Anime: Made In The Abyss
Song: “Here With Me” by Susie Suh X Robot Koch
Cneq has proven this year that he’s a good storyteller. Although his videos appear to be little more than anime-summary AMVs, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and if you’re able to find the right song — go for it. Here With Me is a heavy, slow drama video, the kind that you watch when you want to feel sad and hopeless and utterly despondent. Using nothing more than crossfades, hard cuts and maybe the occasional slow zoom, Cneq strings a thread of despair and tragedy that burrows deep into the chest. This is not something that you want to fire up frequently, and I say that in the most complimentary way possible — like any media, AMVs can move us in profound ways that seep into our day-to-day lives, and Here With Me is as good an example as I saw all year.
Anime: Serial Experiments Lain
Song: “Say It” by Röyksopp & Robyn
Serial Experiments Lain videos, almost without exception, have at their focal point the boundary between the real and the digital, with varying degrees of literalism. If I’m honest, it’s become a bit tiring; I sometimes wish that people would try to do something new with the source, especially because it has such rich imagery and potential to be used in more creative ways, but I hardly blame people for being inspired by SEL in a particular direction and then running with it. Bauzi did just that in HYPERLUST, and while it’s a played out concept in one sense, I have to admit this is the first time I’ve seen the real/digital shtick executed in such a straightforward, narrative way.
And while that’s great enough on its own, it is an utterly masterful use of effects that pushes this over the top into truly memorable territory. Bauzi said in his video description that this was his attempt to create “glitchart”; while I have no real intentionally glitchart control to measure HYPERLUST against, it’s probably about as close to such an aesthetic as I could imagine given no other information. The effects are highly tailored and synced in really striking ways, and the crossover element fits so perfectly well into the world Bauzi has created in this video’s four minutes that it feels like this is a perfectly believable alternate timeline in Lain‘s universe.
Anime: Psycho-Pass // Psycho-Pass (Movie) // Psycho-Pass 2
Song: “Delusion” by Rezz
If preachy, conceptual, glitchy AMVs are your thing, there was no better editor to keep tabs on this year than KazKon, whose 2017 opus was definitely Alice In Broken Land, a sync-heavy look at a dystopian future where serial killers are bred and set loose in the city to be hunted down on live, reality television. KazKon gets stylish and psychedelic with this one (oh, who am I kidding, he does that every time), rendering his video entirely in black-and-white and making heavy use of text and kaleidoscopic effects. The world he creates is dismal, grim, and completely engrossing and believable. His technical skill is matched by an immaculate sense of rhythm, and as a result this video flows incredibly smoothly despite the harsh techno song. It pulses and twists to the beat, utilizing both internal and external sync in equal measure to create something that is visually among the most captivating videos on this list.
It can feel heavy-handed, and occasionally contrived, yes, but it’s all easily forgiven when one notices just how much time and care went into creating something this involved and intricate. KazKon seems to push himself with each successive video, and he’s constantly improving. Where 2018 will take him, I don’t know, but my money is on “up”.
Song: “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars
If you haven’t seen this video before and are familiar with the song “24K Magic”, I want you to stop right now and close your eyes, and imagine what kind of cuts, scenes, and effects would work best with that song. Done? There’s about a 100% probability that you just imagined Money$hot in its entirety, because what in the world could be more spot-on than this?
I love this song in spite of its hedonism and bling-worship and general narcissism, and MCHY takes everything that’s great about it — the funk, the auto-tune, the “Woo!”s and “Uh oh!”s — and seamlessly edits every element into a fluid stream of visual puns and lip sync. It’s relentlessly upbeat and immediately gratifying, the AMV equivalent of your favorite kind of self-indulgent snack food. Noragami apparently lends itself to this kind of video (see: Petaloso from last year) but I don’t get tired of it, and I’ll gladly take one or more a year if this is the kind of thing I have to look forward to each time.
Anime: The Tatami Galaxy
Song: “All Night” by Parov Stelar
Exactly half of what made The Tatami Galaxy such an outstanding anime was its story and unique narrative presentation; the other half was its equally distinctive, surrealist visuals. Video Galaxy doesn’t bother so much with the former, opting instead for an acid trip tour through the weird and fantastical imagery found throughout the anime. It succeeds in its mostly hands-off editing approach, letting the visuals do the talking and using hard cuts and occasional subtle effects fill in the gaps. Truthfully, Nuukauuka probably didn’t have to do too much to pump this one out — there are some great moments of internal sync here and there but there’s nothing overly fancy about this video no matter how you spin it. But it works so well, and is probably one of the most representative videos of the anime that I’ve seen; sometimes less is more.
