Title: To Believe in Something
(Entered and shown at the Anime Central 2013 AMV contest)
One who fights to create a new future.
One who fights for his family.
One who fights because he has nothing else left.
One who just wants to be happy and make everyone else happy.
One who wishes her unrequited love would be noticed.
One who was misled and exploited.
One who can't seem to escape her violent past.
One who has nothing left to lose.
One who seeks to atone for his sins.
One who prays for peace.
This is their story.
Usually when I create a video, it's with a piece of music that's been around for a while, and people are more likely to be more familiar with it. So to be working with a song that's still quite new at the time this was finished is a new thing for me.
In mid-late May 2012, Sonata Arctica released their latest album, Stones Grow Her Name. And while most of the rest of the album didn't grab me, this particular song struck me almost right away with its power and emotion. Even though the lyrics are meant more to be about a child looking to break free from a bad situation and be their own person, the more I listened to it, the more it struck me that some creative interpretation of the lyrics could make for a decent GX video, about the main protagonists and what motivates them to keep going in this broken world they live in.
With a number of my more recent videos, the planning was done entirely in my head, and/or by the seat of my pants if something didn't work as hoped. But this one was the first one in years where I actually wrote out all the lyrics and planned out everything in writing, scene by scene. The nature of my concept meant that there would be a lot of cuts/clips being used, and there was no way I'd be able to remember it all by memory, so it meant being more careful about everything. Nearly everything you see here was carefully hand-picked prior to the editing process, and it took the best part of two weeks of skimming every episode (indeed, there are clips from nearly every episode here) to determine what would go where, and how I would interpret a particular lyric. This was difficult for the chorus parts, since there's so much repetition of it on all throughout the song, and I wanted to be careful not to keep showing a particular character with a particular line and keep things varied.
Initially, while there are some ways in which I can relate to the song, I wasn't trying to make this a "personal" video. After close to a week into editing, I hit a part that I hadn't been able to plan out very well...the instrumental bridge portion. I had vague ideas, but no real idea how to implement them, and the video sat untouched for quite a few more days while I tried to figure it out. But then some bad things happened in real life that left me angry yet determined to set things right, and those emotions ended up being just what I needed to push through that difficult portion. While there's a fair bit of it all throughout the video because of the nature of the song, you'll notice that much of that part especially is of various characters being angry or determined as well...a reflection of my own self.
One subtle theme to look for here is the theme of Tiffa creating a drawing over the course of the video. There are a few reasons I wanted to show this. One is because the official video for this song shows many scenes of a child drawing throughout it, and I felt that because of Tiffa's artistic nature, it would be a fitting little nod to that. Another is how it goes from starting a new drawing--much like forging a new future--and we then see her work more and more on it, watching it take form and shape, until we see the final drawing at the end of the video depicting the future she not only wants for herself, but is able to finally achieve in the end. Indeed, it's through the things she does in the series that the world can find peace again, and a new future can be forged, and I really wanted to show that here. While Tiffa isn't necessarily the main focus of this video, as it's meant to be about all the protagonists, she does feature quite prominently here.
Another story you'll see here is the one between Garrod and Jamil, who especially feature during the two main verses of the song. The lyrics suggest a child speaking back to their father about not wanting to be like him, but because there are no actual father-son relationships in the show, I opted to show this particular mentor/student relationship in its place. In those verses, you can see how their initial relationship is strained, as well as how Garrod doesn't want to repeat the tragedies of the past, but eventually, once we move beyond those verses, their relationship changes, and not only does Garrod learn to trust Jamil as a person (as seen when he's rescued from the ice), but Jamil learns to see Garrod as a capable young man who's fighting to make the world a better place (as seen when Garrod hands him the controller unit).
Overall, the large number of cuts that needed to be done here required careful attention to the timing, and I took extra care to avoid too many "static" images, trying to go for scenes in which there was always some kind of movement, whether of the characters in motion themselves, or simply of the camera zooming in/out or panning across. Sometimes this even required some creative manipulation of a clip to either avoid that staticness or alter its speed to fit it better. I also made liberal use of "old film" filters for flashback scenes and other scenes depicting the war itself, something I didn't know was even a part of my program until I started working on this. There's also a fair amount of faux lip-synching, where I wasn't forcing the clips to fit the words, but it happened to fit that way anyway. All of these made this video my most challenging yet, and I feel I managed to succesfully rise up to that challenge and put together something that fits the GX story and still displays some of my own personal emotions as well.
(Also... One little "in-joke" I've always liked to insert into virtually all of my GX videos is that at least one clip in them features a production cel that's now part of my personal collection. In this video, there are six such clips. Can you figure out which ones they are?)
Addendum: I also managed to successfully enter this in the Anime Central 2013 AMV contest! While I never got to see it on the big screen for myself, and while it didn't win any awards or anything, I'm simply grateful that it was shown there in the first place, and that maybe a few more people will check out GX as a result, especially if there's now the distinct possibility that it might actually be legally streamed here in the US!