Ghost in the Shell drops Major Motoko


Long awaited cyberpunk anime staple Ghost in the Shell is finally coming to theaters as a live-action movie, but not without its fair share of off-screen drama. After taking a lot of heat under the battle cry of “whitewashing” from the internet about casting actress Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi – according to the latest teaser, it’s not Motoko at all.



Listen closely – that’s not Motoko they’re talking to. Clearly addressed as “Mira” and being the “first of her kind” – that is a huge deviation from what fans expected as a new twist on the dystopian adventure with the iconic Major.

This comes as a shock to fans – especially considering the director of the original Ghost in the Shell animeMamoru Oshii, gave his blessing to the new live-action and is quoted in the behind-the-scenes featurette as asserting Johansson was playing Motoko:

“Scarlett Johansson, playing Motoko from beginning to end, has gone above and beyond my expectations for the role,” he said. “I’m sure this will be the most gorgeous film in the series so far.” Oshii further asserted Ghost in the Shell remains “very true to the anime.”

While still retaining the title of “Major” – it’s clear this is not our beloved Motoko, at least in name. Are we getting a secret prequel to the already established Ghost in the Shell media already out there? Who is Mira? Will they give her a surname starting with a “K”? Are they changing her name to make it a more “international” story – the reason producer Steven Paul told Buzzfeed that the casting choice was sound?

“I don’t think it was just a Japanese story,” he said. “Ghost in the Shell was a very international story, and it wasn’t just focused on Japanese; it was supposed to be an entire world. That’s why I say the international approach is, I think, the right approach to it.”

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

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Alexis is the lead fabricator and designer for Shattered Stitch Cosplay, based out of Tennessee. She has been in the cosplay community over 10 years and is a familiar face at cons large and small all across the Southeast US.

Alexis is a consummate nerd with her genres of expertise and interest being concentrated in Marvel comics and World of Warcraft. Also on her interest list is Top Cow, Aspen, DarkHorse, and DC, as well as most all videogames with her personal concentration being PC gaming (Master Race).

Her costumes span everything from comics and fantasy books to live action, including: Final Fantasy, Game of Thrones, Hunger Games, Studio Ghibli, and Conan.

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  • I personally think this is to edge off some of the accusations of whitewash. When it became clear that there were problems with the casting choice from the fanbase – they chose to make her someone else entirely, a “new” character that was more “international” so that they could refute that criticism.

  • Reading about this adaptation, and watching the trailers, I’m reminded of seeing Ender’s Game a few years ago. The movie was gorgeous looking, but it felt (to me) like it was made by people who read the source material but didn’t understand it at all. The story felt hollow and wrong and like it was missing the point. So far the changes I’ve seen come up for Ghost in the Shell seem very similar to me. The trailers look beautiful, and some of the scenes are spot on to the anime, but the glimpses we’re getting of the story seem like they were written by someone who read (or skimmed) the source material but didn’t understand it. Perhaps that is why the filmmakers thought it was acceptable to cast a non-Japanese actress in the main role. They were focused on the wrong things, instead of the right things that make Ghost in the Shell such a beautiful, complex, thought-provoking story.

    • Do you think we will see the same “we had to ‘dumb it down’ for the common movie-goer” reason that seems to come out in cases like this? I agree with your observation that it looks like they focused on the visual over the “integrity” of the story – GitS has been visually inspiring for so many movies (like the shot-for-shot lobby scene in ‘The Matrix’), that I hope they didnt just blow their efforts on how it looks. 🙁

      • It does seem like, from the snippets of dialogue we get in the trailers, that they are taking a more generic approach to the story at least. I don’t know if it’s a ‘dumb it down’ mentality, but the focus being on Section 9 stealing her brain and her memories for their own nefarious purposes is definitely a less complex approach to the story. It feels more ‘basic action flick’ than ‘introspective character study with action going on around it’ many of us have come to expect and love in Ghost in the Shell. I’m sure it is stunning to look at. But that may end up all it is. A beautiful but forgettable action movie. Which is so disappointing. Ghost in the Shell is my favorite anime of all time, and one of my favorite manga (I love it enough to have a Kusanagi tattoo). To see it adapted poorly breaks my little fangirl heart.

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