We’ve arrived, once again, at the end of another year, and it’s time to take a look back and review what it had to offer in terms of AMVs. I will say this right off the bat — because of the changes that took place in my life over the last 12 months, watching AMVs became de-prioritized somewhat, and I did not watch them consistently throughout the year. I would go days, weeks even, without firing up a single one, old or new. As such, my view of the quality this year may be somewhat skewed. The way I see it, 2016 wasn’t necessarily great for AMVs — or, at least, it felt like 2015 might’ve been better. Unlike last year, where I had thought basically the same thing until around September/October when the floodgates opened and we were blessed with numerous quality releases, that didn’t really happen this year. I don’t know why, and I won’t begin to speculate, but at times it was disappointing.
That’s kind of a rough way to start out this list, and I don’t want to be too negative, because — and let me be perfectly clear here — there were many excellent videos released this year that I am beyond psyched to talk about, and everything on this list is, in my very humble opinion, definitely worth watching. The Top 10 in this list are absolutely top-notch, bar none (they wouldn’t be there otherwise), and one thing I don’t want to do is do any of these editors a disservice by implying that their work is somehow lesser because 2016’s output was overall less impressive than I was hoping. Far from it. These videos all stand on their own merits, regardless of where they land in the rankings, and should be viewed as such.
Because I wanted to give everything a fair shake, around the beginning of December I decided to go back and download as many videos as I could that I may have missed throughout the year — this involved filtering a video search on the .org to only display videos released in 2016, and then going through page by page and downloading anything that looked the least bit interesting to me (and several that didn’t). I also browsed through amvnews.ru, Japan Expo’s and NDK’s contest listings, and the #amv-sharing channel in the AMVCentral Discord server to find anything I may have missed. I guarantee I didn’t catch everything, but I like to think I was able to find a whole bunch of stuff that I would have missed otherwise, much of it worth talking about.
To give some transparency to the process, I’ll just briefly explain how I came up with this list. It was basically identical to the way I did it last year — throughout the year, whenever I would watch an AMV I hadn’t seen before, I would enter it into my Genome Project spreadsheet. When I was ready to compile this list, I filtered the list of 203 videos watched from 2016 down to only videos that I had rated 7.5 or above. This gave me a final list of some 71 videos to choose from, and from there I re-watched all the videos on that list and ranked them as best I could from 1 – 30.
We’ll start out the countdown with an unranked list of Honorable Mentions. These are videos that didn’t quite make the cut for being on my Top 30, but I still want to talk about for whatever reason. As I did last year, I will remind everyone that these following
10 11 videos are not necessarily the videos I would rank from 31 – 40 41 — these are simply videos that are still good or noteworthy in some way that I want to shed light on, regardless of where they’d end up if I decided to attach a rank to them. I can already guarantee you that there are other videos that I’m not mentioning here that I may like better than some or all of these videos, but I just don’t have much to say about those. At the end of the last post in this series, I will provide a list of all videos that made it into consideration so you can look up any other videos yourself that may not have been included here, if you find yourself so inclined. (If you’re wondering why this part is 11 videos and not 10…thank PieandBeer.) (This will make more sense later.)
Finally, I just want to stress something — the great thing about having my own blog is that I’m not answerable to anyone else. This list is mine and mine alone, it is be no means definitive, or official, or anything. You will almost certainly disagree with me on many, if not most, if not all points in the following posts. That’s fine! I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave comments as we go. The fact of the matter is that these were my favorite videos from 2016, and I’m excited to share them with you, whatever you may think about them yourself.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we go through and look at some of the best videos from the past 12 months!
Music: Radical Face – “We’re On Our Way”
Let’s just get the bad out of the way first — this is a messy video in many respects, and the first 20ish seconds may deplete your hopes that anything good could come of this. Horrible, unnecessary text and ugly font choices will likely put a bad taste in your mouth immediately. Please trust me when I say to fight through it — fight through the bad stock transitions, the occasional garish effect work, the comparatively poor quality, because once PYSH gets that out of his system, mostly in the first half of the video, this thing just opens up to be one of the most heartfelt Barakamon videos on the Internet. There are some absolutely spot-on scene choices, and through everything the video maintains a perfect mood, reflecting the simple happiness that’s at the heart of the anime itself — joy springs from the people you love, and it drives you to be a better person. Few videos in 2016 had me cheering for them like this one did — it’s a scrappy, underdog video rife with technical flaws. But through it you can see an editor who is trying his best to leave behind a fitting homage to a great anime, and in that sense, he absolutely succeeds.
Anime: Your Lie in April
Music: Alanis Morissette – “Perfect (Acoustic)”
As I said to start off my discussion of last year’s #1 video, 2015 seemed to be the year of Your Lie In April videos, but I definitely feel like I watched more this year than last. And it was a drag, mostly, because given that Hirou Keimou had basically perfected the source in what has become one of my all-time favorite AMVs, anyone else using the source was going to be at an immediate disadvantage. I walked away from 2016’s YLIA videos disappointed, in almost every case, save a few.
