2017 in retrospect: the 50 best amvs (10 – 1) // editor of the year

10. shumira_chan – The Last Dance

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.

9. pwcagal272 – Audacity

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.

8. Sunlight – Sunlight

Anime: Various
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.

7. Cenit – Finest Hour

Anime: Gunbuster
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.

6. Player One – Saving Light

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.

5. Copycat_Revolver – Heartburn

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.

4. PieandBeer – 100% Salt

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.

3. leolide – Aesthetic Anime Girl Music Video

Anime: Various
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.

2. UnluckyArtist – Unsatisfied

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.

1. Radical_Yue – Convalesce

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.

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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.

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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!

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2017 in retrospect: the 50 best amvs (20 – 11)

20. LittleAtari – Insomnia

Anime: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Song: “Beautiful” by Eminem

Advent Children AMVs are a rare sight these days, but if you were around the AMV scene ten years ago you certainly wouldn’t have felt that way; I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating that AC was an extremely overused source, and literally everything was done with it. LittleAtari’s release this year doesn’t do anything particularly new — there are several decent rap videos out there that use Advent Children as a source, but this is a worthy addition to any collection. It does especially well at highlighting Cloud’s emo personality, painting him as the misunderstood loner that Eminem raps as. It’s always risky when editors take a song that fits a character’s most exaggerated qualities and focus in on those — it’s too easy to make the characters into caricatures, and in drama videos like this, that can be a bad thing. But LittleAtari deftly navigates his way through these pitfalls and comes out the other end with a deeply resonant character profile, and maybe the best Advent Children video released this decade.

19. EnQuatre – Combat Harness

Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky
Song: “Can You Hold Me” by NF

I don’t know if, in my 11 years now of avidly consuming AMVs, I have ever seen a video go from 0 to 60 as quickly as this one does. The first time I watched it I had mentally checked out about a minute in, and was prepared to suffer through the rest just to say I finished it, when the video ramped up to such intensity that I was left wondering if my computer had spontaneously switched to another video halfway through. It’s an absolutely riveting video, with a phenomenal story and emotional energy spilling over the brim. With this release EnQuatre has created a laser-focused, tightly executed stream of overpowering drama, and one of the most adrenaline-pumping videos released all year.

18. seasons – Leeway

Anime: Pilot Candidate (Candidate For Goddess)
Song: “To Rococo Rot” by Die Dinge Des Lebens

If introversion were a quality that an editor could translate to his AMVs, I feel like the result would be something close to Leeway. This is a very abstract video in that there’s no narrative or attempt at a tangible concept. It feels very personal, and I think that no one will experience this one quite the same — although I thoroughly enjoy this video (which should be obvious based on where I’m putting it on my list), I’m fairly certain that what I get out of it is probably very different than what seasons gets out of it when he watches it, or what you will when you watch it.

As far as the actual content goes, this video moves very slowly, threading completely (or at least, seemingly) unrelated scenes together to create a mood-heavy canvas of slow-moving visuals whose entire purpose is to allow you to project onto them. The scenes are often heavily blurred at first, and weirdly the video’s prevalent banding (normally an undesirable video quality issue) creates these surreal, morphing shapes that are impossible to guess at until the focus is restored. It all adds to the mystique and often impenetrable nature of the video.

Leeway is quite unlike anything else I watched this year. It summons nostalgia out of thin air, for nothing in particular, and leaves behind this aching sense of some unknown memory. It defies a clear description, leading me to do a bunch of esoteric rambling that probably sounds pretty heavy-handed and pretentious. But that’s what I love about it — it doesn’t fit neatly into any single category, and no adjectives seem to do it justice. After everything I’ve said, it still feels like a woefully incomplete explanation of what it’s like to watch this thing. So, you know, watch it and figure it out your own darn self!

17. Pysh – Sunny Day

Anime: Various
Song: “Kokyou” by Yasuharu Takanashi

As I’m sitting here writing this, my phone says it’s 1°F outside, on a December evening. I let my car run for about 15 minutes this morning before I got in it to go to work, and it was still cold. Stepping outside is pretty much the worst thing in the world right now, but Sunny Day is possibly the best remedy yet for the winter chill — it’s a bright, warm, cozy little video that features clip after sunny clip of summer scenery and calm, nostalgic settings. It’s a lot like my favorite video of last year in the sense that there’s no story, just a straightforward concept, edited simply (nothing but hard cuts in this one) in order to convey a very relatable feeling. Videos like this often strike at the heart of what it is I tend to love about AMVs in as accessible way as it’s possible to do — creating imagery that conjures up feelings I want to feel. There’s not really more that needs to be said than that.

16. Megamom – Belleza

Anime: Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World
Song: “Belleza” by Fármacos

Every year there are at least a few videos that are released that go criminally unrecognized (okay, more than just a few). Megamom’s videos always seem to fall into this camp, and it’s a shame, because if anyone deserves the spotlight for making stuff that is consistently creative, beautiful, and unlike anything else, it’s him. Belleza is definitely a “Megamom” video in every way — the music choice, the color schemes, the narrative approach that is vague but tantalizingly substantial; I feel like the more I watch this video, the more I can unpack its meaning and chronology, even without ever having watched Re:Zero. Megamom loves to hide meaning and emotion in his videos in such a way that it’s impossible to take it all in at once, and he does a whole lot of that here. This is a video that begs to be replayed again and again until every crevice has been searched and learned by heart.

