Ghost in the Shell

From Academic Kids

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Motoko Kusanagi in the movie Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊, Kōkaku Kidōtai, Mobile Armoured Riot Police), is a Japanese science fiction manga created by Masamune Shirow.

In 1995, a motion picture adaptation of the manga was created by Mamoru Oshii. The movie received much attention due to its use of revolutionary computer graphics techniques. The classical style soundtrack was written by Kenji Kawai.

In 2002, a sequel to the manga was released titled Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface (Koukaku Kidoutai 2: ManMachine Interface; 攻殻機動隊 : 2 ManMachine Interface).

Also in 2002, an anime television series based on the characters and premises in the manga was created by Kenji Kamiyama, entitled Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (攻殻機動隊 STAND ALONE COMPLEX). It featured music from popular composer Yoko Kanno. In late 2004 the first season was adapted and released to the American market on Adult Swim, and a second season (STAND ALONE COMPLEX 2nd GIG) began to air.

In 2004, a second movie, Innocence: Ghost in the Shell was released; the date was March 6 in Japan and September 17 in the U.S.

Note the sequels to the movie and the book are unrelated, as is the television series.



Set in the 21st century, Ghost in the Shell is superficially a futuristic spy thriller, dealing with the exploits of Motoko Kusanagi (草薙素子 Kusanagi Motoko), a major in the covert operations section of the Japanese National Public Safety Commission, Section 9, which specializes in fighting technology-related crime. Kusanagi herself is almost completely mechanized, a human brain in an artificial body, capable of superhuman feats, and specialized for her job.

The setting of Ghost in the Shell is distinctively cyberpunk, similar to that of William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, though Shirow's work is more focused on the ethical and philosophical ramifications of the widespread merging of humanity and technology. The development of artificial intelligence and an omnipresent computer network set the stage for a reevaluation of human identity and uniqueness. The manga in particular tackles these questions head on: Kusanagi and her colleagues face external threats and also suffer internal conflict over their own natures.

The overarching story of the manga (and the only story of the first movie) is of the hunt for a cyber-criminal, Top Secret Project 2501 AKA "The Puppet Master", real identity unknown, who commits a large number of crimes through a single modus operandi: "ghost hacking", breaking into and taking control of human minds. As the agents of Section 9 start to unravel the mystery of the Puppet Master, it becomes clear that it is no ordinary criminal, but a unique autonomous artificial intelligence project created by, and escaped from, the same government Section 9 serves, and wanting a real body and a human identity. Kusanagi, although initially skeptical, finally agrees to allow the Puppet Master to merge with her own consciousness, sharing her body, in what is no doubt intended to raise even more questions about the nature of human identity in a world where human consciousness is no longer unique.

The manga is also notable for the proliferance of footnotes and commentary by Shirow himself on both the technology and the socio-political background of the setting (in the complete, English language graphic novel edition, these take up more than 30 pages).

The Philosophy of Ghost in the Shell

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Batou in the movie Ghost in the Shell (1995)


Colloquial slang term for an individual's mind or essence of being. In the futuristic society of Ghost in the Shell, the term has scientifically redefined the "soul", or ghost, as what differentiates a human being from a biological robot. Regardless of how much biological material is replaced with electronic or mechanical substitutes, as long as an individual retains their ghost, they retain their humanity and individuality.

The concept of ghost was borrowed by Masamune Shirow from the essay of structuralism The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler. The title The Ghost in the Machine itself was originally words used by a British philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, mocking the paradox of the conventional Cartesian dualism and Dualism in general. Koestler, like Ryle, denies the Cartesian dualism and resorts the origin of human mind to the physical condition of the brain.

Shirow follows this course of philosophy of denying dualism in his work. Based on Koestler's idea, in Ghost in the Shell, Shirow defines in a broader context ghost not simply as a physical trait, but a phase or rather vaguely a phenomenon that appears in a system of a certain level of complexity. The brain itself is only part of the whole neural network; so if an organ is removed from a body for instance, the autonomic nerve of the organ and consequently its ghost will vanish unless the stimulus of the existence of the organ is re-produced thoroughly realistically by a certain mechanical substitution. This could be compared to an analogy of a person with innate hearing disability being unable to understand the concept of "hearing" unless taught.

