When surfing around the internet and looking at hilarious videos on YouTube, the everyday internet surfer may be confronted with the acronym AMV (Anime Music Video). At this point, said person is likely to cringe, take a look at themselves and re-evaluate the series of choices that lead them to that place on the internet. This knee-jerk reaction to AMV’s is most likely due to the distasteful stereotypes associated with online anime culture, which I believe warrant challenging in the face of all that can be gained from it.
When you enter into this part of the internet, you’re entering a world where terms like ‘weeaboo’ and ‘waifu’ get thrown around joyously, fetishisation is a literal law of the land, everything is super dramatic and memes are exchanged like global currency. Yet to say that these cringeworthy cultural aspects are all AMV’s have to offer or are even representative of the videos themselves is reductive, and disrespectful of the hard-work and artistry that goes into AMV’s.
AMV’s have become an online phenomena that highlights an extensive range of expressions and mediums, stimulates online communities in an inclusive way and offers an emotionally intriguing perspective on how we view art in the internet age.
In any artistic or cultural movement, it is important to have a wide range of perspectives, attitudes and approaches toward the medium. This ensures that the final products are able to resonate with a broader spectrum of people whilst also consistently challenging the constraints of the art form- avoiding stagnation yet being true to its foundations. Such diversity is true of AMV’s to the point where it’s even problematic to label some things as AMV’s because the sources they derive the visual material from are simply not anime. In fact AMV’s have come to encompass anything that involves using clips from any visual medium and pairing them with a song to make an entirely new music video from two different sources.
If you’re looking for an easy gateway into understanding the semantics of AMV’s, Arcade Fire’s first official lyric video for ‘Afterlife‘ (2014) is an AMV as it uses and repurposes clips from ‘Black Orpheus’ (1959) whilst Linkin Park’s famous music video for ‘Breaking The Habit’ (2003) isn’t considered an AMV because it’s anime-styled video is original content created for the purpose of being used in that music video.
Therefore, due to the ridiculous amount of visual media readily available, editors can approach AMV’s however they choose to. This translates to a wide range of AMV’s being made and currently available for public viewing on YouTube. To test just how wide this range is, search for an AMV for the last artist you listened to or the last film/television show you watched and there’s a good chance you’ll find something worthwhile there.
Take for instance this mashup between my favourite Disney film ever and one of my favourite tracks from Bon Iver. It’s a beautiful collage and carries the emotions of both lost friendship and the nostalgia of childhood. Consequently, it has turned into one of my favourite videos on the internet and I’m really grateful for its creation. Things like this are only possible in the weird, vast and strangely inclusive nature of the internet at its best.
Birthed out of the online fandoms which spawned digital fan-fiction as we know it today, it is only fitting that AMV’s would exist inside a world that relies on consistent feedback and development from supportive communities. In order to get a better grasp on these communities and the art form of AMV’s, we reached out to some popular and skilled channels and they were cool enough to give us their thoughts.
Looking at the inspirations for his work and the history of the AMV art form, Spanish AMV editor ‘Ape Trvp Visuals’ reflects that starting as a fan he “used to watch and comment all around the community, cause I felt there was too much hate”. Now it’s as though he’s been rewarded for this optimistic perspective, describing how ‘satisfying [it is] to read the comments where [fans] are opening themselves [up] to me, telling [me] how much I can help [in] their bad moments.”
The importance of maintaining a positive and inclusive community is elaborated upon by UK editing group ‘Nostradamus’ who commented on their annoyance at other channels like theirs turning off the comment section: “it’s honestly where A LOT of people find comfort. Some of our viewers can be depressed or have anxiety or anything which makes them feel down, or lost”. They go on to describe the importance of how viewers see their problems represented in these edits: “they’re just stories, like any other movie or TV show, just presented differently…As long as people like to see our uploads, we’ll keep uploading them.”
The necessity of a strong relationship between fans and content creators is a common theme amongst most popular YouTube channels, yet here it seems to be indelibly aligned with communal and artistic growth. Peruvian editor ‘Brenda Hikaru’ describes the ‘great joy’ she gets when she sees “editors working independently with singers or YouTubers” thus providing a larger cross-section of audiences and creative diversity. Like her contemporaries, she is also greatly influenced by her fans feedback and describes this relationship with a certain brand of wholesome magic: “When I read comments saying that they were happy to see a video of mine after a horrible day it makes me feel happy, to be able to change someone’s mood without thinking, it is something that feeds my soul and brings calmness.”
It is this kind of love, adoration and support which runs through the communities of AMV’s and alludes to some pretty cool and interesting ideas surrounding music, anime and art interpretation in general.
Understanding the process behind these creations is just as alluring as analysing their effects on audiences. When asked about inspirations for the videos ‘Ape Trvp Visuals’ looks at the music backing the video: “The idea always appears first listening the beats, I can see, in my mind, the way the fight is going to sync, what’s going to happen when the beat drops.” -as though it’s the music itself which dictates the course of the video. He goes on to explain the emotional process involved: “just putting my main feels into the video.. I don’t expect them to feel my pain, my happiness or even my anger… I just want them to understand the story.” Here the AMV process isn’t just about seeing how two artistic mediums compliment each other, but it’s also about how they can be manipulated to tell someone’s personal narrative.
If we were to disregard the hard work and complexity that goes into these videos (which we’d be stupid to do) this idea of artistic manipulation still stands as an interesting one and is worth discussion. In this context the edits become examples of a nuanced interpretation of many art-forms at the same time, performing a reading of texts through using the emotional impressions created by audio and visual media rather than words. It’s an extra-step in art interpretation, and like fan-fiction, it speaks to how art can dissolve the barrier between artist and audience. Like the obscure samples hid in a Madlib project, the visual throwbacks in a Tarantino film or the whirlwind of references in a T.S. Eliot poem, AMV editors can be situated inside a long and celebrated postmodern tradition of taking artistic ideas and re-imagining them in new contexts. Yet the contexts AMV’s imagine these artistic ideas are other artistic ideas, creating an insanely complex intertextual relationship that’s only kept together by the vision of the editor. It’s the kind of creativity and inspiration that could be looked to by aspiring video essayists as a means of breaking out of traditional modes of criticism through art.
Considering all this it’s rather perplexing to find that the discourse on AMV’s is so sparse and it’s definitely disheartening to see how the unfair stereotypes associated with the medium have become the general consensus.
Despite the cringeworthy image that AMV’s have earned, they have become the centrepieces of not only a legitimate culture and community, but also a great and intriguing art form that’s sure to continue evolving throughout the internet age. With this evolution I think it will become more apparent to people that the way complex ideas come together and are conveyed by editors at the very least grant them the status of ‘artists’. It is from this point that I hope and pray to see awesome interpretations and readings of these products, providing more input into the community.
I want to see people’s thoughts on topics like how Brenda Hikaru’s hosted AMV for Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Run Away With Me’ champions diversity through love, how Ape Trvp delicately condenses a One Piece narrative and how Luke’s (Nostradamus) portrayal of the Waterson’s from The Amazing World of Gumball balances an empowering and sadly nostalgic image of families. In short, I think people should start appreciating AMV’s more so we can enable more constructive and useful discourse on a proud artistic tradition that’s well and truly here to stay.
A big thanks to Ape Trvp Visuals, Brenda Hikaru and the team at Nostradamus for their replies and gracious comments, please give their channels a looksie for your sake as they’ll be the perfect entry points into the diverse range of AMV’s ready to be explored.