Hollywood Greenlights Live Action Your Name Because Of Course They Do

Your Name

Recently I wrote a recommendation post for Your Name, a beautifully animated film that was released in Japan last year, and in US theaters earlier this year. It’ll be out on Blu-ray and DVD in November. This morning I awoke to the news that J.J. Abrams is signed on to produce a Hollywood live action Your Name. Are you kidding me?

Your Name is the highest-grossing anime of all time, and this is from January, before it was released for US audiences. It dethroned Spirited Away which came out in 2001. It was selected as 2016’s Best Animated Feature by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and submitted for the 89th Academy Awards, though it was ultimately not chosen. Imagine if it had been given a wide release in America and promoted the same way American films are.

There is a lot about a live action Your Name that is supremely frustrating. First and foremost is the fact that all of the recent anime to live-action films we have had have been completely whitewashed. Scarlett Johansson as the lead in Ghost in the Shell, an almost entirely white cast for Netflix’s Death Note, the abominations that were The Last Airbender and Dragonball… Your Name, as a film, relies so heavily on Japanese culture that they will have to a) cast Asian actors (preferably Japanese, but apparently we can’t quibble about that because it beats the alternative) and b) stick to the Japanese culture, otherwise the story doesn’t work.

I honestly don’t know how you could remake this for American audiences, as we are apparently too stupid to understand that other cultures exist. I mean, the idea that something needs to be “Americanized” to be enjoyed by Americans is an idea that needs to die, but I do worry a live action Your Name will lose the essence of the animated one. One important element in the film is the culture shock between small-town Mitsuha and city-boy Taki, something that isn’t as prevalent in America. And the only way I believe that the spiritual component of the film could work is if the Mitsuha character was Native American (which would actually be quite nice, so naturally they won’t do it).

Your Name literally just came out. It has only been a year since the film came out in Japanese theaters, and it only hit US theaters (in limited release) in April. It’s not even out on Blu-ray yet! I’m very much over this Hollywood habit of remaking or rebooting things that are less than ten years old, but this is just ridiculous. Things like this only add fuel to the argument that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt, only churning out sequels and remakes because it’s all about money and not about art. Of course, you could make the same argument about anime, which is why whenever something new and interesting comes out, it’s upsetting to see it get snatched up for a remake so quickly.

I’m still not sure how I feel about these animated to live-action films anyway. Taking popular cartoons and making them “real” films implies that animation on its own is somehow less of an art form, which is just absurd. Animation is a painstaking process that deserves all the accolades that it can get and shouldn’t be undermined by all of these constant live action remakes. There isn’t a whole lot that you can do in a live action film that you can’t do in an animated one; in fact, the opposite is more likely true. There are things that you can pull off in animation that you simply can’t do with actual people. I have enjoyed the live action Disney updates like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, but nothing about them was new or ground-breaking. Nothing was added to those stories that couldn’t have been in an animated film.

live action Your NameAnime as a medium has a lot of misconceptions about it in America. I remember having a few of those myself when I was younger. I think a lot of Americans hear the term “anime” and assume it’s something weird or even sexual and automatically dismiss it without realizing that anime has as many genres as anything else. Even animation in this country is almost immediately written off as “a kids’ film”, and a lot of good animated films get discarded because of it. But a lot of what makes Your Name great is the animation. Even a beautifully-shot film isn’t the same as amazing art, and this movie is full of it.

Finally, as much as I enjoyed the rebooted Star Trek films, Abrams’ remakes robbed the Star Trek universe of its soul. Are they entertaining movies? They sure are. But they’re not really Star Trek; they’re generic sci-fi movies that use familiar names and places to connect to an audience that doesn’t understand what made the original Star Trek so revolutionary. And I loved The Force Awakens but I understand the criticism that it’s just a retread of A New Hope. Plus, while Eric Heisserer is the Oscar-nominated screenwriter behind Arrival, this is also the guy who wrote Final Destination 5, so…

Genki Kawamura, who produced the original, will also help Abrams and Lindsey Weber produce the live action Your Name. Said Kawamura, “I can’t think of a better team to bring Your Name to a rebirth than J. J. Abrams and his team. And Arrival, which Eric Heisserer wrote, was one of the most moving sci-fi films I’ve seen in recent years.”

Makoto Shinkai, who wrote and directed the original, said, “Your Name is a film created with the innate imaginations of a Japanese team and put together in a domestic medium. When such a work is imbued with Hollywood filmmaking, we may see new possibilities that we had been completely unaware of. I am looking forward to the live-action film with excited anticipation.”

Yes, yes, being outraged when the people involved with the original film are not is asinine. If they can get on board, why can’t I? It hasn’t even come out yet, why are you assuming it will be bad? Because it’s just unnecessary, that’s why. There’s no reason to do a live action Your Name that isn’t money, and that’s just very frustrating. I would much rather see the original get the love and attention that it deserves.

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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