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A Letter To Crunchyroll: The Anime Awards Are Reflecting Popularity Over Merit

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Before I start my scathing criticism, or more like my salty whining, I’ll concede this – Crunchyroll Anime Awards are a much needed milestone in the anime industry.

It gives a voice to the fans who are watching anime, and like Megan Thee Stallion said at the event – we get to know what everyone is “vibing” to. On top of that, the recognition that the industry and the artists get through this will go a long way in building positive feedback, which in my personal opinion is quite significant in the long run.

Despite the very strong pros, I feel that the manner in which the winners are decided can be streamlined and polished up a bit more. Because as things currently stand, The Anime Awards are more reflective of a series’ popularity over its merit.

It could be a conscious choice by the showrunners to base the awards on what the fans love. But then an anime having a large fanbase doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the best one out there. There are multiple reasons that constitute to a series’ popularity and equating it with excellence is nothing short of a blunder.

And branding such show as “the best” instead of “the most popular” would be a gross disservice.

However, the voting system employed by Crunchyroll makes it easy for the throngs of participants to swing the votes in their favor.

Currently the winners are chosen via two rounds of voting –

  • In round one, a panel of judges determines the six nominees in each category.
  • In round two, this same panel votes alongside fans to help determine a Grand Winner in each category.

The weight carried by the fans’ vote in deciding the winners is quite large here. And it can be a double edged sword. Animehunch was part of the judging panel, so the joke’s on us too!

This system in place can be hoodwinked as it all boils down to bragging rights when it comes to majority of a show’s fandom. And if they decide to indulge in their whims, the concept of winners and losers becomes farcical.

It’s happened in the past and it’s happened once again at this year’s event. Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 won a whopping 9 out the 13 categories it was nominated in. On the other hand, others like Vinland Saga Season 2, Zom 100, Heavenly Delusion couldn’t even get its hand on a single award, despite being nominated in multiple categories.

Had these titles been more popular in the fandom, the results probably would have been different – trust me.

As I said, you can take this as the ramblings of a salty fan. But, before I spiral, I’d like to note that in a competitive space, fans often lose objectivity when it comes to choosing the best out of the lot. Their choice naturally gravitates towards the title that they favor the most, and the one which deserves the award the most.

Before you throw the hypocrisy allegations at me, let me state one thing – I am a huge Jujutsu Kaisen fan. I preach Jujutsu Kaisen. I could talk to you about the nuances of Gege’s narrative and defend the series vehemently when needed. But, in all honesty, there were other titles better than Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2 out there.

For instance, Vinland Saga Season 2 was clearly a better recipient for Anime of the Year, than its massively popular counterpart. It had better themes, consistent animation and portrayed a uniqueness and depth that the other nominees lacked.

Shibuya is peak, I agree, but in terms of overall anime quality, Vinland Saga edges it out any day. Ask a neutral – they might agree with me.

Naturally, it makes me wonder – would it be beneficial to have a panel of judges overlooking the end result too in order to make sure the deserving candidates don’t get thrown out? Would it be better to involve more industry affiliated personnel in the final jury, with the winners being decided on the combined basis of fan votes and also the jury’s inputs?

Or, Crunchyroll could include a separate critics choice awards to make sure that anime don’t get overlooked due to not being a global sensation.

Crunchyroll Anime Awards is still in its nascent phase – and no doubt it will grow much bigger in the coming years, owing to the growing popularity of anime globally and also due to how the platform is aggressively capturing markets worldwide.

But, if Crunchyroll wants to make its marquee event a more legit and entertaining experience, and not get branded as pure fanservice – amends need to be made in how the winners are decided. However, at the end of the day, the ball is in their court.

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