There are moments of pure aesthetic beauty, as well — the scenes of sped-up clouds, of flowers unfolding (and then folding back up when the scenes are reversed), of clocks in clocks in clocks…it makes for a stunningly gorgeous and (dare I say it) artsy AMV, even if you choose to ignore the story the editor is trying to tell. Belleza continues Megamom’s tradition of looking at things from some hidden angle known only to him, where he’s able to see his sources in a light that reveals shadows and textures that are invisible to the rest of us. I wish I could get inside his head.

15. numbuh0051 – Can’t Stop The Anime!

Anime: Various
Song: “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but truly good dance AMVs are hard to come by; although many videos categorize themselves as “dance”, few actually live up to the name, so when I see one that actually fulfills the requirements (i.e. it makes me want to get up and fricking MOVE), I take notice. Can’t Stop The Anime! is the first such video I’ve seen in quite a while, but the wait has been absolutely worth it — it creeped up out of nowhere, winning Best Local Video at this year’s NDK contest, created by an editor who, at the time, had a whole two videos to her name.

The video is a spirited compilation of dance scenes from a wide range of anime, edited with a keen sense of motion and rhythm. Internal sync pops up in unexpected places and the video never loses its spark, moving from one high-energy scene to the next at a constant clip. It’s brimming with positivity and a love of life, and one gets the sense that however random the anime selection may seem, the editor truly loves each and every one of the sources she’s using. For the few ways here and there that I could level a criticism or suggestion for improvement, there are way more instances of purely exhilarating editing, and one thing I can’t fault the editor for is for making something driven by a sense of excitement and sheer joy. It shows in every nook and cranny of this video, full of vigor and love of the craft. Let this one take over — get outta your seat and DANCE!

14. Copycat_Revolver – 2006 AD

Anime: Iria: Zeiram The Animation
Song: “Rogues” by Incubus

The video’s title, according to Copycat_Revolver, is a reference to the year when he originally had the idea for this video. While it’s sad that it took 11 years to finally get it out, this is a problem every editor who’s been around for a long enough time will experience — having a backlog of ideas that never materialize, possibly ever. I have plenty, and every year I tell myself, “This is the year”, and it never is, so I relate to this video in a very specific way that has nothing to do with its actual content. Hopefully it’ll motivate me to reach into the vault to get some of these out on the timeline this year, but that remains to be seen.

As it stands, 2006 AD is just a solid action video, through and through, with an old-school feel that ties everything together in Copycat’s typically capable style. It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never even heard of this series before or seen it used in any AMVs (that I’m aware of, anyway), but watching the video has convinced me that “Rogues” was probably written by Incubus so that one day Copycat_Revolver would stumble across both and smash them together just like this (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt that about one of his videos). This video contains such intoxicating synergy, in ways that go beyond the editing choices. The anime looks like what Incubus sounds like, and credit where it’s due — Copycat_Revolver discovered the combination and made it work.

13. Nellogs – The Piano That Transforms Into a Time Traveling DeLorean

Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion (remakes)
Song: “Year 3000” by The Jonas Brothers

It’s rare that a video’s title so accurately captures exactly what the video is, especially one as ridiculously-named as this one, but…well, here we are. It’s a silly concept (and a pretty dumb song, if I’m being honest), but Nellogs worked some serious magic here, or sacrificed a virgin to a pagan god or something, and came out with an incredibly unique video, something that I would have never been able to dream up in a million years. It’s pure fun, driven by excellent lyric sync and rhythmic editing, using an anime that is so far removed from working with this type of music that only a very talented hand could avert it from becoming a flaming disaster. Seriously, when Nellogs is on his game he makes crack AMVs — the kind of stuff that you will never want to leave your hard drive. Don’t let this one slip through.

12. Elcalavero – Journey To Find A Name

Anime: Angel’s Egg
Song: “Take Three” by Jerry Folk

Elcalavero is a distinct anomaly in the AMV world. His videos are completely outside of what I would consider any kind of “mainstream” style, focusing less on what many people might consider fundamentals and more on less tangible elements, like atmosphere. Until this year I’d always enjoyed his videos from a distance, but something clicked with his releases this time around that made them more personal to me. His work is always dark, foreboding; almost horror but with enough faint light at the edges to keep the monsters at bay. Journey To Find A Name finds itself comfortably inside this framework, but the editing is just slightly more tightly wound than in Elcalavero’s previous videos — it’s less slippery, there’s finally something solid to grasp onto.

But only just. There’s little character development, little context, lots of shots of scenery and crumbling stonework and bones. Elcalavero seems much more interested in exploring the world in Angel’s Egg than he is of scrutinizing the subject of the video’s title, but that’s not a criticism. The resultant video is one of deep, despondent atmosphere and a mood that would be hard to communicate in any other way. This is the kind of stuff that no one is making that I wish there was more of — and if anyone is going to lead that charge, it’s going to be this guy.

11. Radical_Yue – Nan Desu Kan 2017 AMV Contest Intro

Anime: Various
Song: “This Is Where It Starts” by Mark Prince

Welp, when I made my list last year I had ranked Yue’s 2016 NDK Contest Intro high on my list and asked her to make something as good this year…and I have to say, she absolutely delivered. Doused in sentimentality and with a whole lot of basically perfect internal sync, this is a high-energy feels trip the likes of which were matched by only a few other videos this year which we have yet to get to. There’s no story or concept in this one — it’s random scenes, often heavily emotional or action-oriented, but when so much heart is in a video, it’s easy to lose yourself in the imagery and just let it all wash over you. This video is successful no matter how you approach it — as an adrenaline-pumping opener to an AMV contest, as an example of phenomenal editing, or as a sentimental celebration of the medium. Radical_Yue is starting to set a precedent here, and it just makes me all that much more excited to see what precedes the AMV contest at next year’s NDK.

