Poll: Your Name’s Live Adaptation and the Sacredness of Anime

Is Kimi no na wa sacred to you? Is anime?
kimi no na wa shooting stars
art by anonamos | reprinted w/permission https://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=medium&illust_id=62387657

The other day, an Instagrammer I follow posted a a photo from an article indicating that The Rock had been cast in the live action adaptation of Kimi no na wa, which had earlier been announced as the latest project for J.J. Abrams. The comments were fast and furious (da-dum-tss), claiming that Hollywood was again screwing up an anime treasure. The folly of the Internet, of course, is that so many people don’t take the time to see if a story is accurate. In case you’re wondering, this one is not.

But that led me to think about some of the recent adaptations that audiences have reacted to poorly. The new Death Note received near-universal criticism. Ghost in the Shell was decidedly hammered by fans of the GiTS franchise (though I enjoyed it). Announcement of a Cowboy Bebop TV series has also been soundly met with fanboy furor. Even Japan isn’t immune – I was rolling my eyes from the first images of Attack on Titan, and I’m feeling the same about Fullmetal Alchemist.

But even before the final product, when a live action adaptation of an anime is announced, the general reaction seems to be very negative. I almost hesitate to comment positively on forums when hearing about such projects for fear of getting shouted down or, more likely, simply looking like an idiot. And it’s true, it seems to be wishful or unwise thinking to believe such adaptions will turn out well. The track record is poor; most of these projects don’t turn out well (thankfully for those fans that don’t want them, they usually don’t turn out at all. Remember the Evangelion film? Robotech? The first go-around with Cowboy Bebop starring Keanu Reeves?).

These concept art pieces from Weta has us all bursting at the seams back in the day.

But why do we even care? I mean, I don’t care that the latest blockbuster movie is terrible, so why do I care that the Your Name adaptation might be bad? Well, it’s because these series mean something to us. We might even hold them as something sacred. When something sacred to me is denigrated, I become angry. I’m even fueled by this second layer of anger, a super-saiyan level of rage called righteous indignation (whether it’s truly righteous or not) that brings the idea of justice into the picture. How dare someone make this film? Don’t they realize how deeply connected this is to me us? Of course Hollywood doesn’t – that big machine doesn’t really understand anime, and yet it rolls on, destroying favorite franchises, destroying something symbolic of, well, me.

For many of us, I think that’s what it comes down to: certain series, and anime as a whole, is sacrosanct. A bad adaptation dirties the form, dirties us. Maybe we even feel that a good adaptation would do this (Battle Angel Alita could be one?). In other words, even if you’re James Cameron or Robert Rodriguez or JJ Abrams, this warning still goes: “Don’t touch my anime.”

For me, it’s a little different. My identity is getting further and further away from culture as I grow older, but even when I was more seeped in it, it was covered in pop culture with films first and before anime, so I look forward to these projects generally as a melding of two things I love. And when they work (ex. Honey and Clover), I’m ecstatic.

It may not be the same for you. While the above poll question can’t give me a really strong conclusion in any direction, I posit it because I wonder how sacred anime is to us, and how sacred Your Name is particularly. Please fill in the discussion, too, by chiming in below.

Otaku. Dad. Occasionally Korean. Enjoys Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Meg Ryan movies. Self-anointed sushi chef. Ghibli. Oregairuuuuu. Forever stuck in the 90’s. Thinks the 80’s was better than it was. Jesus is King.

19 Comments on this post.

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  • The Otaku Judge
    16 October 2017 at 2:52 pm

    Your Name is a beautiful movie. If Abrams made a scene for scene remake in live action it could be a hit. Can’t say that I have much faith in it turning out well though, given the West’s track record of anime adaptations.

