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2023 Crunchyroll Anime Awards Celebrity Presenters Announced, Pull From Hollywood

I'm still hoping the Uta hologram presents an award

Crunchyroll Anime Awards 2023 logo

The Crunchyroll Anime Awards are coming up on March 4, 2023. Voting is unfortunately now closed, so I hope you all voted for “New Genesis” for Best Anime Song every day. Since the audience participation is over, all we can do now is anticipate the big ceremony. And it will be a “big” ceremony. Since its introduction in 2017, Crunchyroll has made the Anime Awards bigger and bigger every year. For 2023, they’re going all out, complete with newly announced Hollywood guests.

For the first time ever, the Anime Awards will be taking place in Japan—at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo, to be exact. The award ceremony’s hosts seem carefully (and immaculately) picked to bridge the American and Japanese fandom and industries. One is Sally Amaki, an American-born, Tokyo-based voice actress and member of the idol group 22/7. She’s currently voicing Carol on the winter 2023 hit Tomo-chan is a Girl!. The other presenter, Jon (née Jion) Kabira, is a popular entertainer in Japan. He’s also well-known in the West, thanks to voice acting roles like Doris in the Shrek series and his narration in the Winning Eleven games.

From that perspective, I was a bit surprised that the first wave of big presenters announced for the Anime Awards were very Hollywood- and American sports-heavy. So who’s presenting?

Presenting the presenters

Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things

The Hollywood presenters includes Stranger Things‘ Finn Wolfhard, Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer, Cobra Kai‘s Jacob Betrand, and the director behind Alita: Battle Angel and (even more importantly) the Machete films, Robert Rodriguez.

If this seems like a random list of people, there’s definitely thought behind it. Alita: Battle Angel is largely heralded as the first good Hollywood manga adaptation. People love to call Cobra Kai “a live-action anime.” And Hunter Schafer reportedly bought Megan Thee Stallion anime merch (love this) and is in the dub cast for Belle.

As for Wolfhard, a Stranger Things anime spinoff is currently in production. However, that will almost certainly air on Netflix, not Crunchyroll. So I don’t think we can anticipate some kind of teaser during the Anime Awards. Wolfhard’s presence likely just because he’s a huge anime fan. Hell, he’s the reason Guillermo Del Toro knows about Chainsaw Man. If there is ever a Hollywood adaptation of Chainsaw Man, I will accept its inevitability if, and only if, it’s directed by Guillermo Del Toro.

And then, there’s the Sports People. From the NFL, we have Aidan Hutchinson of the Detroit Lions (hooray for my city of residence!) and Juju Smith-Schuster of the Kansas City Chiefs. There’s also WWE superstar and anime mega-fan / cosplayer Zelina Vega, who was recently revealed to be a commentator in the upcoming Street Fighter 6.

Rounding out the known presenters are YouTube streamers Sykkuno and Valkyrae.

Hollywood, huh? Are there other anime award ceremonies?

These presenters represent both Crunchyroll’s growing ambitions for the Anime Awards and the award ceremony’s unique position. Crunchyroll is a US-based company distributing a Japan-made product to increasingly international (but still mostly English-speaking) audiences. The Anime Awards is a celebration of a Japanese art form—and the dub actors around the world who bring it to life. But the voters are mostly American (probably), and the proceedings come from that Western, mostly American, perspective. To my knowledge, no other award ceremony exists in quite that same position.

It’s interesting to note, too, that there’s not an exact Japanese equivalent to the Anime Awards. In terms of prestige and hype, the equivalent for Japanese audiences is the Anime Grand Prix, which is hosted by the magazine Animage and is also conducted by popular vote. The AGP has been around for four decades, so you could argue it’s more prestigious than the Anime Awards. However, the winners of the Anime Grand Prix are announced in the magazine, not in a broadcast event.

There’s also the Seiyu Awards, which centers on voice actors, and Tokyo Anime Award Festival, which is sort of like an anime-centric version of Sundance.

Related: The 10 Best One Piece Characters on Attack of the Fanboy

Cultural exchange as award show

Interesting, right? Because, if we come back to the Western landscape, there’s also the matter that the “prestige” Western award ceremonies and festivals have a bad habit of ignoring or belittling anime’s contribution to film and TV. From that point of view, bringing in high-profile Hollywood guests serves to raise the profile of the awards. In turn, this could help to bring more attention to the anime industry in the “award / prestige” sphere, where attention has been historically lacking.

On the other hand, it’s easy to see this announcement of presenters getting met with some eye rolls. Questions might arise like, “Are we imposing American cultural norms on a Japanese art form?”, or, “Are we boasting about the ‘importance’ of American culture in the middle of a ceremony meant to celebrate Japanese media?” I reflexively felt this skepticism as well.

But, I mean, anime and Western media have always been in conversation with another. Look at the likes of Cowboy Bebop or Trigun for proof of how deep and far back that conversation extends. And while I think that the norms of American discourse has us primed to think critically in this way (which is a good way!), living in Japan for a period made it very clear to me that the average Japanese person under, say, 45 thinks that American culture is somewhere between “cool” to “really cool.” (I was actually shocked by this. And I was shocked by the volume of Starbucks storefronts and frequently out-the-door line-length which reflected this.)

Regardless of how you (or I) feel about it, Hollywood is the single biggest entertainment exporter in the world. Bringing in Hollywood talent serves as a megaphone to amplify how excellent anime is to audiences around the world. It’s not about the Hollywood or American sports talent in the end. All of those presenters are there because they are nerds who love anime. At the end of the day, it’s about anime and the people who create it.

This is only a handful of the presenters who will be present at the Anime Awards. Given that the ceremony is taking place in Tokyo, it’s likely that more Japanese presenters and talent will be announced. There are also musical performances yet to be announced, which is very exciting indeed. Hey, Crunchyroll? Please get the Uta hologram.

(Featured image: Crunchyroll)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a musician, audio person, writer, and nerd. When not talking about One Piece or Zelda (among other anime and games), she's finding surprising ways to play the guitar.