This was one of those that managed to do the source justice, even if it wasn’t quite in the way that I’m Alive! did. I mean, let’s be honest — the majority of YLIA videos are going to focus on the love story that permeates the series, and who can really fault people for doing that? It’s easy and it guarantees views, and I don’t think it’s an inherently bad thing. Still, when Tigrin released Never Quite Enough, I was struck by how obvious this concept seemed, and how few people seem to have really tried to tackle it. This is a video that focuses on the relationship between Kousei and his mother, specifically in the way he feels pressured to be perfect and how it affects him. Given that this is such a huge part of Kousei’s character, you’d think there would be more AMVs out there that dial in on this, but Tigrin’s so far is the only one I’ve seen do it, or at least do it this well.
It’s not my favorite video by a long shot — mainly, I just can’t stand the song. But the concept is solid and it’s really conveyed well. The editing doesn’t stand out, but it doesn’t really try to, so it’s difficult to fault it there. I enjoyed watching this one, even if it wasn’t a video I came back to again and again over the year. Moreover, it goes to show that even super played-out sources can have life breathed back in to them, often because a good conceptual framework is hiding in plain sight, and people just never bother to look.
Anime: Death Billiards // Death Parade
Music: Lady Gaga – “Disco Heaven”
…And the award for the video that takes its source material most out of context goes to Disco Heaven, and while I usually get peeved when I see this sort of thing, purplepolecat’s execution here is just so absurdly on-point that I can’t really criticize; frankly, I’m having a hard time wondering what led him to choose this source for this song to begin with, not to mention managing to find enough scenes to make it actually work. This is a fun video that has nothing to do with the anime it uses, and yet it manages to feel like a proper dance video, or at least a really close facsimile of one. Yes, the energy is lacking some of the time, and yes, the scenes and facial expressions are often too grim to be really convinced that Death Parade is anything but a serious, heavy anime most of the time, but props where they’re due — I never in my wildest dreams would have paired this song with this anime, and yet it works way better than I ever could have hoped.
Anime: Beyond the Boundary
Music: Seekae – “Test & Recognize”
Analyzing this video is difficult to do without taking the context of the YouTube channel itself into account; it appears to be that of a teenage kid from Lithuania, and the majority of his videos are just music playing over still frames, with an occasional AMV uploaded here and there. I haven’t watched most of them, although relatively recently he uploaded an AMV that could be considered a suicide note; happily it appears that he never followed through as he’s uploaded tons of stuff since then. This video, then, seems to be something deeply personal, that I probably will never be able to completely understand or appreciate.
Still, I think this video is worth watching; over the last year or so, this VCR effect has become super trendy, thanks in part I think to an AVIsynth script that creates it automatically. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been used in any really interesting ways yet; editors tend to just slap this on a video and call it a day (for instance, in this MEP), and even though it’s a cool effect, it doesn’t do a whole lot for any of these videos. It’s also been somewhat frustrating to see this effect become so popular, as it’s an effect I’ve been wanting to replicate myself towards a conceptual end. Now that it’s being plastered over everything for no reason, my desire to actually pursue that idea has become a bit diluted.
Despite the fact that i doubt my love doesn’t use this effect in a way that I keep hoping to see, it’s used better here than in any other video I’ve seen so far. The visual distortion and color manipulation used to age the footage works surprisingly well, especially given how recent the source material is, and the resulting video is a depressing affair of loss and grief. daily chill also decided to make use of text effects here and there throughout the video, and the result is mixed — they don’t look bad, exactly, and the 8-bit typeface was probably the best choice he could have made, but they sometimes feel superfluous (although the kanji/hiragana subtitles used near the end were a nice touch). No matter, though — this video was not made for me, even if I happen to have the benefit of being able to watch it. Whatever prompted this video’s creation, I will never know, but few videos I watched this year felt more cathartic than i doubt my love.
Music: Alle Farben – “She Moves (feat. Graham Candy)”
We don’t often get videos like this — videos that are technically impressive without being obvious about it, videos that recognize the fine line between “too much” and “not enough” when it comes to effects work like what we see in here, and manage to toe it perfectly. In fact, a lot of this effect work is done so well that you may not be able to tell — most of the backgrounds were created by Strat himself, there’s quite a bit of masking throughout the video’s three-minute run, and the storybook filter that becomes prominent at the end doesn’t overstay its welcome, and serves its conceptual purpose without fanfare. It’s all integrated so well and in such rare moderation that I had to watch it a few times before I felt like I caught all the little touches that bring this video to such vivid life.
On top of that it’s such a fun, creative piece, telling the story of a girl who is wandering, looking for her perfect place in the world. It could be literal or it could be allegorical, depending on how deep you want to go with it, but either way it’s a beautiful concept, beautifully realized.
