Welcome to the final part of my “2015 in retrospect” series of posts for this last year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I decided to forgo talking about music this year for various reasons; internally I feel kinda torn up about it, even though I doubt many of you really care. I had so much fun putting together last year’s year-end list of music-related discoveries and such, but I just didn’t have the time (or the drive) to write everything up this time around. I’m going to try to for next year, but will refrain from making any promises. We’ll see how things pan out over the next 12 months.
In place of doing a detailed, multi-post series about music discoveries, I’ve opted this year to instead go all-out on a list of the best AMVs from 2015. I had originally been planning on doing a top 10 like I did for 2014, but since I’m shorting everyone on the music side of things, I decided to make a significantly longer list this time around for AMVs; I’ll be listing the top 30 AMVs from this year, along with a slew of Honorable Mentions that didn’t quite make the cut.
Now, it’s important to realize a few things: first of all, I take this way too seriously, and I say that without any hyperbole. I love writing reviews on things, I love AMVs, and I love this blog. As a result, I’ve been thinking about this list since January 1st last year. Every time I would watch a new AMV from 2015, one of the first things that would go through my mind would be “Is this good enough to be considered one of the best from this year?” I’m obsessive about this, so you can be absolutely sure that I’m not just throwing random videos on here. These are the best videos I saw this year, period.
Second, 2015 was an incredibly surprising year, AMV-wise. Until around September, I was ready to write it off as a complete loss; by that point I would have been lucky to be able to construct a satisfactory Top 10 list, much less a Top 30. However, the last few months of the year saw the release of a staggering number of phenomenal, memorable videos. As a result, 2015 ended up being very binary — there were a lot of really good videos, and an equal number of pretty bad ones. The year ended with me struggling to even do a Top 30, but this time it was because there were so many that I wanted to include but didn’t have room for. It was an inconsistent year, but absolutely worth the wait for 2015’s con season to see the release of some astounding stuff.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning how I constructed this list at all. I keep track of every AMV I watch by logging it into the spreadsheet for the AMV Genome Project (if you don’t know what that is, read this .org post). One of the pieces of information I track is called “My Rating”, a numerical score between 1 – 10 (set in increments of 0.5) which gives an idea of how much I subjectively like a video. Throughout 2015 I entered 212 videos released in 2015 into the database. When it came time to put this list together, I filtered the master list down to only videos from 2015 with ratings of 7.5 or higher. I then watched through each one of these, cut the ones that I definitely wouldn’t be keeping, and then ranked those that remained into the final list.
I will be posting this list over the next few days, 10 videos at a time. I’ll be starting today with an unranked list of Honorable Mention videos; these are videos that were definitely worth remembering from this year, but didn’t make the final cut. I want to emphasize that these videos are not necessarily videos that I would have ranked #31 – #40; rather, they are videos that I watched as I composed my final list that I still want to talk about, regardless of where they might have ended up in the rankings. At the end of the final post in this series, I will link to the full list of videos so you can see all the videos that I took into consideration when building the final list.
Anime: Sound! Euphonium
Music: Action Item – “BRAVE”
I had the immense pleasure of meeting this Puerto Rican editor this year at NDK, and if I hadn’t been there I may have never seen this video, which made the finalists in that contest. It’s a simple video, although distinctly modern in its execution — full of masked transitions and zoom transitions and other stuff that normally turns me off. However, ailynerie managed to make the video stand out in my eyes anyway, telling an emotionally engaging story in under two minutes and keeping up the pace editing-wise. While I’m normally one to decry cutting a song to the extent that ailynerie did here, it works perfectly fine, and if anything the rapid-fire editing is all the better for the video’s length. As far as cost-benefit ratio goes, from 2015 there weren’t too many videos that had a better payoff than this one.
Anime: Free! – Eternal Summer
Music: Guy Sebastian – “Like A Drum (The Chainsmokers Remix)”
I have literally zero interest in this anime, or any anime of this kind, really, where half the reason it was created was probably to provide fangirls with material for their ships. Of course, I’m clearly not the target demographic so I guess it makes sense that it wouldn’t interest me. When I think about this, then, it’s especially surprising that I ended up liking this video even half as much as I did. It succeeds in providing the series with some much-needed depth (at least as perceived purely through AMVs), and while it follows all the usual patterns that videos like this follow, it’s done very well, and tells a crystal-clear story along the way.
Yue’s style is not typically what I prefer to see in AMVs, and this video’s no different — too many crossfades, too many flashes, not enough internal sync — but it flows well enough to keep my attention, and the mood and feels are all there in the end so my technical preferences can largely be bypassed. It’s a good video, especially if you, like me, have some preconceptions about Free! and would like to see a different side than what is normally portrayed in AMVs.
