Well, with the Academy Awards last week, awards season has pretty well drawn to a close. Moonlight just barely edged La La Land for the best picture (in more ways than one), and as per usual anime failed to have much of a presence with the general movie awards crowd. The Red Turtle unquestionably did the best of all anime with its Oscar nomination (though some may argue whether it really counts as anime), but Your Name picked up a win and a nomination on a couple of other lists and Miss Hokusai got a nod from one of those as well. Other than that though, the pickings were pretty slim.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise, as anime has always had trouble breaking into the popular media’s conscious. But just because an anime doesn’t get nominated at the Oscars, that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good movie. As fans, we love to see the stuff we like get recognized, so what are we to do? Well, as of this year, the answer appears to be “make our own awards.” There are a lot of media awards already; what’s making another one going to hurt? Crunchyroll just had their attempt at this, by introducing the Anime Awards. Heck, RightStuf just ran their own awards too, with public voting and everything. Crunchyroll just released some voting numbers from their Anime Awards, and it’s quite clearly the highest profile awards show we’ve had here in the west, so I’d like to focus on them.
Now, there was a fair amount of frustration from a lot of anime fans, it seems, when the results of the Anime Awards were announced. I’m not here to do that myself, but I do have some suggestions to give in order to improve the public opinion of and reaction to the awards in the coming years. It really comes down to two things: 1) how the Anime Awards were perceived by fans and 2) the focus on the creation over the creators. Let’s get into it.
First off, the marketing. I think a lot of the community frustration came from a fundamental misunderstanding of what this awards show really was. I think people were, on some level, trying to put the Anime Awards on the same level as the Oscars, Emmys, or Grammys, since those are the most respected awards in their respective fields, and they wanted these awards to be respected like those. But that’s simply impossible.
I’m not the first person to talk about this (Joey “The Anime Man” brings it up in his reaction video too), but those awards are all voted on by the members of their industry, the people most qualified to decide what The Best of the Year truly is. The Anime Awards were voted on by the fans, which makes them more akin to the People’s Choice Awards or MTV Movie Awards. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Not at all. Really, the MTV Movie Awards don’t have to be less prestigious than the Academy Awards, plus they’re a lot more fun and light hearted than the Academy Awards are, and have categories like “Best Kiss” and “Best Shirtless Performance” that the Oscars would never dream of doing. And it’s that attitude that means people don’t really get upset with the results; they’re more about celebrating the year in film with other people who love film too. The Anime Awards’ greatest failing here was taking itself too seriously.
And here’s the thing: we don’t need an anime equivalent to the Oscars because it already exists in the Japan Academy Prize. In fact, those very awards were announced just this past week. As the name implies, it’s basically the Oscars, except everything is voted on by the members of the Japanese academy of motion pictures (Nippon Academy-shō Association). It has two “Movie of the Year” categories, one for live-action and one for animation, but after that basically all the categories are mixed. This year, the results were particularly great for anime. Your Name gave Makoto Shinkai a nomination for “Director of the Year” and a win for “Screenplay of the Year,” and RADWIMPS a win for “Acievement in Music.” In This Corner of the World won “Animation of the Year” and was also nominated for “Achievement in Music.” Shin Godzilla really cleaned up though; it made out like a bandit with 11 nominations and 7 wins, including best picture and best director for Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi. Not that it’s an anime, but I mean, Anno, amiright?
Another complaint against the Anime Awards was the actual nomination process. How the judges blindly submitted their picks and the most common of those made the ballot. And yeah, that’s a fair complaint. It probably doesn’t need to as involved as the Oscars’ fascinatingly complex process, but at least having the judges talk to each other would be a good start.
Secondly, the focus on the content. For me, this is the real crux of the issue; if I could change anything, it would be this. What do I mean when I say “creation over creators?” Let’s take a look at the categories. A lot of them are fine: “Anime of the Year,” “Best Animation,” “Drama of the Year,” “Best Opening,” that sort of thing. But there are a few that I take exception to, specifically the ones relating to characters. “Hero of the Year,” “Best Boy,” “Best Couple,” all of those type. What do all of these have in common? The nominees are all characters, not actors.
