Director Makoto Shinkai’s "your name." was a huge hit with hard-core anime fans, but the film owes no small part of its success to its ability to appeal to viewers outside the otaku market. Sure, it’s got its share of anime tropes, but it’s also a relatable teenage love story, plus a science fiction thriller, and unlike so many other anime films it doesn’t require familiarity with outside source material, spin-offs, or a dictionary’s worth of jargon to provide a complete, satisfying, and emotionally moving experience.
That broad appeal has not only made "your name." an unprecedented success with overseas moviegoers, but has also earned it some very big supporters in the Hollywood film industry. How big? Toho, the film's distributor in Japan, has just announced that a live-action Hollywood version of "your name." is in the works, with none other than JJ Abrams attached as a producer.
The Hollywood "your name." will be a joint production between Toho, Paramount Pictures, and Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. Along with Abrams, Lindsey Weberand Genki Kawamura (producer of the "your name." anime) will serve as producers. Handling the script is Eric Heisserer, screenwriter for "Arrival" (which earned him an Academy Award nomination) and "Lights Out," as well as the 2011 "The Thing" and the "2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street."
Shinkai himself commented on the project, 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.”
Kawamura also sounded incredibly upbeat about the project.
“There could be no better team to make this. It’s like a dream. When I heard that JJ Abrams was interested in making a Hollywood live-action version of 'your name.', I couldn’t believe it. Right up until I met with him and the people from Bad Robot in person, I kept thinking ‘I’m dreaming. This has got to be a dream.' But it turns out it’s real.”
The producer also expressed that he has the utmost confidence in Heisserer’s talents.
“'your name.' is propelled to its climax by a fusion of science fiction and romance elements. I am certain that Eric will do an excellent job conveying that.”
No announcements have been made regarding casting or filming locations, but it’s unlikely that the live-action "your name." U.S. partners would be amenable to working with an all-Japanese, Japanese-speaking cast or filming in Japan (where filming permits are notoriously hard to obtain). While "your name." does feature some extensive Shinto imagery, most of it exists as symbolic window dressing, and the plot’s connections to Japanese folklore and societal norms aren’t so deep-seated that non-Japanese substitutes would ruin the film’s message. Still, the high-profile backlashes from pre-existing franchise fans against this year’s live-action "Death Note" and "Ghost in the Shell" for removing Japanese elements found in the source material have to something the Hollywood "your name." production team is aware of.
Another difficulty the live-action "your name." will face actually comes from one of the anime’s greatest strengths, namely its gorgeous visuals. While many anime-to-live-action projects struggle to preserve the look and atmosphere of the characters, in the case of "your name." that challenge extends to the backgrounds and scenery as well. Shinkai (and by association anime studio CoMix Wave Films) gives settings a moist, glistening, vividly colorful quality that perfectly complements the pure-hearted emotion and cleansing catharsis of his films, and puling that feat off in live-action will be as intimidating an undertaking as anything else for the producers of the Hollywood remake.
Of course, it’s worth noting that no one expected the animated "your name." to have the gigantic impact it did either. Prior to its release, Shinkai’s name was really only known among anime enthusiasts, and while his visuals always delivered, he had as many storytelling hits as misses. So maybe "your name." can surprise everyone again by being the rare live-action anime adaptation that isn’t quickly forgotten or only remembered as a cautionary tale.
Sources: Eiga.com, IT Media, Deadline Hollywood
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