Ghost in the Shell is a popular topic as of late, thanks in part to the recent Paramount Pictures live-action adaptation of the manga series by Masamune Shirow. The manga would later be adapted into two films directed by Mamoru Oiishi and later into various other anime adaptations. Including a more recent anime reboot film/series that is more in line with the original manga. The recent Paramount film stars Scarlet Johansson as the lead character Motoko Kusanagi. But, let's not forget, the film that probably most are familiar with, the 1995 Production I.G. Film directed by Mamoru Oiishi. A film that has inspired everything from The Matrix to recent Hollywood adaptation.
The film revolves around a cyborg named Motoko Kusanagi, commonly referred to as Major who has a fully cybernetic body including a cyberbrain. A cyberbrain allows the user to access the Internet, commonly referred to as 'the net', via their ghosts which is a term that is reffered to the consciousness of the user.
Kusanagi and her group of augmented humans and one family man cop are a part of the Public Security Section 9 of New Port City, Japan. Section 9 gets wrapped in a conflict with Section 6 and the mysterious cyber criminal known as The Puppet Master. The mysterious hacker who has hacked the Prime Minister's interpreter, a garbage man and a thug, and later is trapped in a Megatech body. A trap orchestrated by Section 6 which Section 9 captures.
When Section 6 comes to retrieve the body of the trapped Puppet Master, he seeks political asylum. Interesting since he is a criminal. It is made more interesting when Section 9 is broken into and the body is mysteriously abducted. Motoko and her group suggest foul play is a foot, and follow the body and kidnappers to a Section 6 warehouse. There alone, Motoko battles a tank, and nearly dies as a result. She is rescued by Batou.
Motoko rescues The Puppet Master, and ghosts into the net so she can meet him. It is then that the Puppet Master seeks to merge with Kusanagi, who agrees to the merger. But, Section 6 snipers aim to get rid of both The Puppet Master and Kusanagi in one fell swoop. The Puppet Master is blown up, his shell or body destroyed. But, thanks to Batou using his arm to shield Motoko's brain, The Puppet Master lives now in the subconsciousness of Kusanagi.
The film ends with Matoko and The Puppet Masters subconsciousness linked internally. The new shell is that of a young girl, but Matoko states that she is neither the woman known as Kusanagi nor is she a Puppet Master. She walks off as a newborn man, or something in between the genders, something surpassing that identity.
The film discusses various topics including the heights of robotics and cybernetics, the use of Internet in the future, and how cyber crimes are the biggest threat to a nation's security.
Sexuality and gender identity is also an important role in the film, and is ideally it's most important discussion to take a way from the film. In the film Matoko states that as a cyborg can break down the alcohol in a beer. Stating that chemical reactions in her shell or body is all regulated through mechanical interfaces. It is also shown in the beginning of the film the construction of her body. She may have a female subconsciousness and identity in the beginning of the film, but she lacks sexuality of a female. She doesn't menstruate, nor anything else that would make her feminine in the sexual sense.
It is interesting that Paramount decided to use this time, to make a Ghost in the Shell film. We have seen an upsurge in the trans-gender movement as of late. Is it no coincidence that the source material for the 2017 film comes out at a time like this. The idea that Motoko is a female in a man's body was sure to be something of science fiction over twenty years ago in most people's minds. But, now as acceptance of the trans-gender movement has increased, it seems that looking at this film can give more context and appreciation of that movement.
The film also discusses philosophy, not just of sexuality and gender. Identities of self in an age where prosthetic limbs and aids can completely change someone. What is human? It is something that the Puppet Master character is all about. His existence is questioned, is he a just a tool created by Section 6 or is he something more. He was created by Section 6, but seeks to go against that destiny when he merges with Kusanagi.
It seems Oishii is a fan of existentialism, which is something that was popular in Japan during the 80's and 90's and continues to this day. The idea of existence in a world where humanity and consciousness, cybernetis and the internet are all interlinked. It may seem like science fiction, but we are coming closer and closer to merging every day. As the world evolves, and as we humanity evolve, will we also move away from ideas of self, of identity and existence.
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A.L. Hornbeck, historian, author, metalhead, and all around geek.