filling in the gaps #4

Filling In The Gaps is an ongoing series of blog posts I’m working on, where I’m listening through all the music from CDs I’ve purchased over the years that, up until this point, I’d never actually listened to. If this is the first entry in this series that you’ve come across, please click here to catch up on the past entries. Enjoy!

Feb 12, 2018

He Is Legend – I Am Hollywood (2004)
Oof, this was bad. Emo-drenched metalcore with trite lyrics (at best), this is like a cringey trip backwards into my most horrifically awkward high school moments. What’s worse is that I bought this in my college days — if anything positive can be said it’s that I didn’t actually listen to it until now, when I had to. I suppose it’s not up to me to judge what does and doesn’t speak to people, but I just find it hard to understand how people past a certain age can relate to this kind of stuff. Of course, then I remember that I, like, really enjoy Korean music aimed at 14-year-old girls, so maybe I should just shut up. — 1.5/5.0

Hootie & The Blowfish – Cracked Rear View (1994)1-hootie
A few observations:

(1) Anyone who owns any CDs has this one, it’s basically required to be considered a music connoisseur, like needing to own a license in order to drive or something.
(2) It’s very ’90s. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who hasn’t heard it but it’s worth pointing out again.
(3) It’s actually pretty good, and I would accept it as one response to the challenge, “Give me three reasons Pearl Jam wasn’t a bad idea.”*

Not something I’m going to be throwing on regularly, but there are some pretty standout tracks here — “Hannah Jane”, “Let Her Cry”, and “Goodbye” to name a few. This is a really likable album all-around. — 3.5/5.0

*I don’t actually dislike Pearl Jam all that much, but most alternative/grunge that derived from them is just not my thing…which should be obvious by this point if you’ve been following these posts.

Hot Chip – Made In The Dark (2008)
So this is basically Hissing Fauna Are You The Destroyer?-lite, and that’s an album that IMO has not aged particularly gracefully. This is also an album that is BAM MID-2000s INDIETRONICA in a really unappealing way. I don’t know, if I had first heard it when it was originally released, I might feel differently, but now, in 2018, this album is just really middle-of-the-road artsy indie pop that leaves a somewhat sour taste in my mouth. Nothing stands out, and there’s nothing here that would cause me to bypass Hissing Fauna so its existence seems kind of pointless for someone like me. — 3.0/5.0

Feb 13, 2018

Hot Chip – One Life Stand (2010)
ANDY BELL. That’s who the singer reminds me of. Wait, no — totally Kevin Barnes. Err…I don’t know I guess! These guys switch between Erasure and Of Montreal on a fricking dime, it’s crazy. It’s also slightly better than Made In The Dark, though it still retains a really distinct sound that I associate with bands like Animal Collective and their ilk — pop-influenced artsy-fartsy indie dance that college me was in love with but that almost-30-me just kinda finds somewhat pretentious and dull. That isn’t to say this album doesn’t have some good cuts — “I Feel Better” and “Alley Cats” really stand out — but overall it’s not something I’ll probably be returning to very often. — 3.5/5.0

2-humHum – Downward is Heavenward (1998)
This is an album to keep on the backburner, for sure, and I probably did it a huge disservice by being distracted while listening to it — the sci-fi lyrics and imagery that I caught here and there were really cool and hinted at big ideas and narrative that I was unable to fully explore. The overall ’90s shoegazey sound didn’t do a whole lot for me, but I think this might be one of those exceptional albums that requires some time and dedication to really get into, and I can see myself doing just that in the future. And “Apollo” — holy crap, I’ll be coming back to this album if only for that song. — 3.5/5.0

I Mother Earth – Scenery and Fish (1996)
The band name, the album title, and the album art all pointed to grunge crap that I was sure to hate so I’m not sure what led me to purchase this in the first place — I think it was based off of the recommendation of a friend but I can’t remember for certain. All I know is that I got exactly what I expected and the 50+ minutes it took me to listen through this were probably the low point of my day. This is the kind of stuff I was talking about with my Pearl Jam comment earlier. — 1.0/5.0

