As we move into the final part of my year-end posts, let me start by saying that 2017 was a fantastic year for AMVs, at least in my opinion. And it wasn’t just in terms of quality, it was quantity — the ratio of good to bad AMVs was probably higher in 2017 than I’ve seen it in years, and 2017 demonstrably had more AMVs that I really enjoyed compared to the past three years that I’ve been making these lists. I wish that every year were like this, because AMVs were a lot of things this year — but boring certainly wasn’t one of them.
What this means for you is that, instead of my usual Top 30 + 10 honorable mentions, I actually had more than enough material to make doing a proper Top 50 not only possible, but fairly difficult because of how many good AMVs I had to choose from. Although there’ll be no honorable mentions this year, there should be more than enough material to keep even the most diehard AMV fan entertained for a while. I have to be careful about setting a precedent this year though; although I wish I could have been doing a Top 50 each year to begin with, doing so requires having enough good AMVs to make it interesting, so while we feast this year, 2018 might not bring such good fortune. So, don’t expect another Top 50 in a year’s time, but with any luck I’ll be able to make it happen again.
As usual, I also want to lend some transparency to the process that brought me to these 50 particular videos; if you’ve been here in past years, it hasn’t changed in any significant way so you can probably skip this paragraph. Basically, every time I watch a new AMV I use AMV Tracker to rate it out of 10 and put it in my database. At the end of the year, I look back at all videos I’ve rated 7.5 or higher, go through and re-watch each and every one, and mark them as “Definitely keep”, “Maybe”, or “No” as I go. Then, I rewatch all the “Definitely keep” and “Maybe” ones, and figure out my rankings from there. It’s an involved process that takes several weeks to get through — as a result, I decided to not consider certain videos released in late December, simply because at the point they were released I was too deep into the process and I have limited time. For some perspective on the numbers: I watched 205 videos from 2017, 79 of which I rated 7.5 or higher (39%).
I’m almost done, because I know you want to get to the fricking list already, but I have a few disclaimers I want to make before we start. First, please remember that I’m one guy who loves AMVs. I’ve been around this scene for over ten years now, so I’ve seen a lot and my tastes don’t necessarily jive with the mainstream. Although there are several videos on here that could be considered as such, they’re probably the exception, rather than the rule. If you don’t like my list — excellent! I love hearing competing viewpoints and hope that you’ll post them here. But I don’t claim this list as definitive or anything of the sort — I’m just an AMV fan who loves sharing his opinions with the world.
Second — as far as I know, this is one of the only lists of this type out there. I know that seasons also does year-end AMV lists, but beyond that I don’t know of any others. If you like AMVs and lists, I’d encourage you to make your own — I personally would love to see more, especially because my audience is pretty limited and it’d be cool to see others with more reach get some of their favorites out there as well.
Third and finally, while there weren’t very many AMVs this year that were everywhere (or if there were, I was just blind I guess) that I didn’t include on my list here, there is one glaring omission that might raise a few eyebrows from people who know me: Moony Moonpie’s We Two. Although this was one of the most moving AMVs I saw this year and it won Best In Show at this year’s NDK contest, I don’t have very much to say about it that I didn’t already say about Tigrin’s Stay With Us last year (a video which had ended up at #3 on that list). Since the videos are so similar in their feeling, storytelling, and general presentation, it would have felt redundant to me to put it on this list and take up a spot that a more unique video might be able to fill. Please watch the video — it’s great — and then read my comments on the #3 video from last year’s list. They apply pretty much equally.
Ok — I’m done now. With all that said, let’s get started with the Top 50 AMVs from 2017!
Song: “Evangelion” by Thundercat
This is not my favorite Evangelion video made this year; heck, it’s not even the most creative Evangelion video released this year, but it is quite unlike what you’re likely to come across with a typical video using this source. Utilizing a downtempo, psychedelic folk song, UnluckyArtist overlays the entire video with a texture filter that gives the video a unique look and feel. He makes use of color-manipulating transitions similar to those used in his masterpiece from 2016, Blithe and Bonny, although this time around they’re used with much more restraint. There’s abstract philosophizing, delicate atmosphere, and beautiful (but sparse) moments of beat sync. It all totals up to a laid-back, (mostly) non-violent, non-confrontational and visually singular Eva video, all of which sound like a contradiction in terms until you experience it for yourself.
