Anime: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Song: “Beautiful” by Eminem
Advent Children AMVs are a rare sight these days, but if you were around the AMV scene ten years ago you certainly wouldn’t have felt that way; I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating that AC was an extremely overused source, and literally everything was done with it. LittleAtari’s release this year doesn’t do anything particularly new — there are several decent rap videos out there that use Advent Children as a source, but this is a worthy addition to any collection. It does especially well at highlighting Cloud’s emo personality, painting him as the misunderstood loner that Eminem raps as. It’s always risky when editors take a song that fits a character’s most exaggerated qualities and focus in on those — it’s too easy to make the characters into caricatures, and in drama videos like this, that can be a bad thing. But LittleAtari deftly navigates his way through these pitfalls and comes out the other end with a deeply resonant character profile, and maybe the best Advent Children video released this decade.
Anime: Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt: December Sky
Song: “Can You Hold Me” by NF
I don’t know if, in my 11 years now of avidly consuming AMVs, I have ever seen a video go from 0 to 60 as quickly as this one does. The first time I watched it I had mentally checked out about a minute in, and was prepared to suffer through the rest just to say I finished it, when the video ramped up to such intensity that I was left wondering if my computer had spontaneously switched to another video halfway through. It’s an absolutely riveting video, with a phenomenal story and emotional energy spilling over the brim. With this release EnQuatre has created a laser-focused, tightly executed stream of overpowering drama, and one of the most adrenaline-pumping videos released all year.
Anime: Pilot Candidate (Candidate For Goddess)
Song: “To Rococo Rot” by Die Dinge Des Lebens
If introversion were a quality that an editor could translate to his AMVs, I feel like the result would be something close to Leeway. This is a very abstract video in that there’s no narrative or attempt at a tangible concept. It feels very personal, and I think that no one will experience this one quite the same — although I thoroughly enjoy this video (which should be obvious based on where I’m putting it on my list), I’m fairly certain that what I get out of it is probably very different than what seasons gets out of it when he watches it, or what you will when you watch it.
As far as the actual content goes, this video moves very slowly, threading completely (or at least, seemingly) unrelated scenes together to create a mood-heavy canvas of slow-moving visuals whose entire purpose is to allow you to project onto them. The scenes are often heavily blurred at first, and weirdly the video’s prevalent banding (normally an undesirable video quality issue) creates these surreal, morphing shapes that are impossible to guess at until the focus is restored. It all adds to the mystique and often impenetrable nature of the video.
Leeway is quite unlike anything else I watched this year. It summons nostalgia out of thin air, for nothing in particular, and leaves behind this aching sense of some unknown memory. It defies a clear description, leading me to do a bunch of esoteric rambling that probably sounds pretty heavy-handed and pretentious. But that’s what I love about it — it doesn’t fit neatly into any single category, and no adjectives seem to do it justice. After everything I’ve said, it still feels like a woefully incomplete explanation of what it’s like to watch this thing. So, you know, watch it and figure it out your own darn self!
Song: “Kokyou” by Yasuharu Takanashi
As I’m sitting here writing this, my phone says it’s 1°F outside, on a December evening. I let my car run for about 15 minutes this morning before I got in it to go to work, and it was still cold. Stepping outside is pretty much the worst thing in the world right now, but Sunny Day is possibly the best remedy yet for the winter chill — it’s a bright, warm, cozy little video that features clip after sunny clip of summer scenery and calm, nostalgic settings. It’s a lot like my favorite video of last year in the sense that there’s no story, just a straightforward concept, edited simply (nothing but hard cuts in this one) in order to convey a very relatable feeling. Videos like this often strike at the heart of what it is I tend to love about AMVs in as accessible way as it’s possible to do — creating imagery that conjures up feelings I want to feel. There’s not really more that needs to be said than that.
Anime: Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World
Song: “Belleza” by Fármacos
Every year there are at least a few videos that are released that go criminally unrecognized (okay, more than just a few). Megamom’s videos always seem to fall into this camp, and it’s a shame, because if anyone deserves the spotlight for making stuff that is consistently creative, beautiful, and unlike anything else, it’s him. Belleza is definitely a “Megamom” video in every way — the music choice, the color schemes, the narrative approach that is vague but tantalizingly substantial; I feel like the more I watch this video, the more I can unpack its meaning and chronology, even without ever having watched Re:Zero. Megamom loves to hide meaning and emotion in his videos in such a way that it’s impossible to take it all in at once, and he does a whole lot of that here. This is a video that begs to be replayed again and again until every crevice has been searched and learned by heart.
There are moments of pure aesthetic beauty, as well — the scenes of sped-up clouds, of flowers unfolding (and then folding back up when the scenes are reversed), of clocks in clocks in clocks…it makes for a stunningly gorgeous and (dare I say it) artsy AMV, even if you choose to ignore the story the editor is trying to tell. Belleza continues Megamom’s tradition of looking at things from some hidden angle known only to him, where he’s able to see his sources in a light that reveals shadows and textures that are invisible to the rest of us. I wish I could get inside his head.