Mar 5, 2018

Interpol – Antics (2004)
This album started off quite good but got mediocre real fast. Everything past “Take You On A Cruise” kind of blended together into a mopey sprawl. Like a lot of the albums I’ve listened to since I started, this wasn’t bad at all — “Evil” is a really good song, and the entire album is pretty listenable. It’s just not terribly interesting. It’s probably worth noting as well that while Turn On The Bright Lights was once close to a five-star album for me, my love for it has cooled quite a bit in recent years, and Antics doesn’t do much to reel me back in. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 6, 2018

Jars of Clay – Much Afraid (1997)3-jars
Painfully mid-90s adult contemporary college rock, but I have a soft spot for Jars of Clay so I probably enjoyed this more than the average modern listener would. Even so, there’s not a whole lot here worth returning to — their best work was and will probably always be their debut, but this is still decently serviceable for what it is. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 7, 2018

The Jayhawks – Blue Earth (1989)
Buckle in friends, we’ve got five Jayhawks albums to get through, and man this is probably going to be a trudge. Normally I wouldn’t mind this kind of stuff — I’m generally fairly receptive to rootsy alt-country, and musically and lyrically this album is fine, but Gary Louis’ voice…it’s not bad, but it lacks all personality and emotion. Really brings the whole experience down, and turns an otherwise fine album into something pointedly lifeless. I really wanted to like this more. I’m hoping the next four albums are better…fingers crossed. — 2.5/5.0

The Jayhawks – Hollywood Town Hall (1992)
Marginally better than Blue Earth, but suffers pretty much all the same problems. I think in the right mood this might work a little better, but even then I can think of other groups I’d throw on well before I got to The Jayhawks, and by that point I’d probably have moved on to other genres anyway. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 13, 2018

4-jayhawksThe Jayhawks – Tomorrow The Green Grass (1995)
Peppier and catchier than their other stuff so far, but still does very little for me. I just can’t envision a time when I’ll want to throw this on, unless I’m in a super specific setting or a really unusual mood. It’s not bad music by any stretch of the imagination, I’m just having trouble justifying rating it very highly, knowing that I’ll probably never listen to it again. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 14, 2018

The Jayhawks – Sound of Lies (1997)
ZzzZZzZZZzzzzZzzZZZ…oh hey WHAT it’s over, another middling score GO. — 3.0/5.0

Mar 15, 2018

The Jayhawks – Smile (2000)
Oh man, we’re finally DONE with this section. It was pretty gruelling (although there’s worse to come, I’m expecting). I feel like I just listened to the same album five times and while it was perfectly pleasant, it left practically zero impression on me. I can now say I’ve listened through most of The Jayhawks’ discography, and I can also say that it’s probably not something I’m ever going to really seek out in the foreseeable future. — 3.0/5.0

Apr 24, 2018

Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)5-jeff buckley
This was a very good album — Buckley’s voice is just, wow, and there are some seriously good songs on here. Everyone knows “Hallelujah” but there’s a reason it’s been covered so many times — it’s really fricking heart-rending. This is an album I’m definitely going to enjoy exploring in the future, it really deserves some solid, focused attention and reflection. Not bad for a $2.00 find. — 4.0/5.0

Jethro Tull – War Child (1974)
It was…ok. The thing is, I’m pretty sure Jethro Tull can do better, and I have two more albums to go through to prove this theory (although I’m fairly certain only the next one — Songs From The Wood — will deliver). This one is certainly charming in its way, with its British folk sound and references. It summons up imagery from medieval peasant Europe, and feels very earthy and genuine — most of the time. Songs like the awkward “Bungle in the Jungle” kinda break the illusion and sound really out-of-place, so as an album it just doesn’t work very well. But, I’m looking forward to hearing more from them. — 3.0/5.0

Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood (1977)
I was shocked to find that I liked this less than War Child. It just didn’t engage me in any meaningful way. I think it was too rock-focused, and a lot of the folky elements had kind of gone. It wasn’t terrible or anything, but I think my expectations were a bit too lofty. — 2.5/5.0

