Music: Lukas Graham – “7 Years”
This is one of those videos where I feel like I don’t have to try and defend it, or even really explain why I think it’s good, as it seems to me like it should be impossible for people not to like it, even if they don’t like the song. But I know that people’s opinions don’t work that way so I’ll do my best here, explaining the obvious emotional pull this video has, the down-to-earth and straightforward editing, the meticulous scene selection that drives a superb story. I love obviously narrative videos like this, at least when they’re done this well, and JHaney1214 does an exquisite job, on top of everything else, of choosing the right anime to match with the various periods of life that the song covers. It’s a lovely montage that explores the different stages of life, and while it wasn’t even the best video that did that this year (!!), it never fails to leave me wistful and a little teary-eyed.
Anime: Evangelion 1.11: You Are [Not] Alone // Evangelion 2.0: You Can [Not] Advance // Evangelion 3.0: You Can [Not] Redo
Music: G.V. Sviridoc – “Time, Forward!”
The thought of talking about most of qwaqa’s work generally fills me with a sense of anxiety; his most popular works, PencilHead and PaperHeart, are masterpieces of creative and technical achievement, so much so that both of them are kind of beyond my comfort zone to properly analyze. While I love both videos, the kind of stuff he does in both of them pushes the boundaries of AMVs into territories that make me uneasy, because of my own personal preferences and what I like to get out of AMVs. Thankfully videos like these are few and far between, but I fear the day when technical prowess is deemed more important than any other quality in the realm of AMV editing, and it seems like we get closer to that singularity every day.
Still, qwaqa’s stuff is always impressive, no matter my feelings on its place in the hobby, and I couldn’t help walking away from this video feeling like qwaqa had outdone himself in every way. Maybe I’m just a sucker for Soviet propaganda (actually there’s no “maybe” about it), or for unique and clever concepts like this, but qwaqa’s entry here stands as one of the best uses of this anime I’ve seen in a long time. There are so many cool things going on in this video in every frame that it begs to be re-watched over and over again to catch them all. There’s even a White Stripes reference! But what glues it all together is the outstanding aesthetic — the color manipulation, the film overlay, the text — that is so excellently realized. This feels like a propaganda video through and through; what’s more, it feels like this is the kind of video NERV would put together if Gendo Ikari were actually a communist dictator. Creating worlds from scratch is something that qwaqa does with his videos, but this is like an alternate history fanfiction in AMV form, and it’s truly jaw-dropping.
Anime: One Punch Man
Music: Queen – “Don’t Stop Me Now”
One Punch Man understandably received many AMVs to its name this year, but I didn’t watch most of them — they all seemed like they’d be in the same camp of mindless, stupid action and thus not really my cup of tea. The fact that I was asked to beta test this and that this ended up being a finalist at NDK meant that I was bound to see it, even if I never bothered to seek it out — and I’m glad I did, because I doubt I’ll see many other OPM videos that make me smile the same way this one does. It’s a fun video, largely because of the song choice — Queen videos usually fall into this upbeat/light humor camp, so while not unexpected it’s done as well as any of them, and better than most. There’s lots of shrewd lyric sync that, while it doesn’t impart any kind of story or concept, gives the video a delightful cohesion that should keep any viewer interested, if not downright glued to the screen. Equally important is the occasional — but always perfectly-placed — internal sync, which keeps the video moving at a smooth and comfortable pace. And the video’s title is really just the icing on the cake…a simple joke that makes it obvious from the get-go what I’m getting myself into.
I’m usually fairly critical of videos like this — the kind that aim for mass appeal with song and video sources this immediately likable, but every so often it works without feeling generic or trite, and Glitzer gets a pass on this one for editing something so fricking enjoyable.
Music: Doves – “Black and White Town”
For many of you, this is going to be an odd choice — it’s got poor audio quality, poor video quality a lot of the time (by the way, don’t download this from the .org, the visual quality is atrocious and YouTube is actually better), and when it comes down to it, it’s just a lot of opening/ending scenes, as well as some of the most popular AMV-friendly scenes from the anime it uses. Some people may call this a low-effort video, but for me there is something incredibly charming about it. The super-desaturated color scheme combined with the often-chaotic scene choices (which is in fact helped by the low quality) lends this video a really gritty, claustrophobic look and feel that I haven’t really encountered in other videos, that I can recall. It has this excellent urban finish to it, this feeling of wanting to escape the grimy and mundane into something more extraordinary and meaningful, which is an outlook I identify with in a very personal way. This may be something that simply doesn’t translate to other viewers, so I can understand if you’d walk away from this one feeling nothing for it, but for me this was, kind of like Abogado’s Diamonds, another one of those completely surprising, unexpected videos from 2016 that I feel is way better than most people will likely give it credit for.