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2017 in retrospect: the 50 best amvs (30 – 21)

30. Cneq – Here With Me

Anime: Made In The Abyss
Song: “Here With Me” by Susie Suh X Robot Koch

Cneq has proven this year that he’s a good storyteller. Although his videos appear to be little more than anime-summary AMVs, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and if you’re able to find the right song — go for it. Here With Me is a heavy, slow drama video, the kind that you watch when you want to feel sad and hopeless and utterly despondent. Using nothing more than crossfades, hard cuts and maybe the occasional slow zoom, Cneq strings a thread of despair and tragedy that burrows deep into the chest. This is not something that you want to fire up frequently, and I say that in the most complimentary way possible — like any media, AMVs can move us in profound ways that seep into our day-to-day lives, and Here With Me is as good an example as I saw all year.

29. Bauzi – HYPERLUST

Anime: Serial Experiments Lain
Song: “Say It” by Röyksopp & Robyn

Serial Experiments Lain videos, almost without exception, have at their focal point the boundary between the real and the digital, with varying degrees of literalism. If I’m honest, it’s become a bit tiring; I sometimes wish that people would try to do something new with the source, especially because it has such rich imagery and potential to be used in more creative ways, but I hardly blame people for being inspired by SEL in a particular direction and then running with it. Bauzi did just that in HYPERLUST, and while it’s a played out concept in one sense, I have to admit this is the first time I’ve seen the real/digital shtick executed in such a straightforward, narrative way.

And while that’s great enough on its own, it is an utterly masterful use of effects that pushes this over the top into truly memorable territory. Bauzi said in his video description that this was his attempt to create “glitchart”; while I have no real intentionally glitchart control to measure HYPERLUST against, it’s probably about as close to such an aesthetic as I could imagine given no other information. The effects are highly tailored and synced in really striking ways, and the crossover element fits so perfectly well into the world Bauzi has created in this video’s four minutes that it feels like this is a perfectly believable alternate timeline in Lain‘s universe.

28. KazKon – Alice In Broken Land

Anime: Psycho-Pass // Psycho-Pass (Movie) // Psycho-Pass 2
Song: “Delusion” by Rezz

If preachy, conceptual, glitchy AMVs are your thing, there was no better editor to keep tabs on this year than KazKon, whose 2017 opus was definitely Alice In Broken Land, a sync-heavy look at a dystopian future where serial killers are bred and set loose in the city to be hunted down on live, reality television. KazKon gets stylish and psychedelic with this one (oh, who am I kidding, he does that every time), rendering his video entirely in black-and-white and making heavy use of text and kaleidoscopic effects. The world he creates is dismal, grim, and completely engrossing and believable. His technical skill is matched by an immaculate sense of rhythm, and as a result this video flows incredibly smoothly despite the harsh techno song. It pulses and twists to the beat, utilizing both internal and external sync in equal measure to create something that is visually among the most captivating videos on this list.

It can feel heavy-handed, and occasionally contrived, yes, but it’s all easily forgiven when one notices just how much time and care went into creating something this involved and intricate. KazKon seems to push himself with each successive video, and he’s constantly improving. Where 2018 will take him, I don’t know, but my money is on “up”.

27. MycathatesyouAMV – Money$hot

Anime: Noragami
Song: “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

If you haven’t seen this video before and are familiar with the song “24K Magic”, I want you to stop right now and close your eyes, and imagine what kind of cuts, scenes, and effects would work best with that song. Done? There’s about a 100% probability that you just imagined Money$hot in its entirety, because what in the world could be more spot-on than this?

I love this song in spite of its hedonism and bling-worship and general narcissism, and MCHY takes everything that’s great about it — the funk, the auto-tune, the “Woo!”s and “Uh oh!”s — and seamlessly edits every element into a fluid stream of visual puns and lip sync. It’s relentlessly upbeat and immediately gratifying, the AMV equivalent of your favorite kind of self-indulgent snack food. Noragami apparently lends itself to this kind of video (see: Petaloso from last year) but I don’t get tired of it, and I’ll gladly take one or more a year if this is the kind of thing I have to look forward to each time.

26. Nuukauuka – Video Galaxy

Anime: The Tatami Galaxy
Song: “All Night” by Parov Stelar

Exactly half of what made The Tatami Galaxy such an outstanding anime was its story and unique narrative presentation; the other half was its equally distinctive, surrealist visuals. Video Galaxy doesn’t bother so much with the former, opting instead for an acid trip tour through the weird and fantastical imagery found throughout the anime. It succeeds in its mostly hands-off editing approach, letting the visuals do the talking and using hard cuts and occasional subtle effects fill in the gaps. Truthfully, Nuukauuka probably didn’t have to do too much to pump this one out — there are some great moments of internal sync here and there but there’s nothing overly fancy about this video no matter how you spin it. But it works so well, and is probably one of the most representative videos of the anime that I’ve seen; sometimes less is more.

25. Copycat_Revolver – Persephone Complex

Anime: Ga-Rei Zero
Song: “Anthmes For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene

It’s rare for Copycat_Revolver to indulge in such straight-faced drama like this. I keep waiting for the punchline, however thin, but it never comes — instead we’re left with a tragic, angsty romance video and nothing to leave a smile at the end, or anywhere throughout. If I didn’t know who was editing it, it wouldn’t be so strange, but…

In any case, it’s a darn fine release. The way the story develops is edited in such a way as to line up with the song’s three main “sections”, and the tension evolves along with it — going from lighthearted romance to serious romance to “Ok what the heck is going o–WHAAAAT” over the course of a few minutes (might help to state here that I’ve never seen Ga-Rei Zero, so it was a pretty riveting watch for me the first time around). It’s nice to see a video develop in such an unexpected way, and to experience so many emotions is a thrill. The editing is often times subtle, with very occasional but unobtrusive lyric sync providing some cohesion; otherwise it’s far removed from C_R’s usual internal sync-heavy style. It flows in an abstract way with the music, but it never stumbles once. Discard any expectations you have going into this one based on the editor — it’s a different but immensely satisfying watch.