Apr 25, 2018

6-jethroJethro Tull – Roots to Branches (1995)
Better than Songs From The Wood, but not much. A lot proggier than either of the other two albums I listened to yesterday, which isn’t a bad thing — I have a history with prog rock and this was actually pretty tame in comparison to most of what I’m familiar with. It didn’t leave too much of an impression overall, other than it felt a little long at some points and there was a more “tribal” feel to the music. Not bad, not great, just meh. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – Pieces of You (1995)
Ok, so this album is all over the map — you have some clever and surprising bursts of lyrical genius (“There are addictions to feed and there are mouths to pay” from “Who Will Save Your Soul” was a head-turner for me), and then you have stuff like the absolutely, horrifyingly atrocious title track that has to go down as some of the most cringe-worthy songwriting I’ve ever heard. And then there’s Jewel herself, whose vocal range is as wide as the Grand Canyon, but who tends to get into yodel-y territory a little too often. I definitely enjoyed this, way more than I thought I was going to, anyway, but 50+ minutes of her singing with an acoustic guitar is a little…much. I have three more of her albums to get through, so please pray for me. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – Spirit (1998)
Uhhh…actually this was rather pleasant. In between her her first album and this, her second, Jewel reigned in her warbling tendencies and the result is that her voice feels a lot more under control and just much more aurally pleasing. On top of that her lyrics are better (save for the slightly-awkward “Fat Boy”, although I’ll take it over “Pieces of You” any day), and the album format works here — it’s longer than Pieces of You, yes, but there are also no real throwaway tracks. I don’t want to overstate anything because this is definitely nothing revolutionary, but for mellow acoustic-driven folk-pop, you could certainly do a lot worse. — 3.5/5.0

Apr 26, 2018

Jewel – This Way (2001)7-jewel
Just an all-around bigger album than her previous two — more instrumentation, more energy, more put-on emotion — but not exactly better for it. While neither Pieces of You nor Spirit were exactly “daring”, they at least showed that Jewel was trying a bunch of things to find her niche. This album feels a lot more like she was trying new things…just to try new things. It doesn’t sound authentic most of the time, and is comparatively bland. The blatant infusion of country elements also kinda turned me off. Now, I say this all with the caveat that the last four tracks on the album are actually pretty amazing, and Jewel’s scream near the end of “Love Me, Just Leave Me Alone” is probably the most genuine outburst of emotion she’d put to record up to this point, so there’s some redemption there. — 3.0/5.0

Jewel – 0304 (2003)
Slick, high-energy pop music just doesn’t suit Jewel, what can I say. This feels overly produced and vapid, repetitive and obviously reaching for a wider audience, with the result being diluted, boring, leveled-out schlop. I don’t want to be too harsh because the album has some pretty catchy songs, but they all blend together and there’s also some pretty terrible lyricism. Most of what Jewel did up to this point overshadows almost all the cuts here, and it’s in large part thanks to the more intimate, coffee-house approach she had touted (at least in her first two albums). This one lacks any such personality and ends up as forgettable bargain-bin material. — 2.5/5.0

8-joanJoan Osborne – Relish (1995)
If, like me, your sole basis for recognition of Joan Osborne’s name is “One Of Us”, you’d be in for a huge surprise when firing this one up — it’s largely a rough-and-tumble collection of ragged-edged blues rock and aggro-folk, and man is it good. Osborne’s voice is up to the challenge of matching this very non-pop style — deep and rolling and vibrant. It’s got potholes, for sure — “Let’s Just Get Naked” is every bit as weird as the title would have you believe, and the stylistically misleading “One Of Us” has been played to absolute death by Alternative Radio — but none of them rob the album of its momentum and it ends up being a pretty fantastic time, even clocking in at just over an hour in length. Color me happily surprised on this one. — 4.0/5.0

Apr 30, 2018

Joan Osborne – Righteous Love (2000)
Massive step down from Relish. Where that one was aggressive and frayed, this one feels limp and smooth-edged, and not even Osborne’s powerful vocals can salvage it. It feels full of compromises and ends up being a monumentally boring work, which is something I don’t feel like I should be able to say about the same woman who wrote stuff like “St. Teresa”. — 2.0/5.0

