The Anime Awards 2023 and what I would change
Ach ja, since 2017, Crunchyroll holds their annual Anime Awards celebrating the best anime of the previous year with this year’s Anime Awards 2023 being about the anime aired in 2022. You can think about it like the Academy Awards (Oscars), but for anime. This year marks the seventh round and while I seldom cared a lot about the particular outcome of them, considering I barely watch enough airing anime, I always come back to at least take a look at the nominees and how the voting process is done.
In general, the whole conceit of the Anime Awards is kind of insane. Considering Crunchyroll, having the majority of licenses for anime in the west, could have simply named it the Crunchyroll Awards and called it a day, they instead opted for a more general approach (and probably jumping through millions of licensing hoops) to not limit the anime to just their catalogue alone, but to all the anime licensed in the west, irrelevant on which platform they are released, essentially opening up the awards to virtually all the anime released that year. Secondly, while the specifics differ from year to year, the voting process does not only include hand-picked judges, but also the anime community at large, making the awards way less… elite and a lot more approachable to most people, than say the Academy Awards, which tend to have a clear bias to certain kinds of films.
For anyone inside the anime community, the groundwork for a big and “official” award show was almost done as good as one could have imagined. Basically all the anime are eligible, with judges also mostly being comprised of you average anime fan and critic, not causing a huge gulf between between the eventual nominees and final votes, but also with a certain sense of authenticity and credibility. Sure, at the end of the day, it will be a popularity contest, but it is not like you could simply look at the anime with the most members on MAL and expect them to win, which hits a nice middle ground between “casual” and “hardcore” fans.
While I will be mostly talking about this year’s awards, I have to give credit where credit is due with the awards themselves coming a long way since their first iteration. While I still have enough to complain about them, the kind, variety and specifically phrasing of categories got a lot better over the years, and the inclusion of six instead of the initial four nominees are undoubtedly good decisions. If there is one change I would like to see undone in the future is bringing back the freeform “Other” option, which in specific categories, like the dropped “Most Heartwarming Scene”, arguably did a better job at choosing a better nominee than the ones chosen by the judges.
If there is one thing I can not ignore, though I also believe it is more a specific problem of how the actual content of the awards are handled, is how certain series were, and probably still will be in the future, able to sweep the awards to the point of “ruining” the “fun” of the awards themselves. A sign of any good award should not only be to have a variety of different nominees, but also to have all nominees have an actual chance of winning, which unfortunately couldn’t always have been guaranteed, as seen with Yuri on Ice, My Hero Academia and Jujutsu Kaisen absolutely dominating their respective year, a circumstance that can very well happen again this year, considering the combination of categories and nominees.
Changes, Categories and Nominees
This year’s biggest change is unquestionably the introduction of a shifted airing window for entries, it being November 2021 to September 2022, essentially leading to the exclusion of any anime that aired in the fall season of 2022. Unless I somehow missed it, there is no official reason as to why this was done, as previous years simply included any anime that aired in the respective year. While it is not official, this was most likely done to reduce the effects of recency bias, as previous years have shown it being a potential problem.
Another reason might simply be the needed preparation time for these awards. For once, it is more likely for judges, who have to reduce the number of nominees for the actual voting and most likely had to judge fall anime in the previous years while they were still airing, to not have seen an anime from the fall season, compared to winter, giving an inherent advantage to any anime aired earlier in the year. Another aspect Glass Reflection mentioned in his video about the Anime Awards might simply be the general organizational aspect of it all. For once, there is all the legal stuff concerning anime not on Crunchyroll, but considering the actual show, which will be held in Japan after two years of Corona reducing the awards to livestreams, also wants to include people from inside the industry, including also anime from the fall season might just cut it too close, if you also want to hold the whole show early into the new year.
My personal guess is for Crunchyroll to be more considerate towards viewers, who are not always up to date with their anime and do not necessarily watch all the anime directly while they are airing, which would proportionally affect more anime from the fall season. If this is true, then I can see where they would be coming from, as I personally would still like to see 6 to 12 anime from this year, before giving my final vote. However, I am also most definitely not representative of the larger anime community and I doubt this would be that big of an issue at large, as the group of people most interested in the Anime Awards also most likely keep up with their anime, meaning not having seen all the fall anime is probably a smaller problem, if any.
