“Kimi no Na wa.” ("your name."), the No. 4 top-grossing movie of all time in Japan, will be remade into a live action Hollywood movie — and fans, so far, have reacted in both horror and intrigue.
Last Thursday, it was announced that the anime film, which became a household name among anime and non-anime fans alike in 2016, will be directed and co-produced by none other than JJ Abrams. The announcement is already causing controversy among fans. To many, Hollywood has a god-awful reputation when it comes to doing justice in recreating Asian works and utilizing Asian actors.
Last month, the director of Netflix’s movie remake of Japan’s “Death Note” shut down his Twitter account, and the reason was thought to be linked to the backlash received from the remake. That including complaints about changing the ethnicities of the originally Japanese cast of characters. Other films like Scarlett Johansson’s “Ghost in the Shell” have received a similar backlash.
The Hollywood version of "your name." will be a joint production between Toho, the film's distributor in Japan, Paramount Pictures, and Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions. But, at least the producer of “your name.” is also on that list, which may help ensure some type of authenticity, which is already a cause for concern for fans.
How have non-Japanese reacted?
Public response from non-Japanese hasn’t shown much optimism so far.
Some fans are skeptical to hear that the Hollywood remake scriptwriter is Eric Heisserer, who gave us screenplays for action and horror flicks like "Arrival" (which earned him an Academy Award nomination), as well as the 2011 horror film, "The Thing," and the "2010 A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Opinions from commenters on Facebook and Japan Today’s website are unsurprisingly critical.
“It's essentially the same thing as when the dumb kid in class copies another student's homework,” one commenter wrote.
Others referenced the perceived whitewashing of “Ghost in a Shell,” saying “I'm excited for Scarlett Johansson's next big film.”
Some said they have just had enough: “I get mad every time I read news like this. Stop remaking someone else's art and appreciate the original.” But most people just couldn’t understand why Hollywood even wants to recreate a very Japanese storyline for mass appeal in Western culture:
“I don't know any film that has been improved by going from anime to Hollywood live action. Instead of bringing the Anime to them, how about bringing them to Anime??” one reader commented.
How have Japanese reacted?
Interestingly enough, last week on Japanese television morning news, people seem to be filled with more intrigue than outrage. During the TV interviews, sentiment was generally more pragmatic. For example, British actress Emma Watson would likely to be preferred as “Mitsuha,” the main character, one person said. And, some Japanese hope that the music by Radwimps will be included in the remake because they understand (rightfully) that this movie is entirely tied to its soundtrack.
They also wondered (and rightly, so) how some parts of the movie’s Japanese traditions and locations would (or could) be remade for Western cultural consumption. An example would be how to adapt the Japanese ritual of kuchikamizake, which is the act of making sake “brewed” by “virgin maidens” chewing the rice, spitting it into a bottle, and letting it ferment.
But for those who have not yet seen the film, here are a few things to know about the anime by director Makoto Shinkai's work that has rocked Japan’s popular culture since mid-2016.
-- The plot is both a meaningful teen love story and sci-fi drama set in both the countryside and contemporary Tokyo.
-- Since its release, it has made over $355 million worldwide and domestically.
-- Japanese rock band Radwimps produced the wildly popular soundtrack specifically for the movie.
-- The movie was shown in more than 90 countries, the premiere being set in Los Angeles Anime Expo.
-- A lot of the places in the movie are actual parts of Japan. For example, Itomori lake town is Lake Suwa located in Nagano Prefecture.
So, what do you think? Will JJ Abrahms do it justice, or will the remake leave fans outraged?
Sabria Meghraoui contributed to this article.© Japan Today