Anime: Kiki’s Delivery Service
Music: Cloud Cult – “You’re The Only Thing In Your Way”
(No YouTube link, it was removed, I assume due to copyright issues; here is the .org link though)
I feel like most Kiki’s Delivery Service videos pretty much follow the exact same formula, and Clear Skies certainly doesn’t deviate from it — and for that reason, it is potentially the definitive Kiki video, as it does this formula better than any others I can think of offhand. Not only that, but the song choice is impeccable; it’s like this song was written with Kiki in mind. Leave it to PieandBeer to find it and make this AMV happen.
Because it’s so formulaic and, well, unsurprising in nearly every way, it wasn’t one of my absolute favorites of the year. But a more joyfully soft and unassuming video was not released in 2015, or if it was I didn’t see it. Clear Skies is a video for the end of a long day, that you watch to remind you that there’s such a thing as simplicity, and sometimes you don’t have to search very hard to find it.
Music: Duran Duran – “Careless Memories”
You’re going to see me use the words “old school” a lot over the next few days; there were a surprising number of really, really good old school videos released this year, and this is one of the many that ended up more or less falling through the cracks. At this point in time it’s probably safe to start liking Akira videos again, given that I haven’t seen a new one in years, and as the video that takes that honor, System Failure is a wonderfully bleak homage to the pivotal film. Duran Duran were always able to navigate darker alleyways with their music, and “Careless Memories” sounds right at home backing the apocalyptic violence of Akira. I really wanted to like this more, simply because it is a near-perfect combination, but sadly the editing is too inconsistent and, at times, poorly paced, for it to have made it into my Top 30. Still, it’s a video that’s certainly worth remembering as one of the year’s better old school videos.
Music: Beck – “Gamma Ray”
From what I understand, this video is made entirely of openings from Blood+, and while normally this would be a huge strike against it, it’s worth noting that I’ve never seen a video that uses these particular scenes before. And while that doesn’t change the fact that this is, at heart, no different from AMV travesties like, say, this, I’m cutting it slack because, well, it’s just so fricking cool. There’s no other way to put it — it’s stylish in a way that other videos of this ilk simply aren’t, and as with most Copycat_Revolver videos, there are several points throughout the video where everything aligns just so and the AMV gods are perfectly appeased and what comes out the other end is a moment where this part of the song was simply made for this scene and there’s nothing else you can do but stare at the brilliance on display.
It’s imperfect only in that it’s so aimless — sure it’s pretty, sure it’s cool, sure it has those moments. But at the end of the day, it still ends up feeling kind of cheap and easy, and, with few exceptions, videos like that can only take one so far.
Anime: Ghost In The Shell: Arise
Music: Rockwell – “Childhood Memories”
I like this video because it’s one of those really obvious song/anime combinations that nevertheless ends up feeling like something fresh. And, I know it’s not — it would be hard to find a GitS video that doesn’t feel at least a little like this one — but it still manages to feel like something I haven’t quite seen before, and I don’t know if I could point to any one thing that causes that. It might be the live action that is modestly integrated throughout the video, or it could just be some of the really cool moments of internal sync. No matter what it is, it’s a video that I always enjoy watching. Still, I wish Lapskaus had cut back on the stock effects and some of the less inspired rotoscoping that crops up every now and then throughout the video; there are also way too many crossfades for a song like this. But none of these things make this video any less entertaining to watch, nor do they take away from the distinct atmosphere that this video surrounds itself in. It’s too easy to get completely lost in this one; maybe that’s what I like about it so much.
Anime: Tamako Love Story
Music: Echosmith – “Bright”
Just when I thought I had finalized my list, PieandBeer released this final video for the year for the Secret Santa exchange that Kimberly organized, and almost threw everything out of whack. If I’m being perfectly honest, this should probably be on my Top 30 somewhere, because it is an adorably pretty little video and I love it; the only real reason I’m banishing it to the Honorable Mentions section is because it hasn’t yet had enough time to worm its way into my head. Whether or not that’s fair to the integrity of the list, I guess I can’t really say, but I’m satisfied with it being where it is.
In any case, you should watch it; I personally can’t get enough of cute, happy love story AMVs, and this goes down as one of the cutest I’ve ever seen. It’s understated in much the same way that Clear Skies is — while plenty of editors do their best to shout and yell their creations to the world, with Shine Bright, PieandBeer instead contents herself with whispering her video into existence. And in context it’s perfectly appropriate — after all, this was a gift video made specifically for another editor. We’re lucky to have access to it, but I’ll make no apologies for showing it to whoever I can.
Anime: Evangelion (various)
Music: The Roots – “Get Busy (feat. Dice Raw & Peedi Peedi)”
It remains a curious anomaly in the AMV world that hip hop AMVs are still in the vast minority (although maybe not as much since that one time in late 2014), and so every time I see a particularly good hip hop AMV I take note. This specific video caught my eye for a couple reasons; first, the name bembacorolla probably means nothing to you — that’s fine, it doesn’t mean anything to me either, but that’s because this editor only has a single video to his name (this one) and a paltry 24 views on this video on YouTube as of the time of this writing, and hardly any more than that on the .org version. In short, he’s a complete no-name editor, so the fact that he made something like this is a pretty impressive feat in itself.
