What is going on in Hollywood? For the past five years, anime after anime has been unsuccessfully adapted. No filmmakers of color outside of M. Night Shyamalan have been courted to direct these films, yet the industry continues to do them. For years we’ve heard rumors of an Akira live-action remake, and we’ve been disappointed by Death Note and Ghost in the Shell theatrical films. Now, it looks like Hollywood is keying in on one of the best Japanese animated films of the decade.
According to Deadline, Marc Webb, the director of the Amazing Spider-Man franchise and (500) Days of Summer has signed on to direct a Your Name live-action remake. The film will be adapted by Eric Heisserer and will be distributed by Toho, Paramount, and Bad Robot. While Toho’s involvement bodes well, as does the news that filmmaker Genki Kawamura, will produce the film. However, after we’ve been burned so many times, it is very tough to not be skeptical this time out.
Your Name became a breakthrough hit in 2017 when it released in American. The story follows two young teenagers who periodically swap bodies. The young boy lives in a metropolis, while the young girl lives in a rural community. What begins as a comedy turns into a romance as time passes. However, when the boy goes to meet the young woman, tragedy strikes.
Your Name won several big prizes from film critics the year before, including Best Animated Feature from the Las Angeles Film Critics Association. It was impeccably animated and stands out as one of the best Japanese animated features of the past decade or so.
Sadly, despite the acclaim, parts of the story are already being changed to make the film more relatable for American audiences. The setting will be moved to America, with the young boy living in Chicago. One of the few positives to take from the changes is that the girls role will be changed to make the character of Native American descent. However, if the film turns out to follow the original story, this could also be problematic.
It seems like audiences have spoken about their distrust of white filmmakers handling anime properties as they convert to live action. What is particularly troubling here is that Webb unsuccessfully helmed The Amazing Spider-Man films, making me question why he is getting this opportunity. With a built in fan base to the property, there will certainly be an audience. It is unclear why Webb is getting another opportunity to direct a potentially big budget, special effects driven film, when there are other directors of color or women who could easily handle this property.