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    • TWWK
      17 October 2017 at 11:54 am

      The movie could look spectacular…to me, the worry is that Hollywood has no idea how to do anime and manga. NO idea. Add to that the incredible cultural subtleties that help make Your Name so special and…you could end up with what amounts to an adolescent drama with cool special effects and a neat angle. I like Abrams a lot – he’s one of my favorite directors – but I’m totally not secure that he’ll draw what’s truly special out of this movie, because I’m not sure he or anyone involved in the production understands it.

      Leave a Reply
    • TWWK
      17 October 2017 at 11:54 am

      But hey, Shinkai is on board, so maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe he doesn’t care haha.

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  • Cytrus
    16 October 2017 at 9:02 pm

    I haven’t watched Your Name, so I obviously have no emotional attachment to it, but I can comment in a general sense.

    To keep it short and sweet:

    1) People don’t really mind fan-works of any kind, fanfiction, fan movies or anything else. You don’t like it, you completely ignore it.

    2) People do mind but eventually get over weird or undesired anime sequels and the like. There are sites that will kindly explain why the second season of Minami-ke never existed (http://dic.nicovideo.jp/a/%E3%81%BF%E3%81%AA%E3%81%BF%E3%81%91%E3%80%9C%E3%81%8A%E3%81%8B%E3%82%8F%E3%82%8A%E3%80%9C) and Idolmaster Xenoglassia has become something of a warm joke now that even the people involved in the production admit the series was the result more of accident than design.

    Nevertheless, people hate on the live-action movies. Why?

    (1/2)

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  • Cytrus
    16 October 2017 at 9:06 pm

    One part of that is the whitewashing. This is not even a weaboo specific thing, as most Japanese fans are dissatisfied with the too-Japanese approach to the incoming FMA movie. In short, the wast majority of fans want the original work to remain what it was.

    The other and more important part is the feeling that the successful franchises are just being milked for the money. Death Note went against the grain of its mother magazine to tell a riveting if controversial story. Chihayafuru and Hyouka went for non-cookie cutter narratives and yet succeeded. The movie adaptations of those series are dumbed down to include typical movie cliches. I’m not even a fan of HaruChika, but the idea of one of the main characters having his sexuality twisted to create a more commonplace love story leaves me shivering.

    So the main issue is that we see art downgraded into business by people who had no part in the initial creative process in the first place. Your skin would have to be thick indeed to remain indifferent to that.

    (2/2) (Again, I was prevented from submitting a longer comment on both my updated Firefox and M.Edge browsers because of coding issues. You might want to review how your site works, unless long comments are just not your thing, in which case you should openly announce that…)

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    • TWWK
      16 October 2017 at 10:52 pm

      I’ll respond to your comments in full soon, but I wanted to let you know now that your long comments always come through – they’re just held in moderation until we get a chance to review and approve them. Your long comments is there right now, actually, haha. So feel free to submit one full comment in the future – we’ll get it up there shortly after you post it. Thanks!

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      • Cytrus
        17 October 2017 at 10:55 am

        Thank you for your interest, TWWK. Please let me describe the issue I am encountering in more detail.

        As you can probably imagine, the comment box becomes longer (moves towards the bottom) the more text you put inside. At some point it will reach the previously existing comments of other people. Because of how the layers work on the site, the comment box will not make those old comments slide down or appear above them, but instead slide beneath them, making the “post comment” bubble invisible and therefore unclickable. I can only submit by cutting the comment up to a length where the post comment bubble remains visible.

        As previously mentioned, I tried out two different browsers to check for compatibility issues but the result was the same both times. Should it prove difficult to replicate this issue on your end, I could send you screenshots. (Since the issue concerns being able to submit in the first place, it is not related to moderation queues and the like.)

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        • TWWK
          17 October 2017 at 11:01 am

          Hmm…I see. Thank you for the response – we’ll see what we can do!

