How Bad Could the 2023 Anime Awards Actually Be?

It’s not exactly a bold stance to say that, while well-intentioned (probably?), Crunchyroll’s Anime Awards are, with clockwork consistency, spectacularly bad. January is never quite complete without looking at Twitter and seeing folks from all corners of the platform assembling to bemoan the nominees, the categories, and, eventually, what actually took home awards.

With the show itself looming, I was genuinely curious – The Anime Awards are pretty bad, yes, but just how bad are they? What got excluded from the running? Which shows did they stack with nominations while the others got scraps (or less)? How bad could this be, really?

While it depends on just how cynical you are about the current state of the industry, the reality? It’s probably even worse than you think.

Just to be clear, my main goal is just to toss enough numbers at y’all (and then bitch and moan about the categories in general) until I can impress upon you the sheer what-the-fuck-itude that is the lineup for TAA2023. Many folks are routinely displeased with the whole event, but I want to show you just how displeased you can be. I’ll be breaking down this piece into several bespoke sections, and fair warning, this is a little longer than most of our posts on The Backloggers, so strap in.

Section: The Basics

I want to just start this out by laying out the basics. What are the categories? What are the nominees? How many nominations did nominees receive? You know, all the fun stuff. Once we’ve laid all that stuff out, we can get into some hard numbers.

Sub-section: The Categories

There’s a grand total of 22 categories in this installment of TAA, each of which with 6 nominees, for a total of 132 slots for nominations. The categories are as follows:

  • Anime of the Year
  • Best Original Anime
  • Best Character Design
  • Best Animation
  • Best New Series
  • Best Continuing Series
  • Best Opening Sequence
  • Best Ending Sequence
  • Best Score Best Film
  • Best Anime Song
  • Best Director
  • Best Main Character
  • Best Supporting Character
  • “Must Protect At All Costs” Character
  • Best Action
  • Best Comedy
  • Best Drama
  • Best Fantasy
  • Best Romance
  • Best VA Performance (Japanese)
  • Best VA Performance (English)

The categories are a bit lacking, if we’re being fully honest, and some of the changes from previous years are downright weird. As I said earlier, though, we’re gonna wait to get into the oddities until a bit later.

(I will note that, as of reviewing this for updates on 3/1/23, it looks like there are categories for VA performances in Arabic, Castilian, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, as well as a “Special Achievement Award” and “Presenter’s Choice Award.” None of these actually show up on the North American Anime Awards 2023 Categories webpage, [which makes sense for the latter two, I suppose], but it’s maybe a bit odd that the non-EN/JP VA awards aren’t up for vote in North America, since they were last year. Given that they aren’t up for vote in NA regions, I won’t be counting those in the nomination/nominee totals.)

Sub-section: The Nominees

Within this whole shebang, there are a total of 36 separate items that were nominated across all categories. Here’s a list of the nominees, in order of most to least nominations, with a list of their nominations:

