So, I entered AWA’s Professional Contest this year. Since my first Pro contest back in 2007, I’ve always loved entering. It’s so unique in comparison to other contests, and although I always have a kind of love/hate relationship with the process, it usually ends up being a fun use of time.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is how it works: The Pro contest is basically a peer-judged contest where the entrants watch, nominate, and vote on all entries before the showing, and then the winners are revealed at AWA. The only real restriction to entering is that the video can’t have been publicly premiered anywhere else, either in another contest, on the .org, on YouTube, etc. All videos have to be completely unreleased. Anyone can enter, so long as they consider themselves “professional” by whatever standards they may use.
Naturally, this results in a lot of crap making its way through. People just want to say they entered Pro, and so a lot of the videos that get entered are, in fact, pretty bad. This is the part I’ve always hated about this contest, because as an entrant, I’m also a judge and I have to sit through every single video. It’s usually pretty slim pickings; I’ve now entered five Pro contests and until this year, there were maybe five or six videos each year that I’d enjoy, the rest were pretty much forgettable or worse.
This year was different, though. There were no overly strong contenders, save for one or two that really grew on me after several viewings, but there were a lot of pretty good videos, and most of the ones I didn’t like were still at least watchable.
Then there was this one:
I don’t know if I’ve ever had a harder time trying to figure out what I really think of a video before, and this is made all the stranger by the fact that this video is just so freaking GENERIC. I mean, watch it. It’s pretty much as standard and bland as you can get in just about every department, including editing, scene selection, pacing, and concept (or lack thereof). There are tons of missed sync opportunities as well. Basically, this video wouldn’t warrant a second look in pretty much every imaginable scenario.
And yet…this is far and away the video I have watched and re-watched more than any other from Pro. It’s so addicting, and I don’t think it’s just the song (which I admit I really like). It brings up a frustrating question that I just cannot answer: What do I look for in an AMV?
I asked this question a while ago on the .org, got some interesting (but mostly expected) responses, but I never bothered to answer it myself. The fact of the matter is that I don’t know what I look for in an AMV. I know there are certain things I tend to like, and certain things I absolutely detest and will pretty much ruin a video for me, but it’s hard to pin down what exactly it is that I go searching for in videos. I don’t know why this is, all I know is that there’s something about Magic Pad that I like, despite hating multi-anime OP/ED spam videos. There’s something about Ephemeral Reality that I love despite the horribly outdated effects, bad masking, and the fact that Dual! wasn’t really that great of an anime. There’s something about A Trillion Somethings Right that I love even though from an objective standpoint it is possibly the least interesting video I’ve seen in the past several months, not to mention the fact that sasukechanx made basically the exact same video to a different song and I don’t like that one one bit.
I don’t know if that “something” is the same thing between all these videos, as well as others I haven’t mentioned. But to someone like me, who loves to organize and rate and quantify everything, it’s a frustrating thorn in my side that throws everything out of whack. I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about. It’s that unknown element. I never know when it’s going to defy my expectations and cause me to fall in love with a video that I really, really shouldn’t based on all past experiences.
The fact of this…thing’s existence, as frustrating as it is sometimes, is also possibly the thing that keeps me watching AMVs. It’s what makes me love the hobby from the viewer’s perspective, because I never know when something is going to blow me away. Even knowing every quantifiable thing there is to know about a video before watching it can’t guarantee anything. It’s the anti-deterministic force in the AMV universe.
Maybe I’m not saying anything particularly insightful here, I just find it interesting that I always talk about “what I like” and “what I don’t like” when it comes to AMVs, while willfully ignoring this particular element. Maybe I’m just writing this to cover my back in admitting that I really like the video I posted above. Maybe it’s a belated way of coping with my decision to show this video at the Old School panel I did with Jay at NDK a few weeks ago, and a way to justify my enjoyment of that video to the many people who attended the panel and have probably forgotten that it was ever shown in the first place, and will never see this post.
Or maybe I think it’s okay for someone to just like something without having to defend him or herself.
I’ve had to spend far too much time in the past defending my tastes to a person who would get pissed and defensive whenever their tastes were likewise called into question. Conversely, I’ve wasted too much of my time worrying about what other people like and dislike, and trying to find cracks and inconsistencies as if I’m trying to win a debate.
In most cases, I think I could justify my enjoyment of certain videos and point out the specific elements that I particularly like. I can defend my tastes if their attacked. But every so often, I can’t. All I can do is point at the problems, and then at that nebulous something that keeps my enjoyment afloat. It doesn’t always make sense but…I realize now, it shouldn’t have to.