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    • TWWK
      17 October 2017 at 11:59 am

      Those are great thoughts, especially your last one about the dumbing down of stories as perhaps more an offense in regards to art than to any specific fandom. Why do you think that matters to us, though? You say that “your skin would have to be thick indeed to remain indifferent to that,” but I wonder…for me personally, I don’t really have some special heart for artists or creators, nor do businesses that destroy art give me outrage. Further, I’m willing to justify the destruction of beloved properties for lots of reasons – “it’s hard to adapt a long manga into a 90-minute movie” or “the mangaka sold the story so if he doesn’t care about the product, why should we?”

      And yet…I do care. And I don’t think I’m alone. And I wonder why that is.

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      • Cytrus
        17 October 2017 at 6:52 pm

        Labour and its efforts are an affirmation of life, and destruction is a sin against life. It’s a surprisingly fundamental idea.

        If you see mature wheat/corn/rice fields trampled for no good reason, you will likely find yourself troubled. That is destruction of what is both fruit of labour and potential seed of new life. Don’t waste or play around with food – somehow it is a rule found across all the world’s cultures, even if we are talking about mere replaceable “objects”.

        Sure, you can make yourself not care, even to the ultimate extent. What I mean is that loss of human life itself can be something that “does not concern you” as long as you can think of those killed as enemies and aliens. How much easier is it to distance yourself from loss of artistic beauty, which is a much more abstract creation.

        (1/2)

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      • Cytrus
        17 October 2017 at 6:53 pm

        But all the people reading or posting on this site have already made their choice: to love anime as a form of art and recognize its beauty as an affirmation of life and human potential. In this case, they may not remain indifferent to destruction of that beauty. Which is why I bring the business part of things. An honest effort to create something new and beautiful would not bother a person sharing my outlook, even if the ultimate result were to be one huge head-scratcher. But if the project makes no effort to create or recreate beauty from the get-to, instead basing decisions on “what usually sells”, then we have the above-mentioned case of fields being trampled, and the heart cries out in protest.

        By the way, the struggle between the “eyes of love” and the “silencing of love” takes place on many, many levels. Amongst anime fans, we cherish anime as art, and then follow it up with “except moe/fujoshi crap/etc.”, unaware that the indifference is the same thing we often struggle against as fans.

        (2/2)

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        • TWWK
          20 October 2017 at 11:17 am

          Hmm…great argument. And that last point…that’s really intriguing. Does that have to do with how we conceive art? Is it about what we personally cherish? Are we bringing our own experiences, background, morals into defining what anime is good and what is not?

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    • TWWK
      17 October 2017 at 11:59 am

      Also, I didn’t realize that about the second season of Minami-ke. I’m totally on board with acting like it didn’t exist. 😀

      Leave a Reply
  • Philip
    17 October 2017 at 6:27 am

    I care, but in a positive way because I’m interested to see how it turns out. If I don’t like it, the anime will still be there to enjoy. If it’s a hit, it could widen the audience for anime in the West and lead to more and better content & availability. Why not take a risk? I say go for it!

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    • TWWK
      17 October 2017 at 12:01 pm

      I kind of fall on this side of the equation. I think I might start getting upset, though, if the adaptation is so bad that people think poorly on the original material or anime in general (I get some GiTS fans feel this way) or if it’s well-loved, but isn’t critically as good as the original, and people fail to give the anime it’s due. And I think that says more about my nature than it does about movie adaptations!

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  • Luminas
    17 October 2017 at 4:23 pm

    I wonder if there are a bunch of levels to this. (With the caveat that I haven’t managed to see Your Name). First there’s “You changed it, now it sucks,” and there’s an aspect of this feeling that can’t be boiled down to rational emotions. And I think that’s what you’re trying to get at. Let me see if, again, good old Luminas can agree/sympathize with an example. So…when the Magic Knight Rayearth manga first came out in America, I was like nine or ten years old. Which meant I read it when I was this age. Which meant, like most of my formative anime and manga, its words imprinted themselves in my spirit. Anyway, in the second half of the manga, when Hikaru becomes the Pillar of Cephiro using as far as I can tell sheer willpower, she goes…”And…I won’t..EVER..REGRET MY ACTIONS…AGAIN.” And the circumstances under which this line is delivered are intense, because she’s referencing how the Magic Knights were summoned by Emeraude, the previous Pillar…to kill Emeraude, who was in love with Zagato. And she’s talking about how her assumptions about what was happening led to something unspeakably sad— both lovers dying for love.

