Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Top Ten AMVs

I've wanted to do an anime music video (AMV) list for a while now, but I was a little iffy on the logistics. I pretty much exited the wider anime community in 2008, so I'm not aware of what's been going on in the community lately. Still, I've been an AMV fan for years and I have a ton of recommendations. So I figure, what the heck. My picks might have some mileage on them, but they'll still be a good place to start.

All links below lead to pages. I'm not lnking to the videos directly because AMVs tend to be fairly ephemeral things that can disappear form the usual sharing sites without warning, leaving a trail of broken links in their wake. This archive site at least has all the necessary identifying information to help you track them down elsewhere.

- Has my vote for best AMV ever. "Kodomo no Omocha," or "Kodocha," is a pretty obscure comedy series about a child actress named Sana, who is highly, highly energetic. That's about all you need to know. This is about the simplest kind of AMV there is, just clips set to music. No special effects, no original content, and a very simple concept too, but boy is it effective. And file away the name of the video's creator, Kevin Caldwell, a highly influential figure, who has become something of an in-joke among AMV editors.

- There are a lot of fast and furious AMVs made with footage from the wild "FLCL" series, full of explosions and fight scenes and all manner of visual craziness. This is not one of those videos. "Mad World" shows off the slow and contemplative side of "FLCL," by setting clips to the Gary Jules song. You can tell an anime is really something special when the show parts are just as good as the fast parts, and that's certainly the case here. Footage of Jules performing is inserted into the video, but not in a showy way, creating this great moody, unique atmosphere.

- "Wolf's Rain" was not a series I particularly liked. It was gorgeous, but seriously underdeveloped. That's why I was so glad someone took the footage and manipulated it to create this intense, engaging new narrative for the two main characters, that packs way more punch than the original in only a few minutes. The concept is better than the execution - the added effects are pretty rough at some points - but it works. Also, that is a Ramnstein song being used. The AMV community is an international one, and this is not the only foreign entry on this list.

- If I didn't know about the middle-aged office worker sci-fi comedy "Black Heaven" beforehand, I might have mistaken the animation in this video for being totally original, created specifically to illustrate Jonathan Coulton's ode to the lowly programmer, "Code Monkey." The little pop-up bubbles are perfect, the ridiculous product placement is inspired, and all the humor just fits so well. The anime and the song separately are okay, certainly nothing to sneeze at, but put them together and you've really got something special.

- The appeal of "Princess Tutu" can be hard to explain. It's a charming "magical girl" show that is centered around ballet, opera, and fairy tales. It's certainly cute and sweet, but has some pretty dark and thrilling moments too. "Hold Me Now" manages to capture that in a little over three minutes, though it does spoil a few things that curious viewers probably wouldn't want to know going into the series. But if you have no intention of watching an anime about ballet dancers and talking animals anyway, I definitely recommend giving the video a shot.

- Stretching the definition of AMV a little here, because this one has no music involved. Instead, this video's editor took a chunk of the audio from Kevin Smith's "The Flying Car" short featuring Dante and Randall from "Clerks" and replaced the humdrum visuals with lip-synced clips from the super-homoerotic supernatural fantasy melodrama "Descendants of Darkness." The result is hysterical. The New Jersey counter-jockeys getting replaced with anime pretty boys is already ridiculous, but it just gets wilder and weirder from there.

- Okay, tradition mandates that I have to have at least one "Neon Genesis Evangelion" video in the mix and at least one featuring the music of Linkin Park, because those are the two go-to sources for a terrifying percentage of young, angsty AMV creators. I'm going with "Faithless" because it's edited very, very well and it gets to the heart of what "Evangelion" is actually about. It's not about the carnage or the destruction or the screwy Biblical references. It's about a group of screwed up kids taking their personal problems with them into life-and-death battles.

- You know, sometimes you don't even need a lot of edits to make a good AMV. The most important part really is putting the right clips with the right music. In this case, putting the madcap bicycle race sequence from "Golden Boy" with a German pop singer's cover of Queen's "Bicycle Race" does 90% of the work. I beleive all the editor did was speed up or slow down some of the clips to get them to match the music better. The larger irony here is that "Golden Boy" is one of the most notoriously raunchy anime of its time, which you can't tell at all from the clips.

- Lots of editors have made videos with clips from Studio Ghibli films, because you can hardly ask for more gorgeous footage. However, it's very easy to lose that very particular, pastoral atmosphere of the films with too many edits or effects or bad music choices. "Somewhere Only We Know" gets the balance just about right, featuring some of the loveliest imagery from "Castle in the Sky," "Princess Mononoke," and "Spirited Away." What's really key here is the pacing, which isn't scared of being languid and laid back and just letting us enjoy the animation.

- And finally, we close with a very oddball entry. This isn't an AMV, but a special intro video that a couple of AMV editors and artists put together for an "Iron Chef" style editing competition that took place at an Atlanta convention way back 2003. It's the best explanation I've seen of what AMV editors actually do, why they do it, and what the community is like. With lots of references to Homestar Runner, this is definitely dated, but it's still a lot of fun. I especially love that the bulk of the visuals are original, cartoon creations of artist Big Big Truck.
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