Anime: 5 Centimeters Per Second
Song: “Outro” by M83
Let me just start by ackowledging that this video has a lot of obvious problems, its title not least among them. It’s often sloppily edited, has several orphan frames, and is conceptually derivative (although given the source, that last point is rather minor). All that said, I still find myself enjoying this one immensely. It’s true that if you’ve seen one 5CPS video, you’ve seen 90% of them, and while this one definitely falls into that statistic, enough time has passed since the anime was released that this doesn’t feel like any sort of cash-in on something popular. One gets the distinct feeling that the editor made this video out of a love for the source — an approach I certainly admire.
But it’s more than that — this video feels huge and open. It explores the relationship between love and physical space, which is a theme in most of Makoto Shinkai’s work — and thus a lot of videos that use his work as well — but in here it’s done in a really unmistakable way. E L F E N L I E D takes shot after shot of expansive skies and vistas and plants them right next to scenes of the two main characters together, making it an impossible-to-avoid motif that’s right at home with M83’s “Outro”, a stirring, epic, sweeping song in its own right. The added-in rocket SFX near the beginning of the video contribute as well to this video’s grand scale, and hint at a conceptual framework. It all feels very large and significant.
Not every one of my favorite videos has to be perfect in every way; in fact, few actually are. This one is maybe more imperfect than most, but also serves as a striking example of how passion for what you’re editing and a tangible sense of atmosphere can make otherwise siazble flaws seem small in comparison.
Anime: Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie // Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie // Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Battle Pentagram
Song: “Hunger In Your Haunt” by Crywolf
There’s nothing particularly new about this video — Madoka videos can run the gamut of genres but this one doesn’t bring anything to the table that I haven’t seen before. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned from doing these lists over the last few years, it’s that editors don’t always have to be innovating; sometimes doubling down on what they know they can do well is plenty. Deeper Connection is an artsy emotional drama piece that makes heavy use of the psychedelic and abstract imagery found in Madoka. Like many videos before it, it focuses (however loosely) on the connection between Madoka and Homura; and like many, it’s tragic and sad and…well, you know the drill. But it’s edited and paced very well, and belies the editor’s love for the source in its emotional pull — and such authenticity is always welcome these days in the AMV community.
Song: “Escape From The Prison Planet” by Clutch
I take some pride in knowing that after like two years of pestering ZephyrStar to release this, he finally did when I brought it up on an episode of Thank You Heavy Machine Gun that I was a guest on. This had been an AWA Pro entry in 2014’s contest, but ZS has a bad habit of not releasing stuff when it’s done — sometimes it takes years! (Case in point — a 7+(?) year old sequel to daydream that he was supposed to release two months ago…if we’re lucky it may be out by the time you’re reading this, but it’s too late for it to be on this list at any rate). It happens.
But anyway, the video. For an anime as limited as REDLINE tends to be as source material for AMVs, it’s kinda nice to have something that has such a specific narrative slant like this. The song is lyrically narrow, but ZS makes it work in all its sci-fi conspiracy-theory wackiness with REDLINE‘s over-the-top visuals. Lying somewhere between upbeat drama and slow action, the video is paced in a way that makes it easy to keep up with the story, while sacrificing very little intensity along the way. It’s a song I wouldn’t attempt to edit with in a million years, but ZS balances everything on a pinhead here to make something that’s fun, menacing, and blood-pumping all at once.
Anime: Mahoutsukai No Yome
Song: “Gold” by Echos
Cneq’s a rookie editor, and he released some pretty good stuff this year — although it’s all rough around the edges, his work tends to be drama-heavy and simple, which is right up my alley no matter the experience level, so I found a lot to love in his videos. Your Eyes has little more than an emotionally-dense song and some slick storytelling, but nothing more was really needed to make something worthwhile. The first third of this one is especially good, laying a wide foundation for character exploration that Cneq is able to develop pretty satisfactorily throughout the rest of the video’s run time; although this wasn’t his best work this year, it’s a good introduction to his style and a great drama video in its own right. This is certainly an editor to keep your eye on.