24. neko kitkat – Colors

Anime: Black Butler (manga)
Song: “True Colors” by Zedd

Using manga as a primary source in a video is always a risk for the viewer — more often than not, it’s just a boring slideshow that relies on a deep familiarity with the source to get anything out of it. Colors, however, is different (if not entirely unique) in that neko kitkat actually animated many of the characters and scenes from the manga she used to make everything more dynamic, intense, and all-around interesting. I don’t want the casual viewer to misunderstand, either — an absolute ton of work would have gone into this video’s creation. Animating still images in a believable, non-cheesy way is not simple. Masking, layers, nested compositions…it’s no joke.

And the result speaks for itself. Take away any knowledge you might have of the behind-the-scenes processes to make this video and it still stands taller than most — rarely is manga ever given this much life. The context of the entire video amplifies every tiny, manufactured mouth movement by many times; every arm motion or widening eye or head tilt imparts so much emotion and meaning. Even when she’s not animating static, masked images, there’s always motion — in overlays, or in the panels she transplants from the manga into the video. For such a static source, neko kitkat never once lets us dwell on the fact that she’s using a manga, unless it’s in the context of how unlike a typical MMV this really is. The atmosphere and mood created in this video is as much a product of things as tangible as the song and muted color palettes as it is the more intangible elements such as the way the source plays on your subconscious as you watch it. Deeply seductive and instantly memorable, Colors was neko kitkat’s crowning achievement this year, and it just makes me all that more excited to see what she has in store for 2018.

23. Jurrutt Cuurtnuy – Part A

Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Song: “Fall Back” by Factory Floor

I’ll spoil this one for you right off the bat — this is literally a chronological episode-by-episode recap of sorts of the original Evangelion series, so no, we’re not getting into conceptually innovative territory with this one. But the editing here is of a type that has been somewhat out of style in recent years; instead of trying to make something smooth and visually fluid, Jurrutt opts instead for a jarring, jumpy, entirely-hard-cut technique, syncing heavily to the music (a pulsing techno track). It’s flashy, rapid-fire, and hard on the eyes at the best of times, but it’s so stylistically different from anything being released right now that it’s immediately arresting.

It manages to capture all the great moments from the series, and somehow captures the heart of each and every episode (episode 4, for example, is the only moment where the video takes a kind of break and injects two extended-cut scenes of the rainy city, before moving along to the next episode and getting into fast-cut territory again). For non-Eva fans, this will probably just be a garish hyperspeed montage of all the scenes you’ve seen in countless other Evangelion videos, but for those of you who love the series, it’s probably the best pure AMV-form summary of Evangelion you can get.

22. Cheis – Albóre

Anime: Various
Song: “Around Us” by Jónsi

It’s always interesting to me when editors set out to make really epic-feeling videos and fall flat in the process, instead producing something that looks and feels manufactured and fake. Of course, these videos often still get massively popular (for a recent example, see Weeaboo Peekaboo — sorry Shin), but they tend to rub me HARD in the wrong way, because the blatant emotional manipulation on display just really, really gets under my skin. I know, I know, they’re just AMVs, chill out man, but I’ve put a whole lot of time into this hobby, so I just take some things personally.

Then there are editors that are able to put together a truly epic-feeling video and make it feel completely organic, natural, and real…like Cheis does in Albóre. (There’s also a third kind where this happens accidentally, but I’m not sure how to fit that into the discussion at hand, so I’ll just leave it there.) It’s clear that Cheis knew what he was doing when he made this — it’s certainly edited in a very exact, intentional way, and the song choice is definitely a specific type of melodrama that you can’t feign — but it doesn’t matter, because the video succeeds in feeling huge and full of emotion. It probably helps that the video explores the concept of perspective, and comparing oneself with the vastness of the universe — a suitably weighty subject for any AMV, and one that wouldn’t do with anything other than overstated sentimentality. It’s a wonderful, thrilling video, and an absolutely epic one at that.

21. Copycat_Revolver – Heart Failure

Anime: Various (Monogatari series)
Song: “Heartbeat” by Childish Gambino

Copycat_Revolver’s made a lot of videos over the years, and I don’t know that he’s used any source more frequently than the various anime in the Monogatari series. It’s an overused source, no question about it, and yet it seems like every time C_R touches it, something new comes out the other end. Heart Failure is a dark and twisted video, helped largely by the sinister, psychotic song. It’s full of violence and sex and suggestive imagery, but man it oozes a heavy atmosphere, and those who know my tastes in AMVs know that atmosphere is everything. Its explicit nature may not find a fan in every viewer — which is totally understandable — but if you can stomach some of the grittier moments here, you’ll find all of C_R’s trademark editing tricks and a certain grim humor pervading it, like all his best work.