  • SPY X FAMILY | 17 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Character Design; Best Animation; Best New Series; Best OP; Best ED; Best Score; Best Anime Song; Best Director; Best Main Character; Best Supporting Character (Anya Forger); Best Supporting Character (Yor Forger); “Must Protect At All Costs” Character; Best Action; Best Comedy; Best JP Performance; Best EN Performance
  • Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2 | 12 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Animation; Best Continuing Series; Best OP; Best ED; Best Score; Best Anime Song; Best Director; Best Main Character; Best Action; Best Drama; Best JP Performance
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners | 12 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Character Design; Best Animation; Best New Series; Best OP; Best Score; Best Director; Best Main Character; Best Supporting Character; Best Action; Best Drama; Best EN Performance
  • Demon Slayer Entertainment District Arc | 11 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Character Design; Best Animation; Best Continuing Series; Best OP; Best Score; Best Director; Best Supporting Character; Best Action; Best Fantasy; Best JP Performance
  • Ranking of Kings (Second Cour) | 11 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Character Design; Best Animation; Best OP; Best Director; Best Main Character; Best Supporting Character; “Must Protect At All; Costs” Character (Bojji) ; “Must Protect At All Costs” Character (Kage); Best Fantasy; Best EN Performance
  • My Dress-Up Darling | 8 Nominations: Best Character Design; Best New Series; Best ED; Best Main Character; “Must Protect At All Costs” Character; Best Comedy; Best Romance; Best EN Performance
  • Lycoris Recoil | 7 Nominations: Anime of the Year; Best Original Anime; Best New Series; Best Director; Best Main Character; Best Action; Best JP Performance
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic- | 6 Nominations: Best Continuing Series; Best Ending Sequence; Best Anime Song; Best Supporting Character; Best Comedy; Best Romance
  • Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun | 5 Nominations: Best Continuing Series; Best Score; Best Drama; Best Fantasy; Best VA Performance (Japanese)
  • Ya Boy Kongming! | 5 Nominations: Best New Series; Best OP; Best Score; Best Anime Song; Best Comedy
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean | 4 Nominations: Best Character Design; Best Continuing Series; Best Action; Best JP Performance
  • Kotaro Lives Alone | 4 Nominations: “Must Protect At All Costs” Character; Best Comedy; Best Drama; Best EN Performance
  • Call of the Night | 3 Nominations: Best New Series; Best ED; Best Romance
  • Komi Can’t Communicate | 3 Nominations: Best ED; “Must Protect At All Costs” Character; Best Romance
  • Dragon Ball Super: SUPER HERO | 2 Nominations: Best Film; Best EN Performance
  • One Piece Film Red | 2 Nominations: Best Film; Best Anime Song
  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX Part 2 | 1 Nomination: Best Drama
  • Akebi’s Sailor Uniform | 1 Nomination: Best Animation
  • BIRDIE WING -Golf Girls’ Story- | 1 Nomination: Best Original Anime
  • Bubble | 1 Nomination: Best Film
  • The Case Study of Vanitas (Cour 2) | 1 Nomination: Best Fantasy
  • Dance Dance Danseur | 1 Nomination: Best Drama
  • The Deer King | 1 Nomination: Best Film
  • Healer Girl | 1 Nomination: Best Original Anime
  • INU-OH | 1 Nomination: Best Film
  • JUJUTSU KAISEN 0 | 1 Nomination: Best Film
  • Love After World Domination | 1 Nomination: Best Romance
  • Mushoku Tensei Season 1 Part 2 | 1 Nomination: Best Fantasy
  • One Piece | 1 Nomination: Best Continuing Series
  • The Orbital Children | 1 Nomination: Best Original Anime
  • Overlord | 1 Nomination: Best Fantasy
  • SHADOWS HOUSE -2nd Season- | 1 Nomination: Best Anime Song
  • Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie | 1 Nomination: Best Romance
  • Uncle from Another World | 1 Nomination: Best Comedy
  • Vampire in the Garden | 1 Nomination: Best Original Anime
  • YUREI DECO | 1 Nomination: Best Original Anime
Section: Hard Numbers

Okay, we’ve got the absolute basics laid out. Let’s take a look at this data – what can we glean from this?

Sub-section: Nomination Inequality

There’s…uh…some clear differences between the nominees and the number of nominations they all received, huh? Like, SERIOUS differences. Out of the 36 items nominated, 20 of those only received one nomination. That’s literally over half of the nominees (roughly 56%)! So, for a bit over half of the entire selection of series represented for these awards, they have 20 total nomination slots, which comes out to about 15% of all total nominations.

Let’s look at the flip side. Consider the top 5 nominees: SPY X FAMILY; Attack on Titan: Final Season Part 2; Cyberpunk: Edgerunners; Demon Slayer: Entertainment District Arc; and Ranking of Kings’ second cour. These top 5 nominees collectively hold 63 nominations, which comes out, roughly, to about 48% of all total nominations

Let’s review. The top 5 have about 48% of the total nominations. The 20 with only one nomination represent about 15% of the total nominations. The other 11 shows/films hold the remaining 37% of the nominations. As such, the total amount of nominations is almost split in half between the top 5 nominees and the other 31. That is, for lack of a better descriptor, fucking wack.

Sub-section: Licensing Inequality

Let’s make this more fun: how about we consider the anime series nominees and their nominations in terms of who’s streaming them in North America?

Given that 1) the Crunchyroll/Funimation merger was ongoing before 2022 even got rolling, 2) Funimation stopped getting exclusives after the Winter 2022 season, and 3) none of Funimation’s Winter 2022 exclusives got nominated for anything on the list, Funimation is being excluded from the upcoming listings. I’m not counting availability on Hulu here, either, since it isn’t a major platform with anime exclusives (except for, like, One Punch Man S2, lmao). As such, we have, essentially, three licensing entities represented here: Crunchyroll, Netflix, and HiDive. 

“But wait, Tofu,” you might say. “Disney+ has anime exclusives now! Why aren’t we counting them?” Great question! It’s because none of them got nominated for anything. Part of that can (probably) be chalked up to some of the nomination process weirdness we’ll discuss later in the The Elephant in the Room portion of the article, but despite that, it’s still pretty strange that absolutely nothing from the service’s portfolio of exclusives got nominated.

