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The Anime of the Year Winner at the Crunchyroll Anime Awards Is a Huge Surprise

I love Anya, but I also love an underdog

David from Cyberpunk Edgerunners being cool

Award shows are often at their best when an underdog comes up from behind for the surprise win. Then again, what exactly comprises an “underdog” is a matter of perspective. That’s especially the case for the Crunchyroll Anime Awards, whose winners are decided by a combination of judges and votes from the general public. This year, 18 million votes were tallied from fans in 200 countries. The results rolled out during the stream of the 2023 Anime Awards. And the winner of Anime of the Year, the biggest award of the morning/night (depending on your local time zone), was—Cyberpunk: Edgerunners.

Usually, Studio TRIGGER delivering a win wouldn’t be surprising in the least. After all, we’re talking about an established, widely respected studio which has given us landmark works like Kill la Kill and Promare. But there are a couple reasons Cyberpunk: Edgerunners‘ big win might take some fans by surprise. Hell, everyone at the Studio TRIGGER table at the award ceremony looked surprised. We’re talking open-mouthed gapes and spontaneous tears of joy. The team representative who accepted the award even said, “This is totally unexpected.”

Why the Cyberpunk’s win is surprising

a new squad for the ages

Cyberpunk Edgerunner‘s competition was formidable. Edgerunners was up against two series which could be considered “the global anime lynchpins,” Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer. It was also up against last year’s runaway debut hit, Spy x Family. The other nominees were Lycoris Recoil, which won Best Original Anime (meaning, not heralding from a manga), and Ranking of Kings‘ second cour. Which I loved, but have feelings about how it ended.

Personally, I was certain the award would go to Attack on Titan, Demon Slayer, or Spy x Family. So were most pundits. (If you’re wondering, I voted for Spy x Family.) That the award would go to one of those three seemed pretty obvious, given the visibility of their fandoms and the huge foundational rooting of their franchises. The latter of which is especially impressive with Spy x Family. It only debuted last year, but is now everywhere. However, I will now eat my words.

All of the awards which preceded Anime of the Year definitely backed up my theory, though. The vast majority of the night’s awards were gobbled up by those three series. Demon Slayer won everything related to animation and character design. Among tons of others, Spy x Family won Best New Series—which Edgerunners was also nominated for. Attack on Titan won quite a handful as well. Although both Attack on Titan and Demon Slayer lost Best Continuing Series to One Piece. Eat your hearts out, my fellow nakama! (Seriously, One Piece was excellent last year.)

In fact, the only other major award Cyberpunk: Edgerunners won was Best Voice Acting (English), for Zach Aguilar’s performance as the show’s protagonist, David Martinez.

The last, pretty fun reason Cyberpunk: Edgerunners‘ win is a surprise? It’s the only nominee which is not streaming on Crunchyroll. It’s a Netflix show! Honestly, props to Crunchyroll for not rigging their awards towards their own platform.

Cyberpunk’s success

By the time Cyberpunk: Edgerunners dropped on Netflix during summer 2022, you’d have been forgiven for forgetting that there was going to be an anime which took place in the world of Cyberpunk 2077. The collaboration between the Japan-based TRIGGER and the game’s Poland-based studio, CD Projekt Red, seemed unlikely from the get-go. And given what a hot freaking mess Cyberpunk 2077 was at launch, the fact that Edgerunners was immediately and obviously incredible was all the more impressive.

Hell, everyone’s talking now about how The Last of Us “finally got video game adaptations right.” They’re forgetting Edgerunners. Okay, sure, Edgerunners isn’t “adaptation” of the game in the literal sense. But it’s the only series or film based on a video game which you could easily argue is better than the game. At least at launch. During his acceptance speech, the TRIGGER representative referenced “arguments” which “were worth it.” I’ll say!

So congrats, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners! And congrats to Franz Ferdinand, just because.

(Featured image: Studio TRIGGER)

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Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.