Music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Art Star”
Every Nichijou video I see convinces me that I should be watching it like, right now, but for some reason I keep putting it off and deciding to watch crud like this. Oh well, at least I know it produces quality AMVs, not least of which is UnluckyArtist’s absurdist comedy video Screaming Artist. To be perfectly honest, there’s not a lot I can say about this that can’t be immediately gleaned from just watching the video, other than bravo to UnluckyArtist for actually managing to tell some sort of mini-story with this thing, and a funny one at that. This is the kind of solid stuff we’ve all come to know and love from one of the most consistently quality editors in the last many years, and while it’s not even his best work this year, it does well as one of the few really good comedy videos from 2016.
Anime: Ah! My Goddess (OVA) // Ah! My Goddess (Movie)
Music: Kate Winslet – “What If”
As I was watching this video to actually decide if I should write about it at all, I waffled about 6 or 7 times between wanting to put it on and wanting to write about something perhaps more deserving. But in the end there was something about this video that just works really well on a super basic, emotional level, despite the fact that scenes drag on for too long, cuts don’t happen anywhere near when they should, and the climax of the song is completely robbed of its impact with the chosen scene. No, this video will not win any awards. No, this video will not get much love from modern editors. Yes, there are plenty of actual old-school videos that do this exact kind of thing exponentially better. But for me, personally, watching AMVs is more than just finding the videos that do everything “the best” and then not bothering with the rest — flaws can be attractive, and in that sense Love and Loss has a super specific niche appeal that I can’t really explain or justify. All I know is that I’m fond of this video (although I wouldn’t push it past that), and I think that there’s something to be learned here, if not in specific techniques than in the general approach. Slow down, take a breather, and tell a story — the rest is superfluous.
Music: Alan Walker – “Faded”
msteapot has become a favorite editor of mine, someone whose work I always download no matter what sources she uses. Her videos are rarely anything too special, but she has put out a few that I constantly find myself returning to, and her style tends to find itself hovering right in the sweet spot between too little sync and too much. Faded is a short video — under two minutes — but it packs a whole lot of emotion and story into that short time and doesn’t really get too caught up in the details. It’s a smooth video as well, and when the song bursts open at the chorus we’re treated to some really slick scene selection and visual motion and it all just glides together really, really well. Most good sub-two minute videos leave me wanting more, but I feel perfectly satiated with this one, like having a really good snack before an even better meal.
Anime: Flowers of Evil
Music: Jocelyn Pook – “Masked Ball”
Elcalavero’s videos are perpetually weird; last year he took the fun, upbeat Space Dandy and made what stands as probably the most un-Space Dandy-like video on the Internet, and Neerouatjar shows what he’ll do with something that already has a gloomy tone to it. This is a dark video; I mean that both in terms of its heavy, choke-inducing atmosphere as well as its physical brightness. Part of me thinks that he did this in order to force the viewer to turn off the lights before watching, and if that was his goal it’s effective. This is a video that begs to be watched without distractions of any sort; it’s a self-contained universe of unsettling images and sounds, with all the threatening stuff seemingly just out of frame. It seems to tell a story, but at the risk of embarrassing myself I’ll leave the interpretation of the video to you, should you decide to watch it.
Like Elcalavero’s other work, this video does tend to feel aimless at points. His audio choice allows him to ignore having to do a whole lot of syncing, relying instead on building an aesthetic and letting the video flow through it. But, it works. This may wander a little too far into “artsy” territory for some people, but for me this video acts as one of the year’s better horror releases.
Music: Jose Gonzalez – “Step Out”
PieandBeer is probably my favorite current active editor, but this seemed to be a less stellar year for her in terms of output than 2015. The Chariot was her second video released this year, coming on the heels of the phenomenal Polaris, and I have to admit that when I watched this after it was released, I was really let down. I couldn’t quite explain why at the time, but on my first viewing this video just fell flat, failing to really grab me the way her work usually does. In fact, I shelved this video for the rest of this year, until just now when I decided to give it another shot and see if maybe it’s worth mentioning here.
While I still don’t think it demonstrates anything near what she’s capable of, The Chariot is certainly not the disappointment I thought it was at first — a big thing that I think threw me when I first watched it was my own expectations with this source. Tekkonkinkreet videos tend to wallow in hopelessness, and/or get psychological and convoluted. This is possibly the only Tekkonkinkreet video I’ve seen that doesn’t go that route, opting instead for a more optimistic approach. It’s close to being “happy” but not so much that it disrespects the source it’s working with; there’s a fine balance and PieandBeer strikes really close to the mark. If, like me, you were underwhelmed with this video when you first watched it, give it another shot — it ages nicely.
Anime: Escaflowne – The Movie
Music: Major Lazer – “Lean On”
Editing this smooth is sometimes all that’s needed to get me to overlook the lack of a cohesive story/concept, because I’m fairly certain this video doesn’t have one. But what it does have, it has in spades: great lyric sync, a really urgent atmosphere, and some pretty smooth internal sync — the last 40 seconds or so of this video are up there with some of Copycat’s best work. Although it lacks his usual tongue-in-cheek humor and knowing wink, it demonstrates again his ability to just do pure, straight editing and make something that stands above what most other editors could achieve using the same sources.