The live-adaptation of the popular Ghost in the Shell anime starring Scarlett Johansson is set to release in the coming week despite what skeptics and nay-sayers have to say. The film has come under-fire for a variety of different reasons ranging from Casting choices and liberties taken with the source material. However, we’re here to say that’s all okay and here’s why.
The original Ghost in the Shell is a beautifully haunting movie about humanity and the meaning of life. It makes us question our own existence. For those who have not seen the anime movie here’s a brief background.
WHAT IS GHOST IN THE SHELL?
Ghost in the Shell is based on a manga written by Masamune Shirow, the anime was directed by Mamoru Oshii and is set in Japan in the year 2029. In this era humans and technology, particularly artificial intelligence, are mixed and co-exist harmoniously. During this time a person’s consciousness or “Ghost” is preserved or put in a cyborg body that is the “Shell”, hence Ghost in a Shell. These people can then go into a place called the “Net”, a place that is which is similar but more advanced than our own world wide web. The Net is considered a place where a person’s consciousness can actually exist. It is said that the Puppet Master was “created” or was “born” in this place.
The Puppet Master is a living, thinking entity that was created in the sea of information. He (or she) has hacked into a lot of things and this is causing a lot of trouble for the government, particularly Public Security Section 9, where Major Motoko Kusanagi is assigned.
The Major is a cyborg whose Ghost maintains some form of humanity. Nothing was mentioned about her origin or how she came to be, but one thing is clear, she takes the existential crisis to a whole new level.
Ghost in the Shell explores the concept of humanity and artificial intelligence. The movie evokes the questions: Are they different from each other? and what happens when they merge and become one? Can a cyborg with cognitive abilities and feelings can be considered human? What does it mean to be human? Does it have to do with having a human body and our ability to make choices? If a cyborg has such an ability, are they considered human? These thought-provoking questions are beautifully explored in the anime. There are scenes where you can see the Major curiously looking at people as they go around shops, at architecture, and basically everything around her. It was shot and presented so wonderfully that for a moment you would forget that she isn’t human. The curiosity can be seen on her face, how she marvels at her surroundings, and when she tells Batou how she feels. For a fleeting moment you’d really think she’s human, until you realize that she doesn’t blink. In that moment though, you would realize that, probably, humans and technology can actually co-exist.
ON ITS POPULARITY
The anime became so popular because of its incredibly realistic action sequences and beautiful animation. The haunting background music especially during the opening sequence also helped in the overall appeal of the movie. It was even said that Mamoru Oshii brought his production team to Guam to train and find out what really happens when firearms are used in different surfaces. That explains the realistic feel of all the action and chase sequences in the anime. This keen attention to detail helped to propel the anime above everything else in the market at the time.
The anime is said to influence movies like The Matrix and Dark City. It introduced the concept of an alternate world, wherein you can plug into a machine and go to another reality and live in it. It also delves into the deeper questions of humanity and its essence. The Major, in one of her brooding moments, has pretty much summed up the internal crisis that she is having, which only shows that, in way, she is more human than us.
“There are countless ingredients that make up the human body and mind, like all the components that make me up as an individual with my own personality. Sure I have a face and voice to distinguish myself from others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me, and I carry a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of it. I collect information to use in my own way. All of that blends to create a mixture that forms me and gives rise to my conscience. I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.” – Major Motoko Kusanagi
This dialogue is one of my many favorites. She somehow understands the concept of humanity, what differentiates us from one another and what makes us unique. Humans, like cyborgs, are confined by their own uniqueness thus we continue to struggle with our own humanity, and I think that’s beautiful. We continuously strive to be better, despite our limitations. We keep on pushing our own boundaries and because of all this we are, in a sense, free.
WHY GIVE THE LIVE ADAPTATION A CHANCE
The live-action adaptation of the anime is set to be shown in cinemas worldwide and long-time fans of the anime are skeptical about it. Many fans say that Hollywood would ruin it, especially for those who have never watched the 1995 anime movie. The purists say that Scarlett Johansson is not fit for the role of Major Kusanagi as she’s too American and that the casting is further evidence of “whitewashing” in Hollywood. They also insinuate that the trailer does not capture the true essence of the anime. Personally, I still recommend that fans watch the live-action adaptation. Give it a chance and here’s why:
I want to start off by saying I understand the skepticism. After the disaster that was Kite, Speedracer, and Dragonball Z: Evolution, it is hard for anime fans to trust Hollywood’s attempts on adapting a well-loved anime show, be it movie or series. But let’s give Hollywood a chance, maybe this time they will deliver. The people behind the adaptation apparently know that Ghost in the Shell is a very special anime as evidenced by the blockbuster treatment in terms of budget and production. They understand the value and importance of the franchise to mainstream pop culture and will hopefully not squander the opportunity to showcase it.
About the Scarlett Johansson being cast as the Major issue, I say: “seriously?” Don’t get all worked up because of the casting. Even series creator Mamorou Oshii gave it his two thumbs up in an interview with IGN:
“The Major is a cyborg and her physical form is an entirely assumed one. The name ‘Motoko Kusanagi’ and her current body are not her original name and body, so there is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray her. Even if her original body (presuming such a thing existed) were a Japanese one, that would still apply.”
Japanese fans of the anime and manga were even surprised by all the hate and backlash that Scarlett Johansson received. Fans even defended her and reasoned that she is more than capable of handling the character. The Major’s physical appearance is not even the issue and essence of the movie, it is much deeper than that. It is more of self-identification and its effects to a cyborg with a human brain. So guys, the race of the actress playing the Major should NEVER be an issue.
As for the Trailers…
The trailer basically showed a little of everything. The opening scenes more or less resembles the 1995 anime movie and that’s saying something. It shows promise and that somehow appeased some of my doubts about the movie. But, (yes I know there’s a but there’s always a but), this is Hollywood and Hollywood is going to do what it does best, “spice things up”. This means they will eventually add a little something to the mix, hence the second part of the trailer. Here, I think, is where all the other backlash comes from. You see the essence of the anime is about self-identity and what is means to be human. The line “they didn’t save you” and “they lied to you” kind of raised all shades of the proverbial red flag. It plays off of traditional action-movie tropes and seems a little out of place in the grand scheme of things. However, this does not necessarily mean that it will be all bad, maybe it could work and add a little bit of mystery and intrigue. Maybe it was added to answer the question of Kusanagi’s origins. I admit that I’m somehow intrigued and curious about her true identity. Who she was before having a cyborg body, what led her to question humanity, and why is she having this questions and thought.
All in all I’ll give this movie a chance and you should too because no one really knows what a movie has to offer without having watched it, and especially if only we would based it on its trailer and promotional cycle. If it turns out to be bad then that just another strike against Hollywood adaptations and you can always just revel in the fact that somehow Major Motoko Kusanagi was given life on the Big Screen. If it turns out to be good, however, then you may have just witnessed one of the most thought-provoking, introspective looks into existence in our generation.
Ghost in the Shell premieres on March 29, 2017, in all major cinemas nationwide.
Do you agree with our take? Let us know in the comments section below.
For more on Ghost in the Shell and other Geeky goodness, keep it here on geekendgladiators.com
For a more general preview on Ghost in the Shell and all the other movies we’re looking forward to this year click here.
Phoebe is a lawyer wanna-be by day and moonlights as the Gladiators’ all around girl. She dabbles in arts and crafts and loves writing about the dark side of the moon. She believes that someday, she’ll learn how to draw a human being and her secret ambition is to be a chemist. She is a contradiction. #Awesome