Anime: Little Witch Academia // Little Witch Academia (Movie) // Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade
Song: “Hold On” by Extreme Music
In 2016 aerialesque submitted a Little Witch Academia video to NDK, which I had the pleasure of seeing and voting for; unfortunately she has yet to officially release it despite my constant nagging, and while I have a copy on my HDD it would be crummy of me to upload it somewhere without her consent. So while we all wait for that video to be uploaded (it’s really, really good), neko kitkat has so kindly provided us with Paint The Sky, a deeply sentimental and uplifting video that revels in the simple and straightforward to make its statement. As ever, neko kitkat knows how to tell her stories and the narrative in Paint The Sky is easy to follow and invest in; really, there’s not much more to say. She nailed pretty much every element and continues to improve as an editor. She’s certainly come a far way from the editor I used to routinely ignore, and consistently makes some of the year’s most notable AMVs.
Anime: Houseki no Kuni
Song: “Cold Skin” by Seven Lions
-DevilAMV- is a Chinese editor, something I didn’t even know existed until I read his YouTube profile, and while an editor’s home country doesn’t really matter when it comes to what I think of their work, I just think it’s cool that AMVs are a thing in China, and wanted to point that out. Anyway. Cold Skin’s main attraction is in how incredibly smoothly it’s edited — this video goes down like butter, and although it’s short (clocking in at just under two minutes) it makes its point convincingly in the time allotted, without overdoing any element or showing off in any way. Short videos tend to be extreme in one way or another, but -DevilAMV- chooses instead to make something comparatively understated and, as a result, immensely more satisfying and rewatchable.
Song: “Be The One” by Moby
Fair warning — this is a weird video. I don’t quite understand the meaning behind it, or if it’s really just a bunch of angsty juxtapositions with no real significance (it can be hard to tell sometimes). But I don’t really care, it has great visual flow and this super dark atmosphere that manifests itself in many ways throughout its four minutes. Probably the best part of the video is smack in the middle, with a long sequence of similar scenes strung together from some very different anime; Nostromo did this in longform several years ago, but it’s a nice editing technique and works particularly well here. The only iffy part of the whole video is the text usage — thankfully it’s brief, and doesn’t really do much to rob the video of its momentum. I want more videos like this — those that fall outside the boundaries of “safe” and “predictable” and are willing to experiment with abstract concepts and questionable editing techniques. Even when they don’t work 100%, they’re a blast to watch.
Song: “Bad and Boujee (Nyanners Remix)” by Migos
I say it every year but in case this is your first time reading through one of my lists, I’m not big on comedy videos. I typically have one or two on my list each year, but in general I find comedy a really hard genre to get into in terms of considering any of them among my “favorites”. This entry is probably about as close to “comedy” as we got this year, and while I do chuckle at it here and there, mostly I like it because it’s just a ridiculous anime/song combo that works on a really shallow level. That’s not a criticism, because this video isn’t really supposed to be anything other than silly fun, and that’s exactly what it is — great lyric and lip sync, goofy scene selection, and not much else. But it doesn’t need a lot, because stuff like this is addicting in its own oddball way and UnluckyArtist, one of the most versatile editors out there right now, knows how to throw these curveballs perfectly.
Anime: Tamako Love Story // Tamako Market
Song: “Crabbuckit” by The Good Lovelies
Yep, we just started this list but we’re already at our first Copycat_Revolver video — stick around because this is the first of many. It’s also possibly the most “classic” feeling of all the videos he released this year, by which I mean that it feels most like the stuff he used to make a decade ago when he first appeared on the scene — clever and full of visual puns, lyrical jokes, and dead-on internal sync moments that flash by without waiting around for the viewer to catch on. Unlike most Tamako videos, this one doesn’t rely on any kind of sentimental response. It’s simply a good time, courtesy of one of the scene’s most consistent editors. There’s more where this came from, so stay tuned.