The production of a live-action version of your name was recently announced, and it came as a surprise to many. While Your name has become one of the most commercially successful anime films of all time, alongside spirited away, It is still largely gone under the radar of your average moviegoer.
One person who did notice it was director J.J. Abrams, who will be producing the movie at his studio Bad Robot alongside the original creators of the film, Toho. Abrams is responsible for directing the highly successful Star Wars: Episode 7 and has the endorsement of the producer of Your Name, Genki Kawamura.
If there’s one thing that I think most fans can agree on its those live-action adaptations of anime and manga have been really, really bad. From Dragonball Evolution all the way to this year’s Ghost in the Shell and Death Note, Hollywood has been struggling to get it right, but honestly, it shouldn’t be that hard.
Imaginative stories like Death Note basically write themselves, but, as I‘ve noted before in a previous post, they still get it wrong. Whether it be adapting films accurately or just writing a new version of the story, it seems like anime has never really gotten the mainstream representation it deserves. Now the question arises as to whether or not Abrams can do arguably one of the best-animated films of all time any justice.
Honestly, though, I’m not confident, for a few reasons. The first of which is the very medium that Your Name exists: anime. Anime has many things that make it great, be it character design, music, and the vast pop culture references, but one thing that makes anime so great is the art. Art is an essential part of an anime’s identity and trying to recreate that in a live action film is going to leave a lot to be desired.
A live action version would also have another problem: Culture. Your name is a Japanese story, through and through. Everything about the story of your name, from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to the uniquely Japanese tradition of a Shinto shrine and the mythos behind the Red String of Fate would go over the heads of an American audience. It definitely went over my head when I watched it the first time. Without the uniquely Japanese part of Your Name, it would just be a sci-fi film about switching bodies.
Although, I can’t be too filled with dread because there is a reason to have hope. J.J. Abrams at the helm of this project might mean that we might finally get an adaptation that does the original film justice. Abrams has been at the forefront of Sci-fi films for a while, and his 2011 film Super 8 is one of my favorite movies of all time. Even Makoto Shinkai, Your Name’s director, seemed excited about the joint production, saying:
“‘your name.’ is a film that was put together with the local creativity and domestic techniques of those of us living in Japan. With such a movie now intersecting with Hollywood, there’s the potential for the staff to show us new possibilities, which is something I’m looking forward to in the finished film.”
In light of recent tragedies, it is completely justified to stay skeptical of this project. Even with the team behind it, there is no guarantee that this won’t end up a complete trainwreck. It would be nice to believe that there is even a glimmer of hope with the name attached to it, but that is most likely wishful thinking.