Joan Osborne – How Sweet It Is (2002)
Marginally better than Righteous Love, but only just. It’s an album of covers, although I didn’t recognize most of them. I dunno, I find very little to comment on here, it was just a very dull 50+ minutes. — 2.5/5.0

May 1, 2018

Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)9-joanna
Man, I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. Newsom’s voice is just so hard to get behind — I get the appeal, really I do, but 50 straight minutes of it is really pushing it for me. I also found the music somewhat dull — it’s often little more than a harp and maybe some other chamber elements. What captivates here more than anything is the storytelling, and as such the album as a whole definitely deserves another listen, but it’ll probably be a while. Although, I will say that I really did like “Sawdust & Diamonds”. — 3.0/5.0

John Coltrane – My Favorite Things (1961)
Love it. I’m weirdly picky with when I’ll listen to jazz (I usually prefer it in the winter over warmer months, for whatever reason), but this just hit the spot, like pretty much everything I’ve heard from Coltrane. I don’t have nearly a good enough understanding of music theory or jazz in general to break this down much further; all I know is that I like it and I’m looking forward to the other Coltrane albums I have coming up. — 4.0/5.0

John Coltrane – Africa / Brass (1961)
Slightly less engaging to me than My Favorite Things, but again, really hard for me to pinpoint exactly why. Although I will say that “Greensleeves” is the perfect example of why I prefer to listen to jazz around the Christmas season. — 3.5/5.0

May 2, 2018

10-coltraneJohn Coltrane – Olé Coltrane (1961)
The first track, “Olé”, is a sweeping, epic piece that I really enjoyed. Exactly the kind of thing I want to hear when I listen to jazz. Didn’t care too much for the second track, but the third, “Aisha”, was the other side of the coin compared to “Olé” — downbeat, relaxed, and very calming. It’s a really well-balanced record and clocking in at only just over 30 minutes, an easily-digestible little chunk of music. — 4.0/5.0

John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up! (2010)
A beautiful, moving cover album of protest songs from the ’60s and ’70s, updated and given a new voice. This is striking stuff, and some of the most lyrically thought-provoking music I’ve listened to in a long time. Legend’s voice is untouchable, and The Roots are consummate professionals in everything they do, this album not least of all. “Hard Times”, “Wholy Holy”, “I Can’t Write Left Handed”, and “Shine” are true stunners, but the entire album is super listenable and just riveting. — 4.0/5.0

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flying low #15: beyond the clouds

I think enough time has now passed that it’s safe for me to post a Place Promised In Our Early Days video without feeling like those of you who read this blog will dismiss it out of hand — in the mid-/late-2000s, it would probably be a different story, but chances are it’s been a long fricking time that you’ve watched a video using solely this source. Editors have (thankfully) moved on and since 5 Centimeters Per Second was released, it’s not often that editors turn to it as a legitimate source. Because, let’s be honest here — anyone who’s watched AMVs for any amount of time has probably gotten sick to death of Makoto Shinkai’s work being used in AMVs. If that’s you, then I apologize — maybe you’ll still find something to love here. I do believe this video has stood the test of time in a unique way, and it has, over the years, remained one of my favorites using this particular source.

Probably the most striking feature of this video is the way that AceMan utilizes sync — it’s a relatively slow song but he syncs almost every beat to a quick camera zoom or shake, and normally something like this would be a recipe for total disaster, and something I’d want no truck with — this is one of my main issues with the super trendy short-form videos that are being released on YouTube and Instagram these days. Happily, though, it works here and it feels a lot more guided, more deft, and it gives this AMV a totally unique feel that underscores the tension and desperation innate in the source itself.

There are also some really good editing tricks in the first verse of this thing, or if not editing “tricks” in the way one might think of them, than simply great scene selection — the use of scenes from the source with background fades from one setting to another is masterful, again lending this uneasy surrealism to the whole video. You never feel “happy” or “good” about the way the story in this video unfolds, even though it basically just follows the story in the movie and has what could be considered a positive ending. I have to believe that AceMan achieved this primarily through his editing choices because I’ve seen more videos that use this source than I care to count, and I can’t name another one that has such a specific feel.

