Last year, Crunchyroll decided to try something out. With the growing popularity of anime in the west, the company attempted to celebrate the medium in one of the most common ways other forms of entertainment do it: By holding an awards show. The whole thing was a bit of a mess, unfortunately, as a certain nominee made it into a large number of categories and some categories felt like they were created just to give the show in question another win. The show, Yuri!!! on Ice, had also aired so close to this awards show that it was able to ride the hype train into winning every category it was nominated for, which was a literal half of all of the awards, due to the awards show being completely open to general popular vote from anyone. With this failure behind them and the mountains of negative feedback Crunchyroll received, this year they decided to do something bigger and hopefully better.
So, after choosing to hold a proper awards show in Los Angeles, California, complete with an orange carpet and guests from all around the anime community and industry, and even choosing to live stream the event in partnership with Twitch, I anxiously watched for the garbage fire to erupt spectacularly with cautious optimism given how much Crunchyroll was spending on the event. If the only difference to last time was that it was being held at a theatre in LA with a small handful of people I knew presenting awards, I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to say and I’d have to dig deep in the backlogs for a new topic to write about this week. Fortunately, that wasn’t the only difference, and I was able to walk away from the show with both positive and negative things to say.
So before going into what everyone who disliked the event wants to hear from me, let’s focus on the positives of the event. Firstly, the hosts for the night, Anthony Carboni and Erika Ishii, were absolutely stellar. One of my primary concerns when Crunchyroll announced that the anime awards would be a live event this year was who they were going to get to host the night. While Crunchyroll has a list of talent and personalities working for them, it’d take quite the 180 for one of them to carry the night as well as Carboni and Ishii did. I know this might seem like a bit of a trivial point when it comes to an event like this, but had a half-baked personality or duo hosted the night then I guarantee that would be all people would be talking about for a majority of the event.
For the awards to have hosts not only with excellent chemistry with each other, but with the rest of the Crunchyroll personalities on camera and have great awareness of the kind of event this was last year as well as the kind of cynical expectations undoubtedly many people would have as well was an absolute godsend. It would have been easy for Reina Scully and Victoria Holden (not to say that either of these women aren’t talented, as they’re both excellent to their own regard) to host the night and pretend like last year’s wasn’t an absolute train wreck. Instead, they got the appropriate talent to not only host the night but fill the show with their personality in the best ways possible. Gestures like this are a good sign since it shows that unlike the year prior, they’re not only acknowledging their shortcomings but actively trying to improve them and set an excellent president by having wonderful individuals do the job right the first time.
Secondly, this year’s categories were handled a bit better. This year, they threw out the categories of “Most Heartwarming Scene” and “Best Fight Scene” and added a whole slew of categories that made much more sense to celebrate, including “Best CGI”, “Best Film”, “Best Score”, “Best Continuing Series”, and “Best Manga”, to the list. This turned the categories from something that seemed like random descriptors that someone would post on their Tumblr anime blog as a retrospective to something that felt like would be the proper lineup for a proper awards show. While, admittedly, the “Best CGI” category felt added merely to celebrate how mindbogglingly good Houseki no Kuni‘s (or Land of the Lustrous in English) CGI was, with the improvement of CGI in anime growing as much as it has been, looking at Pop Team Epic as a show with some of the most beautifully discrete CGI I’ve seen in anime, this category is without a doubt going to hold more meaning in the future.
Lastly, the few miscellaneous touches the event put forward to make it just that much more special were greatly appreciated from my perspective. Things like having a live performance by Alice Underground, inviting western anime personalities from the more well known like Miles Luna to the less known like the various anime YouTubers that help shape this community whether you want to admit it or not, and even presenting Christopher Sabat with the “Industry Icon” award were nice touches that put a bit of a smile on my face in between moments of salt. Sabat’s speech after receiving the award was undoubtedly the number one highlight of the event for me and if going forward the awards did more things like this I would only be increasingly pleased with every passing year.
