'Your Name' U.S. Remake Will Be "Through the Lens of a Western Viewpoint"December 29, 2018
It’s the word that we all dread when we hear about a Hollywood remake of a wildly successful foreign-language property: “Americanized.” Often it comes with the territory of making an English-language remake of a foreign movie — after all you have to cater to your audience. But for Bad Robot, which is currently developing the U.S. Your Name remake with Arrival writer Eric Heisserer attached, it’s a tricky line to walk in lieu of a history of bad anime remakes and recent controversies around whitewashing.
Heisserer confirmed that the Your Name remake will be approached from a “Western viewpoint,” but the reason for that angle may be different than you expect.
The big question around the Your Name remake was whether it would hew closely to Makoto Shinkai‘s sublime 2017 film, or whether it would only take its basic premise and turn it into a distinctly American story. According to Heisserer, it’s the latter, which automatically makes me suspicious of how in danger this project is of committing the cardinal sin of whitewashing like so many anime adaptations before it (Ghost in the Shell, Dragon Ball). But the interesting thing is, the request came from the Japanese rights holders of Your Name.
In an interview with /Film’s own Fred Topel for the release of Netflix’s Bird Box, Heisserer revealed that the Japanese rights holders to Your Name requested that the remake be made “through the lens of a western viewpoint”:
You have to find the best iteration of that story based on the fact that they want an American live-action version of the film. They stated if they wanted a Japanese live-action version, they would just do it themselves. But they want to see it through the lens of a western viewpoint.
But Heisserer assures that “mine was not a Ghost in the Shell-like version,” citing the disastrous Scarlett Johansson-led adaptation of the iconic anime that fell to bad writing and controversies of whitewashing.
I’m torn. While I wrote a whole piece about how Your Name is uniquely suited to being adapted into a universal story as long as the U.S. team abides by the “collaboration, not costume” mantra, I do think that casting Your Name as a Western story loses the opportunity for more Asian representation in Hollywood media. The original film is steeped in Shinto mythology and the central part of the meteor threat is tied to the country’s long memory when it comes to natural disasters. While those are elements that can easily be changed without losing the central message, it does sap the story of a little of its magic. My big hope for the Your Name remake is that Heisserer and co. don’t make it a completely American story, but meet halfway: making the film follow the body swap of two high school students — who in the original came from the country and the city — across continents: an American student and an East Asian student.
Fingers crossed as we learn more about the Your Name remake.
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