    When they re-released Rayearth…they changed the translation, and this line is changed. And in my opinion something has gone fundamentally…wrong in the translation. Even though it is probably more accurate than a 90s translation, it literally felt like something sacred had been lost. I couldn’t stomach it.

    There’s an irony to human beings. While we can conceive of people who have vastly different cultures and cultural values than us, conceiving of someone who can’t *understand* or *see* what we see as sacred about something we love isn’t comprehensible to most of us. The more one of my friends talks about her students with a 5th grade reading level in high school, the more I entirely fail to even conceive of a group of people who aren’t creative and can’t write or read with any depth of feeling. They somehow seem more inexpressibly alien than a learned brahman from Bangladesh, reading the Hindu scriptures, is to me.

    And that’s the gulf that we’re crossing when we look at bad Hollywood adaptations of anime. We’re literally seeing the things we love as viewed by someone with incomprehensibly different priorities and beliefs than ours. And sometimes, like with the Death Note adaptation, the creators may even be fans themselves, but for completely different reasons. If the priorities and interpretations were similar, we wouldn’t be so thrown off by these adaptations. It’s not as if the Death Note writers were lazy— they just…*couldn’t* know what a couple thousand, maybe hundreds of thousands of different people, loved about Death Note. What hit them where they were at.

    I think sometimes we’re just afraid to admit that aliens aren’t in space. Sometimes they’re right beside us on the Metro.

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    • TWWK
      20 October 2017 at 11:12 am

      Hmm…can I just copy and paste this comment and replace my article with it? 😀

      I think you’ve hit upon an importnat point in all this talk of the sacred – why is it that an adaptation (even sometimes lovingly done) offends us so? I’m slowly, slowly learning that idea of not being able to see how others can’t see about why I love something! I’m watching Clannad with my wife and while she enjoys it, the emotion isn’t quite there as it is with me. That’s helping me understand a bit, but I still have this wall that I think most or all of us have, that you talk about, in which we just don’t understand why others don’t see the sacred. And I think your allusion is also to this: it extends far beyond entertainment, into other parts of life that are even of greater importance.

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      • Luminas
        20 October 2017 at 12:20 pm

        I think that it’s pretty easy for others to see why we like the things we like…but much harder to explain why you *love* something. Why it hits home for you.

        Like, to explain why I’m so drawn to the show Gankutsuou, you’d have to understand: (1) that Albert de Morcerf as he’s drawn in the show “looks like me genderbent,” and “acts like me”; (2) that Franz, minus his very gay feelings for Albert, looks and acts like my sister; (3) that the way that the Count is framed in the show turns him diabolical, and thus indirectly Albert’s confusing relationship with the Count parallels mine with Mar; (4) that Danglars in the show strongly resembles the character Titanus from my Roleplays; (5) that I have a deep-seated fondness for the culture of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe; (6) that I love a good political thriller when done with the right amount of flair…etc. And you wouldn’t just have to know those things— you’d also have to understand what’s truly unquantifiable: how I *feel* about them. And you just can’t really convey that to another person. It’s only possible under really rare and special circumstances.

        Still, we all keep trying to reach out to others, because we’re not really human without relationships. Trying to show someone who you are on more than an intellectual level is the eternal quest of us all.

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  • Stranger_Hanyo (@Stranger_Hanyo)
    19 October 2017 at 10:59 am

    Hollywood should steer clear of remaking anime into movies. It just destroys the anime and makes a joke out of it.
    Kimi No Na Wa is one of the marvels of anime in recent times, and I am scared to think what the West will make out of it.

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