Okay, now that all that preliminary stuff is out of the way, we can get to the actual, finalized list of my 30 favorite videos from 2016. I’ve been super excited about writing this for several months now, so I really hope you enjoy and watch as many of these videos as you can, if you haven’t seen them already. It is my honest opinion that the videos I’m about to list are the best videos this past year had to offer, certainly of what I’ve seen, if not beyond that. I welcome discussion on this. I welcome competing viewpoints, so long as it’s kept in mind that this is all highly subjective territory.
A few things worth noting before we embark: First, I’m generally not impressed by super-technical videos, unless the effects work has a conceptual purpose. As such, there are very few really effects-y videos on this list. I also tend to dislike really obviously fan-pandering-type videos (though there are exceptions), so between these two categories I’ll just head off a few videos that were pretty big this year that you won’t find within miles of this list: Sans Titre by Cmoididi, Edera by Elerye, Weeaboo Peekaboo by Shin-AMV, or Deadpunch by Rider4Z. I didn’t like any of these videos really, and while I could go into great detail on that, I figure I might get carried away in a super negative sense so I’ll just leave it at that.
Second, I’ve found in the past that I tend to deride multi-anime AMVs quite a bit, and yet on this list there are quite a few of them, so maybe I don’t dislike them the way I thought I did. Although, in this case, most of them are conceptually sound so that may make all the difference, or I could just be someone who contradicts myself for no good reason. I don’t know.
Finally, this list is going to get suuuuper drama-heavy in its last third. So, you know, just be prepared for that.
In an amazing coincidence (and I’m actually serious here, I didn’t plan it this way) there are no videos in this Top 30 that use the same anime twice, with the exception of some of the multi-anime videos. So that’s pretty cool, and just goes to show the diversity we get to enjoy with our AMVs. Despite watching many videos that used the same sources over and over again (Your Lie In April, Tamako Love Story, ERASED, and Ore Monogatari were all huge this year), I somehow managed to end up with a varied spread of videos that didn’t overlap. Hopefully that’ll increase your enjoyment of these videos, if nothing else!
Oh, and at the end of the final post, in addition to posting the full list of videos that made it into consideration to be ranked, I will also post a short recognition of my Editor of the Year, a new thing I’m going to try out this year. I had wanted to do it last year but decided against it for reasons I can’t remember. Let’s see how it goes.
Okay, that was way longer than I wanted it to be. Are you used to that yet? Let’s get to the videos!
Anime: Your Lie in April
Music: Local Natives – “Mt. Washington”
I’ve come to have a really love/hate relationship with YLIA videos, because I really enjoyed the anime, but so many of the videos made using it are just really dull, predictable, uninspired schlop that add little or nothing to the fray, so when exkcal made this one, I was skeptical. Like many others, its fuel is the story’s tragedy, and it uses a lot of the same scenes we’ve probably all gotten sick of throughout the last two years. But it’s just, well, better than most others, and I think a large part of that can be attributed to the audio choice — a lo-fi indie rock song which acts as a direct contrast to not only the beautiful, refined animation, but the types of videos in whose company it inevitably finds itself. So many sad YLIA videos tend to use these upbeat-but-downtrodden pop songs, and also try to be flashy and cutting edge with their editing approach. I Don’t Have To See You Right Now is instead an understated, soft, and quiet video, and when it comes down to it I think its humble approach is what shuttles it so far above the crowd.
Anime: Pokemon (various)
Music: One Republic – “I Lived”
This year was a huge year for Pokemon — on top of the phenomenon that was Pokemon Go, and the release of Pokemon Sun/Moon, 2016 marked the franchise’s 20-year anniversary, and as such it’s fitting that there were multiple AMVs made to mark the occasion (the other good one I saw would be hamstar138’s Pokeversary). But for my money, I prefer neko kitkat’s video — it taps into my weakness for nostalgia in a unique way, by using all manner of sources to celebrate one of the most prominent examples of Japanese culture invading American homes that has ever existed. It sources the games (from multiple generations and platforms), the various series, and the commercials that have been on the air during Pokemon’s existence. I never got too deep into Pokemon myself, but I distinctly remember seeing several of the commercials used in this video as a kid, and it’s an effective trick for making a really cool homage to this particular craze.
More than that though, I think this video just works as an expression of gratitude towards the franchise, and I think that even if you’ve never been “in” on Pokemon like many other die-hards have, most people should be able to still appreciate this. It may not mean anything to you personally, but like any video or tribute that does its job well, it will make you wish you had been in on the ground floor.
