Now we begin the actual Top 30…here’s the first part of the list proper. Hope you enjoy!
Music: Message to Bears – “Wake Me”
It’s not uncommon to see editors set pretty scenes to pretty music and call it a day — that is, after all, the basis for many a throwaway video; just ask the Nostromo_vx worshipers of the mid-2000s. Mastamind’s video rainfall is not really comparable to such videos, even though I’m sure you’ve seen many of the scenes that are used throughout this video in plenty of others. This video’s title pretty much sums up the concept — Mastamind takes us through a rainy day, from morning to night, showing scene after gorgeous scene of rain and storms, and the calm that follows.
The scene selection is probably 60+% from Shinkai’s The Garden of Words, but that’s to be expected for a video like this, and for once I don’t begrudge the overuse of Shinkai’s work in a multi-anime video, mainly because it’s a novel concept and it feels like nothing else. Call this the most relaxing video of 2015. For someone like me, who loves rainy days, this video evokes every warm, fuzzy feeling I get from sitting inside and watching the rain pour down on a Saturday afternoon.
Anime: The Garden of Words
Music: Ellie Goulding – “Beating Heart”
I haven’t seen too many Garden of Words videos that I really like that much. EllipseIris released Young and Beautiful a couple years ago, and that’s about as good as those videos got, which is to say, good, but not great. This year we were lucky enough to get Evergreen, which is a step above, although ultimately very similar in many ways. The editing is what drives this one for me; it’s very tightly synced, and those climaxes where Ellie breaks into the chorus — each one has such energetic internal sync which elevates the emotion already residing within the source material itself. For a source as overused as this one is, I don’t see there being many videos that use it better.
Music: Fever Ray – “If I Had A Heart”
Of all the things I would have expected to see in AMV form, a re-imagining of Dante’s Inferno was pretty low on that list. AngelDragoon takes Fever Ray’s slow, brooding “If I Had A Heart” and sets it as the undulating backdrop to his depiction of hell, as interpreted through Dante. If you’re familiar with Inferno, there are plenty of really cool parallels that AngelDragoon manages to fit into this AMV — the “beast” at the beginning, the guide, things cherry-picked from the various circles of hell. In a very nerdy way, it’s fun to be “in” on the concept, having read (and adored) all of Dante’s Divine Comedy a few years ago.
The editing is good, although this is much more a mood piece than anything else, so AngelDragoon focuses more on effects work and logical scene selection than making the most of the cuts, but it works out fine. His attention to detail in the rotoscoping, color manipulation, and color correction is impeccable, and although this is a crossover AMV, it’s so well done, and more importantly, it’s done so tastefully, that my usual hangups on crossover AMVs like this were nowhere to be found. Definitely one of the most surprising AMVs this year, at least conceptually, and while it’s not perfect, it’s still deeply fascinating to see one of my all-time favorite literary works molded into a three and a half minute AMV.
Music: Spoon – “Don’t You Evah”
When I first saw this video, I was very lukewarm on it — I’ve seen other videos that try to do this split-screen thing before and they usually end up feeling very messy. At first glance, so does Neapolitan — I remember watching it for the first time and wondering, “Okay, when is Copycat_Revolver going to drop the gimmick and actually get to the video?” And about halfway through I made the connection between the video’s title and what I was seeing, and realized with a dawning horror that it wasn’t going to end until the video was over.
Thing is, though, this is a video with surprising depth, and if not in a story/emotional sense, then in an organizational one. The number of things going on visually is overwhelming, yes, but there always seems to be a purpose that each scene on each of the three “screens” serves; often, it’s to sync to some sound motif within the song, or to do some clever lyric sync, but occasionally the scenes bleed into one another and match up in unexpected ways.
