In a black cab on the way to Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) earlier this week, my chatty driver asked me what you could expect to see at a degree show.

I took a deep breath. There's not a short answer. But before I could blurt out a description, he succinctly filled my stuttering void. "Is it when the students put their paintings and that up for their final show?"

That is exactly what happens. Although there's probably more 'and that' than paintings at degree shows nowadays. Traditionalists can rest easy however. I definitely spied a few choice big paintings. With oil paint and everything. Of which more later...

From today, for one week and one day only, ECA becomes Edinburgh's biggest gallery space as it celebrates the work of more than 430 graduating students. ECA has two working buildings. The best-known is the sprawling Lauriston Place campus with its impressive sculpture court, breathtaking cast collection and picture-postcard studios facing onto Edinburgh Castle. But just a short walk away is the nine-storey Evolution House, with equally impressive views out over the Athens of the North and a library which I've never visited but looks like it could provide a bookish art-lover's dream day out.

Both buildings play host to the ECA degree show, a dizzying mix of everything from architectural models to animation, product design, painting, illustration, jewellery, silversmithing, photography, fashion, textiles, performance costume, film and TV, glass and much much more.

It's always an overwhelming experience being on a degree show 'fly-through'. Your senses are bombarded by visual and often aural stimuli as you bounce from one student show to the next. Occasionally, just when you think you need a seat and a cup of strong coffee, not to mention someone to fan you with their eyelashes, you see something which blows your mind. This happened twice during my three-hour preview visit the other day.

The first came when I walked into a studio which sculpture graduate Nikos Karavellas had transformed into a mash-up of sculpture and set design to tell the story of right-wing Japanese post-war novelist Yukio Mishima, who attempted a ritual samurai suicide in 1970. This botched attempt, which took place after a failed coup attempt at Japan's military headquarters, ended with Mishim's gay lover chopping his head off with a Samurai sword on the third attempt. He died an agonising death.

In Karavellas's re-telling, a giant one-dimensional skull atop a torso clad in a crisp white shirt is surrounded by a gawping besuited man and a trio of dancing free-standing singers dating to 1955, The Three Haircuts (originally intended as a spoof of so-called 'long-haired' singers of the day). In the background, a cloud looms; a reminder of the devastation suffered by post-war Japan when the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Bits of Mishima's cardboard cut-out decapitated head are scattered all around. Powerful stuff. It lingers.

The second track-stopping piece of art I saw was less than 35 seconds long. Natalie Jones, an animation graduate, has created two short films; the short-but-sweet Swear Journey has her Welsh dad telling the story of a childhood car journey in which he allowed Natalie and her older sister to utter two swear words "before the reach the post office" on a car journey. Talking over Jones's distinct and graphic animated drawings, her dad's gift of the gab animates the soundtrack and the ending is unexpected and hilarious. Not so much swear word as words. And lots of them.

This story is incorporated into a longer film, Tremlyn, based around stories Jones's Welsh grandad, Tremlyn, tells the family. Storytelling, humour, sensitivity, fine drawing skills and heart make Tremlyn a very beautiful thing. Tremlyn will rightly be "in his glory" at this unsentimental take on his life by his talented granddaughter.

Other stand-outs included Madeleine Gardiner's large landscape paintings, inspired by growing up in the Trossachs. Ochres and rust colours seem to bleed down from the hills into the rivers below. Connor Maguire's mono studies in clothing were haunting - almost as though the ghosts of the wearers clung to the prints he has created.

Michelle Alcock's big blood-red paintings ooze a primordial femininity. Before I read her blurb I knew instinctively the artist was a woman but I would never have guessed a humble plastic bag was her starting point.

Students on the Intermedia course have a showreel playing on the first floor for visitors to take in their work. Behind it, take a moment to pause over Natalie Lyons's spectral spot of light on the floor, which uses the shifting hours of the day to mount a once-per-day performance.

Nearby, there's another temporary cinema showing work by the award-festooned film department at ECA. Ones to watch here include The Dipper by Krzysztof Kubik, and Anam by MFA graduate and Prince William BAFTA scholar Gordon Napier, which stars acclaimed actor Gary Lewis. Kubik has created a lovely film about building a hide by the Water of Leith from which he observes the life and times of a White Tailed Dipper.

There is some very strong work in photography, especially from Mark Osborne, whose mainly monochrome abstract pictures reduce light and shade in a touchingly vivid manner. I also liked Katherine Anne Bradley's Quilt #1, which proves less is very surely more. A quilt with photography back-story and a quite stunning object at that.

There is so much more to this degree show than meets the eye and ear. Everyone will find their own favourites. That's the joy of degree shows.

Edinburgh College of Art Degree Show 2015, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh ( until 7 June, 11am-5pm (until 8pm on Wednesday & Thursday)