What’s more, The Roots are one of my favorite hip hop artists, so seeing a great video made with their music really hit me in a good way. That’s obviously more personal preference than anything, but this is so far the only Roots video I’ve seen, and it left a good taste in my mouth. The video is nothing more than a straight action Eva video, and I’m okay leaving it at that, because there are some truly transcendent moments of internal sync in this video, specifically in the first third. It’s a visually clever video on more than one occasion, and it capitalizes on the somewhat crumbling, industrial foundation on which the song rests. Its flaws are few but noteworthy: bembacorolla falls victim to the most common issue I see amongst these multi-Eva videos: conflicting aspect ratios, and this is something of a major distraction in the last part of the video. It also kind of falls apart sync-wise in the middle, although luckily bembacorolla salvages it by the end and it finishes as strongly as it begins. Without these (unfortunately) glaring inconsistencies, Get Busy Shinji! could have been sitting pretty on my Top 30. Still, it was definitely one of the surprise hidden gems of the year, and is worth your time to watch it.
Anime: Space Dandy
Music: µ-Ziq – “Goodbye, Goodbye”
The only adjective I’ve really heard to describe Space Dandy has been “fun”, but I’ve heard it pretty consistently. It’s strange, therefore, that a video like this should have ever come into existence, although I guess I don’t really have much to base that conclusion off of as I’ve yet to actually watch the anime. With videos like Just Funkin’ Dandy and Space Invaders, though, it’s hard to picture Space Dandy in the light which this video attempts to shed on the series.
This is a weird video, and it doesn’t pretend it’s doing anything other than being a weird video. It’s equal parts relaxing and unsettling, and the median between those two points is a place I rarely find myself. In that sense, it’s a success — it manages to focus in on a specific mood and hit it out of the park. In a more disappointing sense, it fails to do so in a particularly interesting way. The video has almost no visual rhythm, despite the song providing plenty of opportunities to be creative. It also has no real rhyme or reason to it — each scene is an isolated event, totally unconnected to those surrounding it. The video is a visual trip, to be sure, I just wish it had a destination in mind.
Anime: End of Evangelion
Music: Foals – “Spanish Sahara”
A newbie to the AMV scene, exkcal released this video right at the end of the year and I really don’t think I can pass up mentioning it here, because for a first video, it’s insanely good. While most End of Evangelion videos try to compress the movie down into three to four minutes, this one’s a full six-and-a-half minutes long. There are plenty of things to improve upon — the extremely loose sync, the distinct anticlimax, and the occasionally questionable scene selection chief among them — but none of these things really keep the video from achieving what it set out to achieve: feeling as epic as the source material it uses.
And this is no small feat. End of Evangelion has been done to death, let’s not pretend otherwise. Still, few EoE AMVs really feel truly big; many feel philosophical, or violent, or impressive in other ways, but this is the first I’ve seen in a long while where I’ve actually experienced scale. Maybe that lies in exkcal’s scene selection, but I think it’s equally in his decision to let many of these scenes drag on without cuts. Sometimes this works against him, but more often than not it contributes to a larger and more important feeling of immensity that can’t be achieved any other way.
I walk away from this video feeling the potential in its creator for future projects, but I also feel like there’s something special in this video that lies beneath the surface, and that I am yet to really tap into. Time will tell if something is actually there or if I’m just being wistful, but the very fact that I feel that way at all says enough to convince me that this is something great, even if it’s not fully realized.
Music: Snow Patrol feat. Martha Wainwright – “Set The Fire To The Third Bar”
On the one hand, I should really hate this video. I represents a lot of things I’ve come to loathe about modern AMVs and the technical one-upmanship that can define some of the more elitist circles of AMV editors. Besides that, it takes its primary source anime, Nichijou, so ridiculously out of context that it begs the question of why slimed even chose Nichijou in the first place, if not for the shock value of seeing a goofy, over-the-top comedy anime twisted into such a dark, sad AMV.
On the other hand, it works. slimed takes his concept and runs with it, creating a new world and a new story in the process. The worst that can be said of the story is that it’s incredibly cliche, and while that does matter, it doesn’t matter to me as much as I thought it would. The AMV is beautiful, both visually and in its general execution. The editing is spot-on from beginning to end. It’s a wonderful video in most respects, and living proof that it’s possible to do a number of things I really hate and come up with something I really like.
Still, this isn’t a video that holds up too well to repeated viewings. Part of the wonder of this video is the initial shock one gets from coming to grips with slimed’s concept while watching the video for the first time. After that, there’s not much reason to return to this over a number of any other similar videos, and if you have similar opinions to mine on where videos like this fit into the overall AMV culture, you might feel a little sick with yourself for doing so. But I say indulge, at least once, and don’t feel too bad if you come out the other side with a guilty conscience.