Anime: Ga-Rei Zero
Song: “Anthmes For A Seventeen Year Old Girl” by Broken Social Scene
It’s rare for Copycat_Revolver to indulge in such straight-faced drama like this. I keep waiting for the punchline, however thin, but it never comes — instead we’re left with a tragic, angsty romance video and nothing to leave a smile at the end, or anywhere throughout. If I didn’t know who was editing it, it wouldn’t be so strange, but…
In any case, it’s a darn fine release. The way the story develops is edited in such a way as to line up with the song’s three main “sections”, and the tension evolves along with it — going from lighthearted romance to serious romance to “Ok what the heck is going o–WHAAAAT” over the course of a few minutes (might help to state here that I’ve never seen Ga-Rei Zero, so it was a pretty riveting watch for me the first time around). It’s nice to see a video develop in such an unexpected way, and to experience so many emotions is a thrill. The editing is often times subtle, with very occasional but unobtrusive lyric sync providing some cohesion; otherwise it’s far removed from C_R’s usual internal sync-heavy style. It flows in an abstract way with the music, but it never stumbles once. Discard any expectations you have going into this one based on the editor — it’s a different but immensely satisfying watch.
Anime: Black Butler (manga)
Song: “True Colors” by Zedd
Using manga as a primary source in a video is always a risk for the viewer — more often than not, it’s just a boring slideshow that relies on a deep familiarity with the source to get anything out of it. Colors, however, is different (if not entirely unique) in that neko kitkat actually animated many of the characters and scenes from the manga she used to make everything more dynamic, intense, and all-around interesting. I don’t want the casual viewer to misunderstand, either — an absolute ton of work would have gone into this video’s creation. Animating still images in a believable, non-cheesy way is not simple. Masking, layers, nested compositions…it’s no joke.
And the result speaks for itself. Take away any knowledge you might have of the behind-the-scenes processes to make this video and it still stands taller than most — rarely is manga ever given this much life. The context of the entire video amplifies every tiny, manufactured mouth movement by many times; every arm motion or widening eye or head tilt imparts so much emotion and meaning. Even when she’s not animating static, masked images, there’s always motion — in overlays, or in the panels she transplants from the manga into the video. For such a static source, neko kitkat never once lets us dwell on the fact that she’s using a manga, unless it’s in the context of how unlike a typical MMV this really is. The atmosphere and mood created in this video is as much a product of things as tangible as the song and muted color palettes as it is the more intangible elements such as the way the source plays on your subconscious as you watch it. Deeply seductive and instantly memorable, Colors was neko kitkat’s crowning achievement this year, and it just makes me all that more excited to see what she has in store for 2018.
Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Song: “Fall Back” by Factory Floor
I’ll spoil this one for you right off the bat — this is literally a chronological episode-by-episode recap of sorts of the original Evangelion series, so no, we’re not getting into conceptually innovative territory with this one. But the editing here is of a type that has been somewhat out of style in recent years; instead of trying to make something smooth and visually fluid, Jurrutt opts instead for a jarring, jumpy, entirely-hard-cut technique, syncing heavily to the music (a pulsing techno track). It’s flashy, rapid-fire, and hard on the eyes at the best of times, but it’s so stylistically different from anything being released right now that it’s immediately arresting.
It manages to capture all the great moments from the series, and somehow captures the heart of each and every episode (episode 4, for example, is the only moment where the video takes a kind of break and injects two extended-cut scenes of the rainy city, before moving along to the next episode and getting into fast-cut territory again). For non-Eva fans, this will probably just be a garish hyperspeed montage of all the scenes you’ve seen in countless other Evangelion videos, but for those of you who love the series, it’s probably the best pure AMV-form summary of Evangelion you can get.
Song: “Around Us” by Jónsi
It’s always interesting to me when editors set out to make really epic-feeling videos and fall flat in the process, instead producing something that looks and feels manufactured and fake. Of course, these videos often still get massively popular (for a recent example, see Weeaboo Peekaboo — sorry Shin), but they tend to rub me HARD in the wrong way, because the blatant emotional manipulation on display just really, really gets under my skin. I know, I know, they’re just AMVs, chill out man, but I’ve put a whole lot of time into this hobby, so I just take some things personally.
Then there are editors that are able to put together a truly epic-feeling video and make it feel completely organic, natural, and real…like Cheis does in Albóre. (There’s also a third kind where this happens accidentally, but I’m not sure how to fit that into the discussion at hand, so I’ll just leave it there.) It’s clear that Cheis knew what he was doing when he made this — it’s certainly edited in a very exact, intentional way, and the song choice is definitely a specific type of melodrama that you can’t feign — but it doesn’t matter, because the video succeeds in feeling huge and full of emotion. It probably helps that the video explores the concept of perspective, and comparing oneself with the vastness of the universe — a suitably weighty subject for any AMV, and one that wouldn’t do with anything other than overstated sentimentality. It’s a wonderful, thrilling video, and an absolutely epic one at that.
Anime: Various (Monogatari series)
Song: “Heartbeat” by Childish Gambino
Copycat_Revolver’s made a lot of videos over the years, and I don’t know that he’s used any source more frequently than the various anime in the Monogatari series. It’s an overused source, no question about it, and yet it seems like every time C_R touches it, something new comes out the other end. Heart Failure is a dark and twisted video, helped largely by the sinister, psychotic song. It’s full of violence and sex and suggestive imagery, but man it oozes a heavy atmosphere, and those who know my tastes in AMVs know that atmosphere is everything. Its explicit nature may not find a fan in every viewer — which is totally understandable — but if you can stomach some of the grittier moments here, you’ll find all of C_R’s trademark editing tricks and a certain grim humor pervading it, like all his best work.