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2017 in retrospect: the 50 best amvs (40 – 31)

40. Ileia // Various – The Weeb Jams Megamix

Anime: Various
Song: “Jock Jams Megamix” by Jock Jams

Sports anime have never been my thing — almost. I guess I’ve seen a couple (and what I have seen was actually pretty fricking good), but I’m usually not drawn to this type of anime in any way, shape, or form, so it should hopefully say something about the quality of this video that I like it so much. This is an example of pure editing prowess in 100-meter sprint form — fast-paced scenes of sweaty athletes going at it hard set to a megamix of tracks any self-respecting ’90s 20-something would recognize immediately…not much to dislike here. Even the brief moments of humor are fantastic and well-placed. While MEPs these days often seem to just act as brief demo reels for the editors involved, it’s refreshing to see one that has such a simple and intentionally uncomplicated focus, and an equally bare-bones approach. It’s proof that that’s all you really need.

39. Nellogs – An Indie Film

Anime: Hal
Song: “Sorry I Was Sorry” by Adult Mom

The VHS filter wore out its welcome last year by all accounts, and yet this year I saw some of the first videos that used it the way I feel it was meant to be used — with an actual concept to legitimize it. An Indie Film is one such video — the washed-out color filter, film dust, and VHS distortion effects paired with an achingly hipster lo-fi indie song sung from the mouth of a scorned lover give this video’s title the weight it deserves. It’s a loosely-edited piece, playing heavily on the “pompous college Art 101” aesthetic, while still managing to be a poignant and tragic look at the end of a relationship. Take note, wannabe-trendy editors itching to start making the next faux-VHS masterpiece — this is how you do it. Which is to say, it’s been done, so don’t.

38. Elcalavero – The Red Book

Anime: Big Fish and Begonia
Song: “Home (feat. Jose Gonzalez)” by Barbarossa

As one of Elcalavero’s more “normal” videos, The Red Book is still distinctly his; he uses a song that is rife with sync opportunities, and takes almost none of them, charting a more free-flowing route through the music than most other people probably would. He creates a mood and turns his eye more on the background synths than on the prominent drum beats — what we get is a loosely-synced, stream-of-consciousness video that evades any kind of straightforward visual rhythm. In the end it’s classic Elcalavero, relying much more on the anime’s fantastical scenery and the inherent emotion and wonder such scenes impart, than on any kind of pure editing tricks to get its point across, and it’s beautiful.

37. UnluckyArtist – No Limits!

Anime: Various
Song: “No Limit” by 2 Unlimited

Techno and futurism have always walked hand-in-hand, ever since electronic music became a thing — electronic music is always the go-to soundtrack for sci-fi movies and TV shows and flash-forwards, often satirically, but just as often as a serious sonic presence in our imaginations for what we’ll be listening to 100 years from now, or as a generic ambient background noise for picturing our society in as many years’ time. It’s a kind of weird irony, then, that leads us to No Limits!, an homage not only to old-school anime and AMVs in general, but to a less refined vision of the future than we have now, but which might have been common 20 years ago.

The majority of the anime in this video are ’90s sci-fi shows and movies, with the occasional shounen anime thrown in. It’s action-packed and colorful and it feels like the kind of thing a 10-year-old boy might enjoy watching to get himself ready for a Saturday of cartoons, video games, and junk food. There’s a certain unrestrained quality to this video, like UnluckyArtist was indulging in some sort of forbidden guilty pleasure by creating it. It’s stupid fun, a throwback to an era of cheesy hardkore techno and adventurous space anime, the likes of which we’ll probably never quite get to experience again.

36. Azexous – Oh-Hi-Yo!

Anime: Various
Song: “Oddloop” by Frederic

I feel like every year there’s at least one video on my list that “I just shouldn’t like” because of various reasons…in this case, it’s excessive text use, lots of masking and crossover-type stuff going on, candy effects, and the like, but man does it all work in such seamless, eye-pleasing harmony that I can’t help but love it. For those not won over, it may help to read a translation of the lyrics — there’s actually a bit of a story going on here and although shallow, you’re really getting the whole package here with the pretty color palettes, fun sync, and super stylish atmosphere. Yeah it’s a bit trendy, and yeah this is normally the kind of thing I would immediately dismiss out of hand — but if you’re like me, give it a shot, because it’s a wickedly good ride.

35. risarei – strawberry bubblegum

Anime: Various
Song: “Strawberry Bubblegum (Allure Remix)” by Justin Timberlake

This reminds me in a lot of ways of a video I put on my list last year — one Satellite Towns — in that it mixes a lot of disparate, unrelated anime, has generally crummy video quality (up to and including mixing 16:9 and 4:3 footage), and no really obvious conceptual or aesthetic thread running through it. Still, it’s one of those weird and rare instances where none of this matters; in fact, it might be that these are all things that I like about it, as they add a certain “underground” quality to it. This isn’t something that most people would ever seek out, or would turn off after 30 seconds if they stumbled across it. It’s a video that will forever be lost in the sea of YouTube, and yet somehow I have it, and get to enjoy it. It’s the little things like this that make the hobby exciting.

The video is hard to talk about because of the lack of cohesion, but in a general sense it looks like a pop song such as this sounds — this is ultimately a pretty trite thing to say, I think, but I can’t figure a better way to describe it. There’s a lot of color manipulation going on, stock transitions, and the like, and it all complements the nonsensical lyrics and general upbeat vibe of the song. “Fun” and “action” are probably too strong of words to try and categorize this video, but risarei captures the mood of the song in a way I and most others probably never could have. I realize in the minute or less it probably took you to read this, I’ve said close to nothing of value about this video, but that probably means you should just watch it and judge for yourself.