As such, Neapolitan is visually dazzling in a unique way. It keeps one’s attention because there’s so much to look at, but it also feels a bit like a puzzle; trying to tease out the purpose for each scene becomes a game, and every viewing of the video reveals something new and unforeseen. It’s videos like this that keep AMVs interesting — the videos that take such seemingly simple ideas and extrapolate them beyond the preset boundaries into new and uncharted territory. We only get a few a year, it seems, but Neapolitan is a shining example of what 2015 had to offer.
Anime: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
Music: KONGOS – “Come With Me Now”
This isn’t the first time Ileia’s taken a song I absolutely hate and made a video I love with it. To be sure, this is an Ileia video to the core — simple, fast-paced action and nothing more — but the editing on this is so slick, with scene after scene of ridiculously perfect internal sync, and it does tell something of a story, that I can’t bring myself to speak ill of it, even if I wanted to. I don’t have too much more to say about this video, because it pretty much speaks for itself, like most of Ileia’s work. Funnily enough, this isn’t even the best video Ileia made in 2015, however since that honor falls to a video that isn’t strictly anime, Transmutayshun will do.
Anime: End of Summer
Music: Vanessa Carlton – “White Houses”
I wrote this review and then did some research, and I have reason to believe that this video wasn’t actually edited this year, which would make a good portion of what I wrote seem silly. Still, I like it so I’m keeping it, and you can just pick up where that part ends. Also, I admit keeping this video on this list may be a little suspect under those conditions, but I didn’t see this video until 2015, and shumira_chan didn’t offically release it until 2015, so as far as I’m concerned it qualifies. Anyway.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were skeptical of this video’s supposed release date — after all, this could easily have come out in 2004, and if I told you so you probably wouldn’t question it. This video goes the full nine yards with the “old-school” aesthetic, as if using a Vanessa Carlton song weren’t enough. The ’90s anime (bonus points for being the only End of Summer video on the .org), the simple editing, the white fades…you can almost see the 16″ tan CRT monitor that the video should be playing on. If I’m honest, that alone gets this video a lot of love from me; if you know my taste in AMVs at all this shouldn’t come as any surprise. But Hajimete achieves more than just feeling like an old-school video. After all, one such video (System Failure) did just that and made it onto my Honorable Mentions list, and shumira_chan released several other old-school videos this year as well. The aesthetic alone isn’t always enough, and Hajimete doesn’t satisfy itself with just recalling a certain time and place — it is a good AMV, even if you have no interest in old-school videos.
The storytelling is phenomenal, building a world, building characters, and making me care about them. The editing is superb more often than not, culminating in a flashy buildup to the final verse, releasing the tension with a calm white fade. I don’t normally talk about such specific moments in my AMV reviews, but this particular sequence just nailed this video for me. Everything shumira_chan is doing throughout the video to get us to care about the characters in the story she’s telling is so perfectly reflected in that moment. The song is ultimately about looking back on a specific time in the singer’s life, a time that she holds bottled in a special place inside herself. In creating Hajimete, shumira_chan not only managed to capture this very pointed dose of reminiscence in the way she edited the most important parts of the song, but in the very look and feel of the video itself. It’s rare to see, and almost impossible to plan a video like this, but shumira_chan managed to do so and this otherwise completely unrecognized video definitely became one of my favorites from this year.
Anime: Voices of a Distant Star // She And Her Cat
Music: The Goo Goo Dolls – “Two Days In February”
13 years after the fact, Voices of a Distant Star videos are apparently still a thing, and just when I thought I’d seen them all and that the source had nothing new to offer (okay, that’s a lie, I started thinking that back in like 2008), Distance popped up and proved to me that even the most played out sources still have some life in them. From the beginning, Distance distinguishes itself from other VoaDS videos with its monochromatic palette; done to match the all black-and-white scenes from Makoto Shinkai’s first short, She and Her Cat, this has the added effect of giving the video a feeling of loneliness and, yes, distance, that Shinkai’s works tend to have anyway. A little more never hurts, though.