If there’s anything to criticize, it’s the kind of “special thanks” that AceMan throws out at the video’s end. While today most of the names that flash across the scene probably mean nothing to anyone under 25 years old, if you had seen this video when it was first released you would have recognized almost all of them as big editors on the scene — and even to this day it feels like AceMan was trying to throw down as many big names as he could to either legitimize his work or just show off his connections. While it would have been fine to do this in its own separate section after the video had ended, to list off these names in the video’s final moments, forcing the viewer to sit through them, feels more than a little heavy-handed (and this isn’t unique to this release; AceMan’s more popular video, Andromeda, suffers the exact same issue).

I can’t really harp on that for too long though, because Beyond The Clouds delivers in literally every other part of its almost-four minute run. This video has persisted over the years for me, and has always stood head and shoulders above almost every other Place Promised video released before or since. If you missed it when it was released 11 years ago, you have no excuse now.

 

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genome project journal #5: amv tracker v1.2.0

I think it’s safe to say at this point that the AMV Genome Project is now so intricately tied to AMV Tracker that the two are, for all intents and purposes, essentially the same project. Which is to say, further development of AMV Tracker will be for the purpose of making the Genome Project communicable to anyone who cares enough to want to investigate it. That was its stated purpose initially, but after releasing AMV Tracker last year I got a little off-track, and you need look no further than the most recent release that I put out a couple weeks ago.

This release includes a whole bunch of what I would consider to be relatively niche features — things that no one asked for but which can increase one’s ability to do micro-organization of one’s database. All features are fully explained in the v1.2.0 update notes, as well as in the newly-added tutorial function accessible from AMV Tracker’s main window. A brief rundown of its two biggest additions:

  • You can now add videos to “sub-databases”, which are databases that exist alongside (but separate from) your main database. The main use is to separate out videos that you might not want to be located in your main database for any reason — maybe you use different rating criteria for different types of videos, for instance, or you’d like to keep an easily-accessible list of videos you want to watch but haven’t yet, etc.
  • You can now create “Custom Lists”, which are curated lists of videos that you can easily access at any time. These can be used to group together frequently searched-for videos (i.e. if you really like horror videos, you can add all horror videos in your database rated higher than a certain threshold, and then instead of doing a Custom Search each time you want to find these, you can just pull up your list). Custom Lists are meant to make AMV Tracker a lot more personal to you, and to make organization of your data even easier.

There are a bunch of other minor additions, QOL updates, and bug fixes as well. It was a big update — I worked on it for the better part of two or three months before releasing it — but it wasn’t what I had intended on doing for my next release. After initially releasing AMV Tracker last year, I had wanted my next major update to the program to be focused instead on statistics and data analytics. While I started down that path (there’s now a “Quick Stats” feature that shows some very basic stats about the videos in your database), I didn’t get very far before veering off-track and adding all this other stuff.

The reason is pretty simple — what I want to do with the statistics feature is very large and intimidating. I anticipate that it will take, probably, at least as much code as exists in all of AMV Tracker currently to create what I have in mind. Frankly, at least right now, I’m finding myself without much time or drive to work on this part of the project, so it may be a long time before anything develops in this direction. I’m hoping that I can get something out within the next six months or so, but even typing those words makes me recoil a little as I know it’s probably not going to happen. Besides having an online course taking up a lot of my free time over the next three months, I’m finding myself drawn to other interests and pursuits that are keeping me from doing much of anything AMV-related recently (to put this in perspective — I can count the number of new AMVs I’ve watched since I posted my year-end list in January on one and a half hands). This last point is hardly new though — I’m always being pulled in different directions because I’m interested in so many things and find it hard to focus on any one thing for an extended period of time.

All this is basically to say that the Genome Project, while not dead, is not actually progressing towards any end I’m currently satisfied with, and probably won’t be for a while. I hope those few of you who may have expressed interest in this at one point or another will continue to believe in me that something will come of this, someday, and to please keep an eye on this blog because any developments that come of it will certainly be posted here.

In the meantime, please do check out AMV Tracker if you haven’t already. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, well, I made a nifty video to kind of introduce it, above.

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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

Please watch this video here as the YouTube version does not have the correct audio track (to avoid copyright strikes).

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 Bomfunk 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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