Hi, everyone. It’s Mokugyo, your favorite MANGA.TOKYO manga and anime loving writer. The whitewashing controversy that surrounded the recent Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shellhas really cost the movie the box office revenue it dreamed. Many fans believe that the movie was poorly treated.
The movie premiered in Japan on 7 April. I want to take this opportunity to talk about six positive things that I found the Hollywood live-action movie Ghost in the Shell!
‘Ghost in the Shell’ Movie Trailer
What is ‘Ghost in the Shell’?
Ghost in the Shell is originally a Japanese manga created by Masamune Shirow and published in 1991. The anime movie adaptation was directed by Mamoru Oshii in 1995 and quickly became widely known in the US as it topped the weekly Billboard charts. Since then, the story has been adapted into various media including its sequel manga and TV anime series. However, it had never been adapted into a live-action movie until this Hollywood version.
In a near-future metropolis, where humans augment their bodies with cybernetics, protagonist Major is made up 99% of artificial components; only her brain remains of her original body. She leads the ‘Mobile Armored Riot Police’, or the ‘Kokaku Kidotai‘ in Japanese. The title of Ghost in the Shell in Japan is also ‘Kikoku Kidotai.‘ It’s a cyber action story that depicts her and her team’s battle against cyber-criminals. Ghost in the Shell is also one of the major influences behind The Matrix.
In the Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell the staff’s respect towards the original manga is evident. Live action movie adaptations often drastically change the settings, character designs, and plots. Although the movie altered a part of its original plot, it was created with enough similar scenes and details.
For instance, an iconic scene of the anime series is Major’s rooftop drop scene at the very beginning. Oshii recreated this scene impressively in his anime movie: Major dives from a rooftop of a skyscraper wearing a thermo-optical camouflage suit to visibly disappear, and then vanishes into the city. The same scene appears in its various series afterwards and has become a symbol of the story. The live-action movie also incorporated this scene.
The process of creating Major’s body followed Oshii’s anime movie, as well. There are many scenes that were reminiscent of the anime movie, including the scene of Major waking up in a plain room, diving in the sea, the garbage truck, and the battle against the spider tank.
The live-action movie also contains hints of scenes and names which can be understood only by viewers who have watched the TV anime series. They demonstrate the fact that the staff of the live-action movie studied its Japanese counterparts in detail.
The live-action movie doesn’t use much jargon, which makes the story easier to understand. The original manga is famous for using a lot of terminology and footnotes which were needed to explain the terms. The TV anime series and the anime movie by Oshii tried to reduce them, though many still remained. This Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell avoids using jargon in order to help viewers who are coming across the Ghost in the Shell franchise for the first time, so they can understand the story effortlessly. They will perceive the meanings and characters of the story without much trouble.
In the live-action movie, Major is depicted with an emphasis on her human side. There are scenes of her wondering whether her memories are real and contemplating who she is. In contrast, the anime version of her has a determined and strong personality. The anime series and movie depict her distress regarding her own identity. However, it’s more clearly portrayed in the live-action movie. Scarlett Johansson played the role with a more human touch as well. Some criticized the movie as an example of whitewashing in Hollywood and the staff prepared their response to this criticism in the movie.
One of the selling points of the live-action movie is the appearance of ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano as Aramaki. Kitano is a movie director and actor with a number of great movies to his name. In Japan, he is a celebrated comedian and TV host under the stage name ‘Beat Takeshi.’ Everyone knows him and his works in Japan. Interestingly, the name credited is ‘Beat Takeshi Kitano.’
Aramaki in the anime is portrayed as a small-built intellectual, which is different from Kitano’s image. Kitano created his own Aramaki in the live-action movie. He has directed many movies featuring Yakuza (organized crime syndicates in Japan) as well as playing Yakuza roles on many occasions. His rendering of Aramaki is, therefore, rough and strong like Yakuza.
Many characters who are familiar to fans of the original manga and anime adaptations, such as Batou, Togusa, Ishikawa, and Saito from the Mobile Armored Riot Police appear in the live-action movie. They even describe how Batou got his prosthetic eyes. A scene featuring Batou’s vision is also shown. Although the appearances of the members are not frequent except for Batou’s, I’m glad that Public Security Section 9 exists as an organization in the movie.
Positive 6: The Near Future Metropolis with Lined CG Signboards
The live-action movie is set in a metropolis in the near future. It looks like Tokyo or any of the other East Asian cities. There are many CG signboards everywhere in the city. Numerous numbers of signboards are effectively placed in Oshii’s anime movie to render the atmosphere of the city, and they are transformed into large CG signboards in the live-action movie.
There are both arguments for and against the live-action movie Ghost in the Shell on the internet. It is quite understandable. I think it is technically difficult to recreate the world of Ghost in the Shell fully in live-action at the moment. I appreciate that Hollywood undertook the challenge to create its movie adaptation, which would have been impossible in the Japanese movie industry.
I think more and more manga and anime should be adapted into live-action movies, because the medium can show us different aspects of their stories. I hope the live-action movie Ghost in the Shell entertains viewers who previously had no idea of Major and her adventure.