Ask John: Does Anime Have an Oscar Equivalent
I recently saw poll results conducted by BigGlobe on Crunchyroll, where the Japanese voted for their most Amazing Anime. The result where not very surprising. I can completely understand why the list is the way it is. However, I have always wondered if there is an overlooking group that monitors and awards anime, for example, the Oscars, the Emmys organizations, that give anime a certain status within the industry and society?
Oddly, despite being a highly prolific media with more than a half-century of history, Japan’s anime industry doesn’t have a singularly prominent annual award recognition for anime. The Japanese anime industry does have a number of prestigious annual recognitions, but none of them are especially long-established, and none of them holds distinct prominence over the others or has significantly great international recognition. The Animation Kobe awards began in 1996 to recognize each year’s most outstanding anime productions. The privately-selected award recipients are typically selected for exceptional artistic merit among mainstream, commercial works, granting the Animation Kobe awards dignity and respect. However, the fact that the awards and selected and presented in Kobe rather that Japan’s anime capitol, Tokyo, seems to compromise some of the public awareness that ought to come with such a prestigious selection. The Japanese government’s Agency for Cultural Affairs launched its own annual media recognition competition in 1997. The anime winners of the Japan Media Arts Festival are selected by a small panel of anime industry luminaries. As a result, like the Animation Kobe awards, the honors are given for artistic excellence rather than commercial popularity. However, the Japan Media Arts Festival has a partial tendency to skew toward independent and non-mainstream anime works which makes the annual awards ceremony as much of a sideline novelty to otaku as a definitive award ceremony. The Tokyo International Anime Fair launched its own annual award ceremony in 2002, featuring a larger panel of judges and a broader focus on a larger number of mainstream commercial anime productions than typical earlier competitions. However, the fact that the Tokyo Anime Award has a more mainstream focus and is presented during the annual Tokyo International Anime Fair causes it to feel like a Japanese parallel to America’s SPJA Awards – a sort of convention based popularity contest more than an objective, independent award recognition. The Japan Academy Prize is Japan’s Oscar equivalent – a feature film recognition of excellence given by Japan’s motion picture association. The award is prestigious, but it’s only been given in the animation category since 2007, and its comprehensiveness is very limited since it only considers feature length theatrical releases – not short films, OVAs, or TV series. So, unexpectedly, Japan’s anime industry does have a variety of annual anime excellence awards but not a singular presentation that trumps all others in terms of celebrity or prominence the way America’s Academy Awards or Emmys represent the top tier recognition for American feature films and television programs.