This, in return, leaves the current pool of nominees with only three seasons of anime plus left-overs from fall 2021 that ended in 2022. This hits especially hard considering fall 2022 was utterly stacked with anime that would change the award nominees drastically. I mean, Chainsaw Man alone would probably take everything it would have been nominated for, as it was, without a doubt, the most hyped anime of the year. These anime will be eligible next year, but I can understand why other people would rather want to have all the 2022 anime be featured in an awards show for… well, 2022 and not split partially for 2023.
The second change concerns the public voting. Not sure when this was first introduced, but you are able to vote everyday for the voting period, which I don’t think is inherently a problem, but is still a bit weird, considering hardcore fans and their favorite picks essentially get more votes, as most people will probably only vote once and won’t bother coming back the next days. This year, additionally, you can also cast another vote on Twitter by posting the hashtag or by retweeting the corresponding post by the official twitter account of the anime series. Again, there is nothing necessarily wrong about it, though similar with the voting every day thing, even if only a fraction of a fan base participates in this, larger fandoms essentially have a larger pool of additional votes to draw from.
Now onto the actual awards. This year again features a few small changes to the categories themselves. These include the new categories “Best Original Anime”, “Best New Series”, “Best Supporting Character”, “Must Protect at All Cost Character”, which replaces “Best Fight Scene”, and “Best Anime Song”, reinstating the “Best Continuing Series” category and merging “Best Main Character”, “Best Boy” and “Best Girl” into “Best Main Character” and “Best Supporting Character”. Additionally, next to the “Special Achievement Award”, there will also be a “Presenter’s Choice”. A full list of the categories and nominees can be found on Crunchyroll’s official Voting Page.
In general, these are all welcome changes. “Best Original Anime” and “Best New Series” will help distinguish new anime from those with an already established fan base, though there will, simply due to technicality, be some overlap in those two categories. At least all the sequels, etc. can now brawl it out under themselves in the “Best Continuing Series” category. I also like the “Must Protect at All Cost Character” category. It is clearly meant to be a more fun category, being less broad and focussing one specific aspect, though I am not sure if it will make up for “Best Fight Scene”, which in theory kind of goes into the same direction, though with the caveat that this category was also always dominated by the most popular fighting shounen.
Before I go into the other categories, I want to quickly talk about the voting poll itself. It looks surprisingly good and if memory serves correctly is again an improvement upon last year, though I wouldn’t be me, if I wouldn’t endlessly talk about minor frontend issues. The interface is clean and intuitive, and with the individual categories now being collapsed by default, they are more easy to navigate, though I wouldn’t start with the “Anime of the Year” category. Still a bit confused about the specific ordering of the categories, as I would have personally grouped them by taxonomies like Type, Production, Sound, Characters and Genre, or something similar.
Once you vote for a category, you can also automatically go to the next one without having to click onto the next dropdown/modal-thingy yourself. These also look quit good, though I guess the video is a bit redundant and would be better with actual clips from the anime showcasing a specific aspect, but still a nice touch nonetheless. It also finally features an i-icon for explaining what the specific category means, though I could have done with a bit less flavortext.
What is a bit unfortunate is the lack of information in the cards for the nominees themselves, only displaying a cover image, the name of the nominee and the respective studio of the anime, which works in most cases if you are simply voting for the anime in general, but is a bit bare when voting for the best opening or for a voice actor (their role is not displayed). You do get additional information upon clicking on the nominees, though this detail view is also a bit weird, as, with the the exception of Opening/Ending sequences and VA Performances, there is actually no additional information to be found. It is cool, however, that best Opening and Ending sequence give credit for storyboard and direction. Normalize crediting the specific artists!
With the token talk about web-design out of the way, let’s dive into the remaining categories. Most categories are good and don’t really have to justify themselves, like the obvious “Anime of the Year” or the genre categories, though I will talk about them later a bit. I like that “new” anime are separated from sequels and that original anime get their own category, as, already mentioned above, they all have different pre-existing fan bases, which makes looking at them in their own group only fair.
