It was recently brought to my attention that J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot will be taking on the task of remaking the hit Japanese anime film Your Name. I was also asked to expand my thoughts on the subject which I will now do so begrudgingly. Pretty much everything I’m saying is going to be a bit unfiltered and, perhaps, raw as I feel this is a subject that needs to be touched upon in the movie industry.
To sum up my thoughts as simply as possible: Don’t Do It. I did a review on Your Name back when it had a fairly wide U.S. release and, to me, the film is one of the greatest films we’ve gotten out of Japan since the heyday of Miyazaki. The music is fantastic, the art and animation is breath-taking, the story is intriguing; I don’t think this is something that Hollywood should mess with and I will touch on this in three major points.
The first is that I don’t think this story is fit for the general movie-going audience. The film’s story is set around a few older Japanese traditions that are critical to the plot yet I feel could go over the head of everyone who has no desire to hear about these ancient Japanese traditions. The concept of kuchikamizake (Google it) may gross people out which, in turn, may distract from the overall story. I’m also a bit concerned with how they may handle the two main leads. I specifically avoided the English dub of Your Name because I think a lot of us know that English voice actors can be extremely hit or miss. Generally Hollywood likes to reboot or remake films into moody teen dramas (I’m looking at you Power Rangers and your first trailer) and Your Name needs absolutely none of that. There’s just too many chances of this turning into a really cheesy adaptation without a lot of care being taken. If Abrams and Paramount are really serious about the film and want to give Makoto Shinkai, Your Name’s director and creator, something he could really be happy with then maybe this could turn into something really nice, but there’s plenty more reason to doubt. I would never expect this to be better than the original which brings us to my second point.
Anime and manga adaptations do not perform well in the box office. Whether it’s a lack of audience interest, a lack of respect from the studio, a lack of understanding of the source material, or a combination of all three, all recent anime adaptations have performed horribly. The 2013 remake of Oldboy ($4.9M worldwide vs $30M budget) I’ve heard pales in comparison to the original South Korean film of the same name ($15M worldwide vs $3M budget) and should be avoided. The 2008 adaptation of Speed Racer ($93.9M worldwide vs $120M budget) by the Wachowskis was too much for audiences to stomach as the over-the-top visuals weren’t enough to garner enough audience interest. The 2009 adaptation of Dragon Ball, Dragonball Evolution ($57.5M worldwide vs $30M budget), is perhaps the most hated anime adaptation of all time. Incredibly, creator of the series Akira Toriyama not only distanced himself from the project but the film’s failure is said to be most of the reason why he started writing Dragon Ball Super as he didn’t want fans to remember Dragon Ball based on a poorly made film. One of the writers, I believe, for Dragon Ball Evolution actually came out and stated that the film was just a job for them and that the source material was never fully considered. 2010’s The Last Airbender ($319.7M worldwide vs $150M budget) was panned by critics and fans of the television show. The film had questionable casting decisions as well. The 2017 Ghost in the Shell ($169.8M worldwide vs $110M budget) remake also created controversy in hiring Scarlett Johansson as its lead, although that controversy was significantly misplaced in this author’s opinion, and then bombed. I’ve heard that fans of the series were incredibly disappointed although I just don’t think people were interested in seeing this film. The list of poor anime and manga adaptations is nearly as long as poor video game adaptations and gives me little reason to trust a live-action version of Your Name.
My final point is that anime live and die based on their music. When I think back to my favorite anime series of all time, FLCL, do you know what rings in my head more than anything? The soundtrack is why I hold Japanese music in such high regard these days (The band that made all of the music, The Pillows, is quite awesome). Even the instrumental bits during scenes of extreme emotional moments in Dragon Ball Z are memorable. These scenes feel intense and impactful thanks to the music. Your Name’s score is incredible, it fits the film and feels so inspired. I still listen to a handful of tracks from the soundtrack to this day (both Japanese and English versions). While I understand that a film’s score is going to be different than that of a television series, the point still remains. Part of what makes Your Name memorable is its music, thanks to Radwimps, and I just don’t think that a live-action version is going to be able to do the same.
What I’m trying to say out of all of this is: Don’t remake a film just because you can or even if it was popular. There’s always a chance it could be good, especially since Abrams’s Bad Robot team is working closely with Toho and a few of the people who worked on Your Name, but I just don’t see this as being something to look forward to. We were already given something quite incredible with Your Name and I just worry, a bit, that a live-action adaptation is going to be a smudge on the legacy of this film. I’m not saying to out-right disregard this version but to be extremely cautious moving forward.