I have been watching anime for a very long time and yet I have only just recently run across explanations of Sakuga.

I have long read complaint and criticism of the limitations of anime – limited movement, reuse of animation and bland backgrounds. These complaints are usually trotted out by people who are trolling anime in zealot wars between fans of western animation and anime.

It’s hard to deny that anime suffers from money saving techniques like this. I have recently just watched twenty episodes of Steins;Gate and there are more than a few close-ups on a face as a character talks, their mouth moving and not much else. Other money saving techniques subject the audience to a series of shots consisting of cityscapes and backgrounds or zooms in on a static shot as somebody else off-screen talks.

Then there are the moments when the anime bursts into life, the animation budget is splurged in a glorious sequence – Sakuga, baby!

The animation magically becomes fluid with continuous motion and expressive animation that might even change its style. It’s the stuff that makes anime so brilliant. Episode 11 of Steins;Gate has it when the lead protagonist, fearing for the safety of his friend, bursts into a super-human run that reminded me of time travel as time and space seemed to be distorted. It’s heart-pounding stuff.

Anyway for my AMV of the week here’s an AMV with sakuga moments from 2011 with awesome J-rock!


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AMV of the Week Anime Girl Empire

Just to end my series of posts about anime heroines’ I have this AMV show-casing some of the best girls anime has created. Okay so I didn’t mention many of the ones in this video but I figure my list contained all of the most striking and interesting examples I have encountered.

Anyway the AMV offers a history of anime girls from 80’s/90’s and early 2000’s stuff like Gunsmith Cats, Noir, Azumanga Daioh, Armitage, Full Metal Panic, Black Lagoon, Blue Gender, Sailor Moon, Dominion Tank Police, Escaflowne, Ghost in the Shell, Perfect Blue, Dead or Alive 4 Cardcaptor Sakura, Ninja Scroll, Slayers, Soul Eater, Resident Evil videogames.

The AMV is excellently done. Music is unobtrusive and fits well, flowing the with action, dancing and transformation sequences (henshin a-go-go baby!… or should that be METAMORPHOSE!). I like the editing which overlays various anime together bringing together every trend seen in anime (as you can imagine, lots of magic, transformation, pantsu, moe, tsundere and what not) and the fact that so much content has been pared down to bring so many action sequences together shows a remarkable dedication.

Whatever complaints I may have about the way girls are portrayed in anime like Highschool of the Dead, many anime girls are probably the most likeable and exciting characters in any medium out there.

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AMV of the Week Crystal Castles

I recently emerged from a Japanese electro-pop addiction partly for the cute singers but mostly for the music. Anyway one of the side-effects was that all electro-pop/electronica sounded interesting – even goth electro which really isn’t my cup of tea. Enter Crystal Castles, part chip-tune, part cold orchestral electronic haunting my dreams… I’m just blathering now because I know nothing about these guys but their one song, Celestica, has been infecting my dreams since I first heard it in March.

Anyway, the anime here is Ergo Proxy. I watched the first episode when Neo magazine had it as a cover-disk one month and found its glacial pace not the best enticement to plunge into buying the set. That’s not to say that I find slow-moving things boring but there was little to intrigue me beyond a Blade Runner-esque story and some images that play on the image of Ophelia painted by the Pre-Raphaelite, Millais.

The AMV combines the glacial anime with the haunting music to create a video that makes the anime look far more interesting. Just be aware there is some fast editing, the sort that make subliminal ads.

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AMV of the Week Enjoy the Silence

Silent Hill 2 is one of my top five videogames. I’ve played a lot so for the game to make it up there means that it’s something special. Indeed all of the entries in the series up until the fifth instalment are.

What I liked about it was the fact that it played with survival horror conventions such as making the player vulnerable physically and psychologically whilst the player wrestled with cumbersome controls that made navigation of the environment difficult. It also played around with sound and camera angles, thus affecting player perception of the environment and heightening the sense of the unknown and increasing fear. The series also made an attempt at tackling psychological issues – whole games being built out of an issue like mourning the loss of a loved one – far more interesting to me than the b-movie excesses of Resident Evil.

This AMV captures all of the darkness around the psychology of the characters and the horror of the game by weaving together all of the video cut-scenes, sometimes in order of the instalment. Furthermore the music compliments the images perfectly. I’ve never heard of Lacuna Coil and I don’t particularly feel like listening to any of their other work but their cover of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence is darker and grittier than the original.

With news of a new film, game and HD remakes of the second and third instalments of the Silent Hill series, this AMV is a timely reminder of what makes the series so good.

AMV of the Week Section 9 Sabotage

First up the music – If you don’t like The Beastie Boys… okay, not everybody likes classic hip-hop, just look at the garbage that sells. If you don’t like their song Sabotage, you’re mad.

