So Close Yet So Far

Director Rupert Sanders’ live-action Ghost in the Shell movie clearly draws visual and narrative inspiration from both Mamoru Oshii & Kazuchika Kise’s Ghost in the Shell anime adaptations. But one consistent principle that has always remained consistent throughout Masamune Shirow’s original Ghost in the Shell and all of its anime adaptations is that while the stories have frequently revolved around what Motoko Kusanagi has done, GitS stories have never hinged upon the fundamental uncertainty of who Motoko Kusanagi is. The Major has always known her own past, never questioned her own identity.

Ghost in the Shell may question the Major’s solidarity with other human beings, but it’s also always been about Motoko Kusanagi solving cyber crimes. Making uncertainty about Motoko’s background the core of the story, as this film trailer suggests is the central quandary of the film, skews the storytelling far more toward conventional Western standards than necessary. In effect, we don’t need a Motoko Kusanagi origin story. Even the existing anime origin story, Ghost in the Shell Arise, primarily told its story moving forward instead of looking backward. Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg police officer and expert hacker. She’s been a cyborg since birth. That’s all the background about Kusanagi that viewers have ever known and all that we need to know. Motoko Kusanagi’s uniqueness lies in her experiences, her knowledge, and her intelligence, not in her physical body or some sort of sympathetic tragic past. She’s a heroine because she’s an exceptionally capable, skilled expert, not because she’s a pitiful, misled waif or a literally unique prototype individual.

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