Anime Trending was invited to a screening of Anime Supremacy as part of the September 6 opening ceremony of Malaysia’s Japan Film Festival 2022, which runs until October 9. The festival’s 12-film lineup includes two anime movies: Blue Thermal and Inu-Oh.
Anime Supremacy features a battle for ratings between two anime that air during the same weekend time slot. In one corner, we have mecha anime Soundback: Kanade no Ishi, helmed by unproven director Hitomi Saito (Riho Yoshioka) from Tokei Animation. In the other corner is Unmei Sensen Liddell-light, a magical girl title that is the anticipated comeback work of genius director Chiharu Oji (Tomoya Nakamura).
As Hitomi attempts to prove herself, her producer Osamu Yukishiro (Tasuku Emoto) does all he can to boost their show’s visibility, even if that means interrupting Hitomi’s storyboarding time to send her to photo shoots. Meanwhile, Studio Edge producer Kayako Arishima (Machiko Ono), who has a reputation as a former “legendary” production assistant, tries to manage the challenging Chiharu, whose non-kid audience-friendly desire to kill off his protagonist doesn’t sit well with the production committee.
An adaptation of the novel by Mizuki Tsujimura, Anime Supremacy’s trailers provide the impression that it’d be a decently fun experience, and there are certainly moments that deliver on this promise. When Chiharu shows up after going AWOL, Kawako commemorates their reunion with a jab to the face. Much later, when both series have begun airing, Hitomi discovers a shocking (to her) food ad of Soundback, with a powerful line from the anime recontextualized into a cooking-related pun.
With a 128-minute runtime, it’s not surprising that Anime Supremacy can’t delve as deeply into either the production or creative aspects of anime production as anime-about-making-anime series like Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken! and Shirobako. Nevertheless, some nice moments about anime production are sprinkled in, like the brief montage of anime production aspects like compositing and digital painting and a time lapse sequence of an animator (from a third-party studio that is involved with both Soundback and Liddell-light) drawing a Soundback illustration for a magazine cover. One of the plot threads revolves around the friction between Hitomi and her lead seiyuu, so we also spend some time in the recording studio and see quite a bit of Marina Kouno.
While the movie makes mention of the anime industry’s tight schedules and shows the aforementioned animator getting an important off-day interrupted by a work call, the story ultimately sees the staff for both productions passionately executing last-minute changes that entail additional work for the sake of their show and the directors’ visions. I didn’t mind the lack of serious critique since Anime Supremacy never struck me as being that sort of movie, but I did wish that it had done better to make me invested in how its fictional anime turned out.
Unfortunately, the Soundback-Liddell-light battle that connects everything together ends up being a weak point. While the setup sounds like material for an interesting anime production-themed underdog story, the execution left me feeling detached for considerable stretches of time. While Anime Supremacy features some nicely produced anime sequences for both shows, the ratings battle is mainly conveyed through a deluge of viewer comments and shots of robot and motorcycle-riding magical girl shapes — representing Soundback and Liddell-light respectively — racing through the sky. It’s a lot of tell and not enough show, and this stylistic choice meant that I actually lost track at times as to why Soundback was no longer inspiring confidence after its well-received premiere. There’s also not much completed footage of Liddell-light to feast on until near the end of the film, making it hard to really comprehend how Soundback compares to its competitor.
Chiharu is another casualty of the “tell” approach. He’s supposedly an amazing director whose pre-Liddell-light anime, Hikari no Yosuga, inspired Hitomi to quit her public servant career and join the anime industry in order to create an impactful work of her own. But since we don’t get to see firsthand how Hikari no Yosuga is like, neither Chiharu’s supposed reputation nor his show’s effect on Hitomi feel particularly convincing.
This doesn’t make Anime Supremacy a terrible experience, but it does hobble its entertainment value quite a bit and prevents me from considering it a nice live-action companion to Eizouken! and Shirobako. It also makes it harder for me to ignore smaller issues like the film’s occasionally disjointed feel and how Soundback’s production feels like a blur of events rather than having a clear timeline. Anime Supremacy is probably still worth a watch if you like anime, but it’s not as compelling as it could have been.
Director: Kouhei Yoshino (Gone Wednesday)
Scriptwriter: Yousuke Masaike (Sabishii Oka de Kari wo Suru)
Anime supervisor: Atsutoshi Umezawa (One Piece:Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island planning, Ghost Sweeper Mikami director)
Supervision: Toei Animation
Soundback: Kanade no Ishi main staff
Director: Azuma Tani (Okko’s Inn series co-director)
Original character designer: Eisaku Kubonouchi (Carole and Tuesday)
Mecha designer: Takayuki Yanase (Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise, Expelled From Paradise and Eureka Seven: AO co-mechanical designer)
Unmei Sensen Liddell-light main staff
Director: Takafumi Ootsuka (One Piece Stampede)
Original character designer: Takahiro Kishida (Haikyuu!! and Puella Magi Madoka Magica character designer)
Animation director: Hideki Takahashi (Haikyuu!! To the Top action animation director)