Hollywood doesn't have the best track record when it comes to adaptations of manga and anime source material and the recent announcement that Star Wars director J. J. Abrams is making a live-action version of Your Name has reignited "whitewashing" fears for fans.
Makoto Shinkai's Your Name is the most successful anime feature of all-time. The film, which debuted in Japan last year and has outperformed iconic films like Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, has universal appeal but is uniquely Japanese. It tells the story of two teenagers who discover they can swap bodies and must work together -- despite being separated by time and space -- to prevent an impending disaster and features distinctive touches that center the story culturally, including an original Radwimps soundtrack and Shinkai's exquisitely recreated Tokyo landmarks.
The prospect of Hollywood remaking Your Name as a live-action film immediately drew concern from fans who have cited recent remakes of Ghost in the Shell and Death Note as examples of Hollywood erasing the Japanese elements of the stories, characters and settings to "whitewash" the films. Specifically, fans point to the casting of Scarlett Johansson as cyborg heroine Major in Ghost in the Shell and the complete transplant of Death Note from Tokyo to Seattle, as well as a nearly all-white cast, as signs that Hollywood is simply trying to profit off the popularity of anime and manga without truly telling authentic stories. The backlash to Death Note's whitewashing was so bad that its director, Adam Wingard, was forced to deny the accusations.
However, not everyone thinks that Your Name is doomed to suffer the same fate. As The Guardian reports, there are critics who feel like Abrams' take on Your Name presents an opportunity to get things right and redeem Hollywood's bad track record. The live-action film has a few things that could make that possible. The first is that Genki Kawamura, the original film's producer, is overseeing alongside Lindsey Webber with Paramount Pictures and Abrams' Bad Robot studio producing.
The other thing Abrams' Your Name has going for it is that Shinkai not only made the deal with Paramount to bring the film to life, but he is also looking forward to seeing what Hollywood will do with the story.
"Your Name is a film created with the innate imaginations of a Japanese team and put together in a domestic medium," Shinkai has said. "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."
For more about the original Your Name film, you can read ComicBook's review of it here.