My Thoughts on Your Name's (Kimi no Na Wa) Hollywood Remake

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It was late one night, I was washing dishes in my kitchen and a good friend of mine who was visiting was sitting at my kitchen table behind me. 

"Did you hear about Your Name getting a Hollywood remake with JJ Abrams at the helm?" 

As much as I wanted to keep washing dishes and continue like what my friend had said to me wasn't a phrase possible to even conceive in our universe, I couldn't. 
I turned the water off, took a deep breath, and turned around. I gave him my honest opinion and of course it delved into a chat about Hollywood Remakes of Anime, a topic in conversations that usually end on a negative note with me. 

The next morning my social feeds were filled with opinions and shares of articles announcing the news. 
If you've been around a while as an anime fan there's a good chance you know about live-action remakes and their usually cringy production. 
I think its wonderful that anime can be an entertainment medium that can touch people's hearts and generate large amounts of fandom anywhere in the world. 
I also think that it is fantastic that something can become popular and loved enough that people want to make a live-action movie to (usually) honor the original material. 
But I don't like Hollywood remakes most- if not all the time.

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So what's so horrible about the idea of Kimi no Na Wa, a gorgeous gem produced by Makoto Shinkai- a very Japanese movie with a lot of culture packed into it's sci-fi body-swapping mystery love story- being reproduced by Hollywood for theaters everywhere? 
Check my full review of the movie to see what I thought of it.

Let's break it down. 
After I list a few points here I'll ultimately end with my final absolute idea on the matter. 

Loss of culture, aesthetic, character. 

One big thing that tends to happen in remakes, specifically live-action ones made in the west, is a loss of culture as Japanese settings are tossed away for American ones. Characters who're usually Japanese with their own mannerisms and personal characteristics having a part of their own culture and/or home are also traded for strong-looking American men or extra mature looking women with English names who're from America. On some occasions western producers wont totally erase the idea of a schoolgirl or adolescent girl fighting bad guys. Usually they go out of their way to remove the 'cute' idea and go with a more westernized 'bad-ass' or mature look. To go with the loss of setting and character, culture and aesthetics can also be forgotten and shoved aside as if they're in the way of a better hardcore American locale.

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Let's examine "All You Need Is Kill", a light-novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and a manga illustrated by Takeshi Obata (Best known for Death Note, which has also had a recent less-than-stellar remake) which follows the story of Keiji Kiriya, a Japanese exoskeleton-using soldier who is flung into a time-loop plot as he fights off aliens laying siege to Japan (and the rest of the world). He has a friend named Shasta, a Native American, battle-axe crafting, gachapon-collecting, mechanic.

Hollywood loved the story and transformed All You Need Is Kill into a Tom Cruise movie called "Edge of Tomorrow" aka "Live.Die.Repeat.", Cruise playing Keiji Kiriya, renamed to 'Bill Cage' (The Cage is a reference to Keiji's name and his *spoiler!* nickname at the end of the book 'Killer Cage' based on how Americans pronounced his name), and Shasta is totally removed from the movie. 
The movie destroyed other minor characters' images by overwriting them with tough Caucasian military men. 
Oh, it also takes place in France and Germany instead.

fhfhhf

One of the things that urks me the most is how Hollywood views Japan, Japanese Characters, and Japanese Culture & Settings when doing their own movies that are remakes. To me it feels like those things are just viewed to Hollywood producers as 'in the way' of making an Americanized version that producers think movie-goers will understand or relate to better. 

I think that's terrible thinking because by this point America is a decently multi-cultural society, I think we can handle having more asian actors, entertainment, and themes being big here. Not just a cameo from Gackt in a Woody Harrelson movie (Bunraku), J-rock/pop band Orange Range getting in an instrumental single (yes, because the Japanese words seemed to be 'too much') in Fantastic Four, or any other cameos that include usually Japan-only talent showing up in Hollywood. Its as if Hollywood is afraid of that. 
Why? 
Because when big money is involved who wants to take big gambles? 
I feel that's how they see it, as a gamble.

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The anime-boom in the west that has taken place over the past few decades has proved to confuse some people and teach A LOT of people about Japanese Culture and more. 
Part of the reason a lot of movie-goers who're not anime fans or not aware of Japanese culture may be confused is because there's still simply not enough of it getting out there, because of Hollywood producers and other content creators in media and everywhere else feeling like it's a gamble as to whether or not the general western public will understand or not. 