Anyway, let’s stack these suckers up:

Crunchyroll (20 nominees, 85 total nominations):

  • 86 EIGHTY-SIX Part 2
  • Akebi’s Sailor Uniform
  • Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2
  • BIRDIE WING -Golf Girls’ Story-
  • The Case Study of Vanitas (Cour 2)
  • Dance Dance Danseur
  • Demon Slayer Entertainment District Arc
  • Healer Girl
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic-
  • Love After World Domination
  • Lycoris Recoil
  • Mushoku Tensei Season 1 Part 2
  • My Dress-Up Darling
  • One Piece
  • Overlord
  • Ranking of Kings (Cour 2)
  • SHADOWS HOUSE -2nd Season-
  • Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie

Netflix (8 nominees, 27 total nominations):

  • Bubble
  • Cyberpunk: Edgerunners
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stone Ocean
  • Kotaro Lives Alone
  • Komi Can’t Communicate
  • The Orbital Children
  • Uncle from Another World
  • Vampire in the Garden

HiDive (3 nominees, 13 total nominations):

  • Call of the Night
  • Made in Abyss: The Golden City of the Scorching Sun
  • Ya Boy Kongming!

Now, if we subtract the film nominees and the nominations those films received from the equation (except for Bubble, which was distributed in North America exclusively through Netflix, so I’m counting it), we’re looking at 31 total nominees and 125 total nominations. The Crunchyroll-licensed series alone hold well over half of each of these: 20 nominees (roughly 65%) and 85 nominations (68%). Essentially, the streaming service hosting, managing, and distributing the awards show has about 2/3rds of the possible nominees and nominations as opposed to its competitors. 

Now, admittedly, some of this is just because Crunchyroll is pretty much the de facto anime-centric streaming service in North America – new seasonal anime is not a main priority for Netflix, and HiDive never really stood much of a chance to be a contender against Crunchyroll for that seat. As Crunchyroll has the rights for the lion’s share of series, there is an element of this where the number of nominees from their platform just makes sense. In terms of nominations, though, it is still strange that there was only one non-Crunchyroll nominee to break five nominees, and frankly, that’s only because it was the absolute cultural juggernaut that is Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Part of me can’t help but feel, though, that some of the nomination inequality comes from the overall weirdness of the award categories from this year, as well…

Section: What Happened with the Categories?

The categories for the Crunchyroll Awards have always been a little funky, as they’ve experimented around with them a fair bit over the years. You’d think that with seven of these award shows under their belt as of the upcoming 2023 edition, they’d maybe have this a bit more settled, or at least have them somewhat make sense for the medium of anime as a whole, right? (Let’s be real, nobody thinks that, but it’s nice to give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes.) If you can’t tell, I’ve got issues with the categories, the nominees placed in them, and the series that could have been nominated had the categories been different.

Sub-section: This Year's Categories

So here’s the thing – not all of the categories in the current iteration of TAA are bad, necessarily, because they’re pretty standard. You obviously should have things like AOTY, best main and supporting characters, best VA performances, and so on. The Anime Awards are, broadly speaking, doing fine in terms of the bog standard categories. However, some of the new categories, as well as some of the categories they’ve removed, are just strange choices. For instance, this past year, TAA removed the following categories:

  • Best Protagonist
  • Best Antagonist
  • Best Boy
  • Best Girl
  • Best Fight Scene

All of these categories had been on the ballot since the very first TAA back in 2017. Why they decided to remove them is absolutely beyond me. (Maybe the fact that Eren Jaeger was nominated as both a Protagonist AND Antagonist broke some poor folks last year. Who knows?) But regardless, they are strange exclusions – they’re pretty harmless, overall, and are just fun fan categories to toss your vote into. Who doesn’t want to vote for who smashed whose face in best? Who doesn’t want to have a best boy/girl popularity contest unfold in real time before them?

Mainstays aside, there are some interesting, less-consistently represented categories that have gone by the wayside, as well:

  • “Best Slice of Life” was a category in 2019, and was then never seen again.
  • “Best Manga” was also a one-timer in 2018 and hasn’t been in since.
  • “Best Couple” had a place in TAA for a few years, but was discontinued (seemingly) for good after the 2021 awards.

These are just a few examples of categories that are no longer with us, but it leaves one to wonder: why? Have these changes really resulted in a more robust, interesting set of categories that can represent the scope of what makes anime such an incredible medium? Well, let’s consider the new categories added this year:

  • Best Main Character
  • Best Supporting Character
  • “Must Protect At All Costs” Character
  • Best Anime Song
  • Best New Series
  • Best Original Anime

Admittedly, on paper, these are interesting categories, and frankly, I’m happy to swap out things like Best Boy/Girl for categories that spotlight new, interesting entries into the medium. So, what did these categories end up doing to make The Anime Awards more interesting?

