Anime vids are wonderful. And they are totally worth watching even if you don't watch anime.
For one thing, they're very, very pretty. I tend to think of them as the way live-action vids will look in a few years. (Anime is easier to work with, and especially to do effects on, than live-action source. I think. I mean, Jesus, don't take my word for it, since all forms of vidding look equally - i.e., infinitely - difficult to me. If you want actual facts, though, I'm guessing you'll be reading another LJ, or at any rate another post. This post will not be fact-intensive.)
For another, they are surprisingly accessible to the non-anime watcher. When we started watching anime vids, Best Beloved (my unindicted co-conspirator in all vid watching; I need a co-conspirator because I am, basically, very very slow on the uptake) and I had not seen any anime at all. And, sure, we had some conversations like:
Me: Um. How many characters are there in this vid?
BB: Four? There's, let's see. Purple hair guy, blue hair guy, green hair guy, and blond hair guy. Four.
Me: Those are guys?
BB: Only their doctors know for sure.
[There is a pause.]
BB: Well, and the character that's feeling the other character up right now probably knows, too. Or maybe he just isn't very picky.
[There is another pause as we watch two people with fabulous hair make out while flying through air filled with cherry blossoms.]
Me: My god, this is like watching a documentary about salt water fish. They're very pretty and very colorful and completely mystifying.
But we also watched a lot of vids in stunned, awed silence. In many cases, we understood what was going on perfectly - making out while flying through air filled with cherry blossoms is pretty much a universal experience, after all. Sometimes, we were just hypnotized by the pretty. And eventually we acquired a basic understand of anime themes and tropes:
[We watch Girl A shoot Girl B.]
Me: So now they're gonna kiss, right?
[We watch Girl A kiss Girl B.]
BB: I guess some things really are universal.
Me: Hey, look! It's a Gunfighter Who Walks Alone!
BB, nodding appreciatively: He walks a lonely road. It's only him and he walks alone.
Me: ...Except for that girl right there in the sailor outfit.
BB: And the three talking yellow circles with beaks and triangle feet.
In short, we began to trust anime vidders and love anime vids. (Not to mention the actual anime itself, which turns out to be a) good and b) fun. Or so Best Beloved tells me; since the last disc of Trigun, I've stuck to just the vids.)
And if I can understand anime vids, anyone can. Even the salt water fish would have decent odds. So. Give me a chance to persuade you, okay?
First - and LJ-cut for those of you who already know it - I present two guides for any beginners out there.
Things It Would've Been Really Useful to Know Before I Started Watching Anime Vids
- Boobs are key. If a character has boobs, she's female. If a character doesn't have boobs, no matter how pretty or androgynous he is, he's probably male. If two people are kissing and you'd like to know what sex they are, count boobs. Four boobs? It's a lesbian kiss. No boobs? It's a gay kiss. Eleven boobs? Send me the link.
- It's just a frame. It doesn't mean what you think. Because, see, in live-action vids, if it's on the screen, it happened. Maybe in the canon, maybe in the Super Extended Ultra Slashy Edition, maybe in the outtakes, but it happened somewhere.
In anime, well, not so much. Anime vidders can use effects to make characters from different canons talk to each other. They can remove key elements from scenes, like other characters. They can add key elements to scenes, like someone doing something very obscene with her tongue. They can - and will - make the characters lip sync to the music. (Yes, it looks weird to someone who is used to watching live-action vids. At the beginning, it threw me right out of the vid, because, really - what are the odds that the Giant Robot Spaceship Fighter from the 23rd Century just happens to be a big fan of Nickelback? But you'll get used to it. After a while, it will even begin to seem natural for an extremely pretty boy to work through his issues by kicking the shit out of his enemies while singing "Feelings." When you reach this state, it is time to go back to live-action vids.)
- If you are on dial-up, anime vids are not for you. Anime vidders think nothing of uploading an 80 MB three minute vid. So much so that I've reached a point where I'm vaguely suspicious of any anime vids smaller than 30 MB. (I find myself squinting narrowly at the download box and thinking, "What did you cut, exactly, to get it down that small?" But this is very wrong and size queeny of me and I'm well aware of it.)
- Anime vidders are like magpies: very drawn to the shiny. They like bright colors and flashing frames and scenes where 18 characters from different fandoms do the funky chicken. After a while, you'll like it, too. Or you'll have an epileptic seizure. One or the other.
A Nearly Useless Guide to AMV.org
- AnimeMusicVideos.org: it's where the vids are. This is the best vid site ever. All the links below, and almost all of the anime vid links I'll ever provide, will go there. You can download vids from AMV until your bandwidth sobs openly and holds an intervention. But you need to register for an account first. Registration is free, and they don't molest your email address or anything. (As far as I know.)
