Writer-director Makoto Shinkai‘s hit anime YOUR NAME is one of Japan’s best-performing films ever made with a total worldwide box office of over $355 million. It’s the 4th highest-grossing film in Japan itself, 7th among animated films worldwide, and #1 when it comes to anime, having taken over the spot from SPIRITED AWAY. Though it only took in about $5 million on domestic shores, YOUR NAME clearly became an international sensation. That’s unsurprising considering that the film is a touching drama, an engrossing romance, and a heartfelt comedy, but it is surprising since YOUR NAME is also a body-switching story between a male and female high school student that finds Japanese traditional and modern ways of living coming into conflict in original ways. It should have been an impossible balance to maintain, but YOUR NAME did it expertly well, thanks in big part to its medium as an anime.
So now, of course, American film companies wants to turn YOUR NAME into a live-action film. Toho Co. has partnered up with Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot to bring YOUR NAME to big screens with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Eric Heisserer (ARRIVAL) penning the adaptation. Makoto Shinkai, who wrote the original novel before adapting it and directing the anime, is apparently on board, saying YOUR NAME was “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.”
Lindsey Weber will produce for Bad Robot alongside JJ Abrams, with Genki Kawamura, returning to produce after his role as producer of the original film. Toho handles distribution of the film in Japan. Kawamura was all-in as well, saying:
“Just like in the film it feels like a dream. Mr. Abrams and his team have captivated audiences in their masterful reinvention of known properties. And Mitsuha and Taki have found a perfect narrator, Mr. Heisserer, to tell their sci-fi infused love story, which gave the film such drive. The meetings so far have been creatively stimulating with fantastic ideas that no doubt will make for a great movie. I am greatly honored to work with these incredible creators in bringing to audiences the Hollywood live action version of Your Name.”
I’m confident that Abrams and Heisserer are up to the task, but I’m not so sure the task is a necessary one to begin with. The anime obviously achieved a high level of success by delivering a fantastic story in a medium that perfectly befits the tale; the live-action adaptation feels like a hollow attempt to cash in on its success. Hopefully Paramount has learned something from the white-washing controversy surrounding GHOST IN THE SHELL, among other anime adaptations, but something tells me that the Americanized version of YOUR NAME will not be casting Japanese leads. (I’d love to be proven wrong here.) Worse yet, an Americanization of YOUR NAME means the likely loss of the Japanese cultural traditions and history, and the very specific aspects of Tokyo living, things which make the story even richer.