Whenever I’m not sitting in front of my laptop writing or reviewing video games and anime, I’m sitting in front of my laptop watching YouTube video essays. My eye doctor is worried, but we’re not here to talk about how terminally online I am. Instead, I’m gonna put you on five YouTube video essayists you might not have heard of before who make videos about retro or niche media in ways I find are equally thoughtful and approachable.
We start with the legendary…
Clemps is a video game essayist whose series on Nier/Drakengard introduced me to the vast, bizarre world of Yoko Taro’s games. While it would likely be more popular to make essays about new video games, Clemps’ appeal is that he’ll instead take the time to highlight games folks have either all but forgotten—like Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Blue Dragon for the Xbox 360—or phenomena USA folks like myself have never heard of, like the irreverent 2000 UK children’s show, Dick & Dom in Da Bungalow.
Clemps’ comedic style of editing, which sprinkles in memes and anime clips, works to not only alleviate the weight of his lore dump and retrospective video game essays, but is pretty funny to boot. Your mileage may vary.
I don’t remember how I stumbled across anime video essayist Hazel, but I’ll never forget watching her video about Tenchi Muyo, a series I’d been aware of but hadn’t ventured into watching, which has quickly become my comfort anime. Much like with Clemps, what entrances me about Hazel’s videos—which range from retrospectives about older anime like FLCL to unasked but extremely welcome videos ranking Denny’s-style restaurants in anime—is her knack of informing me about older or forgotten anime and video game media. In fact, her most recent video, which explored the bizarre filmography of “weird and kinda scary” tokusatsu girls, had me looking up designs I could use for a future tattoo.
What makes F.D Signifier’s videos so enthralling is how he takes an academic and collaborative approach to exploring how pop culture and politics intersect in routinely harmful ways from a Black perspective. My favorite video from F.D is his Attack on Titan video titled “Anime Fans Deserve Better Than Eren Jaeger.” Instead of feeling like a drop in the ocean of AoT critiques that only touch on obvious failings like its anti-semitic imagery, F.D instead explores broader topics like how the appeal of shonen power fantasy anime to a male audience leads to fans glorifying characters like Eren.
Throughout the video, F.D highlights the sentiments of individuals other than himself, making his video feel more holistic than one-sided, which is a refreshing change of pace from other YouTube essays that neglect to highlight the nuance a difference in opinion can offer. In the Titan essay, F.D highlights Guts from Berserk as a healthier alternative to Eren Jaeger, which is both based and correct of him to do.
Quinton Reviews’ video essays, which explore the behind the scene production perspectives of formative Nickelodeon shows like iCarly, Victorious, and most recently Sam and Cat, are what I would describe as “grab a blanket and a snack”-type videos for their exceptionally long lengths. Quinton’s longest video, The End of Victorious, clocks in at eight hours and five minutes. TikTok attention span viewers need not click.
Although Quinton Reviews videos feature a bounty of exhaustive bits of trivia coupled with episodic reviews of the above series, what I find most unique about Quinton’s essays is that include designated intermissions. These allow him to take a step back from the hours of information he’s spoonfed me and metanarratively check in with viewers, albeit in a one-sided manner, about how he’s feeling at that juncture of the video.
It’s kind of hard to explain but his inclusion of intermissions feels almost conversational in a way, like an oasis to a thirsty traveler before trekking back into the landscape of his long AF essays. I find it an oddly pleasant and refreshing feeling.
While Super Eyepatch Wolf is most famous for making videos exploring the appeal of popular anime like One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto, his most interesting videos are about more unorthodox topics exploring the charm of occasionally brilliant storytelling in professional wrestling, the internet’s bizarre reinterpretation of Sonic the Hedgehog, and the unsettling-yet-irresistible allure of creepypastas like the backrooms. In my years of watching Eyepatch Wolf, I’ve discovered that the more outlandish the topic, like say his essay on mystic martial arts or his take on what Space Jam 2 could/should have been, the better the video essay.
There you have it, five of my favorite video essayists, who you can happily spend hundreds of hours watching talk about various obscure and fascinating media. I hope you’ll share some of your favorites below, too.
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