Anime: Noragami // Noragami Aragoto
Music: New Politics – “Harlem”
We didn’t get the super upbeat, boisterous PieandBeer AMVs like Something Fishy!, Oneiro, or Minimum Wage from last year, but in their place we did get Petaloso, so all is forgiven. The editing in this video is top-speed, frenetic but never confusing, making use of equal parts internal and external sync. The video doesn’t really let up — there’s visual motion from beginning to end, and antaresheart07 manages it with all the talent of someone who knows exactly what she wants out of each and every frame. It’s a stupidly fun video, and while she tends to shirk the lyric sync in favor of completely random scene selection, it ends up not mattering much — this is one of those videos that exists to get you engaged in other, more primal means than trying to tell a story. Get on the floor, move your body, get kicked in the face and fly into a wall, that kind of engagement. AMVs like this are plentiful, but many of them fail in one way or another — often they take the process too seriously and end up feeling forced or not energetic enough, but Petaloso does things juuuuust right, managing to hit the moving target and scoring big.
Music: David Guetta – “Just One Last Time”
(No YouTube link, sadly, due to a copyright claim on the music track.)
You may not buy into this concept in writing — a drawing of Pikachu coming to life and escaping into the digital world to play with other Pokemon while the girl who drew him gets depressed that he’s gone — but holy cow does it work as an AMV. It’s a silly idea, yes, but the amount of work that went into making this concept come to life in a convincing way is astounding — if you’re not an editor, you may not realize how much of a pain certain scenes would have been to composite. From a technical perspective, this is the kind of stuff I like to see in crossover videos like this, rather than the more “Umika-type” videos that use all sorts of crummy-looking color tone adjustment overlays and particles and light leaks.
This is a very engaging video — SachaValentine uses her (his?) technical abilities to tell a solid story, cheesy as it is. There are some really cool moments throughout the video — newly created settings, clever compositing choices, fun crossover moments — that bring this video to life in a way that videos of this type rarely do for me. I’m usually conscious of when anime are being mixed together, and often I find that it’s completely unnecessary, other than to show off the technical abilities of the editor. Pursuit of Happiness, on the other hand, is a story that couldn’t have existed convincingly in any other way, and that such care went into creating it and making it so easy to buy into makes it one of my favorite crossover videos, and certainly one of the most memorable videos of this last year.
Music: Halsey – “Gasoline”
Speaking of crossover videos, enter Delusionist. This is probably more accurately considered a Madoka Magica video, as that’s the source where most of this video resides, but whatever. As I mentioned in my thoughts on Stinger yesterday, Madoka videos are still good fuel for creativity in new projects, although they have really lost their luster as it’s become such an overused source; it’s to falconmtg’s credit, then, that he not only made something fresh with this source, but did so in a way that plays into the latent psychological undertones that permeate the setting and atmosphere of Madoka.
This is a dark video, with a clear story (at least, it was to me, although the two people I showed it to didn’t seem to get it, so your mileage may vary) profiling Homura, and while there are countless Homura profile videos floating around out there, most of them confine themselves to a story summary or try to ship her with Madoka. Delusionist does something different here, painting her as a mental patient being tested on with drugs. It’s surreal and unsettling in all the best ways, with lurid imagery and a definite sense of descending into a state of madness. It succeeds on all levels, both as a technical exercise (although nothing on the scale of Pursuit of Happiness, above) as well as a conceptual one, and although we were (thankfully) treated to far fewer Madoka videos this year than in the past, it was a welcome addition to this year’s bounty.
Anime: The Boy and the Beast
Music: One Republic – “Counting Stars”
I need to explain something real quick here — this video and the next two are all videos I really wanted to be in my Top 10…trying to figure out how to order my list from this point on was an utter nightmare, and for all intents and purposes you can consider videos #13 – #10 essentially tied, if you like, because trying to say I like any one of these better than the other is really difficult for me to do, as the order would probably change depending on the day you asked me. Unfortunately, ranked lists don’t really work in a way that would let me tie a bunch of videos, and it’d feel like a cop-out if I made an exception, so I had to order these somehow.
