Wednesday, January 24, 2007

:anime: The American Anime Awards--Not Quite the Oscar-esque Vehicle It Aspires to Be...

In the midst of the traditional award season for American cinema and television acheviements lies a quaint little ceremony for an equally quaint little piece of fandom and culture. Japanese animation, or anime as it has become known as, has held a long and often overlooked history in American pop culture. Having itself being influenced by the early cartoon works of Walt Disney, Japanese animation has grown over the decades to have an identity all of its own, and in turn, has returned the favor to its neighbor across the Pacific. Kimba the White Lion (which so happened to be funded and co-produced by NBC), Gigantor, Speed Racer, Transformers, Robotech (an U.S.-produced amalgam of three unrelated mecha shows), Sailor Moon, and Dragonball Z represent only a few shows that have sept its way into the stateside consciousness. The distinct style of those anime and other works have inspired the kind of breakout hits--Avatar, The Last Airbender; Kappa Mikey; Teen Titans; Batman Beyond; The Boondocks--here that American-drawn byproducts had done for the likes of Osamu Tezuka and Tatsunoko Pro of earlier. Though lacking the type of attention that Hollywood works garner, anime has seen a growing and more present stature in the U.S., so in this time leading up to the Academy Awards, the industry itself has been long overdue for a celebration of its own. Taking place the night before the Oscars themselves, the American Anime Awards (AAAs) will be held on Saturday, February 24 in New York City. The AAAs, jointly produced by ADV Films, ICv2, and New York Comic Con, aims to "honor the best in anime as voted on by anime fans nationwide." However good this may be, herein lies one of the event's numerous flaws. There is much to point out, so for the purpose of critique, I'll be eschewing the usual paragraphical prose and instead be employing a listing of positive (+) and negative (-) aspects of the show.

The Event

+ The fact that there is actually an event to honor anime in the United States. It is perhaps a long time coming, but realistically, with the size of the fandom growing, now is a good a time as any to hold such a ceremony.

+ It is an event that will also honor English voice actors. Despite the neverending sub/dub war and the dubious beginnings of the latter, this aspect of the industry has made leaps and strides in quality, now often contending with the original Japanese language cast in terms of who is the better choice.

+ The trophy. A nice, golden, anime-fied version of the ubiquitous "Oscar," now resembling a 70s-style giant robot. Not the most detailed piece of hardware, but it still is nicely designed.

+ Holding the event the night before the Academy Awards. Though some may not consider this to be a big deal, it actually helps give the AAAs some weight and importance by having it in such close vicinity to a major function such as that.

- Those behind the scene. As good as it is to have an event like the AAAs, it is none to thrilling to see that it is being co-produced by ADV. An event like this shouldn't be the work of just one company. It definetly doesn't help matters when their house VAs/hostesses are plastered on the awards' info page in alluring photos. This is in no way an accusition of possible fowl play, but it would have been much better in percieved fairness if it was either a joint industry venture among the anime companies or hosted by a committee of industry members.

Best Actor

+ Good nominations, even if they are provided by the companies and listed en masse as such.

- Speaking of "en masse," there are too many nominations. Like in other award shows, it should be limited to a certain number, about 5 to 7.

- Old titles. This a major issue about the AAAs, in that any anime on DVD in 2006 is eligible, which naturally includes any title from years before. The awards should only pertain to shows that have made their stateside debut in that year.

- An actor's noted performance, an actor's overall body of work, or just the actor themselves? Another major flaw in the ballot, where an actor is listed and the titles of the show(s) they've participated in. "Best Actor," yes, but are the shows given examples for critique or are they just samples of the shows the actor was in? Moreover, with the inconsistancy with the number of shows listed per person, is this solely a "Whose the best actor?" question?

Best Actress

+ Good nominations.

+ More singluarly-noted shows listed per nod.

- Way too many nods, even dwarfing the males.

- Veronica Taylor for Alien Nine? Her role was a supporting one. His and Her Circumstances is very well deserving, but if anyone from the OVA should get a nomination, it should have been Kelly Ray, who did a great job voicing the main character. Does this further show the "actor's overall body of work/actor themselves" bit from before, or or this just a mistake?

Best Actor in a Comedy

+ Good category, wholly appropriate for genre like anime, and good nods, as well.

- "Best Actor in a Comedy"? What does that make the "Best Actor" category for? "Overall Performance"? "Drama"?

- Johnny Yong Bosch in Akira? If those old Manga Ent. commercials were any telling, I'd gather that the film is anything *but*.

- Old titles.

- Typos. (Jaxon Lee?)

Best Actress in a Comedy

+ Good category & nominations; one of the tougher competitions.

+ Personal Note: Caroline Lawson for The Gokusen (excellent, if not underrated, performance; great job at yelling, without overdoing it, and portraying her character in her nice and tough moments).

- Too many nods.

