The third annual Crunchyroll Awards took place over the weekend, and with it, there was certainly a lot to unpack. Setting out to celebrate the best and the brightest that the medium has to offer, the awards are able to deliver this year with varying levels of success. While there have of course been a lot of improvements over the years, there have also been a few drawbacks as of late. Here’s a rundown of the event.
Once again, I feel like they got the winner right this time again with Devilman Crybaby taking “Anime of the Year”. Following last years upset with Made in Abyss winning out over My Hero Academia Season 2, seeing another consensus “Anime of the Year” take home the grand prize is certainly a good sign. It also feels great to see Masaaki Yuasa win the “Director of the Year” award with his work on Devilman Crybaby as well, especially given how much he deserves the recognition as the talented auteur that he is.
Before we nitpick the award recipients a bit more closely, I would like to talk about the presentation for a bit. Unlike last year, the majority of the awards show was held at a twitch.tv studio instead of the Ricardo Montalban Theater, which attracted quite significantly from the “celebratory” part of the ceremony. While there was still a live audience in stationed at The Foundry bar in San Francisco, very little actually happened there with most of the action taking place at the studio. On top of that, the use of teleprompters and pre-written banter definitely chipped away at the authenticity of the presentation. That’s not even mentioning some of the very poor jokes that were written for the show, the worst of which had to be “Despacito was the best anime opening”. Jokes like these hovered in the realm of “Hey fellow kids” and left quite a poor taste in my mouth. Perhaps it would’ve worked better if they avoided these general kinds of low hanging jokes in favor of some anime-related low hanging jokes at the very least.
When it came to the portion in The Foundry, I honestly thought it was a whole lot better. Crunchyroll staff and personalities Miles and Victoria felt a lot more genuine than the presenters that were in the studio which was a huge plus. The jokes made there felt a lot more in touch with the community, and the atmosphere felt a lot more like a celebration rather than a wannabe late night talk show. The absolutely killer moment was when they brought out Masahiko Minami (president and producer at Bones) to deliver his speech for winning the industry icon award, which was a huge step forward in terms of bridging the Western community with Japanese creators. In fact, Minami’s award, as well as his physical presence, may have been the best part of the whole event.
When the industry icon award was first announced last year, it was given to dub industry veteran Christopher Sabat for his long and successful career. While there is nothing wrong with that decision, the fact that it went to a Western studio figure almost made it feel like it was going to be a more Western-orientated award. That being said, the fact that someone with a producer background won industry icon award is quite significant. In the past, all of the awards given to industry members have been geared towards either creatives or actors. To finally see a producer receive this level of recognition in the West is astounding, and to say the least Masahiko Minami was more than deserving of the title.
A somewhat more quirky appearance was that of Virtual YouTuber Kizuna Ai. While YouTubers have been a staple of the award show since they started the awards ceremony itself, it was nifty to get an actual Virtual YouTuber on the scene. It would’ve been amazing if she was able to be assigned as one of the presenters for an actual award, perhaps in a similar way to how she was there to present the recent Alita: Battle Angel Q&A.
As for the award winners themselves, there were still quite a few hiccups. While it has gotten better over the years, there were still some very prominent flaws this time. When Crunchyroll first announced the nominations they boasted a bit about how the My Hero Academia nominations were tuned down a bit and how now a more underground title like Megalo Box was getting the recognition it deserved with eight whole nominations (the same that My Hero Academia had the year before). While this was fine on paper, what ended up happening was that My Hero Academia swept all but two of its categories, while Megalo Box got a grand total of 0 awards. You could definitely make the argument that Megalo Box still deserved the nominations it got, but it did seem a bit heavy handed the way the judges approached it.
When it comes to the continued prominence of My Hero Academia, the flaws of popular-voting definitely stick out. While it definitely deserved some of the awards it got, there were two exceptionally bad cases when it came to “Best Film” and “Best Antagonist”. To say the least, the “Best Film” category was an absolute trainwreck. Starting with the glaring lack of a Maquia nomination, being one of the best films of the year, the judges instead opted to put forward titles like the infamous Fireworks instead. Despite that, there were still a lot of strong films in the running, including critically acclaimed Liz and the Bluebird and academy award nominated Mirai. Instead, the non-cannon My Hero Academia: Two Heroes ended up taking the prize. While it was certainly a fun movie, it definitely didn’t deserve the title of “Best Film” over any of the aforementioned titles (except Fireworks, of course).
I might be a bit more personally biased when it comes to “Best Antagonist”, but this is definitely another category My Hero Academia did not deserve to take. While the All for One fight was certainly breathtaking, as a character All for One has hardly been fleshed out. You could make the argument that the fight made him award-worthy, it’s worth remembering that there is a seperate “Best Fight Scene” category (which the All for One fight did win, after all). When you consider the strengths of some of the other nominations and their importance to their respective shows, such as Ryo from Devilman Crybaby and Akane from SSSS.GRIDMAN, it’s hard not to feel like they were robbed by the system.
Another silly decision was to include both of the FLCL ending themes in the best endings categories. While they are both fantastic tracks by The Pillows, it did end up ruining both of their shots of actually win by essentially dividing the votes for in half by spreading over two nominations instead of one. Even presenter Kevin Penkin was in favour of The Pillows taking the prize here, which was unfortunate considering they had a good shot if it wasn’t for this oversight.
With those grievances aside, it’s fair to say most of the other winners deserved their titles, even if there were some equally deserving nominations that ended up getting put on the wayside. For instance, Mamoru Miyano’s performance as Kotaro Tatsumi in Zombieland Saga was absolutely on point and more than worthy of the award it won, and Violet Evergarden’s prize for best animation wasn’t misplaced either. The Devil May Cry 5 plugs didn’t feel to overdone either, so it was nice to see that the sponsors were respectful of the event as well.
Overall, I would say the awards are getting better, if not a bit lacking in the presentation this time around. While it was still delivered in terms of professionalism, it has started to feel a lot less authentic than before. If you would like to see the full list of winners, head over to Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards page.