Plus, once you have an account, it will track the vids you download - you'll never download something twice. And when you've rated some vids - which you have to do every ten downloads - you can get suggestions of other ones you might like. Seriously, it's very neat. Also, there are forums. I don't visit them, mind you, on account of my tragic allergy to other people, but I'm sure they're wonderful.
- You don't need to leave feedback. That's kind of a controversial statement, but - anime vidders seem to want, and get, very detailed opinions from other fans, and by "detailed" I mean "you need, at minimum, a master's degree from a reputable film school in order to give them." If you have such a degree, I encourage you to go check out ZeWrestler and Iserlohn's Guide to Opinions. Everyone else, well. My advice is to just use the star ratings on AMV, and concentrate your actual written feedback on live-action vidders. You don't need an eight chapter guide to do that.
- There is a part of each vid page where the creator can talk about the vid. Skip it. Okay, no. Don't skip it. Read it. Because this is my issue, totally; it's just - when I started watching anime vids, there was nothing like the creator-talks section to make me feel like I needed to go somewhere more suitable for a person such as myself. Like, for example, a Gymboree. But I'm sure these things are actually very informative and useful, and I'm also sure I'm an idiot for posting vid recs without reading the creator's discussion of each one. And I am surprisingly comfortable with that.
My real message about this is: don't read those sections until after you watch the vid. Reading what the vidder has to say will bias you; I found I could never quite come to my own terms with vids when I already knew what the creator was intending to do. Admittedly, my terms were generally a lot more like, "Oooo. Vid pretty" rather than "And then, in the section that starts at about 1.14 (with the marimba), it transitions to an overall theme of the despair of the human condition," but, well. They were still my terms.
So. Great vids. Accessible to all. Do you need another reason? Then try this: anime has a huge preponderance of ninjas, pirates, cowboys, gunslingers, assassins, robots, gay boys, lesbian girls, purple hair, and floating chicken-computer librarians. It has genderfuck, pandafication, angst, hurt/comfort, and more feathers than you could find in an entire archive of wingfic. Basically, anime is like all the glorious parts of fan fiction made canon. And anime vids pack these same things into four minutes. Anime vids: the primary reason you will never be bored again.
Bachelorette, by Kusoyaro. Revolutionary Girl Utena: the Adolescence of Utena. (More information about this movie. Thanks, strangerian!)
The source for this has canon genderfuck femslash (I told you it was like fan fiction in motion!) and, well, who doesn't love canon genderfuck femslash? Not me, people; when I'm in meetings where I have to introduce myself and list three things I love, "canon genderfuck femslash" always makes the list, generally preceded by "canon genderfuck boyslash" and "copyright infringement for fun, not profit." I am so professional it hurts.
But I want you to see this one because of the movement. It's - this is one of the first anime vids I ever watched that completely hypnotized me; I had to watch it three times just to get to the point where I start with most vids. (Which is, basically, asking who and what and where and why and also what is up with all the rose petals?) It's just...it's really, really gorgeous, without having that kind of "I'm going to use another effect here because it's anime so I can nyah nyah nyah" feel that anime vids sometimes get. Am I allowed to say a vid is lyrical? Probably not. So, okay - this is, in effect, an instrumental type vid; yes, there are lyrics, but the vid's focus is matching music and images, not words and images or plot and images. I'm not sure exactly why the creator went that direction, but oh how it works, and it requires absolutely no background knowledge at all.
Urban Ragnarok, by jbone. Metropolis.
I'm not sure why it is, but Metropolis (the anime) has produced so many excellent vids it should have been a struggle to pick one. But it wasn't, because this vid wins at everything: effects, music, cutting, tone, beat, depth, everything. I mean, the mood switches alone are just...and also, OMG, the content, and...see? I'm incoherent. This vid will do that to you. You need to see this, and I don't care if you've never heard of either Metropolis.
(Although if you have, and it's the live-action Metropolis - okay. Everyone who has a degree in film, please move on to the next vid summary right now. The rest of you - if you stared in total bewilderment at Fritz Lang's Metropolis and finally agreed that it was a brilliant classic just to get the person who showed it to you to shut up before your brains ran out your nose, this vid will hold a special extra pleasure for you. There are no very fuzzy scenes of random jerky people doing something that, yes, might be an allegory for the human condition in a technological society, but also might very well be an early version of the Frug. And the amazing visuals? Are actually there. If you watched Metropolis like I watched Metropolis - at the behest of a person with an unexpected sadistic streak, basically - then this vid will heal your soul.)
Here Comes the Sun, by Daniel Chang. Multifandom.
