stuck in the Golden Year of 2015 when every video she released made it onto either my Top 30 or the Honorable Mentions; not to mention last year when two of her videos made it into my Top 10. This year she was significantly less prolific, which is a shame, but at the same time we got 100% Salt out of the deal so I’m willing to call it even. She’s still one of my all-time favorites, and that’s not going to change any time soon, especially if she’s able to keep producing stuff like this.
100% Salt is an exuberant video, lying somewhere between “action” and “fun” without fitting fully into either category. This is, honestly, probably where PieandBeer is at her absolute best — when she’s making these fast-paced, addictingly-edited videos that are shaded with emotion but not drenched in it. She uses a type of song that is totally electrifying in its energy and is somehow able to keep up with the demanding pace it sets, utilizing all types of sync styles into something that is stylistically hard to categorize, but definitely her own. She’s especially a master at making super subtle use of internal sync — it’s there, but you don’t notice it until you’ve seen the video a couple times and can take the time out to actually look for it. The result is a video that’s incredibly visually rhythmic, but subconsciously so; trying to point out why the video flows so smoothly is nearly impossible.
As usual though, the thing that makes PieandBeer such a great editor — and really, guys, this is the heart of why I love her work as much as I do, and praise it almost without exception — is that she is so perfectly able to capture the soul of both the anime and song in each video she makes. Her releases have an unparalleled synergy to them that is difficult enough to find in other AMVs; that it can be found so consistently across all her videos pretty much from when she started editing speaks volumes to her talent. 100% Salt is yet another example of this — it doesn’t feel so much like your typical AMV as it does a passionate and thoughtful show of appreciation to both the band and the anime. That we get to experience it as a spellbinding AMV to watch over and over is something we should take advantage of as often as possible. I long for the day that this kind of fiery approach to editing becomes the norm; until then, I have videos like 100% Salt to keep me smiling.
Song: “Lucky Girl” by Fazerdaze
Few editors have a more intimidating YouTube channel than leolide; I mentioned when I wrote about kaos a few days ago that it’s full to bursting with AMVs, making of videos, and other things. He’s very motivated and passionate about the hobby, and it shows in his approach; the majority of his videos tend to be on the short (~2 minutes) side, and often utilize techniques that are either trendy or extremely experimental, resulting in fascinating little sketches that appear to be either practice for something bigger or outbursts of creative expression, ideas that leolide needs to get out before the next one can surface.
Then, every so often, leolide releases what I would consider to be a “proper” video; in 2016 he released zuzuzu, a video that (sadly) I didn’t see until after I had already posted my list. If I had seen it, it certainly would have made it on there, and would have been quite high — it’s something that everyone should watch for its sheer creative brilliance. This year, we got Aesthetic Anime Girl Music Video (henceforth shortened to AAGMV), a video that is, quite frankly, completely unlike anything I’ve seen from anyone but leolide. While everyone has been making excessive use of VHS filters, leolide has taken it a step back to 16mm film, and done it in a convincing way. The film dust, the color desaturation (and oversaturation in some situations), the jumpiness — it’s all there and it feels legit. So far so good.
But simply slapping a film filter over a mediocre video wouldn’t really make it any better; in most cases, it’d make it that much worse. With AAGMV, though, leolide created a solid video first, and although this is very much a story-less AMV, it has a decent concept (showing some of his favorite anime girls) and he builds an entire aesthetic around it. There’s lots of masking and compositing, dropping girls into various scenery while they run around, drawing sketchy objects and outlines over them, adding film-reel overlays and doing a whole lot of subtle color manipulation along the way. It all adds up to a look I’ve never once seen before in AMVs — surreal and psychedelic and warm and enveloping and emotive. Every single frame of this video is drop-dead gorgeous, not so much in the way something like this is, but more because it’s just such an original, well-realized visual concept, and leolide consistently applies it from beginning to end.
Every so often, a video comes along that makes me flat-out jealous because I wish I had done it first. Although I don’t know that I ever pictured anything like this before as something I ever wanted to do, after watching the video I wished I had — it’s just such a beautiful conglomeration of ideas and technical skill that is rarely realized in such a unique way. Usually I can point to influences in an editor’s style, but I’ve never been able to do that with leolide’s work, and AAGMV is no exception. This is something that comes completely from within leolide’s imagination. Editors who are able to see the world through the kind of lens that results in innovative videos like this deserve all the praise and recognition coming to them, and I don’t mind being one more voice in leolide’s chorus.