But Japanese culture, or at the very least- the plot of a movie- couldn't require being a rocket scientist, could it? 
Isn't at least one reason why millions of kids and adults alike get interested in Japanese culture or at least anime because its new and different than what normally goes around in media/movies/tv/etc? I know it was for me. Dragonball Z, Gundam, and Tenchi Muyo! was unlike anything I had ever seen when I was 7 years old back in the 90's. They're still unique as heck now 20 years later. 

Now before I go off topic I think its safe to think of a couple more quick points. 
As far as Japanese media goes in the west, J-pop and J-rock have always and still have some rough times making it into the mainstream. Its a lot more understandable as music is mostly only auditory and if you don't know Japanese then you're going to either fall into the category of "I love it anyways, I don't need to understand words to feel & enjoy the music!" or "I can't understand it, I need something in my language."

There's a plethora of Japanese Video Games coming out all the time and it's no secret Japan is a titan in the gaming industry worldwide, however with some games and even with some anime there's always licensing, legalities, and even just some studios that want to keep something exclusive to Japan- all of that to consider. 

I think possibly only a small amount of people in the west are actually aware of just how much the Japanese anime industry itself wants to share anime with the world and loves the fact that the west is partly responsible for the success, or continuing success, of many anime franchises and series. 
The Japanese Government even set up a council of anime merchandise vendors/store owners, anime studio leaders/owners, and other figures in the industry to assess and make the best out of Japan's success with one of it's biggest industries and the world's relationship with it. Yes, its very much a thing. 

Its not what I consider 'widely-known', but if you google blogger & doll-maker Danny Choo's posts about his work with the Japanese government you'll see. 

I felt it was necessary to mention those various points of Japanese media making it around the globe, there's a lot of variables and some incarnations of media are more common and some are more scarce. But the willingness of Japan to allow licensing and share anime, or one step further- to recognize it's success and potentials globally is an awesome, awesome, thing. Aka: It shouldn't be hard to have a healthy and creative relationship between anime studios and western producers, at least enough to be able to make decent movies. 

Creators like Makoto Shinkai are okay with allowing what happens (usually) because 1. he's getting paid by it, (obviously), and 2. I personally believe Japanese creators see pretty much most western response as being generally a positive thing, like a "hey I'm happy you like it so much to make it a movie, but we all know which one was first, so it doesn't bug me!" sort of thing. 
Unless Hollywood producers make another disaster like Dragonball Evolution.

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So back on topic. Kimi no Na Wa aka Your Name. 
Its often said that imitation is a great form of flattery. That may still be true in this case. 
If Hollywood or JJ Abrams and whoever else is working on the live-action movie really loves Kimi no Na Wa then that's great. Many artists create fan art in their own styles to appreciate favorite characters and series they love in their own ways. 
But something just seems odd to me, fishy. 
 Its one thing when remakes are planned or made years- sometimes decades- down the line. Hollywood is still talking about making the Akira (1988) live-action. Kimi no Na Wa has shattered records and won awards for a year now, and Hollywood is jumping on the train asap for what? 
Could it be...money? 
I really think so. I do. 
I think whoever's in charge of this venture wants to capitalize on it right away. 
Why? 
Because anime and Japan come off as an 'easy target' for Hollywood producers. 
Just strip everything but the plot and re-insert Uncle Sam, a ton of expensive effects, and popular American actors who (no offense to the actors & actresses doing an earnest job) are often far-removed visually from their original counterparts.

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Take a look at Dragonball Evolution, Oldboy (2013), Kite, Speed Racer, Death Note (the Netflix Original), Fist of the North Star, and even the recent 2017 live-action Ghost in the Shell movies which did a better job than most but still couldn't handle keeping Major Motoko Kusanagi as her actual Japanese character. 

Whitewashing is a subject that is also pretty related in many heated comment threads and message boards throughout the internet, but its not always just the portrayal of Japanese characters being casted by and overwritten by actors of different race. 
Its also not a new subject, none of this is really, but don't you feel like it's either getting worse or it's at it's worst when Kimi no Na Wa is being remade in barely a year's time of release? 
As if Netflix's Death Note and GitS wasn't enough to make Whitewashing a real trending phrase on the internet, all this is happening in barely a year's time. Hollywood is seeing dollar signs yet again and anime and Japanese culture is under siege by it yet again. 