Films also make sense to be separated, though this is also a category which might need some serious rework for its nominations. The category is split between three franchise movies and three “new” movies (INU-OH and The Deer King are based on pre-existing source material) each, which basically already shifts certain entries into the back, simply because they are not associated by an already known franchise. There is also the matter of availability, as some movies were screened longer and at more locations than others and with the Anime Awards being a global award and not located to Japan exclusively, this basically eliminates some of the entries. I mean, even how many of the more “critical” viewers have seen The Deer King or INU-OH? At least Bubble was directly released on Netflix, but unless we get several movies like Your Name and A Silent Voice in a single year that can compete with large franchise movies, this category will either always be dominated by the biggest franchise which has released a movie, even ignoring whether the movie has a significance for the main story, or have to be split in two to really make sense.
The categories for best opening/ending sequence are good, though I have a feeling most people will mostly judge an OP/ED solely by the song, which makes “Best Anime Song” kind of redundant, as this category is compromised of two openings and and one ending from the previous categories. Instead, I would simply rename the category to “Best Insert Song” and exclude any opening and ending song. I know Chikichiki Banban is an incredibly banger deserving of both categories, but maybe this should be set up differently. Also, while this may result in too many individual categories, maybe OP/ED sequence and song should be separate categories, simply because these are two very different ways to judge the same thing.
Let’s get into the more technical/production categories. In general, these are always a bit finicky, as you have to assume that the viewer has some kind of degree of knowledge on the topic and without wanting to talk down to a large group of people… I don’t believe the average anime enjoyer to have enough knowledge about the different aspects of anime production to make educated decisions in some of those categories. I mean, even I could not tell you what it means for a film to be “well edited”, but I probably know a lot more than the average anime fan.
This may not even necessarily be that important, as with the “Best Animation” category, since you will still have an opinion on whose anime had the animation you prefer, though this will also most likely lead to most of the nominees being “high profile action anime” with a focus on flashy fights. However, there is also a part of me that rather wants to see different approaches on “good animation”, covering the whole field from clean and detailed to experimental and all over the place. To be fair, all the nominees are absolutely valid and from what I have seen all look amazing in one way or another, so I honestly don’t care who wins (Please don’t let it be Demon Slayer), but I feel like this category will always be destined to always be a specific kind of “good animation”.
Then there is the “Best Character Design” category. Not only will the nominees most likely be alike to the “Best Animation”, as is this year’s case, simply because these two have to go hand in hand, but I always find it hard to determine what exactly makes a good character design. Is it simply the idea of the design itself, in what style they are rendered in, or how they work in animation? Do you want endlessly detailed illustrations or motion? At the end of the day, most people will simply go with the anime whose characters look the best, making this category a bit redundant, as it can basically be incorporated into “Best Animation”.
Lastly, there is “Best Director”. I absolutely understand the need to specifically award one specific person from the production of an anime and who else than the director themselves, but I can also assure you that the role of director means absolutely nothing to most people. Even with the rising prominence of standout directors like Naoko Yamada, Masaaki Yuasa or Hiroyuki Imaishi, the role of a director is simply too vague for most people to distinguish and acknowledge the effect a specific director has on the anime. So instead of This director made the anime good in this particular way, voting for best director will most likely come down to doubling down on your favorite anime for the year, as your favorite anime also most likely has the best director. Considering “Anime of the Year” and “Best Director” have the exact same nominees this year, I think this only furthers my point that this category should probably either just be ditched entirely, or excluded from the public pool and incorporated into something similar akin to the “Special Achievement Award”, determined by a smaller group of judges.
On to the “Character”-categories. These categories sure went through some iterations, starting with best hero, villain, boy and girl to now being simply “Best Main Character” and “Best Supporting Character”. I don’t think there is anything wrong with these two categories in theory, though I have a feeling this specific distinction will most likely lead to the best male characters occupying the “Best Main Character” slot, while the best female characters will be reduced to “Best Supporting Character”. Also, I have problem with some of the picks for this year specifically: Loid from Spy × Family and Marin from Dress-Up Darling are not “main” main characters. Similarly, Yor and Anya are not supporting characters, which basically confirms the need for a “Best Cast” category.
