Anime and Fair Use

Anime Music Videos are fanvids of animes, but have the fascinating reputation of being supported by anime creators. Perhaps it is the collaborative nature of anime creation, or maybe there is stronger support for fair use under Japanese copyright law. Whatever the reason, anecdotally, anime creators feel more flattered than violated when fans riff off of their works.

For example, in the two years I have attended Fanime (an anime fan convention in San Jose CA) I have seen dozens of AMVs played as part of the schedule  convention. Since Fanime is a successful business which would not needlessly subject itself to claims of copyright infringement, this leads me to think the convention organizers have done one of two things: 1) they have gotten permission for every clip in every one of the hundreds of AMVs they play each year (and a given AMV may sample from 1 or a dozen animes); 2) they have decided that AMVs are fair use. Whichever it is, the relationship between anime creators and fans is a special one, which I think western media could benefit from studying.

Below are three of my favorite AMVs, all of which I believe are using copyrighted content fairly (as always, I do not think the use of the musical setting is fair, as the music is untransformed and not commented on).

The clips in the video below are from Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, a movie which sprouted from the popular Final Fantasy video game series.

Watching the above video reminded me of my freshman year of high school, when I first started watching anime. The romantic surety of the characters, the desperate fights, the dramatic black ensembles. And let us not forget the ridiculously proportioned Cloud Sword.

Tainted Donuts is a famous AMV–it narrates what would happen if Cowboy Bebop‘s Spike (a green-haired bounty hunter) took out a contract on Trigun‘s Vash (a gentle goofball whose body happens to be full of weapons):

Finally, a Fruits Basket AMV. Fruits Basket follows the kind and klutzy Toru Honda, who comes to live with some schoolmates who turn into animals when hugged by the opposite sex. It is one of my favorite animes because Toru is such a strong character in disguise.

Re-watching these videos made me realize that most fanvids are like Hemingway’s stories: 8/9ths below the water. While what is visible of a good fanvid should convey a story, the fanvid references much more than it shows. This means that fanvids are much more meaningful to fans than to non-initiates.

Perhaps this could be added to the broader definition of fanworks: they reference more than they show, and it is those references which draw in and keep fans contributing and consuming fanworks.

Inspirational Quote:

“If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water.” Ernest Hemingway

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