Besides this striking visual component, White Lotus cut out all the sci-fi elements of Shinkai’s story, leaving a bare relationship to muse upon for a few minutes. The editing is superb, especially just after the two-minute mark, when the instrumental portion begins. Everything in this video is so simple, and everything flows so well. It skirts dangerously close to the edge of “close-ups and hands” that tends to define a lot of
modern romance videos, but it somehow manages to avoid feeling shallow. Probably the best way to describe this video is that it is a mini Shinkai story — full of its own special style, full of longing, and a vast gulf between our two protagonists. Distance, in other words.
Anime: Gourmet Girl Graffiti
Music: Duelle & CiRRO – “Your Addiction (Culture Code Remix)”
A video that’s hilarious not only for the concept but for the way it’s edited, Scrumtrulescent Smorgasbord continues Kisanzi’s string of dubstep-based AMVs that revel in the ridiculous. This one falls neatly into line after Snowball Genocide, which was itself a fitting follow-up to The Nightmagi Cometh, and if he continues to release videos in this vein I doubt many people will complain. Kisanzi’s videos are, after all, refreshing in the midst of the many self-serious dubstep AMVs that it’s all too possible to drown in.
Scrumtrulescent Smorgasbord (I already hate typing that) is insane in every way, starting with the choice of the food-fetishizing Gourmet Girl Graffiti as its anime source, and ending with Kisanzi’s brilliant editing — there’s so much hysterical internal sync throughout this video, and it just doesn’t let up. I was lucky enough to see this premiere at NDK and it was one of the highlights of the contest, simply because of the audience’s continuous reactions to scene after scene of absurdity. It reminds me that I couldn’t make a comedy video to save my life, but thank God that we have editors out there with this kind of ludicrous vision, because the AMV world is certainly better off with videos like this.
Music: Hurts – “Help”
Human Circuits is making me realize that sometimes, there are videos to which it’s very difficult to add anything in writing. It’s not a video that breaks new ground, nor is it a perfect video in terms of editing. And although it’s true that there were few videos from 2015 quite as melodramatic as this one, that melodrama is quite welcome when it’s done this well. This is a crossfade, zoom-heavy video, and so under normal circumstances it probably wouldn’t have found its way onto this list. But I like this video — it’s story-driven and simple, it builds when it needs to and paces itself the rest of the time. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that my preferences can easily be put on pause when videos like Human Circuits come around.
Anime: Various // Original live action
Music: Gustavo Cerati – “Cosas Imposibles”
If you’ll forgive the pun, it’s nearly impossible to talk about this AMV without also mentioning Dn@’s F.Y.C, especially given that both of these videos were released within a couple weeks of each other. It’s one of those odd coincidences that is most likely nothing more than that, and yet it’s hard not to wonder if Megamom might have ripped off Dn@. I personally don’t think so at all, and if he did then he got the short end of the stick, given that F.Y.C was by far the more popular video (upon hearing that I edit AMVs, a friend in my Japanese class who is a casual AMV viewer started talking to me and another classmate about F.Y.C, which ended up being a somewhat surreal experience).
It’s an amusing situation nonetheless, not least of all because Megamom and Dn@ took almost identical concepts, and used a lot of similar shots, and came up with two videos that could probably not be more different from one another. Dn@’s is a hyperspeed, effects-laced, unfocused mess of a video. It has plenty of cool moments, but more that are just there for the sake of looking cool or, more likely, for pandering to otaku. Megamom’s is by far the more thoughtful of the two, and while it doesn’t go nearly as all-out as Dn@’s, I much prefer Megamom’s interpretation of events. Imposible AMV also has way more clever moments and a much better-developed story, if you ask me.
More importantly, it’s another Megamom video, which is to say it’s a video full of creative energy being released in a singular way. Megamom’s track record of making videos with simple-but-witty concepts executed to a fault is well-established, and this is yet another notch for his belt. It’s gotten to the point where we’re getting one release from him a year if we’re lucky, and yet every video he releases is an event for me, and one of the things I look forward to AMV-wise each year. Can’t wait to see what 2016 will bring us.