Are Anime Music Videos A Dying Art?

by Justin Sevakis,

Federico asks:

Is it just an impression, or are anime fans no longer interested in making and sharing anime music videos? I thought that, with the increasing availability of new series, new music and cheap or otherwise easy-to-use video editing programs, many more fans would make their own, but it seems it is a dying fad. Maybe it's because in this era of social media, all that matters is the view count, and this kind of content never guaranteed a huge number of views? Or is it because AMVs require a good amount of time and attention for such short experiences? Or did AMVs as a whole became a joke because there were so many AMVs combining shonen fight scenes and nu-metal, now that these things aren't "in" anymore?

Back when I was a newbie anime fan way back in the VHS days, I got into anime music videos, and even made a few myself. (Yes, I actually edited them on VHS. No, I would never, ever do that again.) As time went on, though, I stopped thinking about them so much. I still like them on occasion, but it's been a very very long time since I paid much attention to the scene. I always thought that, with non-linear video editing being a basic thing that nearly any computer can accomplish these days, that there would be a flood of mediocre videos that might drown out the excitement of the good ones being made.

But I actually didn't know anything about the scene as it currently stands, so I asked my friend Troy. Troy is positively obsessed with AMVs: he's served as AMV Coordinator for Anime Expo since 2012, and Assistant AMV Coordinator at SakuraCon since 2013. From what he could tell, there certainly wasn't any slowdown in new videos being made. For the past several years, AX has gotten around 270 valid submissions, despite there being new rules every year aimed at trying to lower that insane number. SakuraCon may even see a boost in submissions for this year of up to 20%! These are all newly-produced videos too, since both cons disqualify AMVs more than nine months old.

So there is certainly no shortage of new AMVs being made. But that isn't to say that the perception that people are less interested in WATCHING them isn't true. Indeed, few AMVs tend to go viral these days, and you don't hear about them much in general fandom discussions. One reason may be that, with such a huge amount of anime being made and streamed, people don't have time to watch anything but the actual shows. The music video as a concept is also one that's in decline. While new filmmakers still use them as calling cards and occasionally do some very nice work, very few actually catch people's attention. Most of the YouTube hits on music videos tend to be ones where people just want to hear the song, and start the video playing while they navigate to another tab. The idea of visuals set to a pop song is simply not the novelty it was in decades past.

But Troy noticed another pattern, within the AMV community specifically. While great videos are made in all genres, the ones that tend to be the big crowd-pleasers are the comedy ones. Most AMV events always show this genre last for that reason: they're the ones that get the crowd riled up and excited. And so it happened a few years ago that a small group of AMV editors got REALLY good at creating these crowd-pleaser comedy videos, and then submitting them aggressively to as many cons as possible until word spread and they went viral online as well. "I know of one particular editor who even kept a public spreadsheet to boast their list of wins," he noted. In the very non-cutthroat world of AMV creation, this approach wasn't appreciated by everybody (common practice is to only submit to a few, particularly if you win, so as not to hog the glory), but it did push a handful of videos into prominence among fandom.

But now most of those heavy hitters have moved on from the comedy genre, or from AMVs entirely, leaving a bit of a vacuum in the world of ready-to-go-viral comedy videos. There's plenty else to choose from, of course -- drama AMVs outnumber comedy ones four-to-one -- but nothing is shining quite so brightly as those videos from a few years ago.

AMVs have been around since at least the early 90s. Just like with anime itself, a lack of giant smash hits does not mean the medium is on the skids, or that there isn't great work being done. You just may need to dig a little more to get to the good stuff. (Troy recommends some of the work being done in Russia these days. Russian fans have their own vibrant AMV scene that is not particularly tuned in to contests at anime conventions taking place on another continent.)

What will this year's convention season have to show us? I suppose we'll just have to go to the AMV competitions to find out.

Have you seen a recent AMV that really impressed you? Let us know in the comments! (And anything involving Linkin Park will be immediately disqualified.)

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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