AMV: Many Faces, One Story: The Japanese Siege of Port Arthur

You can watch the piece here. This was submitted to Rice 2023, where it was a finalist in the storytelling category, Anime Boston 2023, were it was not a finalist, and ConnectiCon 2023, were it was not a finalist.

Of all the pieces I have done, this one is probably the most unique. It took a lot of work to realize and I am very happy with how it turned out. It is heavily inspired by this AMV. I have always been pretty interested in making different kinds of AMVs and making a very historical AMV with voice acting hits a number of unique checkboxes.

If you would like to know more about the background of this war, the best one volume work would be “Rising Sun and Tumbling Bear: Russia’s War with Japan” (0304366579). It is fairly short and hits all the high points. Notably it covers the Battle of Mukden, the largest land battle before WW1 with 165,856 casualties. If you are interested in the naval aspect of the war (which includes the Battle of Tsushima, probably the most significant naval battle of the 20th century) I would recommend “The Tsar’s Last Armada” (0465057918).

If you are a visual learner The Great War channel has a good documentary on the subject, although it is pretty brief.  If you want something more cinematic check out: The Battle of Port Arthur.

Overall Commentary:

All the quotes in my AMV come from “Human Bullets: A Soldier’s Story of the Russo-Japanese War” (080329266X), you can read the full text here. Everything came from chapter 26, “The Forlorn Hope” and chapter 27, “Life Out Of Death”. The chapters I referenced are worth reading, but I would not recommend his memoir on the whole. It is fairly jingoistic interspersed with casual racism against the Chinese.

The voice work was provided by Yoshi-8301 through the service Voquent. Overall, I would have preferred the dialog be a bit quicker (and I did speed it up in a number of places), but I really do like a lot of his reads and I think it complements the visuals quite a bit. Part of my problem was I should have been more explicit about my needs upfront. I figured I would have more direct access to the voice actor prior to recording and that was not the case. Not a big deal, but I should have asked more questions. I also had him record a number of lines which I had to pare down drastically to fit the length of the video.

Finally, here is an early draft when I was trying to get the timing right, complete with occasional line flubbing.

Director’s Commentary:

00:00: Originally I started with an intro basically describing the coming battle (and you can see that in the early draft), but I dropped it so we could get right into things.

00:00 – 00:09: I wanted to be very explicit about what is going on as I knew the audience is not really going to be familiar with the setting so I added all this descriptive text here. If you have seen Golden Kamuy you may be aware of this campaign, but the Siege of Port Arthur and the Russo-Japanese war on a whole is fairly obscure. I tried a bunch of different fonts until I found this one. I like how it fills the screen.

00:09: This is one of the hills surrounding the port and it mirrors a famous photo from the time.

00:25: This scene is from a later episode covering the battle of Mukden. I was so short of clips I had to use it. Golden Kamuy does not have a ton of applicable footage for this AMV so I had to cheat when I could. An eagle eyed viewer may notice the lack of snow, but it is close enough.

00:27 – 00:40: One of the key concepts I tried to convey here was this AMV would use many faces to tell a single story. This is also why I went with such a verbose title. I had to do this since there was not enough footage to use one character to tell the story I wanted to. This is why these clips feature many different faces.

00:29 – 00:31: I color corrected the soldier here to have a more gray and washed out look to match the earlier and later scenes.

00:57: I tried to add a cannon sound here, but I never liked the various options I tried. It still feels a little empty with no sound though.

01:34 -01:37: “Great confusion and infernal butchery followed” is such a captivating line and really captures the austere style some war memoirs from this and earlier eras take.

01:49 – 01:51: I was pretty lucky to find this eye fade to black. It is one of my favorite clips.

01:54: I faded quickly into and out of a solid red here to convey a bit more violence with the bayonet stab.

01:59 – 02:01: I really like these three clips in quick succession. I went back and forth on making them black and white. Ultimately I wanted to tone down the violence just a tad here which removing the color helps achieve.

02:19 – 02:21: I flipped this scene so he is holding his right leg.

02:28 – 02:43: These scenes are color corrected to be a bit more red. I wanted to convey a bit more of a hellish atmosphere.

03:05 – 03:14: I was pretty hit up for clips here as the dialog is not literally matching the scene, so I had to be a more imaginative.

03:47 – 03:52: I really like the quietness of this ending.

03:53 – 04:02: I wanted a bit of a wrap at the ending, putting one man’s experiences into context with the larger battle as a whole. I did try adding some distant battle noise here, but it always sounded out of place.


I am very happy with how this turned out. It is pretty unique and covers an area I am very interested in. I hope it sparks people’s interest and gets them doing some reading on the subject. It was also pretty fun to work with a voice over artist, but I probably will not be doing that again given how long it can take and the cost associated with it.

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