With that said, this night still had a lot of flaws. First things first, it felt like this night was hardly rehearsed if at all. The folks working the cameras as well as whoever was responsible for managing the stream did a rather not super great job. The stream would switch to cameras or scenes that just weren’t ready to be switched to a little bit too often and the cameras weren’t being maned with the highest amount of attention to say the least. Additionally there were one or two scripted gags that just didn’t play out exactly like I imagine they were supposed to, but this could only subtract from the show so much.
Additionally, the nominees felt like they were a little bit lacking and weren’t particularly reviewed in two categories in specific. Firstly, Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou (or Girls’ Last Tour in English) was absent from the Anime of the Year award despite being an enormous fan favourite. When the nominees were announced for the awards, even with me following 88 people I saw the complaint of “Why isn’t Girls’ Last Tour nominated for Anime of the Year?” from a good number of people on Twitter and from my understanding the show was not only rather popular when it aired but was also celebrated as a great and unique production up until it’s conclusion.
Secondly, 3-gatsu no Lion (or March Comes In Like A Lion) being nominated for “Best Continuing Series” despite being drastically shorter than some of it’s fellow nominees. While 3-gatsu no Lion wasn’t necessarily as protested as Girls’ Last Tour not being included (if at all), it struck me as an extremely off-putting entree — especially with Kizumonogatari being nominated for best film and Owarimonogatari 2nd Season having come out in the same year. Now, I’m not saying it makes no sense that The Monogatari Series if not at least Owarimonogatari wasn’t nominated… but I’m definitely saying it made no sense that The Monogatari Series wasn’t nominated.
From here, a lot of my complaints echo the complaints I had last year, which branched mainly from semantics but I swear this time I have another point to make. Last year, I mentioned that the awards made no sense as awards, seeing as all they really were was an end of the year popularity poll. To me, for an award to be a proper award it must have meaning, so when Crunchyroll took the common critique of “What does x award description even mean?” as a push to remove them entirely, I was a bit off-put. While this makes sense from a popularity poll perspective, since now anyone can look at the award and come to their own conclusion about what it means, this pushed it even further from being a proper award. So, this year I have some (hopefully) constructive criticism for the awards in the form of what I’d do if I was given control over them for a year.
Give the awards meaning.
Since this has consistently my biggest gripe with meaningless awards shows, this should come as no surprise to anyone. In order to make these awards, awards, they before anything else should have meaning. Whether this be purely “The show we liked the most” or some deep specific reasoning and criteria the shows had to fit to be nominated, so long as there is some sort of unified meaning since if there is no meaning the awards hold no weight and may as well be Crunchyroll’s 2017 Retrospective. Going back to the “Best Continuing Series” award, the biggest reason I’d want to replace 3-gatsu no Lion with The Monogatari Series isn’t because I like the latter way more or because the latter is significantly longer (Nine seasons versus two), but because the former didn’t fit in with it’s fellow nominees even slightly. Also in this category we had Mobile Suit Gundam, Dragon Ball, Case Closed, All Out, and Naruto, all series that have been around for a pretty respectable amount of time and all series that feel like they fit the introduction given at the event of older shows that also deserve recognition a billion times more than 3-gatsu no Lion.
With a lineup like that for that category, of course 3-gatsu no Lion was going to win, but it won a category it effectively made completely meaningless because what constituted as a “Continuing Series” was horribly muddied by it. Does that mean that New Game!! could have been nominated? What about Boku no Hero Academia? KonoSuba? What about Mahoutsukai no Yome, since that also technically began in 2016 and is still ongoing in 2018? With zero meaning I don’t know what the awards are supposed to represent, and that in and of itself makes the entire ceremony seem a bit pointless.
Give the judges more pull on the actual event.
At the time of writing, Crunchyroll has announced that the judges who decided the nominees for the event had their own picks for the winners of each category and said winners will be announced soon. While I don’t know what those winners are, as said announcement has yet to go live, it begs the question of why don’t the judges get to have more influence over the event that happened with the crowd of people and the cards announcing winners? It honestly feels a bit silly that you’d go out of your way to get judges that could, in the most distilled way possible, come to a list of nominees they feel are a good representation of each award by whatever standards they (or you, perhaps) agree on, then continue to tell their picks separately.