Sub-section: Categorical Disasters

Well, broadly speaking, a whole lot of nothing! These categories generally did one of a few things: gave another category for obvious picks to get more nominations, created overlap with already existing categories, or came into existence to nominate shows that wouldn’t get any other nomination, otherwise. Let’s talk about these bad boys.

Best Main / Supporting Character

Really, I don’t think anyone would expect nominations from these categories to break any major ground. With very few exceptions, all of the nominees are popular characters from either established or newly absurdly popular shounen/seinen series. I find it hard to be too disappointed by these, because they’re categories I expect to be here with nominees I expect to be here. My only surprise is that it’s taken seven iterations of these awards for them to get here (or that Best Supporting Character has both Anya AND Yor from SPY X FAMILY. They’re great characters, yes, but y’all couldn’t have put in someone from another series? Really? Does SPY X FAMILY really NEED more nominations?)

“Must Protect At All Costs” Character

Okay, now, come on. What the fuck is this? Did “Sweetest Cinnamon Roll” not pass the category name check? This is an absolute nothing of a category, and I’m a little confused why this is here. Was this supposed to be a consolation for exclusion of Best Boy/Girl? If it was, though, this is a strange way to do it, particularly because of the sheer amount of overlap it has with existing categories. We’ll talk about that in a little bit, though.

Best Anime Song

This is a category that could actually be interesting. We have an OP and ED category, respectively, so having, say, an insert song category would be awesome! That’s totally what this category is, right? Right? (Spoiler: it is not. Refer to the “in a little bit” mentioned above.)

Best New Series

With the exception of Edgerunners and LycoRico, this is essentially a category for manga series that got an anime adaptation. Honestly, it’s not bad as far as the new categories go! There’s some genuinely interesting variety to the choices, and I’m curious to see if they actually keep up this level of variety in future years (if they even keep the category, that is).

Best Original Anime

Of all the new categories, this should be the coolest. In a way, it is – like with Best New Series, there’s some interesting variety to the series nominated. However, that’s about where the novelty or hope of ingenuity stops for this. Of the six series nominated for this, only one series – LycoRico – received a nomination other than this one. 

This just feels disingenuous to me. Why bother nominating a series for this category, which should indicate to people that this is something to look out for, or at least as a “you should for sure watch this,” if this is the only thing you nominate it for? It really just feels like a category to toss shows into so as to say “hey, look, we appreciate diverse series in anime, and here they are!”, and then proceed to unceremoniously shit on them and walk away. Maybe I’m a little too bent out of shape over this (or over this whole thing, for that matter, because wow is this longer than I expected it to be), but there are some series that I think could really have stood to be nominated for this and had some other nominations along the way.

Sub-section: Categorical Overlap

(Or, the “In a Little Bit” That is Now Here)

Well, the new categories, for the most part, didn’t exactly provide anything new and interesting, which is a bummer. The overall collection of categories, as a whole, couldn’t have been worse, right?

Hoo boy.

This iteration of The Anime Awards has a serious problem with characters or series getting nominated for multiple categories when those slots could have gone to something else deserving of the spot. For instance, let’s talk about the aforementioned “Must Protect At All Costs” Character category.

Sweetest Cinnamon Roll category

Let’s recall that all categories in this instance of TAA have six nominations possible. For this category, Bojji, Kage, Anya Forger, and Marin Kitagawa are all nominees in either the Best Main Character or Best Supporting Character categories. Two-thirds of the nominees for this category are already represented in other prominent character categories. Bojji and Kage are also both from the same show! Come on! The other nominees, are Komi Shouko, who, admittedly, has a reasonable amount of popularity, and Kotaro Sato, who, let’s face it, has about as much chance of winning this category as an infant does fighting off five hippopotamus. To reiterate a previous question of mine: why? What is the point of this category? Do we really need another category to circlejerk over the best uwu characters of the year? Come on.

Best Anime Song

Let’s recall that we already have categories for “Best Opening Sequence” and “Best Ending Sequence.” Cool? Cool. Now, let’s look at what the nominees for Best Anime Song are.

