The Big Hurt: The YouTube anime mystery

What the hell is wrong with the Internet? Thorpe utterly fails to investigate . . .
By DAVID THORPE  |  December 2, 2008


VIDEO: Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" set to some sweet anime footage

YouTube is now so shockingly complete in its catalogue of illegally uploaded music that it's like a cheap jukebox that plays every song, ever. Sometimes I'll be writing this godawful column late at night and pause to hunt down a clip for reference — like, if I'm trying to find the right word to describe Chad Kroeger's surfmullet ("soggy") — and I'll keep clicking "related" until I'm three hours deep in an inescapable YouTube abyss. Just such a thing happened tonight, as I was halfway through writing the column that I would have turned in if I hadn't been too distracted by YouTube (a lil' poststructuralist treatise on Roland Barthes's "Death of the Author" vis-à-vis America's "Horse with No Name," no big deal): I hopped on YouTube for a sec to investigate some America beard details, and hours later I was gagging at the not-uncommon sight of Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat" set to some sweet anime footage by an utterly misguided human being. I suddenly realized that I've been taking for granted just how weird this shit is.

You've probably noticed, if you're the type who'll type the name of a song into YouTube whenever you have the urge to hear it, that a bunch of weird anime fan clips always show up in every search result. Look up any artist or song title on YouTube — anything that's been remotely popular in the last 40 years or so — and you'll find the inexplicable anime version. I'm not kidding about Leonard Cohen: if you're so inclined, you can watch "First We Take Manhattan" beautifully juxtaposed with a buxom lass in a giant robot suit blowing up helicopters. You can watch some kid with a tail dancing with half a dozen Pokemon-esque creatures to the tune of Tom WaitsAny artistAny song. It's all been set to anime by the friendless teenage autists of America, for reasons inaccessible to neurotypical man.

How did it start? Was it Matthew Sweet's well-loved "Girlfriend" video, in which blistering Robert Quine solos were paired with images from a Japanese television series called, yes, Space Adventure Cobra? Wikipedia, which has an absurdly detailed article about "Anime Music Videos," provides little insight into the history of the form, though it does tell us more than we'd like to know about the editing methods and legal implications. Lucky for you, I'm a terrible journalist, and I feel no obligation to investigate. Let's just enjoy this for what it is: retarded.

In the break betwixt these two paragraphs, I watched five different anime videos of Culture Beat's "Mr. Vain." I found a dozen Dishwalla anime clips, and plenty of anime Toad the Wet Sprocket. Don't even get me started on Third Eye Blind anime, 'cause there's a shitload. I defy you to find a single major artist who has not been set to anime on YouTube.

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  Topics: Big Hurt , Entertainment, Internet, Toad the Wet Sprocket,  More more >
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