Song: “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before, but truly good dance AMVs are hard to come by; although many videos categorize themselves as “dance”, few actually live up to the name, so when I see one that actually fulfills the requirements (i.e. it makes me want to get up and fricking MOVE), I take notice. Can’t Stop The Anime! is the first such video I’ve seen in quite a while, but the wait has been absolutely worth it — it creeped up out of nowhere, winning Best Local Video at this year’s NDK contest, created by an editor who, at the time, had a whole two videos to her name.
The video is a spirited compilation of dance scenes from a wide range of anime, edited with a keen sense of motion and rhythm. Internal sync pops up in unexpected places and the video never loses its spark, moving from one high-energy scene to the next at a constant clip. It’s brimming with positivity and a love of life, and one gets the sense that however random the anime selection may seem, the editor truly loves each and every one of the sources she’s using. For the few ways here and there that I could level a criticism or suggestion for improvement, there are way more instances of purely exhilarating editing, and one thing I can’t fault the editor for is for making something driven by a sense of excitement and sheer joy. It shows in every nook and cranny of this video, full of vigor and love of the craft. Let this one take over — get outta your seat and DANCE!
Anime: Iria: Zeiram The Animation
Song: “Rogues” by Incubus
The video’s title, according to Copycat_Revolver, is a reference to the year when he originally had the idea for this video. While it’s sad that it took 11 years to finally get it out, this is a problem every editor who’s been around for a long enough time will experience — having a backlog of ideas that never materialize, possibly ever. I have plenty, and every year I tell myself, “This is the year”, and it never is, so I relate to this video in a very specific way that has nothing to do with its actual content. Hopefully it’ll motivate me to reach into the vault to get some of these out on the timeline this year, but that remains to be seen.
As it stands, 2006 AD is just a solid action video, through and through, with an old-school feel that ties everything together in Copycat’s typically capable style. It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never even heard of this series before or seen it used in any AMVs (that I’m aware of, anyway), but watching the video has convinced me that “Rogues” was probably written by Incubus so that one day Copycat_Revolver would stumble across both and smash them together just like this (and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt that about one of his videos). This video contains such intoxicating synergy, in ways that go beyond the editing choices. The anime looks like what Incubus sounds like, and credit where it’s due — Copycat_Revolver discovered the combination and made it work.
Anime: Neon Genesis Evangelion (remakes)
Song: “Year 3000” by The Jonas Brothers
It’s rare that a video’s title so accurately captures exactly what the video is, especially one as ridiculously-named as this one, but…well, here we are. It’s a silly concept (and a pretty dumb song, if I’m being honest), but Nellogs worked some serious magic here, or sacrificed a virgin to a pagan god or something, and came out with an incredibly unique video, something that I would have never been able to dream up in a million years. It’s pure fun, driven by excellent lyric sync and rhythmic editing, using an anime that is so far removed from working with this type of music that only a very talented hand could avert it from becoming a flaming disaster. Seriously, when Nellogs is on his game he makes crack AMVs — the kind of stuff that you will never want to leave your hard drive. Don’t let this one slip through.
Anime: Angel’s Egg
Song: “Take Three” by Jerry Folk
Elcalavero is a distinct anomaly in the AMV world. His videos are completely outside of what I would consider any kind of “mainstream” style, focusing less on what many people might consider fundamentals and more on less tangible elements, like atmosphere. Until this year I’d always enjoyed his videos from a distance, but something clicked with his releases this time around that made them more personal to me. His work is always dark, foreboding; almost horror but with enough faint light at the edges to keep the monsters at bay. Journey To Find A Name finds itself comfortably inside this framework, but the editing is just slightly more tightly wound than in Elcalavero’s previous videos — it’s less slippery, there’s finally something solid to grasp onto.
But only just. There’s little character development, little context, lots of shots of scenery and crumbling stonework and bones. Elcalavero seems much more interested in exploring the world in Angel’s Egg than he is of scrutinizing the subject of the video’s title, but that’s not a criticism. The resultant video is one of deep, despondent atmosphere and a mood that would be hard to communicate in any other way. This is the kind of stuff that no one is making that I wish there was more of — and if anyone is going to lead that charge, it’s going to be this guy.
Song: “This Is Where It Starts” by Mark Prince
Welp, when I made my list last year I had ranked Yue’s 2016 NDK Contest Intro high on my list and asked her to make something as good this year…and I have to say, she absolutely delivered. Doused in sentimentality and with a whole lot of basically perfect internal sync, this is a high-energy feels trip the likes of which were matched by only a few other videos this year which we have yet to get to. There’s no story or concept in this one — it’s random scenes, often heavily emotional or action-oriented, but when so much heart is in a video, it’s easy to lose yourself in the imagery and just let it all wash over you. This video is successful no matter how you approach it — as an adrenaline-pumping opener to an AMV contest, as an example of phenomenal editing, or as a sentimental celebration of the medium. Radical_Yue is starting to set a precedent here, and it just makes me all that much more excited to see what precedes the AMV contest at next year’s NDK.