Anime: Beyond The Boundary: I’ll Be Here
Music: Evvy – “Tidal Wave (Sound Remedy Remix)”
Before this year I’d seen exactly one good Beyond The Boundary video (msteapot’s I See Fire), and even that one had one or two notable flaws that keep me from really falling in love with it. Sadly, so does this one (that stupid text smack in the middle), but it succeeds in the same way msteapot’s does: It tells a really strong, pathos-riddled story without succumbing to the mindless action that seems to define most videos that use this source, and I just can’t help but wonder why I don’t see more videos that do this, because Beyond the Boundary seems to lend itself to this dramatic style more than any other. Cecco’s editing in this video is superb, using simple effects that carry meaning, and just killing it with the beat sync right as the song builds to its climax. It feels like it ends too soon, but it’s still wholly satisfying, not leaving us with anything unsaid. In the most complimentary way, I just really wish there was more to say.
Anime: Is This A Zombie? // Is This A Zombie? Of The Dead
Music: Jon Lajoie – “Fuck Everything”
I’ll probably make a point of saying this every year, but comedy videos just aren’t usually my thing — they tend to be on the weeb-pandering side, or they depend on highly contextual knowledge to fully “get”, meaning that unless I’m already in on the joke, it’ll go right past me. For that reason, usually only a few (at most) comedy videos end up being any of my favorites from a given year, but those that do are usually good for more than just one or two viewings before they start to get old.
F-Bomb is a hilarious video; I’ve watched it a number of times now and still find it funny. What’s more, every time I watch it I pick up on some other little detail that adds a smidgen more humor to the lyric sync. Lots of clever, subtle jokes, some of which would indeed go over non-editors’ heads, pepper the video and give it a surprising amount of re-watch value. Perhaps the most astonishing thing about F-Bomb is that almost every single lyrical joke, no matter how challenging, has a matching visual gag — all from a single anime series. This is by far the video’s biggest asset, as so many comedy videos which rely on a lot of lyric sync end up having to use multiple animes to keep the jokes going, and this almost always dilutes the comedy element for me. But F-Bomb doesn’t have to stoop to this, and it ends up being one of the funniest videos of the year as a result.
Anime: Wolf’s Rain
Music: Disturbed – “Sound of Silence”
This apparently became a popular song for AMVs this year, as there were quite a few AMVs made with it (searching “disturbed sound of silence amv” on YouTube yields pages of videos), and since I’m not a masochist I didn’t see more than one other, but I still feel pretty comfortable calling this one the best of them all, mainly because I can’t see another source working quite this well. It’s an incredibly melodramatic video, in all the best, most theatrical ways; it’s dark and brooding and violent, and uses really simple editing techniques to tell its story. I haven’t seen Wolf’s Rain but I walked away from this video feeling like I had; it reminded me of the first time I watched aerialesque’s video Lost Paradise, another favorite Wolf’s Rain video of mine. There were better heavy drama videos this year but even so, Mounting Dread is one that’ll be on my playlist for a long time.
Anime: Kids on the Slope
Music: fun. – “Be Calm”
I’ve said it before about some of my own work, am I’m sure I’ll say it again the next time I encounter a video like this and feel the need to write about it, but the best videos tend to be those that don’t take much conceptual thought on the part of the editor; when you come across a song and anime that make so much intrinsic sense that you feel it your duty as an editor to smash them together if it hasn’t been done already. Such is the case with DNubsPro’s The One To Understand Me — this song works so unbelievably well with this anime, and his editing keeps pace with the song’s tempo and mood changes impeccably. Even the little things, like the horns in the song and the dominant percussion feed into the scene selection and back out in fluent ways, creating this beautiful ensemble of A/V harmony. It really is probably the best Kids on the Slope video from a holistic standpoint; while there are a couple I’d say I like better personally, this one does characterization and plot summary probably better than the others, and really, is just more fun. For a total, out-of-the-blue video that I just stumbled across, this one comes highly recommended.
