Next year, fans will finally get to see Major Motoko Kusangi make her live-action debut when Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell premieres. The blockbuster is set to adapt Masamune Shirow’s beloved story for international audiences, and anime fans are curious to see how the transformation goes.
However, casual moviegoers might be a bit confused by the film. The newly released trailer for Ghost in the Shell depicts plenty of action and pretty graphics, but audiences who’ve never heard of the franchise might be confused by the extravagance.
So, at ComicBook.com, we’ve decided to make things easier for you fans who want to get clued into Ghost in the Shell. We’ve created an easy beginner’s guide to the franchise that touches on the franchise’s origins, characters, major storylines, and more.
Ghost in the Shell began as a manga back in 1989 under Masamune Shirow. The creator published the story between 1989-1990 under Kodansha, and the story was very successful in Japan. It was because of its popularity that Ghost in the Shell received its first full-length animated film in 1995.
Directed by Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell became a massive international hit that stunned fans and critics. It’s golden reputation allowed Production I.G. to release a second film in 2014 titled Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie. And, in the meantime, the studio also rolled out several anime series like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex which sourced stories from Masamune’s manga.
Major Motoko Kusanagi: When it comes to Ghost in the Shell, Kusanagi is the hero, hands down. The badass character is the real deal when it comes to battles; Her lithe frame and androgynous face only stand to fool enemies into thinking she’s a little threat, but then she turns around to gun them down. In Ghost in the Shell, Kusanagi is the leader of Section 9, a military group who tracks down dangerous terrorist and cybernetic baddies. Kusanagi does an exemplary job, but her comrades worry about her stoic, mostly cold personality. However, audiences learn that Kusangi’s standoffish ways stem from her continual identity crisis. Since Kusangi has a fully prosthetic, cybernetic body, she questions whether her existence is organic or completely synthesized - and she spends much of the series combating those questions.
Batou: Ghost in the Shell has plenty of characters, but few are as loved as Batou. The character is the male lead of the series, and he acts as Kusanagi’s right-hand man. The cybernetic operative might look imposing on screen, but Batou is known by fans because of his light-hearted nature. His anime adaptation is a bit more serious, even bitter, than his manga counterpart - but his main goal has been to help Kusangi take down threats in their world.
Togusa: After Batou, Togusa is the second-most feature male character in Ghost in the Shell. In the anime film, Togusa is one of Section 9’s only natural operatives, meaning he has no cybernetic replacements. The character is used through Ghost in the Shell as a foil for Kusanagi through their humanity. Togusa’s optimism steadfastly has him champion the humanity’s interconnectedness, but Kusangi feels disconnected from that so-called collective consciousness.
Daisuke: If a comparison were to be made, fans might call Daisuke Aramaki the Commissioner Gordon of Ghost in the Shell. The Lieutenant Colonel oversees Section 9, and his loyalty to his ops knows no bounds. While characters like Kusangi might take to the battle field, Daisuke tackles political warfare and occasionally ruffles a few collars while doing so.
Kuze: Ghost in the Shell has several notable villains, and Kuze is one of the more stoic guys. The character debuted in the franchise’s second anime series, and he introduced Section 9 to a new form of terrorism. Kuze, who’s part of a terrorist organization called Individual Eleven, uses psychosomatic warfare and guerrilla hacking to pit citizens against one another. By forcing people to fight his battles for him out of paranoia, Kuze strives to destabilize the world’s political structure, and Kusanagi is determined to stop him before that happens.
There are dozens of storylines associated with Ghost in the Shell, but there is one which reigns supreme: The Puppet Master Arc. The story follows Kusangi and his ops at Section 9 as they come under attack by a man who can ‘ghost-hack’ unsuspecting citizens. Somehow, the criminal is able to hack into cybernetic bodies, force them to do his bidding, and then return them to their autonomy without them remembering a thing. Known as the Puppet Master, Kusanagi begins hunting down the hi-tech baddie’s trail. Plenty of double-crosses and impromptu gun brawls get in Section 9’s way, but they eventually corner the Puppet Master only to discover their enemy is far more dangerous than they previously imagined.
When Ghost in the Shell made its theatrical debut, the anime feature was called a genre-breaker. The film could not be classified by traditional means; It had plenty of thrilling action, but its cyberpunk roots and intense philosophical musings made it difficult to pin down. Audiences quickly realized that Ghost in the Shell was difficult to categorize because of its dense content, and fans are still trying to pick apart its themes today.
Most notably, Ghost in the Shell has to do with technology and mankind’s relationship with it. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have destroyed themselves because of advanced weaponry, and they threaten to continue doing so. With AI tech and cybernetic prosthetics growing rapidly, Ghost in the Shell questions how human technology can be and whether it is right for man to assume control of it. With these questions comes plenty of identity crises and autonomous struggles, and Kusangi finds herself being a conduit for them all.
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