34. Joy’s AMV – COME ON!

Anime: Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun
Song: “Henrietta” by The Fratellis

Joy’s AMV has been on my radar for years now; her videos from a couple years back were often on the verge of being really likable, but were usually held back by poor effects use or an overabundance of external sync that I just couldn’t get behind. COME ON! is the first of her videos where she really seems to have gotten it right — it’s a raucously entertaining summary of the relationship between the two main characters in Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun, full of energy and fun lyric sync. Although she also uses plenty of stock transitions, this is one of the few contexts in which they work — the fast pace of the editing and upbeat nature of the video makes such otherwise tacky effects feel right at home. It’s a good video choice for when you have two minutes or so to kill before that file finishes downloading, or the oven finishes cooking your dinner — something to smile at and feel good about before moving on with the rest of your day.

33. leolide – kaos

Anime: Seikaisuru Kado // Original live action
Song: “C418” by stranger_think

Say what you will about leolide but he is, without a doubt, one of the most driven and experimental editors out there right now, and also one of the most prolific — if you look at his YouTube channel you’ll find page after page of AMVs and making-of videos (no less than 100 posted in the last year alone). While I have not had the time to go through all of these, one of the most interesting that I found from the last 12 months is kaos, a short, proof-of-concept type video that mixes first-person live action with anime in a unique, apocalyptic way. Combining these two elements has certainly been done before, and while it’s sloppier here than in other examples, it would seem that it was never leolide’s intention to go all-out — this feels very experimental in every way, as if leolide was testing the waters to see if something like this could be done convincingly in the first place.

But the rough-around-the-edges approach lends it a certain haphazard feeling that dovetails with the video’s concept — a mysterious giant cube suddenly appearing in the midst of a city, before all sorts of (anime) people and creatures begin appearing all over the place. The video has this really lo-fi charm, helped in no small part by the film effects and color manipulation that cover every frame, that, for once, don’t feel trendy but feel pragmatic. Whether or not we’ll ever see this concept fleshed out more in future videos remains to be seen (it probably won’t be), but as an example of little-explored areas that AMVs can expand into, kaos is certainly one of the more intriguing examples out there.

32. aerialesque – Convergence

Anime: The Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below
Song: “Who Will Save Us Now?” by Dave Chappell

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now — this is pure anime-summary fare, no creative divergences or abstract interpretive passages included. Artsy critical types need not apply, I’ll just save you your time now. Maybe rewatch kaos, above, or find a different Top AMVs list to read (and let me know where you found it because I’d love to read it too). For the rest of us, Convergence should serve as a very satisfying drama entry, peak-hopping from one plot point to the next and essentially compacting The Children Who Chase Lost Voices into a neat and tidy three-and-a-half minutes (which is about all that’s needed for this particular movie, if I’m going to be honest). As ever, aerialesque demonstrates her ability to kill it with this approach — it’s saturated with dramatic scenes chosen carefully enough to get a feel for a larger story, but oddly enough the thing that got me was the way she used a bunch of scenes (mostly from near the end of the movie) that are rarely used in videos with this source, or at least the ones I’ve seen. She provides closure and there’s something to be said for that, especially when people seem to love using open-endedness as an excuse for lack of creativity.

So no, this isn’t the most ground-breaking video out there — it follows the tracks, it tells its story, and then it gets out of the way. But it packs a hugely emotional punch — many times more than anything I experienced while watching the movie itself — and milks the drama for all its worth, and I definitely think there’s a welcome place for videos like this on any year-end list.

31. PieandBeer – A Coming of Age Story

Anime: Osomatsu-san
Song: “So Long And Thanks For All The Fish” by Hilary Summers, Kemi Ominiyi, The R’SVP Voices

If you’re not familiar with the source of this song, some of the jokes in this video may be lost on you (and also shame on your for not being familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy in one form or another), but like the best comedy videos, PieandBeer creates something that’s funny just because it is, and not because of any extraneous knowledge you might need to “get” the jokes. There’s a healthy dose of astute lyric sync and her usual quick wit smattered throughout this AMV, but perhaps the most noteworthy element is that, if her video description is to be believed, she made this entire thing out of (mostly) one half of a single episode of Osomatsu-san; anyone who’s done any amount of AMV editing knows just how little footage that would be to work with, so to make something this fully functional and, well, funny, speaks to her skill…as if her years of videos prior to this one haven’t done that already.

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2017 in retrospect: the 50 best amvs (50 – 41)

As we move into the final part of my year-end posts, let me start by saying that 2017 was a fantastic year for AMVs, at least in my opinion. And it wasn’t just in terms of quality, it was quantity — the ratio of good to bad AMVs was probably higher in 2017 than I’ve seen it in years, and 2017 demonstrably had more AMVs that I really enjoyed compared to the past three years that I’ve been making these lists. I wish that every year were like this, because AMVs were a lot of things this year — but boring certainly wasn’t one of them.

What this means for you is that, instead of my usual Top 30 + 10 honorable mentions, I actually had more than enough material to make doing a proper Top 50 not only possible, but fairly difficult because of how many good AMVs I had to choose from. Although there’ll be no honorable mentions this year, there should be more than enough material to keep even the most diehard AMV fan entertained for a while. I have to be careful about setting a precedent this year though; although I wish I could have been doing a Top 50 each year to begin with, doing so requires having enough good AMVs to make it interesting, so while we feast this year, 2018 might not bring such good fortune. So, don’t expect another Top 50 in a year’s time, but with any luck I’ll be able to make it happen again.

As usual, I also want to lend some transparency to the process that brought me to these 50 particular videos; if you’ve been here in past years, it hasn’t changed in any significant way so you can probably skip this paragraph. Basically, every time I watch a new AMV I use AMV Tracker to rate it out of 10 and put it in my database. At the end of the year, I look back at all videos I’ve rated 7.5 or higher, go through and re-watch each and every one, and mark them as “Definitely keep”, “Maybe”, or “No” as I go. Then, I rewatch all the “Definitely keep” and “Maybe” ones, and figure out my rankings from there. It’s an involved process that takes several weeks to get through — as a result, I decided to not consider certain videos released in late December, simply because at the point they were released I was too deep into the process and I have limited time. For some perspective on the numbers: I watched 205 videos from 2017, 79 of which I rated 7.5 or higher (39%).