Hopefully it’ll speak volumes about the videos in my Top 10, but as for this video, it’s just so wonderfully realized that I’m having some difficulty here trying to think of things to add. I’ve seen a couple videos that use this song (which I actually really don’t like), but none of them even come close to this one in terms of making a meaningful song/anime connection. I haven’t seen The Boy and the Beast, but this video pretty much summarizes the entire movie really clearly, so much so that I feel like I wouldn’t miss much by not seeing it (although I still want to). The scene selection manages to follow the lyrics at exactly the right distance — locating the underlying meaning in some of the more literal passages (“No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars”) and finding a way to represent it that doesn’t come across as corny or lazy.
This is a high-energy video, although it often forgoes tight sync for story progression, but this never works against it — it locks on to the mood of the song and uses that as its propellant. I can’t fault the video for anything, and I really don’t want to. It’s such a likable video in every regard, and deserves way more recognition than it got. Sometimes I wish I had more visibility in the AMV community, not to promote my own work but so I could get videos like this a wider audience. For lack of that, I’ll do what I can here, and hopefully somehow this video reaches to the ends of the Internet and gets the exposure and love it rightly deserves.
Music: Trista & Braken – “Far Away”
I was going to explain what this video is, but then I realized I was literally just re-wording the AMV’s title so I won’t patronize you. This video was played before all the contest videos at NDK, and I had thought that a part of the reason I enjoyed this one so much was remembering the experience of seeing it for the first time — sitting in a room with something like 3,000 people (I believe?) and hearing their ecstatic reactions to their favorite anime as they appeared onscreen…there’s just something special about that, you know?
But after I got home from the contest and remembered to re-watch this later, I was surprised to find that I liked it just as much, if not more, than I did when I had seen it in its proper setting. The theme at NDK 2016 was “20 years of anime”, and so this video is basically just an assortment of some of the great anime from the past 20 years. And yes, that’s all it is — but holy crap man, the song, the editing, the sentiment! It all just overflows into a feels trip unlike almost any I saw this year, celebrating anime in a way that makes me not just happy but proud to be a fan. It makes me want to shout and scream and lose myself in the excitement that anime and AMVs can generate. Even though there are many other videos like this, the context of this one, I think, makes a huge difference in how I process it.
But put all that aside and it’s still a step above, with editing tricks that tie scenes together in super neat ways, often through matching the motion of one scene to the next, or the really clever way Yue translates from fullscreen to widescreen (you may not even notice it the first time around!). The pacing and the flow is all so on-point — I love this video so much. I don’t care what you say Yue, because I know you’re reading this — you made one of the best videos of the year, please do it again in 2017.
Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time // Wolf Children
Music: One Direction – “Story of My Life”
Let me be brutally frank here: This video had literally nothing — and maybe less — going for it when I first skimmed the video information before downloading it. Of all the overused sources that I have lost all enthusiasm for over the years, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is probably in my top 5. And that’s to say nothing of the song, which I couldn’t be more ambivalent about if I tried. This was a recipe for about as generic and throwaway a video as I could imagine, and I went into it with a healthy dose of skepticism and a much unhealthier dose of cynicism.
I came out the other end transformed. This is a video that takes two sources that are incredibly stale in the AMV world and crafts a link between them, making a new story from nothing that is believable and touching in the most pleasantly surprising ways. What’s more, hamstar’s narrative here manages to take key elements from both movies — elements that essentially make these movies what they are — and incorporate them in intelligent ways into her finished product. This isn’t a video that destroys the original works’ intent or takes anything out of context in the name of making something completely new; instead it pays tender homage to both GWLTT and Wolf Children while at the same time telling a powerful, new story originating in hamstar’s imagination.
This video is especially cool to me because hamstar138 is an editor I’ve been keeping tabs on for a while now; until this year she hadn’t really released anything that stuck with me, but over the last couple years I’ve noticed marginal improvement with each release, seeing her potential increase each time, until this last year when she released two phenomenal videos (the other being Pokeversary which is not represented on this list). Getting to experience an editor’s journey firsthand, especially when it culminates in a video like Fast Forward, makes all the slower parts worth it, and I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.