Anime and video games are just a few of Japan’s modern cultural treasures; people around the world love the characters and universes of Studio Ghibli and Animal Crossing. While it’s quite simple to throw an English dub over a children’s cartoon or Nintendo Switch game, it can be incredibly difficult to completely adapt a story into a western context.
One of Japan’s most beloved modern animes, Makoto Shinkai’s ‘Your Name’ or ‘Kimi no na Wa’, is a romantic story deeply rooted in Japanese culture, revolving around two high school students, Mitsuha in Gifu and Takai in Tokyo, as they magically switch bodies. The film reflects Japanese society’s anxieties post 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and uses the Shinto religion as a means to come to terms with trauma. Last year, a live-action Hollywood remake was announced, which will be set entirely in the United States.
There’s always lots to worry in American adaptations of Japanese anime, which is notorious for whitewashing its characters. Instead of placing American characters in a Japanese setting, the new ‘Your Name’ will be a ‘reimagined adaptation’ that takes place in the United States. Deadline reported that the American version will follow a Native American girl living in an unnamed rural area and a boy living in Chicago. However, no one involved in the movie has claimed Native American heritage, and depending on the subject matter, could become another aspect of cultural appropriation.
Previously, the film was supposed to be helmed by Marc Webb, director of ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ and ‘500 Days of Summer’. However, Lee Isaac Chung was announced last week as the new director. Chung recently directed ‘Minari’, about a Korean American family moving to the American South. The American script, which bears the responsibility of delicately balancing the movie’s romantic and sci-fi tones, was originally written by Eric Heisserer of the sci-fi blockbuster ‘Arrival’. Lee Isaac Chung, however, will rework the draft by Emily V Gordon, co-writer of the romantic comedy ‘The Big Sick’.
The remake will be produced by Toho, Paramount and JJ Abrams’ studio Bad Robot. Genki Kawamura, one of the original producers, will also be on board. So far, no release date has been announced, and with coronavirus halting production in Hollywood, it might take a while until we can feast our eyes on the IRL version of our favourite anime.