The rewards of non-commercial production: Distinctions and status in the anime music video scene

Mizuko Ito


Anime music videos (AMVs) are remix videos made by overseas fans of Japanese animation. This paper describes the organization of the AMV scene in order to illuminate some of the key characteristics of a robust networked subculture centered on the production of transformative works. Fan production that appropriates commercial culture occupies a unique niche within our creative cultural landscape. Unlike professional production and many other forms of amateur media production, transformative fan production is non-commercial, and centered on appropriating, commenting on, and celebrating commercial popular culture. Participants in robust fan production scenes are motivated to create high-quality work that can rival the quality of professional media, but do this within an entirely non-commercial context. Rewards are not financial, but rather center on recognition and social participation. I describe how AMV creators, supporters, and viewers engage in processes of social inclusion as well as processes for marking status and reputation that delineate different modes of participating, contributing, and being recognized. This paper starts by outlining the conceptual framework and methodology behind this study. Then the paper provides historical background on the AMV scene before turning to descriptions of three complementary dimensions of the AMV scene drawn from ethnographic fieldwork: the properties of open access and sharing that support an amateur ethos, processes of connoisseurship and distinction making, and how status and reputation are established and negotiated among the elite editors that comprise the core of the scene. Together, these characteristics of the AMV scene provide incentives for both new and aspiring creators to participate, as well as for more experienced creators to improve their craft.

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