Best Cast

+ Great category; one of the best ones in the AAAs; very good nominations & competition

+/- "Revolutionary Girl Utena". I may be going against the grind and I haven't even listened to the original vocal cast, but the English dub for the series stands as one of my favorites (everyone, in my opinion, gave very good, memorable performances) and worthy of a nomination. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as many made it out to be and was on par with the better-recieved movie. Of course, the majority thinks the exact opposite, which is why I listed this as both a positive and a negative.

- Old titles.

Best DVD Package

+ Very good category, nice to see some recognition to this aspect of the industry; good nods

- Too many nods.

- Some nominations are too vague. Karas, Fullmetal Alchemist, Negima, etc.? All of their respective DVD volumes as a whole, or just the volumes themselves, which follow the same format? Considering that all of them have different covers, shouldn't the nominees be based soley on their individual merits?

Best Anime Theme Song?

+ Good category & nominations

- "Eureka Seven", "Noein", "Karas"? Nice themes aside, only one should be chosen from each of the shows. Either that, or have separate opening and ending theme categories. It almost seems unfair to the other nominees if they have to go up against batched listings.

- No artist credits.

- Old shows.

- Too many nods.

- "GaoGaiGar Theme (King of the Braves: GaoGaiGar)"? Try "Yuusha-oh Tanjou!" or "King of Braves is Born!"...

Best Comedy Series

+ Good category, considering the number of comedies out there; good nods

+ No "Animation Runner Kuromi," "Tenchi (insert title here)," or other older shows. Yet...

- Still has old shows nominated...

- Too many nods.

- What? No "Akira"?

Best Anime Feature

+ Good nominations, but...

- Just what does the category title "Best Anime Feature" entails? Movies? OVAs? Shouldn't they be in separate categories, seeing as they are different formats of storytelling?

- Old shows...err, mov--...uhh...OVAs.....or is that OAVs?

- Too many nods.

- What's "NA"? "Not Available"? If so, shouldn't that sort of thing be removed from the ballot to ensure as little amount of errors as possible in the voting process?

Best Short Story

+ Decent nominations

- Aren't "Dead Leaves" and "Yukikaze" "short stories" and not "features," as listed in the previous category?

- Why is "Hellsing Ultimate" here or anywhere in the AAAs? Only the first episode has been released, despite its near hour length. Not much of a short story when you've just begun it.

- Old shows (even though the Record of Lodoss War OVA is nominated).

- Too many nods.

- What is "NA"?!

Best Long Series

+ Very good nods; another strong, tough competition

+/- Di Gi Charat episodes may only by a few minutes long, but a long series (16) is a long series, and that should be respected.

- As evident of before, the category title is a bit decepitve, as one could easily make the case that similarly lengthed titles, airtime-wise, episode-wise, or both, should be considered in the "Short Story" category.

- Old shows.

- Too many nods.

Best Manga

I'll be perfectly honest--I haven't read as much manga as I should have, but that doesn't mean that I don't know a thing or two about some "man-ga." ;D

+ Good nominations; good competition

+/- Old manga, though considering that some of these titles are still currently running, an exception can be made to those types of comics (one could say the same for older, long-running anime that get nominated, but that it is relatively uncommon)

- Too many nods.

Overall Assesment:

+ The event itself (something to honor anime, manga, English voice actors & actresses, DVD packaging)

+ Good nominations all-around.

+ A few good categories (comedy, DVD package, cast) to go along with the usuals (series, actor/actress).

- Way too large a field of nominees in all categories.

- Too many shows released pre-2006 in the mixes, re-releases or not.

- Vague nominations (show listings with actors, series names given in Best Theme category)

- Typos.

- Bizarre nods (Akira = comedy; Karas for "Short Story" and "Feature"; "NA")

- Shows that barely have enough episodes available to warrent honors (Hellsing Ultimate, shows that only have the first volume released in 2006)

- Unclear nomination requistes, especially when you consider nominees in the "Best Anime Feature" and "Best Short Story".

As nice and as well-intentioned as the American Anime Awards are, there a far too many flaws in it that makes one not want to take it very seriously. The act of leaving the results in the hands of the fans already makes the event seem as credible as an Internet poll, which essentially it is (in spite of the computer-tagged balloting to prevent vote spamming). It may be a good gesture to those who have been fueling the industry for all these years, but one should never leave such matters in the hands of any fan in any genre unless it is specifically a fan contest. The AAAs appear to be trying to go the route of serious award, though however, that cannot be accomplished in the method and fashion they are presenting themselves with, and the inexcusebly large amount of errors and nomination problems most certainly do not make things look any better. With precisely a month before the big night, and beyond that into next year's festivities, one hopes that the organizers can improve from this premiere outing and acheive the great potential the awards have of reaching.

In order to truly become a good and respectable honoring ceremony, the American Anime Awards will need an extensive overhaul when 2008 comes around. Next time, there will be a list of suggestions that may help fix its many faults.

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