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?).
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.