Honestly, they should have probably kept the old categories for the characters. “Best Antagonist” was always a good category and I doubt there will be a lack of baddies in anime for the future. Also, why dodge the waifu and husbando wars? Bring back best boy and girl… and rename the categories to “Best Male Character” and “Best Female Character”, so it isn’t weird for an adult character to be there too. Also, though I realize how fringe this case might be, maybe add a “Best Genderqueer/Non-Human Character” into the mix, because we all know we didn’t know what to do with Land of the Lustrous’s characters back in 2018.
At last, the “Genre”-categories. Honestly, I think these are basically fine as they are, considering action, comedy, drama, fantasy and romance almost covers every anime to some degree. Also, each anime is limited to only appear at most in two categories, which is reasonable, though I would personally limit it to one. I think there is a case to be made that a “Slice of Life” genre should have been added, especially since we are talking about anime, which has a decent amount of such stories and that “Fantasy” could be extended to also incorporate Sci-Fi.
I skipped over “Best Score”, as well as all the different language performances, because I think these are all fine as they are and not really interesting to talk about, especially since the latter are more removed from the anime themselves and are awarding the individual actors instead.
The Problem (and some statistics)
While I have some gripes with individual categories, I think the general line-up is pretty good, though there is one last problem to talk about: Variety… or the lack thereof.
I jokingly tweeted some days ago about how I could confidently partake in the vote by only having seen a couple of anime this year, but adding the number up and looking at the final tally, this might actually turn out to be the case.
Excluding nominations for arabic, castilian, french, german, italian, portuguese and spanish voice performances, the amount of nominations are as follows:
|Spy × Family||17|
|Attack on Titan: The Final Season Part 2||12|
|Ranking of Kings (cour 2)||11|
|Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Entertainment District Arc||11|
|My Dress-Up Darling||8|
|Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic||6|
Data taken from the Wikipedia article for the 7th Crunchyroll Anime Awards.
Remember, including japanese and english voice performances, there are 22 categories in total, with a certain maximum number of nominations a single anime can be nominated for due to exclusionary category definitions or other restrictions. Out of 16 possible categories, Spy × Family is nominated for 17 of them. This is a 106% nomination rate. Similarly, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and Attack on Titan are virtually nominated for almost every category they are eligible in.
Together, the eight anime mentioned in the table above make up over 63% of all the nominations for the 22 categories. If we bring down the amount of categories to only those each anime could be eligible in, meaning 16 (17 for Lycoris Recoil), this number goes up to a whopping 87.5%. Again, these eight anime occupy 87.5% of the maximum nominees that they theoretically could have. Even ignoring categories like “Must Protect At All Costs Characters”, this is insane and brings me to my main problem with this year’s Anime Awards.
Fundamentally, what I think the Anime Awards achieved is filtering all the anime from the year into a small list of best anime from said year, since I doubt anyone would have a lot of problems with all these entries being put into a general Top 10 for 2022. The problem arises when simply good anime are now projected onto categories, not because they are necessarily chosen as specifically the best pick, but because they are good and it would make sense for them being in the category. From my point of view, most nominees seem not to be chosen specifically for the category they are in, but more akin to it is good and technically fits the category. All the nominated openings are great openings, but the year seriously didn’t bring forth something better than the Demon Slayer or Edgerunners OP? No better supporting characters than Anya? Not anything that could rival the usual suspects in any of these categories?
At the end of the day, these are all rhetorical questions, as I haven’t seen enough anime but it is easy to see how most of the categories lead to a pretty uniform pool of anime to choose from. Funnily enough, this phenomena is pretty obvious when looking into the categories for best comedy and romance and you suddenly realize oh right, there are other anime. Also, the only reason I can explain the Shadow House OP making it into “Best Anime Song” is probably due to one judge being a very adamant ReoNa fan, because I would have honestly assumed the Demon Slayer OP to make another cameo.
So basically, instead of one anime sweeping absolutely, now we have a handful of anime that will sweep moderately. Not sure which one of those is better, but I assume neither case is the preferred outcome for an award trying to celebrate all the anime in a year and not just a couple ones.
What I would change
Now unto the part where I can display my hubris and lack of understanding to everyone with the additional risk of being laughed and clowned upon. I want to make it clear, that I am not out to fundamentally “fix” these awards and I don’t know if these changes would necessarily make them better or backfire spectacularly, but I also want to share my thoughts on how the Anime Awards would make more sense in my head and hopefully lead to less problems that currently haunt them. I try to not make them my awards, mostly orienting myself on previous year’s awards, but I also believe some additions to be pretty reasonable.
