The Anime Awards Have A Problem

Everybody seems to hate awards shows until they have some vested interest in what’s up for awards, and even then the very nature of these ceremonies is ripe soil for derision. Among the most recent commercialized efforts to emulate these events, Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards have garnered some of the most divisive reception.

The awards started in January 2017, the year that Yuri on Ice infamously swept the awards to great upset, and seemed destined to be a conversation starter the way most awards tend to be. No year has been the same, with some of the awards being done completely online, perhaps hosted by a presenter, while others have been hosted on a stage. Crunchyroll’s intent with these awards is obvious; to celebrate the medium and recognize the best stories and artists from the past year, the same as any awards ceremony. But this year, a certain change to the rules has stirred the pot more than usual. So what exactly is different about this year, and are people’s frustrations justified?


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The Prickly Topic of Award Shows

Oscars_Chris Rock and Will Smith Dispute

Every award show ultimately has the same intent, but the metric and method by which art is judged to meet that aim are different for every ceremony. The nominees and winners of the Oscars’ are all up to the members of the Academy, which over an illustrious history has given the ceremony some sense of prestige.

“Prestige” might be the key to understanding what all award shows are going for. It’s not enough to sing praises of art; art needs to be recognized among our peers as good, but who are our peers? It would make sense that it should be those who have some understanding of the craft behind the art as much as they are receptive to and appreciate the art itself.

Unfortunately, the division between curators and audiences leads to an arbitrary division between those who are responsible to judge art and those who “aren’t.” The idea of “Oscar Bait” derives from the idea that some art seems constructed to win awards by playing to qualities that the Academy finds to be art, which muddies the discussion considerably.

Audiences become cynical of the “out-of-touch” Academy and certain personalities within pop-culture spaces decide to elevate traditionally underappreciated art forms through ceremonies of their own. It’s how the Game Awards were created and how the Anime Awards followed suit, both of which went through their own growing pains.

The Anime Awards are arguably still in the midst of those growing pains if the constant changes to the format weren’t evidence enough. Like the Game Awards, they are notable in that they are voted on by the public, though not fully. The Anime Awards’ nominees are voted on by a panel of judges, and then between their votes and the public, winners are determined.

The Missing Season

strongest characters fall 2022 anime season

2022 had a lot of great shows, enough so that it would have made for an incredibly tough race no matter what, which should have made for a very contentious fight. After all, Fall contained the third and final season of Mob Psycho 100, The first season of Bleach‘s grand return to animation, and – of course – Chainsaw Man.

And yet, not one of those shows above was nominated for the 2023 Anime Awards, which in theory, are meant to recognize anime in the year 2022. This new rule states that anime for this year’s awards are valid for nomination so long as “one episode aired on television or online in Japan between November 2021 and September 2022, at least in part.”

This is admittedly frustrating for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it seems like an extreme solution to a problem that could have been alleviated easier. In any awards season, there is a gap of time when it is likely that some works might be overlooked. Perhaps they missed the cutoff and now the creators have to wait a year for a chance to be recognized.

There’s also the notion of recency bias, which doesn’t have an easy solution because human memory is simply tricky like that. Obviously, there will be a film or show in January deserving of praise, but something more recent might strike audiences as more deserving because it’s what’s on everyone’s mind.

But there’s an even more prevalent and demonstrable justification that could have necessitated this new rule. Did you know that Jujutsu Kaisen‘s first season from 2020 was nominated for Anime of the Year in two different years? This is because it started in 2020 and ended in 2021. It wasn’t two separate seasons; it won in 2021 and then got nominated again in 2022.

This was especially egregious during the 5th Anime Awards because it was nominated in 10 categories despite not being finished, and a whopping 16 the next year. Some would argue that it shouldn’t have been nominated at all the first time on account of it not being finished during the time that the awards happened.

Anime seasons are generally weird because 24 episodes can be one season released across 6 months, two cours separated by 3-4 months, or two different seasons entirely. However, while this would be confusing to the uninitiated, the mechanics shouldn’t elude the curators of this awards ceremony to the degree that a work is unfairly nominated before it is finished. Much less, it shouldn’t have been nominated two years in a row.

This year’s Anime Awards are taking place on March 4, two full months from the end of the Fall 2022 season. Learning from the case of Jujutsu Kaisen, one could argue that My Hero Academia Season 6 should be excluded, same with Blue Lock, Urusei Yatsura, The Eminence in Shadow, and so on.

Shows that exceed 12-13 episodes and are considered “continuing” on could very reasonably be considered exempt and part of the next year’s awards. Instead, the Anime Awards have overcorrected by exempting some of the best anime of the year from being recognized. In an attempt to perhaps counter recency bias, they have merely pushed the dates back, making this no longer a celebration of anime in 2022.

Why We Care

Chainsaw Man Denji Peace Sign

There are plenty of reasons people criticize the awards besides the above-mentioned. People have complained about the number of nominees in the categories, something that Lynzee Loveridge of ANN offered a measured perspective on, as seen in the thread below. Frankly, no matter what the rules were, the community would find reasons to complain.

Why? Because awards are – by nature – something to disagree with. A thing that people liked lost out to something else people liked, and now it’s time to argue about it. It’s human, but just because there is predictable pushback doesn’t negate the responsibility of the curators of this award show to consider how it is presenting itself.

They are fans like any other, but with the added responsibility of being mindful of the craft and how each nominee contributes to the so-called “art moment.” Fans love this medium, and they want an award show that feels like it takes it seriously, even if the joking online suggests otherwise. When an awards show ranks the best of a year but cuts out a fourth of it, it doesn’t seem like it has the clearest idea of what it’s doing. Hopefully, this is just a sign of growing pains.

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