Ever since that whole Ghost in the Shell live-action debacle, audiences have been wary of how the J.J. Abrams-produced Your Name remake would adapt its source material. Would the live-action film stay close to Makoto Shinkai’s original film, or would it do the thing that most American anime adaptations do and, well, make it American? Turns out, it will be the latter…and that’s exactly how the original rights holders want it.
In an interview with /Film, screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival) shared some of the first new information on the Abrams-produced Your Name remake since it was first announced last year. He said his original story pitch was one of 20 to 30 submissions that was handed to the rights holders (the movie is being developed in collaboration with Toho), who specifically requested that the Hollywood version of Your Name be “Westernized,” instead of recreating the original Japanese setting and story.
“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,” Heisserer said. “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.”
This is either unfortunate or an opportunity (or both), depending on how you look at it. On one hand, the original anime is all about the growing separation of urban and rural life in Japan—in this case, with the rural area being a town literally out of time—and the delicate balance between ancient tradition and modernity. It’s hard to picture that type of storyline holding the same sway here, given how the United States is less than 300 years old and made up of so many different cultures.
On the other hand, much like 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, which centered around a Chinese-American protagonist, there is an opportunity to have Your Name feature Japanese-American characters and their own experiences. It’s a way to tell an American story, one that’s largely missing from the box office, but also give us an American anime remake that isn’t whitewashed. And whether or not this is the story Abrams and company have gone with, I really hope this version of Your Name isn’t whitewashed. We don’t need another Scarlett Johansson situation. And according to the screenwriter, we won’t get one.
“I can say that [my script] was not a Ghost in the Shell-like version,” Heisserer said.