In late 2016, anime streaming platform Crunchyroll launched the Anime Awards, an awards show dedicated to celebrating anime, the people who help create it, and the community around it in the west. Compared to awards shows like the Academy Awards, the first iteration of the show was a limited affair. Most of the awards were announced online, with a streamable celebration event involving close to 500 anime fans, influencers, and experts happening over two weeks later to announce Anime of the Year.

But this year, the Anime Awards is set to be a full-fledged awards show. All of the award winners will be announced live from the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, and fans can watch the show on Twitch or attend (tickets are still available). Erika Ishii and Anthony Carboni are going to be hosting, while anime influencers and YouTubers like ProZD, and anime voice actors like Stephanie Sheh, will present awards. And there’s even going to be an Orange Carpet (orange is Crunchyroll’s main company color). ComicsVerse talked to Jen Corbett, Crunchyroll’s Head of Audience Development, via email to find out how the company upgraded the Anime Awards, and to discuss how they went about acknowledging the people involved in making anime.

How the Anime Awards Became a Full-Fledged Awards Show

ComicsVerse: How did you decide to expand the scope of the Anime Awards so dramatically?

Jen Corbett: A formal awards show was always part of our original vision, we just thought it would take a few more years to get there. Ultimately, we were blown away by the feedback and participation in our inaugural event, and we followed that momentum!

CV: What went into organizing this year’s show? And what were some of the challenges you encountered?

JC: Our first priority was improving online voting and addressing feedback we received from the first year. Planning a live event and simultaneous livestream on Twitch required full-time attention from many of our team members. We’re quite familiar with conventions, but a programmed stage event was a new undertaking for us! We put a lot of effort into making the show fun, dynamic and participatory throughout 17 awards and an Industry Icon tribute.

CV: A lot of criticism last year was leveled at the selection of anime being represented (and what ended up winning) being based on popularity, not quality. This is a problem awards shows will always contend with, but is that feedback something you’ve attempted to take on board?

JC: From the changes made this year, you can see we’ve really listened to fan feedback about the nomination and voting process. We understood their frustration and vowed to improve the system by balancing the popular vote with more weight from a panel of judges. We’re happy to see that fans recognize the changes we’ve made and seem pleased with the new structure.

Yuri!!! on Ice
The 2016 hit anime YURI!!! ON ICE, which swept several of the Anime Awards’ categories in 2017, was one of the series people thought was recognized due to popularity instead of merit. | Image via MAPPA

How the Anime Awards Will Acknowledge the People Who Help Create Anime

CV: Among western anime fans (at least), there isn’t a lot of name recognition when it comes to the people behind the media they love beyond studio names. I know western industry members like voice actor Todd Haberkorn are going to be onstage, and voice actor and producer Christopher Sabat is going to be honored as your Industry Icon. But is the visibility of individual Japanese anime creators something you’re also hoping to address through the show? Essentially, how involved are Japanese creators going to be?

JC: We are very excited to host several prominent voice actors and industry members at the event and on stage. For Japanese creators, there are many contributors to the creative process, which makes it difficult to credit individuals fairly. We think the best solution is to recognize the whole studio – each winner will be given a physical award to share with their staff. [Editor’s note: responding to a question not present in this interview, Corbett explained that the awards would be mailed to the studios behind the winning productions.]

CV: My question was probably a little more forward-looking, wondering if a Japanese industry member could be recognized as your Industry Icon, or be spotlighted in some other way in the future (unless that’s already part of the plan for this weekend).

JC: We do plan to include Japanese industry members at the live event in the future.

CV: Are the awards for Best Girl and Best Boy also going to the studios behind the shows featuring those characters? Or will the characters’ voice actors be acknowledged in some way, as well? 

JC: Our intent with character awards is to recognize both the creators and the fictional character itself as an important icon in anime. When voting for a character, we can’t tell which aspect of the nominee the voter loved most, whether it was character art or one particular voice actor. Because there are so many people and elements involved in building a character, we are awarding the studios behind the production to recognize the collective effort.

CV: Do you worry about neglecting what many might see as an integral part of a character’s appeal? 

JC: Our intent with awarding a character is to honor everyone who shaped the qualities and essence of that figure.

What’s Next?

CV: I’m sure Crunchyroll is completely focused on making this year’s awards show a success, but are you already thinking of what comes next?

JC: We have a big vision to make this an amazing, annual event for both fans and creators alike – but for now we’ll focus on this weekend’s event!

The Anime Awards will stream on Crunchyroll’s Twitch channel on February 24 at 6:30 pm PST. Starting at 9 am PST on February 22, they started a pre-Anime Awards anime marathon, which includes a subset of the Anime Awards’ nominees.

This interview has been edited and slightly reorganized for clarity and concision.

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