Anime: Nisekoi // Nisekoi: False Love
Song: “Satisfied (feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah)” by Sia
Making an AMV with song from a musical (in this case, Hamilton) is always a huge risk — the lyrics are often so contextual that they’re impossible to handle in an elegant way, and they’re also usually too central to the song to simply ignore. So it’s probably no surprise that the best AMVs that use these types of songs are often comedies, using tunes from more comedy-oriented musicals. The AMVs that don’t do this are usually completely throwaway. What UnluckyArtist did with this video is, frankly, nothing short of an abject miracle.
Somehow, he was able to not only take this song and make every single lyric work to the point that the song sounds like it was made for the anime, but he did it without sacrificing literally any element along the way. The song moves from standard-tempo pop to double-time rapping to slow interludes, and UA didn’t once let the pacing drag or get awkward — and he never ran out of scenes or felt like he was filling in certain fast portions of the song with filler clips. The entire video chronicles such a consistent and believable narrative that it’s gotten to the point where I’ve looked for any kind of missteps I may not have noticed before. I’ve found nothing.
It all amounts to one of the most rapturously emotional AMVs released all year. The story is told clearly through the song, so if you haven’t seen this one yet I won’t ruin it for you, but it punches right in the gut, multiple times. Editing-wise, as I’ve already touched on, there’s really nothing to criticize — UA’s skills have probably never been put to such a test before, but he’s also never created a video this good (and one that’s over five minutes long, on top of that…oh, did I forget to mention that earlier?). This video has been on rotation since I saw it early in the year, and it has not faded even a little in that time.
I respect UA for a lot of reasons, but his willingness to stand up to these kinds of challenges is possibly the biggest. It would have been so easy to let this one slip at one point or another. One poorly-chosen scene could have easily tainted the whole thing; one moment of laziness in pure editing could have robbed the video of all its visual momentum; one overt use of poor effects work could have ruined the mood, but UA kept everything in tight control and ended up creating one of the most memorable and downright effective drama videos from the last several years, let alone 2017. The risks were more than worth it.
Anime: Koe no Katachi
Song: “Show & Tell (feat. Claire Ridgely)” by Said The Sky
Every year since I’ve started doing these lists regularly, I am faced with the very real and somewhat frightening scenario of what happens if it comes down to it and I can’t choose my favorite video? What if there’s nothing that obviously stands head and shoulders above the rest? What if I’m left having to basically pick my “favorite” video at random and then write some BS about how much better it is than anything else I saw that year? Luckily, that hasn’t happened so far — last year was a little different because it was a slow burn to come to the realization that the video I listed as my favorite was, in fact, my favorite, but the preceding two years it was pretty clear to me, and didn’t take much thought.
This year, I was starting to get into panic mode right before NDK (which happens in late August/early September), as I hadn’t yet found a video that I could comfortably, undoubtedly name my “favorite”; there were a few that could possibly take the #1 spot, but I really wasn’t sure if they met my own standards. As I went to Colorado, I reminded myself that the autumn con season typically brings out the best videos of the year, and I just needed to be patient. But I couldn’t stop myself from worrying.
And then Convalesce played at the con.
Let me ask — have you ever watched an AMV for the first time and knew immediately, without any hesitation or second thought, that it was going to end up as one of your all-time favorites? It takes a special kind of video to do that, and I’ll be honest — until September 2, 2017, I had never experienced that in real-time before. It was a surreal experience, completely captivating and invigorating on a level that I can’t properly describe. Maybe this all sounds hyperbolic but then maybe it gives you some insight to how much I love AMVs, and how deeply they can affect me. If you’ve never experienced that before, just take my word for it — it’s quite a wonderful feeling.
Convalesce is pretty much, verbatim, what I look for in a drama video. It has the story, the emotional explosions, kind of editing that does the song and anime justice…there’s nothing I can criticize, but that’s probably not very helpful to the average reader. Before we go any farther though, it might help if I acknowledge one slight bias that probably pushes Convalesce into “greatest ever” territory for me — while I have yet to actually watch the movie adaptation, I have read the Koe no Katachi manga, and it was possibly the hardest-hitting manga I’ve ever read. It ranks among my favorites, and so I have a real soft spot for the source — take that as you will.