I’m almost done, because I know you want to get to the fricking list already, but I have a few disclaimers I want to make before we start. First, please remember that I’m one guy who loves AMVs. I’ve been around this scene for over ten years now, so I’ve seen a lot and my tastes don’t necessarily jive with the mainstream. Although there are several videos on here that could be considered as such, they’re probably the exception, rather than the rule. If you don’t like my list — excellent! I love hearing competing viewpoints and hope that you’ll post them here. But I don’t claim this list as definitive or anything of the sort — I’m just an AMV fan who loves sharing his opinions with the world.

Second — as far as I know, this is one of the only lists of this type out there. I know that seasons also does year-end AMV lists, but beyond that I don’t know of any others. If you like AMVs and lists, I’d encourage you to make your own — I personally would love to see more, especially because my audience is pretty limited and it’d be cool to see others with more reach get some of their favorites out there as well.

Third and finally, while there weren’t very many AMVs this year that were everywhere (or if there were, I was just blind I guess) that I didn’t include on my list here, there is one glaring omission that might raise a few eyebrows from people who know me: Moony Moonpie’s We Two. Although this was one of the most moving AMVs I saw this year and it won Best In Show at this year’s NDK contest, I don’t have very much to say about it that I didn’t already say about Tigrin’s Stay With Us last year (a video which had ended up at #3 on that list). Since the videos are so similar in their feeling, storytelling, and general presentation, it would have felt redundant to me to put it on this list and take up a spot that a more unique video might be able to fill. Please watch the video — it’s great — and then read my comments on the #3 video from last year’s list. They apply pretty much equally.

Ok — I’m done now. With all that said, let’s get started with the Top 50 AMVs from 2017!

50. UnluckyArtist – Complex Mechanisms

Anime: Evangelion
Song: “Evangelion” by Thundercat

This is not my favorite Evangelion video made this year; heck, it’s not even the most creative Evangelion video released this year, but it is quite unlike what you’re likely to come across with a typical video using this source. Utilizing a downtempo, psychedelic folk song, UnluckyArtist overlays the entire video with a texture filter that gives the video a unique look and feel. He makes use of color-manipulating transitions similar to those used in his masterpiece from 2016, Blithe and Bonny, although this time around they’re used with much more restraint. There’s abstract philosophizing, delicate atmosphere, and beautiful (but sparse) moments of beat sync. It all totals up to a laid-back, (mostly) non-violent, non-confrontational and visually singular Eva video, all of which sound like a contradiction in terms until you experience it for yourself.

49. E L F E N L I E D – 5 Centimeters Per Second

Anime: 5 Centimeters Per Second
Song: “Outro” by M83

Let me just start by ackowledging that this video has a lot of obvious problems, its title not least among them. It’s often sloppily edited, has several orphan frames, and is conceptually derivative (although given the source, that last point is rather minor). All that said, I still find myself enjoying this one immensely. It’s true that if you’ve seen one 5CPS video, you’ve seen 90% of them, and while this one definitely falls into that statistic, enough time has passed since the anime was released that this doesn’t feel like any sort of cash-in on something popular. One gets the distinct feeling that the editor made this video out of a love for the source — an approach I certainly admire.

But it’s more than that — this video feels huge and open. It explores the relationship between love and physical space, which is a theme in most of Makoto Shinkai’s work — and thus a lot of videos that use his work as well — but in here it’s done in a really unmistakable way. E L F E N L I E D takes shot after shot of expansive skies and vistas and plants them right next to scenes of the two main characters together, making it an impossible-to-avoid motif that’s right at home with M83’s “Outro”, a stirring, epic, sweeping song in its own right. The added-in rocket SFX near the beginning of the video contribute as well to this video’s grand scale, and hint at a conceptual framework. It all feels very large and significant.

Not every one of my favorite videos has to be perfect in every way; in fact, few actually are. This one is maybe more imperfect than most, but also serves as a striking example of how passion for what you’re editing and a tangible sense of atmosphere can make otherwise siazble flaws seem small in comparison.

48. Kroner – Deeper Connection

Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie // Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie // Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram
Song: “Hunger In Your Haunt” by Crywolf

There’s nothing particularly new about this video — Madoka videos can run the gamut of genres but this one doesn’t bring anything to the table that I haven’t seen before. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned from doing these lists over the last few years, it’s that editors don’t always have to be innovating; sometimes doubling down on what they know they can do well is plenty. Deeper Connection is an artsy emotional drama piece that makes heavy use of the psychedelic and abstract imagery found in Madoka. Like many videos before it, it focuses (however loosely) on the connection between Madoka and Homura; and like many, it’s tragic and sad and…well, you know the drill. But it’s edited and paced very well, and belies the editor’s love for the source in its emotional pull — and such authenticity is always welcome these days in the AMV community.

47. ZephyrStar – Death Race Cydonia

Anime: REDLINE
Song: “Escape From The Prison Planet” by Clutch

I take some pride in knowing that after like two years of pestering ZephyrStar to release this, he finally did when I brought it up on an episode of Thank You Heavy Machine Gun that I was a guest on. This had been an AWA Pro entry in 2014’s contest, but ZS has a bad habit of not releasing stuff when it’s done — sometimes it takes years! (Case in point — a 7+(?) year old sequel to daydream that he was supposed to release two months ago…if we’re lucky it may be out by the time you’re reading this, but it’s too late for it to be on this list at any rate). It happens.