See, here’s my issue: in no other awards shows for other types of media is the actual fictional character the thing being voted on. It’s the Academy Award for “Best Actor,” not “Best Male Character.” Casey Affleck won that this year for Manchester by the Sea, not Lee Chandler (the role he played). Even the MTV Movie Awards (which has a “Best Hero” category like the Anime Awards) nominates the actor as the character, not the character without a single mention of the actor. What was missing from the Anime Awards was the human element. Voting for just the character seems kind of juvenile, like we don’t really see beyond the surface level of the shows we’ve watched.
And sure, characters in animated series are a lot more of a group effort than those in live action series, but it’s really not that complicated a problem to work around. Instead of “Best Actor” you can have two awards, one for “Best Male Vocal Performance” and another for “Best Male Character Design,” where the nominees are the voice actor and the character designer of that role. Or, if we were modeling it after the MTV Movie Awards, “Coolest Male Voice” and “Hottest 2D Guy” or something. There are a lot of options. Which also means that yes, I do think there should be dub award categories. With the advent of broadcast dubbing, this is a much more reasonable category to have, as it’s now easier than ever to get into dubs, and they can match up with the newest, hottest shows that these awards focus on. I watched Yuri on Ice!!! dubbed, and it was finished the same day voting closed for the Anime Awards. They could push the voting period back by a week or two no problem, and that way dubs could be included too.
Now, I’m not saying that there should be categories like “Best Director” or “Best Original Screenplay,” because I really don’t think those are categories that the general public are qualified to judge. If that sort of thing was included, it would just make the people who are knowledgeable in that area upset when a clearly (to them) inferior (but popular) series inevitably ends up winning. There’s a reason you won’t find those categories at the People’s Choice Awards.
This leads us to a few, not necessarily easy, but a few fairly straightforward ways to improve the perception of the Anime Awards going forward. I think one of the best ways to ease some of the fan pressure off of them would be to get the Japan Academy Prize in the public conscious. Sure, right now they get the occasional news article when the winners are announced, but I think someone like Anime News Network or Crunchyroll could maybe reach some sort of deal with the Academy to let a staff member attend to cover the event live for English speaking territories, or just hype it up in the weeks and months leading up to the show. An obvious issue with that is the fact that those are not anime specific awards (aside from the “Animation of the Year” category), but those sites do say they deal with “Japanese pop-culture” and “Asian content,” so I’m sure they can work it out somehow.
Another thing they can do is to go all-in on modeling themselves after, say, the MTV Movie Awards. From the categories this year, we can see that they wanted to have some fun with this (like “Most Heartwarming”), so I’d say that’s the best fit in terms of movie awards shows. One of the key differences between the Anime Awards and both the MTV Movie awards and the People’s Choice Awards is that those allow you to vote multiple times (usually once per day). It’s a system that gets some flack sometimes, but it’s probably the most important part of this “anyone can vote” style. Basically, it can allow a series with a small but passionate fanbase to compete with a series with a large number of fans who aren’t all that invested in it. The Oscars has its crazy nomination system that favours movies with more passionate supporters, and allowing multiple votes is one of the best ways to approximate that in an unrestricted ballot system.
And of course, I advocate that they make next year’s awards about the people involved in making the anime, not just the finished product. And we don’t need to limit ourselves to nominating voice actors instead of characters. We should go all in on this. “Best Comedy” could be about the writing team. “Best Fight Scene” could be about the animators who brought it to life. You could have the nominees for “Best Animation” decided on by the lovely people over at Sakugabooru, who seem to know their stuff on that front. I will say this about this year’s awards: they did always mention the studio and the director, which is definitely the way I want to see this go. Just, taking it even further, and making it about the person more than the product.
Well, that was all more words than I was planning on using, but I think you get the idea. If next year’s Anime Awards take themselves less seriously and make it about the people behind the productions, I think that could make a world of difference to their reception.