Jujutsu Kaisen? Bungou Stray Dogs? The Problem with (Most) Anime Awards

jujutsu kaisen season 2 anime awards

jujutsu kaisen season 2 anime awards

It’s awards season! A time for everyone to put on their best clothes and bathe in the glow of admiration. Usually, award wins are huge for the people involved, but recent anime awards winners have exposed the big problem behind many of these events.

There was a lot of noise (and some confusion) when Anime Corner announced Bungo Stray Dogs Season 5 as their Anime of the Year. Predictably, Jujutsu Kaisen Season 2’s win at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards also led to some heated discussions.

Whether you agree or disagree with these winners, it’s fair to say that these events miss the point of what the awards season is supposed to represent.

Fan Polls are Great Business, but Bad Awards

bungou stray dogs season 5 anime awards
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While anime feels more mainstream every year, there’s still not much in the way of a gold-standard, end-of-year award like the Oscars, Golden Globes or Emmys - ignoring, for now, the fact that anime probably deserves more regular nominations at these events.

In that vacant space, company-led anime awards have exploded in popularity and are now major occasions for the industry.

For the most part, these awards are good things for anime. They give international fans opportunities to celebrate the series in a way that genuinely makes industry noise.

Even in this contemporary anime world, seeing communication from international fans to Japanese creators and vice-versa feels like something novel and precious.

However, are these events 'awards'? The Crunchyroll Anime Awards looks and feels just like any primetime awards ceremony, but is it right to call it an awards night in the same way we speak about things like the Oscars?

For pretty much every popular anime award handed out currently, it’s fan votes that dictate who ultimately wins.

Crunchyroll is perhaps the most rigorous, stressing that judges' votes count alongside fan votes, but the fact is that fans pick the winner.

This system is what all the biggest anime awards are currently built upon, largely for the sake of self-promotion – perfect for any company looking to establish their event as anime’s gold standard.

This fan-led approach is also what leads to things like Bungou Stray Dogs Season 5 – a season not even nominated at the Crunchyroll event – winning awards.

It's ultimately a popularity contest, and awards operating through that method can't remove that label.

Shine a Light on Judge-Led Anime Awards

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Maybe one day, we might see an anime awards event along the lines of what people generally expect – respected (and slightly shadowy) figures using their experience to look beyond pure popularity at some of the genuinely astounding achievements.

Some of these exist already. On the same weekend as the Crunchyroll Anime Awards, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs’s annual Media Arts Awards announced wins for a range of artists including Slam Dunk creator Takehiko Inoue and animator Atsushi Wada.

If you’re wondering who Atsushi Wada is, that’s fair – he’s a hugely successful independent animator whose short films have won many international awards.

However, that not-knowing is kind of the point of awards ceremonies, a chance to discover the really special people working in this field we all love.

How many people watch Oscar-winning films before they win their Oscar? If everyone voted on the Oscars, Marvel would have swept most of the last ten years.

I’m hopeful that as anime continues to develop internationally, we’ll start to see shows and films recognised at more mainstream awards events, and eventually, a more traditional anime awards night will emerge.

Until then, let’s enjoy these fan-based awards ceremonies for what they are* but don’t let these events overshadow some of the really great work that should be highlighted at this time of year.

*If you want more of this stuff, why not check out our staff-voted Anime of the Year Awards?

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