Radical_Yue summarizes the story of the two main protagonists beautifully, doing a phenomenal job of integrating flashbacks and mixing them with the present in a way that is actually somewhat unique and disarming — rather than tacking any kind of effects or overlays onto the flashback scenes to denote them, she simply places them side-by-side with present-day ones, and expects the viewer to be able to recognize them when they come up. It’s a technique that’s more demanding on the viewer than most editors are willing to tackle, but the effect is subtle and important — it lends those scenes a sense of immediacy and significance that cliche effects might dilute, suggesting that the things that happened in the past are still fresh for both protagonists; unaltered. This is a deliberate story point, and one that Yue approaches in an incredibly refreshing way.
One other stylistic choice that Yue makes is one that also distances this video from something more “mainstream”, I guess, in that she plays a lot looser with the sync than the song allows. Certain big musical shifts aren’t given the forceful scene changes that other editors might be tempted to throw in, and again, this lends the video a certain understated quality that pays dividends when the song’s climax hits — she’s become so invested in building a mood and telling a coherent story that the scenes chosen for the video’s apex lift it into the stratosphere. It’s one of the best climaxes in an AMV I’ve ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly, as this is an element of AMVs that I’m always cognizant of. The fireworks, the movements, the facial close-ups, the delicate internal sync — it’s utterly transcendent, and matches the intensity of the song in a way that could only be accomplished with her more restrained approach throughout the rest of the video.
I know I’m prone to verbosity, but if any video deserves to be called out for all its little successes, it’s this one. In the hands of a less mature editor this video would probably still be good, but “good” would be so utterly disappointing that such a video wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. Convalesce is a video that never fails to leave me teary-eyed. Every time I start the video my heart rate increases a little. I plan my time around watching this so I won’t be interrupted or distracted by anything. There’s something in this video that tugs at me in a way that very few other AMVs ever have. This is probably the one time I’ll ever say anything like this, but I don’t care what you think about what the best video of 2017 was — if your answer isn’t Convalesce, you’re wrong. Yue, if you’re reading this, I’m prepared for you to tell me I’m stupid and mistaken and no one should pay attention to me. I don’t care. This is one of the all-time greats, and you deserve every good word leveled at you on account of it.
Editor of the Year: UnluckyArtist
When I think about who I want to name Editor of the Year, I don’t just want it to be someone who made great videos — although of course that’s a large part of it. I like to see editors push themselves and improve, try new things and find themselves in new territories. To that end there’s no AMV editor I can think of who deserves to be called Editor of the Year more than UnluckyArtist. Throughout 2017 he was pumping out quality video after quality video, although that in itself is not a huge change from any given year — since he started editing, he’s had a style distinctly his own and has shown strong command over his tools. It’s more than that — UnluckyArtist has been improving since the day he picked up the hobby, but 2017 demonstrated just how far he’s come.
He showed his ability to cover a wide range of genres and styles — comedy, drama, action, esoteric/artsy — and execute them all effortlessly. His FX use in the past has almost always been iffy, especially stretching back to just a few years ago, but this year he showed much more self-control and demonstrated more subtlety in his approach to this particular facet of editing, creating more mature-feeling videos that lost none of their effectiveness in translation to this new style. In each and every video it felt like he was releasing a perfectly-baked product, in which the only complaints a normal person could level against them were subjective — a lack of affinity for the anime or song used, for example — rather than technical. More than any year prior, UA’s work this year conveyed a feeling of him finally being comfortable in his own skin as an editor, ready now to bring his best and most adventurous ideas to life.
Truth be told, there were a few different editors I could be writing about here, but UnluckyArtist stands above them in that his work didn’t feel phoned in or rote. His unique flair accompanies everything he releases, and yet it evolves just a little with each release. Throughout 2017, UnluckyArtist was unafraid to challenge himself and was confident that he could meet those challenges. For every element of self-expression in one of UA’s releases this year, there was also one of self-improvement as an editor. 2018 should be an exciting year for him and, as a result, for the rest of us too.
Well, here we are, at the end of another year’s worth of AMVs. It’s always my immense pleasure to put together this list; I hope you get a proportional amount of enjoyment out of reading it. Please, let me know what you think — what were some of your favorite AMVs of 2017? Did you discover anything on here that you hadn’t seen before? Do you vehemently disagree with any of my choices? I love to hear feedback, so please feel free to post comments on any or all of these posts with your opinions. Please also feel free to share this with others who enjoy AMVs!
As much fun as it’s been, I think I’m ready to excuse myself from writing for a little while; my free time in the last few weeks has been largely dedicated to putting these posts together, and I’m ready for a break -_- Thank you very much for reading, for listening, and for watching…now let’s get ready for whatever 2018 has in store!