Music: Awolnation – “Burn It Down”
You may be entirely over [whatever]-monogatari videos at this point in time, and I wouldn’t blame you one bit. Even though they tend to go in different directions stylistically, and as pretty as the animation is, the source in the AMV world is a lot like Madoka — still creatively valid, but lacking in any kind of wow-factor given just how much we’ve all seen these scenes used before in countless other videos. If that does, in fact, describe you, I’d urge you to still give Stinger a shot, as this probably ranks as one of the flat-out coolest videos I saw this year. It utilizes tons of internal sync and plenty of sly humor, which is Copycat’s trademark with this kind of work. It’s upbeat and fun and has a bad side; it tears up the place and you still say “Thank you sir, may I have another?” It’s downright enjoyable from beginning to end, and demonstrates once more just how utterly in control of his tools Copycat_Revolver is. I’m always looking forward to his next release, because I know that I’m guaranteed a good time, and Stinger was this year’s proof that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
Anime: Dragon Ball (various)
Dragon Ball has always had kind of an unfortunate place in AMV culture; as much as people may like the various series or recognize their importance in their own development as anime fans, it’s often derided as a source for AMVs. Linkin Park has a similar history, and when the two are put together it has, over years, become a meme in itself — if you’ve ever heard the term “Linkin Ball Z”, these types of videos are what that’s referring to. While it’s easy to see why the two were once coupled all the time, the mockery has continued even though such videos are rarely being made seriously anymore.
What makes Koku’s Rage so great is that it mocks both the videos that use these sources as well as the deriding attitude surrounding them, while at the same time making fun of the recent Dragon Ball Super, a series whose animation was panned for good reason. I’ve never personally been a fan of any of the animation in any Dragon Ball series, but past series undeniably looked better, and so the overriding joke in this video — pairing the flat, lifeless Dragon Ball Super scenes with the flaccid cover of “Crawling” — is simply hysterical. The fact that this video is also commenting on the “Linkin Ball Z” mentality is just a bonus, but editors should get an additional kick out of the meta-ness of that commentary as well. (There’s also the overly-effectsy break in the middle, bad lyric text and all, as yet another jab at a certain kind of editing style that has become popular in recent years).
Best of all, this video does not linger any longer than it has to — it gets the jokes out there, and then stops before running them into the ground, a feat that, sadly, many other comedy editors could stand to learn from. It’s a gem of a comedy video, the kind we see all to little of. More editors could stand to be this self-aware, and I applaud Farm for making one of the most untentionally deep and insightful videos of the past 12 months…and also one of the funniest.
Anime: Shadow of the Colossus
Music: Epic Score – “They Attacked Without Warning”
Since this is a Japanese game I’m considering it an AMV, so cool your jets if you’re having a reation of “But this isn’t anime!” I actually agonized over this more than you might think, but I decided to include it because it’s my blog and I just really like this video, okay? Hopefully it’s not hard to see why — I don’t know if Joo captured all this footage himself or if he found recordings of it online from someone else; no matter, it’s an amazingly epic video that shows off why this is one of the most loved titles from the PS2 era, and for many people, before or since. I have yet to play Shadow of the Colossus, but if this video is any indication, I should drop what I’m doing right now and
Okay, I got the remake for PS3 but I haven’t played it yet, that’s a first step though, right? In any case, this video just kills it in all the important ways — storytelling, internal sync, adrenaline-pumping cuts on all the right beats. In many ways this video reminds me of Pic4’s video from last year, Nomura; in the same way, this video just keeps getting better as it progresses, every cut pushing you further and further into its world until you’re completely overcome by the thunderous energy it’s riding on. This is goosebump-inducing, heart-stopping action at its finest, and while I’m not usually one to enjoy action videos this much, I’m happy to dive head first into They Hit Without Warning again and again.
Anime: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (+ others)
Music: Gangstagrass – “Pressure”
Often — I’d actually say, more often than not — I go into watching AMVs not knowing what to expect at all. Especially from completely unknown editors like this, it’s always a craps shoot as to whether I’m going to uncover something totally awesome or something utterly forgettable. So when I find something like this video, it often will justify the crummy stuff I have to sift through to find it. Discovering these completely unknown gems brings me at least as much joy as watching through videos that I may like better, but are also much better-known. In the end, I certainly treasure these finds way more.
Diamonds is a very stylish video, in the sense that it uses some really cool effects to create a sophisticated atmosphere. The opening of the video draws you in with the flashy background and black-and-white color palette, but even when things settle down into more familiar, hard-cuts-and-black-flashes territory for the verses, it still feels like it’s in total control of its aesthetic, resisting the urge to become pretentious or exclusive in its presentation. Oh, and that instrumental bit in the middle? Yeah, that was one of my absolute favorite bits of editing I saw all year.
Perhaps best of all, this is a Studio Ghibli-sourced video that expressly doesn’t use sentiment as its motive force, feeling much more practical in its approach by having the viewer just enjoy the ride. While I love Ghibli AMVs, this video’s take on how to engage the viewer is refreshing, and one of its biggest selling points. I love it when things surprise me this much in such a positive way, and this aptly-named example should hopefully make it clear why I seek out and collect these kinds of AMVs the way I do.