This is a gorgeous tribute to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli (makers of Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, Kiki's Delivery Service, etc.). There's no special reason you need to have seen any of the sources to see this vid, although if you ever tell a real anime fan you've never seen a Ghibli movie you will bring pain into the universe. Possibly your own pain. (And also, roughly three times out of five, you'll get an extensive lecture about the evils of Disney. Sometimes with PowerPoint presentations. And it's not that the anime fan will be wrong, it's just that after the first hour you will be searching desperately for the emergency eject button. Myself, I'd just lie.)
But. My point is, if you have seen some Ghibli - and I'd recommend at least Spirited Away - you'll know that they aren't all sunshine and roses (more of a flying and fantasy kind of thing, really), but this vid is pretty much pure sunshine. (Plus a lot of flying. It is Ghibli, after all.) It's sweet, sentimental, and gentle, and I defy anyone to get all the way through it without experiencing a certain warming of the heart. (Warning: this may be an unsettling experience for my fellow I'm-not-a-cynic-I'm-a-realists.) What I find most fascinating about this vid, though, is how using the works of a single studio with a consistent style provides visual and thematic continuity that you just don't get in most multifandom vids; these sources just go together in a way that becomes very, very clear when you see them next to each other.
Right Now Someone Is Reading This Title, by Doki Doki Productions. Multifandom.
This is a perfect bridge between media fandom and anime fandom. Because, okay, it's a series of in-jokes set against clips from about 50 sources, and it should be the least accessible thing in the world. But you don't need to know the sources, because 75% of the jokes are actually about fandom and fans. I get most of them even though I know nothing about anime or the anime fan world. Plus, it's one of the talkiest vids I've ever seen - in terms of words on the screen, I mean - that worked, and it works so well. That alone is downright amazing, because generally if there's more than a few words on the screen I find myself wondering why the vidder didn't just go ahead and write fan fiction. There are some stunningly brilliant exceptions to that, though, and this is one of them.
(Side note the first: watch for the appearance of the Disney/Ghibli - and I know what you're thinking, but trust me: no one should write that pairing - thing. You will feel cool! At least, you will if you are a dork like me.) (Side note the second: Best Beloved swears this song had an actual music video very much like this one. Can anyone point me to a download of it? Or something? Because there are wistful remarks every time I play this, and, seriously, there's only so much wistfulness a girl can stand.)
Die Another Day, by VicBond007. Noir.
I wanted to be sure to include at least one special effects intensive vid, and - well, wait. All of these are special effects intensive, most of them actually much more than this one, but this one has what I believe will be the most noticeable effects to a new watcher. It's fast, it's action-packed, and it's easy to follow even if you have no idea what Noir is about. (Assassins! Amnesiacs! I'm telling you, anime fans don't have to smoke crack, because the canon creators do it for them.) And you can really appreciate the sheer shininess of the tools that anime vidders have at their disposal.
Plus, okay. See - I have a weakness for pairings in which one person tries to kill the other but they love each other anyway. I'm sorry. I have no idea what twisted part of my psyche believes that true love means having to wear Kevlar. But I do know that this vid hits that kink in spades; sure, mostly they're fighting on the same side, but that opening scene where they're pointing guns at each other? My reaction to this is: OMG SQUEEEEEEEE THEY ARE SO IN LOVE! In other words, my inner fangirl totally emerges and starts drawing little hearts on the screen. (Those of you who have seen Trigun will now understand why I liked that series so much. Up until the last disc. Damn you, last disc!)
Failed Experiments in Video Editing, by Elizabeth Kirkindall/Big Big Truck Productions. Cowboy Bebop and original drawings.
You really don't need to know the source to get this vid, since it is in fact not about Cowboy Bebop, but I am providing a link so that those of you with any soul at all can add it to your Netflix queues. This series has Ein in it. Ein, possibly my favorite character in all the world. (And, oh my god, I just realized: there totally needs to be a Cowboy Bebop x due South story in which Ein and Diefenbaker, another of my favorite characters in all the world, meet. This is Meant to Be, people.)
So. This is what meta looks like in an anime vid; it's a vid about vidding. I'm sure this is even more funny if you have ever actually made a vid of any kind, but really you only have to have seen a couple, live action or anime, to appreciate, for example, the "Down in the River to Pray" sequence. This vid makes me happy when skies are gray. Or, more specifically, when I have watched too many vids in which the works of Evanescence are used to explore the theme that John really, really loves Rodney. (Or that Buffy really loves Angel, or that Diefenbaker really loves doughnuts. Whatever. Because that's the beauty of the Classic Evanescence Rite of Passage Vid: no matter what source you choose, you get a vid consistent in quality and theme with all other CERPVs.) And I'm actually trying to avoid saying anything more about the vid, for fear of spoiling it, so I think I'll go with the time-tested method of doing that and shut up. (Yes. You are allowed one relieved sigh. But only one.)