As I said all of this is nothing new, but the fact that live-action anime adaptations & remakes are so well known to be poorly received and even anger-inducing to many is pretty sad. 
There's absolutely no reason that things have to be the way they are. 
Its become such a joke even, manga artist @yokoyama_bancho made this comic that pretty much speaks what's on the minds of many when it comes to the Kimi no Na Wa Hollywood remake. 
You can see Mitsuha is portrayed by an African-American woman from New Orleans, and Taki is a white guy from New York. 

Translated by @nise_shi

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As you can see there's not a lot of confidence in the Hollywood version. The comic above is not far off of my initial and still current feelings of what Hollywood could potentially turn Kimi no Na Wa into.

If only they could just make a real live-action adaptation for once instead of what they really tend to produce: a spin-off or spoof of original content. 

The definition of the word Spoof as a verb is to "imitate (something) while exaggerating its characteristic features for comic effect." 
A spin-off is technically defined as "a byproduct or incidental result of a larger project" and "a product marketed by its association with a popular television program, movie, personality, etc"
So because Kimi no Na Wa already exists in original form, technically Hollywood can only spoof it and make a spin-off. I don't care that's all its going to be to me.

They don't care how cringy it's going to come off to fans of Kimi no Na Wa or anime fans in general- this is to suck in some unknowing batch of western public to a sci-fi mystery love story that might look like a grand idea. The poor saps who have no idea how beautiful and incredible the original product was may never know. 
Beyond that, for people who don't research things or would even know or look into the Hollywood remake, they're going to know that version first and foremost. 

A travesty I say! 
A travesty.

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In slightly less buzz, Japan is producing a live-action Full Metal Alchemist movie which looks pretty good. 
Sure, Edward Elric comes off as pretty english and he's being portrayed by Japanese actors. (Personally I don't care who plays who just don't destroy the characters, rename them, take them out of their country from the original etc etc
Thing is, you can bet the plot, costumes, character names, and settings from the manga and anime will all be there instead of some overdone Hollywood effects show that rips on something else more creative and tosses most of the original content aside for American themes, cast, and aesthetics.

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Let's not forget that Japan was also able to pull off several decent Death Note live-action adaptations as well. 
I wanted to defend Ghost in the Shell's 2017 live-action movie from the tides of 'Whitewashing' commenters I've seen, but with the way Hollywood's going this past year- its getting pretty hard to defend with how obvious they're money-making tactics and cultural shooing & remaking is becoming. 

Is there any good at all that could come from this? There is, albeit a very small amount. If by chance the viewer is in fact research-savvy they could potentially discover the original movie- potentially being an introduction to anime. 

There's no way of knowing who the actors for the live-action remake of Kimi no Na Wa will be at this time, or even the direction and setting the movie will use. 
If by some miracle it actually becomes a faithful adaptation (very low chance) I'll be amazed and it could be wonderful- but that's a pipe dream as I have zero faith in Hollywood making an actual faithful adaptation of any anime series. 

Video Game live-action adaptations are often close but still cringy compared to their source material and usually lack content or get too wacky with certain ideas or themes. 
There's no way in heck they'll actually use the Japanese title of Kimi no Na Wa, and could be small chance they'll even use the english name, "Your Name" either. 

Before we end here I'd like to give you something to think about. I thought, "What if it were the other way around?" what could be possible? 
How about something beautiful and tragic from the western side of things that someone like Makoto Shinkai (creator of Kimi no Na Wa) could work with? 
A potentially visually stunning anime film adaptation of a bittersweet love story with the potential to tear out your heartstrings and wow you with Shinkai-inspired scenery? The Fault In Our Stars would be a great candidate. 
The funniest thing? I think Japan would take the care and respect to do an actual good job. 

What does that say about the western industry? 

Thanks for reading this opinion of mine. Are your thoughts similar? 
Did you think of some things I may have left out? 
Feel free to comment below! 


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About Hikaru Kazushime

Hikaru Kazushime is an American entrepreneur from the USA who lives in California and is the creator of Run Around:Network, a brand that brings Visual Culture to life. Kazu (called for short) is an active personality in the anime and gaming industries and sub-culture scenes. Kazu resides in his hometown of Sacramento, California where he manages RA:N from his home office. Learn more about Kazu by clicking the "About Hikaru Kazushime" link at the top under the "About" tab.

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