What I thought about suggesting last year but with the new set of public judges definitely want to suggest this year is to weight the popular vote and the judge’s votes to make a more interesting shows and give shows that weren’t the most popular an opportunity to win. Let’s say once the judges have picked the nominees, each of them votes separately along with the public. Then, the pool of judge’s votes count for 50% of the categories scores and the popular public vote counts for the other 50%. This not only allows for more interesting, less predictable winners, but also allows you to apply meaning to the awards without people completely circumventing them by just voting for their favourites anyways.
The way this could make things more interesting is in a case where the public vote was pretty evenly split between three or four choices, the judge’s votes could act as a bit of a tie breaker, or if one show is just so massively popular in a category, it could override the judge’s votes entirely and speak as a testament to the sort of success the show was able to achieve. This solves the previous point pretty nicely, doesn’t remove audience interaction, and (while salty people will always be salty, myself included) makes the shows a bit more interesting to watch as a good majority of the awards have pretty obvious outcomes from the get go. Additionally, you could always mention what the public vote winner was post-award, similar to what was attempted with the Twitch extension this year, that way the audience never feels like their votes were completely meaningless.
Allow an empty nomination seat for popular vote.
Lastly, both this year and the year before there was a slot for writing in your own nominee if either you didn’t see any of the nominees or didn’t want to vote for them, which was a nice gesture but one that feels like it has to be mostly overlooked. Since people will always have a problem with the nominees, why not allow people to write in their own nominees a week before voting even begins and the most popular of said nominees (that fit the criteria for the award as far as airing in 2017 or being a continuing show, at least) gets added to the list where there was previously an empty seat. This could increase audience interaction in a great way, where shows like The Monogatari Series or Girls’ Last Tour could actually get added to their own categories through public nomination and through popularity might even get a shot at winning.
This is a pretty nice self-regulating system as well, where if a show was pretty undoubtedly unknown, no one would vote for it and the judge’s nominees would still end up being the most important, but if some star like Girls’ Last Tour goes ignored by the judges it could not only be added to the event but maybe even earn some judge’s votes and perhaps even win in some spectacular underdog story. This would somewhat dismantle the first point I made of the awards having meaning, but if the shows were labeled as nominees to come from the empty seat, then they’d keep the award’s meaning in tact and if in the case that the nominated show still fits the award’s meaning, it might stand a decent chance at winning and add to that whole “Interesting to watch” thing.
With that said, that’s where a lot of my gripes with the show stand. I’m not upset that Boku no Hero Academia winning as many categories as it did, since even if it won every category it was nominated for (which it didn’t) and you didn’t count the “Best Manga” category as one to influence the majority, it wouldn’t have won a majority of the awards at the event. It was a shame that the results were predictable and the most interesting parts of the show to watch were Alice Underground’s performances and Christopher Sabat giving his speech, but overall I don’t think that subtracted from the show as much as Yuri!!! on Ice winning everything it was nominated for killed the event last year. I think that the scale of the event was proper for a nice celebration of the medium, and I hope that the event continues to grow and become better. This medium is worth celebrating, and celebrating it in an interesting and public way that gives every show from the past year of anime a chance at winning and making their fans ecstatic is a pretty good way to celebrate it, if you ask me. Here’s to the Crunchyroll Anime Awards continuing to improve with each year to come.
Thank you very much for reading this week’s editorial! Hopefully, even if you disagree with my stance on the awards, you can see where I’m coming for and hopefully more people like me are out there that want to see these awards grow in the best way possible. I know my suggestions and constructive criticism will likely be ignored, but it’s still nice to dream of a world where they were implemented. Anyways, if you’d like to add your thoughts on the matter you can do so below in the comments, and if you’d like to see what I’m up to when I’m not writing for this blog you can follow me on Twitter! I’ll see you all next week.
The featured image for this post was drawn by 亜ねず