The highest grossing anime film ever, Your Name, is getting a live-action adaptation courtesy of nerd king J. J. Abrams and his production company Bad Robot. A segment of the internet collectively groaned, but perhaps there’s reason to be excited.
In Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, a teenaged Japanese boy and girl mysteriously begin swapping bodies intermittently. What begins as an innocent and fun fantasy takes unexpected turns, transforming into a dazzling spectacle as the two struggle to meet and avert a disaster. To date, Your Name has grossed more than $355 million and is the highest-grossing anime of all time.
Screen Daily reported Wednesday that Paramount Pictures and J. J. Abrams’ Bad Robot acquired the rights to adapt the anime into a live-action film. Abrams, who previously produced all three Chris Pine-led Star Trek movies and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will produce Your Name alongside Lindsey Weber and Genki Kawamura, the anime’s original producer. Eric Heisserer, who wrote the Osca-nominated Arrival, will adapt the screenplay, and Toho will handle distribution in Japan.
No director has been confirmed yet, but considering Abrams’ skill at genre fiction, it’s entirely possible that he might helm the project himself.
Hollywood has a less than glamorous history of adapting anime properties before, with many ongoing frustrations about whitewashing being legitimate concerns. It happened with Ghost in the Shell. More recently, Adam Wingard brought to Netflix, and defended, a thoroughly Caucasian live-action version of Death Note based on a horror manga and anime steeped in Japanese mythology.
Fans threatened to boycott Death Note on account of the whitewashing, and when it did finally release, most just shrugged at the film’s mediocrity and moved on.
But fans sometimes forget that the best adaptations can be more interpretive in nature, and if anybody has captivated audiences time and time again with his work in sci-fi and other genre films, it’s J. J. Abrams. And considering that Arrival was one of the absolute best fantastical sci-fi films of 2016, Eric Heisserer writing the script for Your Name presents another cause for excitement.
Still, concerns are already being raised about what an Americanized version of Your Name could look like:
The collective response of the internet seems decidedly negative, with outlets like Kotaku saying “fans would be forgiven for being less enthusiastic.” Some see it as Hollywood undermining the legitimacy as a medium of storytelling.
Some rightfully called the original “perfect as is”:
The collective exasperated sigh and forehead-slapping are both audible:
Whether or not the original Your Name is indeed perfect as is, a Hollywood adaption could only further to widen the audience for such an awe-inspiring and original story. With Abrams and Heisserer involved, Your Name is in good hands. Even original producer Genki Kawamura thinks so, along with Makoto Shinkai, writer and director of the original.
Kawamura said in a statement, “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.” He calls Your Name a “sci-fi infused love story” and says he is “greatly honored to work with these incredible creators in bringing to audiences the Hollywood live-action version of Your Name.”
Shinkai added his own enthusiasm:
“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.”
We don’t know much about the upcoming adaptation, but the creators of the original seem excited for the potential it has to tell a similar kind of story to an even wider audience.
The Your Name live-action adaption has no confirmed schedule thus far.