But anyway, the video. For an anime as limited as REDLINE tends to be as source material for AMVs, it’s kinda nice to have something that has such a specific narrative slant like this. The song is lyrically narrow, but ZS makes it work in all its sci-fi conspiracy-theory wackiness with REDLINE‘s over-the-top visuals. Lying somewhere between upbeat drama and slow action, the video is paced in a way that makes it easy to keep up with the story, while sacrificing very little intensity along the way. It’s a song I wouldn’t attempt to edit with in a million years, but ZS balances everything on a pinhead here to make something that’s fun, menacing, and blood-pumping all at once.

46. Cneq – Your Eyes

Anime: Mahoutsukai No Yome
Song: “Gold” by Echos

Cneq’s a rookie editor, and he released some pretty good stuff this year — although it’s all rough around the edges, his work tends to be drama-heavy and simple, which is right up my alley no matter the experience level, so I found a lot to love in his videos. Your Eyes has little more than an emotionally-dense song and some slick storytelling, but nothing more was really needed to make something worthwhile. The first third of this one is especially good, laying a wide foundation for character exploration that Cneq is able to develop pretty satisfactorily throughout the rest of the video’s run time; although this wasn’t his best work this year, it’s a good introduction to his style and a great drama video in its own right. This is certainly an editor to keep your eye on.

45. neko kitkat – Paint The Sky

Anime: Little Witch Academia // Little Witch Academia (Movie) // Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade
Song: “Hold On” by Extreme Music

In 2016 aerialesque submitted a Little Witch Academia video to NDK, which I had the pleasure of seeing and voting for; unfortunately she has yet to officially release it despite my constant nagging, and while I have a copy on my HDD it would be crummy of me to upload it somewhere without her consent. So while we all wait for that video to be uploaded (it’s really, really good), neko kitkat has so kindly provided us with Paint The Sky, a deeply sentimental and uplifting video that revels in the simple and straightforward to make its statement. As ever, neko kitkat knows how to tell her stories and the narrative in Paint The Sky is easy to follow and invest in; really, there’s not much more to say. She nailed pretty much every element and continues to improve as an editor. She’s certainly come a far way from the editor I used to routinely ignore, and consistently makes some of the year’s most notable AMVs.

44. -DevilAMV- – Cold Skin

Anime: Houseki no Kuni
Song: “Cold Skin” by Seven Lions

-DevilAMV- is a Chinese editor, something I didn’t even know existed until I read his YouTube profile, and while an editor’s home country doesn’t really matter when it comes to what I think of their work, I just think it’s cool that AMVs are a thing in China, and wanted to point that out. Anyway. Cold Skin’s main attraction is in how incredibly smoothly it’s edited — this video goes down like butter, and although it’s short (clocking in at just under two minutes) it makes its point convincingly in the time allotted, without overdoing any element or showing off in any way. Short videos tend to be extreme in one way or another, but -DevilAMV- chooses instead to make something comparatively understated and, as a result, immensely more satisfying and rewatchable.

43. KazKon – V

Anime: Various
Song: “Be The One” by Moby

Fair warning — this is a weird video. I don’t quite understand the meaning behind it, or if it’s really just a bunch of angsty juxtapositions with no real significance (it can be hard to tell sometimes). But I don’t really care, it has great visual flow and this super dark atmosphere that manifests itself in many ways throughout its four minutes. Probably the best part of the video is smack in the middle, with a long sequence of similar scenes strung together from some very different anime; Nostromo did this in longform several years ago, but it’s a nice editing technique and works particularly well here. The only iffy part of the whole video is the text usage — thankfully it’s brief, and doesn’t really do much to rob the video of its momentum. I want more videos like this — those that fall outside the boundaries of “safe” and “predictable” and are willing to experiment with abstract concepts and questionable editing techniques. Even when they don’t work 100%, they’re a blast to watch.

42. UnluckyArtist – Thot Provoking Triple Bagel Backspins

Anime: Teekyu
Song: “Bad and Boujee (Nyanners Remix)” by Migos

I say it every year but in case this is your first time reading through one of my lists, I’m not big on comedy videos. I typically have one or two on my list each year, but in general I find comedy a really hard genre to get into in terms of considering any of them among my “favorites”. This entry is probably about as close to “comedy” as we got this year, and while I do chuckle at it here and there, mostly I like it because it’s just a ridiculous anime/song combo that works on a really shallow level. That’s not a criticism, because this video isn’t really supposed to be anything other than silly fun, and that’s exactly what it is — great lyric and lip sync, goofy scene selection, and not much else. But it doesn’t need a lot, because stuff like this is addicting in its own oddball way and UnluckyArtist, one of the most versatile editors out there right now, knows how to throw these curveballs perfectly.

41. Copycat_Revolver – Artichoke Hearts

Anime: Tamako Love Story // Tamako Market
Song: “Crabbuckit” by The Good Lovelies

Yep, we just started this list but we’re already at our first Copycat_Revolver video — stick around because this is the first of many. It’s also possibly the most “classic” feeling of all the videos he released this year, by which I mean that it feels most like the stuff he used to make a decade ago when he first appeared on the scene — clever and full of visual puns, lyrical jokes, and dead-on internal sync moments that flash by without waiting around for the viewer to catch on. Unlike most Tamako videos, this one doesn’t rely on any kind of sentimental response. It’s simply a good time, courtesy of one of the scene’s most consistent editors. There’s more where this came from, so stay tuned.

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