  • “Chikichiki Banban,” OP for Ya Boy Kongming! (and already nominated for Best OP)
  • “Comedy,” ED for SPY x FAMILY (and already nominated for Best ED)
  • “My Nonfiction,” a one-off ED for Kaguya-sama: Love Is War -Ultra Romantic-
  • “New Genesis,” which is essentially the OP for One Piece Film Red
  • “Shall We Dance?,” ED for SHADOWS HOUSE -2nd Season-
  • “The Rumbling,” OP for Attack on Titan Final Season Part 2 (and already nominated for Best OP)

Every single one of these is an OP or an ED for a show or movie from this season. As stated above, these already have their own categories. What’s worse, half of these are already nominated in one of those other categories. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, WHY ARE THESE HERE? Genuine question! This could honestly be replaced with a much more interesting musical category, and I hope it is, because this amount of overlap and genuine waste of an entire category is ridiculous.

All of the “Best Genre” Categories

God, where do I even start? If you thought the overlap for the previous two sections were bad, you’ll have an aneurysm with this one. With five different genres represented here (which, in the grand scheme of anime, which focuses a lot on genre, feels a bit weak), you’d hope for some variety. If you are still holding on to that kind of hope by this point in the article, though, I’m worried for you. Perhaps the best way to lay this out is to just use a small visual aid:

Oh boy! Three of the five categories have four nominees each that are in another “Best Genre” Category. Even Best Fantasy and Best Romance have two of their six nominees in another “Best Genre” Category. What is wrong with these people? It’s fine to have some degree of overlap, because most art doesn’t exactly fit into just one neat, tidy genre hole, but come ON. 

After a certain point, it’s hard to know what to say. It’s pretty clear that there’s just a ton of incestuous, strange picks that could have been made better, right? What more is there to say?

Section: Notable Exceptions

Well, frankly, there were some series that weren’t included that I either A) feel very strongly that should have been nominated for at least something, or B) though were just weird exclusions, given the way anime fandom currently sits.

The Best Romance category does have some decent nominations this year, but honestly, it’s strange that we didn’t see any sign of Rent-a-Girlfriend Season 2 OR Takagi-san Season 4. These are both massively popular series, and they didn’t get nominated for…anything? If I really want to get up in arms about this category, though, how did Sasaki and Miyano not get nominated? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I thought Love After World Domination was cute, but S&M could have absolutely knocked that off the list of nominees. (Maybe it’s because it was a Funimation exclusive for a while, or because it would have been the one non-cishet series in that list, but who knows?)

It’s honestly strange that while there’s a Best Fantasy category, there isn’t a Best Sci-Fi one – yes, fantasy-styled isekai series continue to crop up indefinitely and balloon the fantasy series landscape, but there are also plenty of series that can fall into the Sci-Fi category on any given season, as well. It seems like a major oversight, but whatever.

Speaking of Best Fantasy, how the actual fuck did we not get nominations for Heike Monogatari, Virgin Road, OR, and this is th biggest snub of the entire awards show, Sabikui Bisco? Hell, it’s a shitshow, but it’s a fun shitshow – how did BASTARD!! Not get at least one nomination for something? At least toss it an OP or ED nomination, come on.

And let’s just forget categories entirely – there were SO MANY good shows that didn’t make this list at all – Bocchi the Rock!, Mob S3, Akiba Maid Wars, Chainsaw Man… oh right, those were all from the Fall ‘22 season. I knew I had one more big thing to hit.

Section: Where the Fuck is Fall 2022?

(Or, The Elephant in the Room)

Yeah, so, Fall 2022 shows were just not considered for this year’s round of The Anime Awards. This is a completely new restriction of the nomination process for these awards – every previous iteration has had entries from a year’s Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall anime seasons. Hell, this year’s had an entry from LAST YEAR’S Fall season – Mushoku Tensei Season 1 Part 2. It didn’t even AIR in 2022 unless you count an OVA, and it’s still here for some reason! There are no rules!

There’s any number of reasons why the exclusion of the Fall 2022 season could have happened – people have speculated that recency bias might play a part in the awards, or that the sheer lineup of that season could have crushed the chances of just about anything else. Whatever the reason, though, it’s still just a strange exclusion, given that they’ve done a full year’s worth of anime for the past six of these things. 

Section: Are We Done Yet?

Yeah, at this point, I don’t really have much more to say. The Anime Awards are always a joke, as are, frankly, most other major award shows, but there’s always a part of me that would like to see these be worth a damn in the end. These could actually be something if there was any real thought and care put into them, but, as usual, here we are.

Anyway, as of the time this article drops, The Anime Awards will go live tomorrow, March 4th, and you better believe that I’m going to be watching. Watch responsibly, temper your expectations, and do so with the full knowledge of what a shitshow this will most certainly shake out to be.

Section divider images adapted from Image by upklyak on Freepik

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