Well, that’s just my opinion but I love this song. I know this song back to front. Whenever I hear it on the radio, whether I am at home by myself or in public with others, I have to sing it. I also love the music video. Directed by Spike Jonze, it captures the feel of 70’s cop-shows like Starsky and Hutch complete with outrageous facial hair and over-cooked directing.

The anime: Who doesn’t like Ghost in the Shell? I like the first one but the sequel captured my heart. I saw Ghost in the Shell Innocence in a cinema and it stands out as one of the best cinema experiences of my life. So I was excited with the television series Ghost in the Shell – Stand Alone Complex because it expanded on the fascinating and exciting universe. During the early 2000’s Neo magazine launched in the UK it heavily promoted the show and justifiably so because it is a genuinely good anime – cyber-punk cool combined with outrageous action and amusing Tachikomas.

What I like most about the AMV is that it bends this totally different anime into the cop-show that the original Beastie Boys music video complete with the intertitles including the swooping title and the credits that introduce characters, so instead of,

Sir Stewart Wallace as Himself

We get

Batou as Himself

And so forth. But it isn’t just this that makes me like it so much, it’s the fact that the imagery and music fit together so neatly from the moment that the car crashes through the glass walls to the Tachikomas dancing.

AMV of the Week – Fade

I think it’s fair to say that for any anime fan who has seen Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise it marks them. In a good way obviously because it becomes a ur-text of the anime medium – Studio Gainax at their most ambitious and best, taking a huge budget and crafting a film crammed full of alternative-reality/sci-fi quality goodness.

It takes place in a world like our own but not, a highly stylised yet somehow familiar place it is peopled with humans and not blow-up dolls.

The main character is one of the most fascinating in anime, a disenchanted, indifferent melancholic who couldn’t make it in the air-force and finds himself stuck in a clapped out space program that people find laughable and the government finds an embarrassment. He becomes driven to redeem himself after a chance encounter with a deeply religious woman and by the end, he achieves a form of enlightenment. It’s not just a personal story as we get to see the nitty-gritty of government machinations and war, the pressures, friendships and threats that the lead finds and after becoming familiar with the guys running the space program, you feel these people are real individuals with conflicting ideals who don’t realise they are pawns in a bigger game of war.

Ultimately it’s a celebration of the human spirit and friendship and it’s one of the most beautiful and detailed anime I have ever seen. Furthermore, it’s soundtrack was composed by legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Tony Takitani, The Last Emperor). His music is in this AMV which acts as a summary for the movie.

Between Ryuichi Sakamoto’s awesome soundtrack and the beauty of the anime, this AMV reminds me of the first time I watched it – I still get chills up and down my spine.

If you haven’t seen the anime then watch it. If you have, enjoy the AMV and relive some memories.

Nostalgia Thread – Chaos;Head

This nostalgia thread is going to get interesting over the next few weeks because the AMVs I collected most recently are damn good. For now here’s a short one.

Chaos;Head reminds me of days spent in university browsing anime forums, downloading ridiculous amounts of anime themed wallpaper and watching too much anime. Good times.

The music by Trust Company (The War is Over) reminds me of racing around in Project Gotham Racing 2 before university. Good times.

Growing up sucks.

The AMV is short and succinct and reveals the beauty of the anime.


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AMV of the Week – Nostalgia Thread

I slacked off a little with the AMV posts so, to get back into things, the next few episodes of AMV of the Week will be packed full of nostalgia as well as highlighting good AMVs.

I can’t believe I grew up watching ultra-violent anime like M.D. Geist but when I recall the boredom I feel for 80’s anime in general, well it must be true. I’m no fan of the 80’s cyber-punk genre but this AMV brought back lazy Thursday afternoons watching the Sci-Fi Channel (before the ridiculous name change to Sy-Fy).

AMV of the Week – Chanbara Classic.

Sword of the Stranger was a 2007 anime movie produced by the anime studio Bones (Cowboy Bebop). The story involved a young boy named Kotaro and his dog who are pursued by a group of soldiers from China, on a mission to claim the boy for a ritual that will grant the emperor of China immortality. Fortunately, Kotaro falls in with a Ronin named No Name who has given up fighting but will have to take arms once again to defend Kotaro.

It’s a chanbara or perhaps a more accurate reading would be period samurai drama  or jidaigeki set during the Sengoku period so the idea of Chinese military types roaming around Japan makes sense.

Not that that matters because the story is a simple skeleton upon which you can drape some of the most intense action scenes in anime. Every sword fight is cleverly choreographed, fast paced, brutal and the characters display a grace and patience that is majestic.

Furthermore, it’s a gorgeous anime and fast paced, never outstaying its welcome. Like this AMV, really.

Pitchshifter are a band I’ve never heard of or would listen to based on this track alone and yet the music reaches intense heights when coupled with the imagery. The original
track, My Kind, is edited down so that the images in the AMV and the music are choreographed brilliantly with each swing of every blade, every arrow and the lyrics.