Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shadow Hearts 1 and 2 AMV: As the Warlock Said

I decided, largely on a whim, that the next RPG AMV I'd do would be my favorite of all RPG AMVs I've yet seen, the Shadow Hearts 1 and 2 AMV As the Warlock Said, made with care by the esteemed Resk. This one's made up of FMVs from the first and especially second Shadow Hearts games, and the cutscenes in SH2 portray major parts of the game's events, so this AMV has strong spoiler content. Fairly warned, and all that.

Shadow Hearts 1 + 2 As the Warlock Said:

Poetry in Motion: Visually-speaking, this AMV's definitely got its act together. The scenes shown are all in good condition*, and all of the scenes shown are from the games' FMVs, which as a rule are visually pleasing, and have an artistic atmosphere of heavy, yet shadowy realism, even though they often depict mystical and other-worldly scenes--the Shadow Hearts games' characteristic feel is depicted well by their cutscenes, and Resk's selection takes advantage of this.

As far as visual effects go, this video has a greater number of them used in more significant ways than the last AMV I ranted on (Fallout 3's If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next AMV). Despite this, however, As the Warlock Said shares a certain feeling of artistic simplicity with the subject of my previous AMV rant. The most technical the visual tricks ever really get with this AMV are slow scene changes that transition to the next FMV clip while the previous one is still fading--nice, but ultimately a fairly simple effect. The creator does, however, definitely make the most of this transition, making it less a quick little "that's neat" moment and more a well-crafted part of the work as a whole. For example, there's a moment at 1:08 where the scene fades from one in which main character Yuri leaps back from the top of a train to a scene of time passing over a flower field. The lingering fade that transitions from the first scene to the second makes it seem like Yuri is leaping back into the the speeding, swirling sky of the second scene, bringing the two parts together gracefully, which makes the AMV seem more fluid, more joined, a smoother, more complete offering. There are a few examples of this in the AMV--right after the part I've mentioned, the flower scene's swirly sky begins to fade into the scene where Yuri and Kato face one another, with the previous scene's moving sky combining with the orange sunset of the next scene nicely. And there's also the part at 3:21 where we see Saki's demon form slowly descending suddenly turns into the descending image of Kato, for another example.

The other noticeable visual trick that Resk employs is a vague overlay of one scene over the other--basically, to have one FMV scene from the game playing as a background, while another one, which is translucent but more prominent, is shown as well (I believe the film making term for this is "matte"--I don't pretend to know many of the technicalities of this stuff; I only know what I like and what looks good to me). This also creates some neat effects, such as at 2:47, where Karin's face is momentarily laid over a scene of Yuri after he's said goodbye to her, presumably to show his thoughts at that moment and what he's given up, and at 3:04, where the image of Yuri's soul caught within a tree (it's symbolic and means something in the game, trust me) is shown over the image of Alice, who is in a similar position. Neat as they are, though, I do feel that they're probably the only part of this video that I can really offer negative criticism for--while well-done and interesting, they are at the same time a little distracting, and even a little confusing while you're watching and trying to determine exactly what they're showing before they're gone. Still, overall I do like them.

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams: I have a mild fondness for the song used for this video, Gravity of Love, by Enigma. It has a certain feeling of epic mysticism, but in a modest way; its tune, vocals, and lyrics don't seem to be as direct in addressing the listener as most songs are for most of the song, like it's singing more generally of something great and wondrous, for all to hear instead of anyone specific. This effect works very nicely for the AMV in general, and the scenes fit it well in a general sense, along with being shown and emphasized well to match the music's tone and direction. The AMV also matches the scenes to the lyrics in a more specific sense, as well, doing such things as at 0:27, which has a shot of Yuri that turns around him just as the lyric "Turn around" is sung, at 0:33, where the scene shifts from Yuri with his eyes closed to a scene of Alice just as the words "Close your eyes, it's so clear" are sung--Yuri's got his eyes closed, and is clearly imagining Alice, which not only fits the lyrics perfectly, but also directly fit the actual characters and circumstances of the game, as well. Heck, even the opening is matched well to the song, when there aren't really any lyrics at all--the opening of Gravity of Love is taken from O Fortuna velut Luna, which has an epic choir bit, and during this opening the AMV shows still images of a map of Europe, warlocks in a circle, and so on--images of power and importance to match the choir's tone. These instances of directly tying what's shown to the lyrics sung help to further mesh the video's components together into something that feels like one functioning creation rather than just separate parts pushed together.

But what's it all mean, Basil?: While this anime music video doesn't exactly have a specific message to convey like the Fallout 3 AMV I showed last time, it most definitely has purpose and meaning. As the Warlock Said emphasizes the romance between Yuri and Alice from the games, showing them by themselves and with each other as souls locked together by love, whether together or separated, through life and death both. The song selection is absolutely perfect for it--when you actually just look at the lyrics all together, you can draw immediate parallels to the story of Alice and Yuri--and the scene selection is no less perfectly chosen, visually tying the lyrics and tune of a song already wonderfully suited to these characters to the games.

In addition to showing the story of Alice and Yuri's love, though, the AMV also serves as a great symbol of the game itself. Much like that Parasite Eve 1 AMV I showed in my original rant on RPG AMVs, this one seems to be a summary of the feeling of the games themselves, showing their atmosphere, darkness, monumental events, and most importantly, the simple feelings of emotion and mysticism that seem to be the true defining aspects of Shadow Hearts 1 and particularly 2. You don't just see the powerful love story of Alice and Yuri when you watch this AMV, you also see the greatness of the games themselves. This song and these games are wonderful matches for each other in both their tone and their lyrics/events, and As the Warlock Said is a perfect mixture of them.

* Although the Youtube version that I linked to above isn't quite as good quality as the original AMV; if you're a member of Anime Music Videos .org, you can find the better quality version there. You might also want to check out the other AMVs Resk has made on either site--some are definitely pretty decent. I'm quite fond of his Legend of Dragoon Strength of Sacrifice one, myself.

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