A still from the 2023 Anime Awards
Anime, News

Thoughts on the 2023 Anime Awards Ceremony

Crunchyroll has held their 2023 Anime Awards Ceremony – the first one that was in person since the pandemic and the first ever in Japan, and I have some thoughts on the presentation.

The Good

A still from the 2023 Anime Awards
The 2023 ceremony was a marked improvement over past years

Crunchyroll changed their in-person presentation from a stage show with a mixed nominee+fan audience, like with some of the early installments of the Keleighleys, to Nominees + Guests at tables (with drinks & food) like the Golden Globes. While the show wasn’t as boozy as the Golden Globes, that’s a good thing. It also, in a way, made the show more formal than past versions of the Anime Awards. If the award is to have any legitimacy at all – and we kinda do because Haruhi knows there aren’t a lot of significant annual award opportunities for anime outside of Japan – we need to class things up a bit.

Related to this, having the ceremony be in Japan put the focus much more on the people who make the anime, instead of the people who watch it. It’s about the artists, not the audiences. Now, we had interstitial videos throughout the night with people talking about what anime has meant to them, and how it’s changed their life, but even those felt like a thank you to the artists, rather than pumping up the community. Still, having people who worked on various shows be in the audience and able to accept awards and give speeches was really great. It gave us the kind of spontaneous moments we want to see at shows like the Oscars. We got to see the people from Studio Trigger being absolutely surprised to find out they won Anime of the Year for Cyberpunk Edgerunners. Something we wouldn’t have gotten with a “Couldn’t come to the ceremony because they had to fly to the US and we have work to do so here’s a pre-recorded video” acceptance speech, as we’ve gotten in the past.

The Mediocre

The presenters were a mix of people who were accustomed to this kind of public speaking and were taking this seriously (Justin Lin & Zelena Vega, for example), those who thought this was something like the MTV Movie Awards and wore a fancy designers shirt and jacket when everyone else is in a tux (Robert Rodriguez), and people who had never done this kind of public speaking before and were showing various degrees of nervousness (the Influencer presenters). No slight against that last category by the way – public speaking to a panel room at a convention is a completely different skill than public speaking at a fancy award show.

Also, Crunchyroll and their panel of judges did a pretty good job of having anime series that weren’t on Crunchyroll on the nominee list, ultimately the shows that were on Crunchyroll more or less swept the awards, with a few exceptions for some series that were on Netflix, which actually hurt the legitimacy of the awards. I feel like forming an industry association to handle running the awards – something that would include Netflix, AMC/Hidive, Viz, and Disney – would help somewhat.

The Bad

While I liked how the actual award show itself was done. The online stream presentation had some issues. In particular, how the awards handled the translator audio was rough. By way of explanation, they had a selection of translators going through the show who would come in and live translate any Japanese language speeches given by the presenters, masters of ceremonies, and the winners. That said, they had two real problems with how they did these.

First – for context, let’s talk about how the pros do it. I’m talking about NPR, PBS, and the BBC. The way they do it is they have a second or so of the speaker’s own voice in their language, then they duck (but not mute) their audio and bring up the audio for the translator. We, in the audience, can still hear the original speaker’s language, and get their vocal intonation with that, while also getting the translator giving the meaning of what they’re saying. By contrast, in the presentation at these awards, they originally just muted the speaker and brought on the translator’s audio. Eventually, over the course of the night, they transitioned to the BBC/NPR model of sound mixing, but it was a painful and slow process.

Additionally, none of this was helped by the fact that the translators they got, because they were working live, could not necessarily keep up with the speakers. On more than a few occasions, because they had to wait a bit into the sentence to start translating, they ended up hitting the start of the music and having to rush. All of this also played hell with the automatic subtitles on YouTube – which were also the only available subtitles, which would have things awful for any viewer who was hard of hearing.

Plus, because this was being held at 6 PM in Japan, or 1:30 AM Pacific Time, nobody in the US, or even Europe, probably would have been able to stay up late for the bloody awards anyway. I feel like they should have taken extra time, and rather than having streamed the awards live, they should have put them out a few hours late and used that time to do a better translation mix. If they must have put out the show “live”, then they should have put it out with a 30-60+ minute delay, and had live subtitles, with a version with spoken translations to come later.

In all, I did like this version of the Anime Awards a lot – certainly much more than the past versions of the awards, but there is definite room for improvement, and I hope they’re able to better refine how the show is presented for next year.

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