First of a few assumption: Crunchyroll has enough time and resources, which would come into play in two ways. Assuming the exclusion of all the fall anime is due to organizational constraints, I think it would be best to bring back the fall anime and not postpone them to next year. Recency bias shouldn’t be tackled by basically making the viewer forget about it and I doubt not having seen certain anime is a smaller problem with anime fans specifically. The second reason would be me wishing back the option for voting for an entry not nominated by the judges. Beyond just a cool feature, the results were some of the most interesting from the first Anime Awards.
Up next, even though it wasn’t really an issue this year, we need a clear rule concerning anime that span more than one calendar year. Currently, the anime is split into cours and only the respective cour is eligible for the year. Though it comes with its own set of problems, I would only make the anime eligible for the year it ended airing, but count the anime in its entirety, not cour for cour. This, however, is not a perfect solution, as anime that are already split into multiple parts or seasons would circumvent this rule. Honestly, I don’t know how to solve this problem, but there should be a more clear and consistent rule in the matter.
Lastly, there should probably be stricter rules for whether an anime is even eligible for a category to begin with. With the exception of “Anime of the Year”, an anime shouldn’t be nominated for a category it has won in a previous year to reduce repetition for anime that airs regularly around once a year, like My Hero Academia, Demon Slayer and Attack on Titan. Additionally, concerning the “genre”-categories, an anime should only be limited to the one category it most fits into, as the winner in one category is also likely to win in the other.
Beyond this, I don’t think there are a lot of problems concerning the choosing of the nominees themselves. I don’t really care how the voting is done in detail, though I myself would probably just keep the current structure, but limit it to one vote per person and ditch the social media aspect entirely to give smaller fandoms a better chance. I have also seen some people suggesting to be able to vote for multiple nominees per category, though I personally think only being able to vote for one nominee gives a more definitive result overall.
With the more theoretical stuff out of the way, here is how I would structure the Anime Awards:
- General: Anime of the Year, Best New Series, Best Continuing Series, Best Original Anime, Best Film
- Characters: Best Protagonist, Best Antagonist, Best Male Character, Best Female Character, Best Cast
- Production: Best Animation, Best Character Design
- Sound: Best Score, Best Opening Sequence, Best Ending Sequence, Best Insert Song, Best Voice Artists
- Genre: Best Action, Best Comedy, Best Drama, Best Fantasy/Sci-fi, Best Romance, Best Slice of Life
- Miscellaneous: Best Fight Scene, Most Heartwarming Scene, Must Protect At All Costs Character
To be frank, I also want to take some inspirations from the r/anime Awards, though keeping it relatively short and not adding additional categories for short series, more genres and more technical aspects like background art and compositing for the production categories, was my first priority.
As already mentioned, I think the categories for the different types of anime are good, even if there is still some potential overlap. For the characters, it really should be like the former years, differentiating between favorite male and female character outside of their role in the story. Also, some anime mostly work not due to a singular character, but their entire cast, thus the category for best cast.
I don’t think there is a lot to be done about the production categories, except maybe rethinking the specific qualification for the nominees. On the other hand, “Best Anime Song” simply should be about Insert songs and exclude the openings and endings. The rest can basically stay as is.
Concerning the genre categories, I basically changed everything I talked about prior, merging Sci-Fi into the Fantasy category and adding a Slice of Life one. I also thought about adding an Isekai category, though this might have been a bit too much.
Lastly, there are all the miscellaneous categories. I like the idea of them to be a bit more fun and open and more focused on specific aspects of the anime. Best fight scene might attract some pretty predictable nominees, but it was always a fun category. Same can be said about most heartwarming or emotional scene, even if we have only seen it once and while I personally think the “Must Protecc” one a bit silly… sure, why not. I personally would like to see this miscellaneous category to change every year, as this could also become a fun feature for the awards.
And that about wraps it all up. I sure spent a lot of time thinking about something I have literally no stake in, but this is life, I guess. The only thing left is to see how this year’s awards turn out and what next year has to offer. Until then, have a better day than I do.
You can vote for the Anime Awards on Crunchyroll’s official Voting Page until January 25.
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