Anime music videos, fan-edited videos of anime clips set to songs, have such a presence in my life I forget other people aren’t as familiar or invested in them. If anything other people only seem to enjoy them ironically. I don’t make them anymore, but I have a deep love for AMVs and watch them regularly. I figure if others aren’t going to watch them as much as I do, I can recommend my favorites to you and explore the artistry of AMVs in a series of blog posts. I like fan-edited videos of other mediums as well, so those are bound to pop up along the way.
The longer this series goes on I’m sure my preferences in editing style, source material, and subject matter will become clear; when there are many more sorts of AMVs out there. Maybe I can spark interest in them to make you explore them yourself. As for me, my investment in AMVs began around 2007 when my growing interest in anime and the quick rise of YouTube collided in discovering a magnificent Princess Tutu AMV.
Hold Me Now (2006) by Marissa Panaccio
(Warning: spoilers and some nudity.) At the time “Hold Me Now” stood out to me from other Princess Tutu AMVs with its magnificent timing, lack of subtitled footage, and unique song. The AMV is much more fast-paced than the show, but showcases the stunning animation all the same. The replication of the show’s use of gears as frames with new clips is an amazing touch. Most people regard this as their introduction to Princess Tutu, but it was my introduction to the artistic potential of AMVs. A decade later and it still takes my breath away.
Skittles (2007) by Jay “Koopiskeva” Naling
(Warning: objectification of women an N-word joke during the credits.) Another AMV I encountered around that time was “Skittles” featuring the highly popular The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Whereas “Hold Me Now” lets the original footage speak for itself, “Skittles” plays up colorful additions as much as possible (long before “candy style” became in the norm in AMVs) and introduced other editing styles to me. Knowing Haruhi Suzumiya isn’t necessary to enjoy the video as the characters play the roles of Heartsdales and SOUL’d OUT members, but does make moments such as clips from the murder mystery arc Remote Island Syndrome at any lyric about “mystery” funnier.
I didn’t know it at the time, but AMVs were around long before I discovered them. I highly recommend reading Ian Roberts’ article on AMVs at the turn of the century in Transformative Works and Cultures for more history and 1990s AMVs than I could ever show you. Instead, here are some of my favorites from that era.
Gravity of Utena (2002) by Isaac “DMRA” Fischer
(Warning: nudity and spoilers.) Revolutionary Girl Utena, in this case the 1999 film Adolescence of Utena, lends itself to striking AMVs with its lush and surreal visuals. Utena drawing a sword from Anthy’s chest or Shiori sprouting butterfly wings when the music kicks up make a powerful combination. The overlay of lip-synced mouths is rather gimmicky and distracting, but besides that this AMV gives me chills with how it aligns emotional arcs to the rise and fall of the song. I also appreciate how clips are laced together out of chronological order, rather than coming across as the film in a nutshell.
(Warning: gore, body horror, nudity, and spoilers.) Neon Genesis Evangelion is a pretty perfect choice for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The song famously goes through multiple musical styles and subjects, and Evangelion‘s scope of moods and imagery successfully rises to the challenge. Not to mention how it suits all the references to mothers and death. The AMV impressively incorporates all animated Evangelion content from the time, even moments from the recap film Death like Rei’s redrawn smile or the children playing musical instruments. Including so much footage could lead to something incoherent in the wrong hands, but like “Bohemian Rhapsody” it all comes together brilliantly.
Phantom of the Opera (1998) by Kevin Caldwell – remastered by ?
The thumbnail for this remastered version uses an illustration by Satoshi Kon, although the AMV uses the unrelated Magnetic Rose segment written by Kon of the anthology film Memories. I highly recommend watching Magnetic Rose itself, but this classic AMV gives you a wonderful taste of it. The combination of The Phantom of the Opera with a spooky opera singer is a bit on the nose, but the enchanting result with incredible rhythm more than makes up for it. All the more impressive considering it was made in the 90s.
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic (1994) by Bobby “C-ko” Beaver
(Warning: spoilers.) Like the previous video, the song choice is pretty on the nose for a story about a witch like Kiki’s Delivery Service, but I find it charming. The editing is minimal compared to AMVs of today, but still impressive and endearing. Kiki bursting into flight on her broom at the first chorus just makes me smile. As Ian Roberts explains, AMVs such as this were made to fill space on VHS tapes shared between anime fans. It amazes me this AMV was made four whole years before the film was released on home video in the United States.
If my choices in AMVs seem elementary, that’s because this is only the beginning. In the future I plan to showcase much more obscure videos. Next time: modern AMVs made with classic anime!