Anime fandom is replete with weird and colorful traditions and practices. Just like any subculture, it can be hard for newcomers to understand what the hell is going on. One weird anime-related phenomenon is that of the AMV, or “anime music video”. What the heck is an AMV, you say? I’m glad you asked.

This is Not MTV

The concept of an AMV is dead simple. It’s basically an edited collection of video clips set to an audio track. Usually the track is a song, but there are also videos made for comedic effect that use trailers or comical redubs. Should these be put under “AMVs”? I suppose not, but plenty of people do lump them together, so this is the sort of thing you might get if you Google for AMVs.

AMVs have been around for about 36 years as of 2018. That’s according to Wikipedia, which says that the first recorded anime music video was made by a guy using two VCRs, footage from Star Blazers and “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles.

Outside of anime fandom there is a similar practice known as “vidding”, which is the same thing in practice but with non-anime media. The two terms are still distinctly separate, since the two fan practices developed in isolation of one another.

anime music video

How Are AMVs Made?

Since making AMVs is a creative process, different people have different ways of approaching their creation. However, you need three things to make an AMV.

  • The first thing you need is footage. Early AMV makers had to use VHS tapes, since home video editing wasn’t really a thing yet. This meant taping it from TV and then painstakingly cutting together what you wanted while dubbing audio onto the tape.

    The rise of digital video on computers has completely transformed the popularity of AMVs. Access to raw footage, thanks to online rippers and of course DVD and Blu Ray discs, now mean that you have access to clean clips that won’t degrade and have the same crisp quality always. If you really want to use a VHS source (such as from old shows that were never digitized) it’s also pretty cheap to get a USB capture device.

  • The second thing you need is video editing software on your computer. It doesn’t have to be professional stuff. A good editor can make something amazing with the simplest of tools, while someone who is talentless won’t make anything worthwhile even with the most expensive software.
  • The third thing you need is music. What makes most anime music videos memorable is how the creator has matched a particular song to the anime in question. For example, one popular Ah My Goddess! AMV pairs the OVA with the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth”. Personally, I prefer the one that uses Megaherz’s Gott Sein.

Anime Music Video Types

While all AMVs cut anime visuals over audio, there are different approaches to this. The simplest form is simply cutting scenes to go over the music. There may also be simple transitions such as fades or dissolves. Many AMVs are edited in such a way that the action onscreen matches up with the beat, parts of the song, or specific lyrics. The editor might even stretch or compress the footage to make it fit.

Advanced effects are also becoming more common. Editors might remove the background and replace it, alter the animation itself, morph the visuals, and much more. Some can do this so seamlessly that you may think the show actually contains their changes.

Being more complex doesn’t mean a given anime music video is better than simpler fare. Indeed, many of the best AMVs use simple cuts that expertly weave together something beautiful or awesome from two completely unrelated media.

anime girl

Why Do People Make Anime Music Videos?

Well, the obvious reason is that AMVs are fun to make and cool to watch. There is clearly an audience for them today and what more do you need to justify them? In other words, plenty of people who make anime music videos today do so because they liked watching them. That doesn’t really tell us why AMVs exist, though.

No one is ever going to know the definitive answer, but I think I can formulate some reasonable theories. I think that AMVs are possibly one of the earliest examples of modern remix culture. Today, following the Web 2.0 revolution, remixing is something that almost everyone takes part in. People make memes, dub their voices over clips, create GIFS, and all the other internet practices that are now commonplace. Anime music videos are exactly that, but they predate the world-wide-web itself and certainly predate Web 2.0 user-generated content.

They are also a readily-accessible form of self-expression. Many AMVs stand as expressions of artistic intent by themselves, taking on a new life beyond the components from which they’re made. It’s also a great way for people to develop their video editing skills, since an AMV project teaches you both the technical and artistic elements of editing.

These days, with the rise of YouTube and the possibility of being an online star, I guess there’s also that motivation to drive people.

Regardless of why people make AMVs, I can certainly tell you why we appreciated them so much back in the day. Without broadband, AMVs were a great way to preview anime. Anime music videos not only introduced me to anime I would otherwise never have seen, it’s also introduced me to MUSIC that has since become a part of my top playlists. Trying to make my own AMVs (which sadly predate YouTube and are now lost) also taught me just about everything I know about video editing. I still remember downloading an AMV for the first time using a dial-up modem. It took all night to get a 64MB file onto my hard drive. Good times.

Copyright Issues

Since AMVs use several copyrighted sources of material, there are always questions about their legality. A lot of this is going to depend on where in the world you live, but in general their creation and publication should be protected by fair use laws. Essentially such laws protect the reuse of copyrighted material without permission as long as it’s for study, criticism, or artistic expression; with the proviso that it must also be non-commercial.

This means that putting your AMVs up on YouTube can sometimes lead to the copyright filter catching it, which needs resolution through their dispute system. It also means that you can’t monetize your AMVs, but if you want some financial support as a serious AMV creator you can always turn to sites like Patreon.

Guardian Sigma

Spreading the Love

What makes a good AMV is almost completely subjective. There are plenty anime music videos that have high levels of production quality but are boring and lifeless. Then there are ones where it’s clear the creator is an amateur, but their creative eye has something special to it.

The honest truth is that 99% of AMVs are really not that great, but there are plenty of gems too. Here are some examples of MY favorite AMVs. Obviously your taste will be different, but you have to start somewhere.

Koopiskeva: Rei – Damaged

Koopiskeva is a well-known name in the AMV scene and Damaged is probably my favorite video from this AMV creator. I’m a huge Neon Genesis Evangelion fan and Rei Ayanami is probably my favorite character from that show. This video is possibly the most perfect encapsulation of the haunting existence Rei has. In four minutes you essentially get an insight into the character, thanks solely to clever editing and a perfect song choice.

This AMV was released all the way back in 2002 so it does look a little dated. It even predates HD widescreen video. Yet it is to my mind the perfect example of an AMV done right.

Koopiskeva: Euphoria

OK, this is another Koop AMV, but it’s too damn good not to highlight. This is based on RahXephon, which is one of the copycat shows that followed the popularity of Evangelion. Unlike most of those shows, however, this one is nearly as brilliant and stands on its own two feet. It also has great imagery and beautiful animation – something Koop takes full advantage of here.

Otaku Vengeance: Akira – Not Enough

Otaku Vengeance is another legendary AMV group. They are known for their pumping, action-filled AMVs. My favorite example of their work is this killer video featuring footage from Akira and a song by Gravity Kills.

Right Now – Van Halen AMV

I first saw this brilliant AMV at a convention and it keeps popping up over the years. It’s expertly-made and really gets to the heart of otaku fandom. Plus, Right Now is a great song.

Sharing is caring!