In Ghost in the Shell, Kusanagi completely reproduces her stimulus of her entire organs including internal organs to maintain her ghost. In case of a technical transferring of a ghost from one body to another, the attempt normally results in failure since the ghost tends to deteriorate due to either the difference of system at the material level or the deficiency of the transferring protocol. The Puppet Master manages not to deteriorate its ghost when merging with Kusanagi because his system is the body of information itself, thereby avoiding a deterioration due to the deficiency at material level.

Hegel's concept of Geist may also be related.


One of the consequences of this revelation is a final resolution of the nature versus nurture debate in criminology. When a criminal is convicted of a crime in Masamune Shirow's future world, a detailed technical analysis is done of the subject. If it is discovered that the crime was committed due to a material defect in either the biological or electronic components of the convict's brain, the defect is repaired and the convict is released. If, instead, the crime is determined to have been the result of an individual's ghost, then there is only one cure: the removal of the portion of the brain that communicates with the soul, thereby de-ghosting the criminal and preventing any possibility of future criminal behavior.


Tachikoma (they are called Tachikoma in Stand Alone Complex, but called Fuchikoma in the original Manga) are artificially intelligent mini-tanks employed by Section 9. Because of the demands of field duty, these robots are constructed with extremely flexible, adaptable AIs that lack many of the safeguards present in other artificially intelligent robots. While this enables them to behave unpredictably and flexibly, it also presents difficulties for the members of Section 9, who must monitor the Fuchikoma closely for signs of undesirable emotional development.

The underlying statement here is that predictable behavior results in inherent weakness. Section 9, as an organization, needs heterogeneity and even organic weakness if it is to survive. "A machine where all the parts respond the same way is a brittle tool."

Cyberbrain warfare/Ghost hacking

Cyberbrain warfare is the practice of employing ghost hacking as a means of gaining access to an opponent's cyberbrain, and ultimately, their ghost. A successful cyberhacker can intercept, censor, or augment the sensory information being received by a victim, or even go so far as to destroy or rewrite complete memories.

Cyberbrain warfare is portrayed as a natural consequence of the integration of cybernetic and wireless communication technology directly into the human brain. Despite the apparent risks, even the most paranoid characters in the story find the benefits of directly networking their brains to be indispensable.

Apparently, any conduit by which information is absorbed by the brain can be exploited for ghost hacking. Shirow envisions the use of firewalls for protecting the ghost against attack, and multiple layers of encryption.

Movie adaptation

Directed by Mamoru Oshii, the movie adaptation of Ghost in the Shell is highly atmospheric and slow-paced compared with the manga. Whereas the characters in the manga are portrayed as more convivially silly, Oshii's screenplay is written in a far more serious manner. In addition, Oshii was required to shorten the manga considerably in order to fit it into 115 minutes of screen time. As a result the film focuses almost exclusively on the 'Puppet Master Plot', excluding the several subplots covered in the manga.

Some found the result of this conversion superficial, confusing, and dull. Others argued that it removed much of Shirow's "obsessive fannishness", added focus to the story, and made for a more artistically pleasing and mature effort than the original.

The film was lauded as one of the first animes to seamlessly blend computer and cel animation. The soundtrack is of a classical Japanese style.

Related projects

A continuation (somewhat) of the manga and first movie storyline can be found in the second part of the manga entitled Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface.

One self-titled console game has already been produced for the series, developed by Exact and published by THQ. A second one bearing the series title (Stand Alone Complex) was released in November 2004, developed by SCEJ and Cavia and published by Bandai.

Impact and influence

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Major Kusanagi using optical camouflage (from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex)

Like other pioneering sci-fi works, Ghost in the Shell has made a significant impact in fiction and the real world alike. The Matrix, a very successful 1999 sci-fi action movie, contains imagery apparently influenced by this movie (and other anime also). For example, the opening scene with green digits resembles the opening in Ghost in the Shell. During the opening scene in which Trinity flees the Agents, the shot of the Agent landing on the roof is almost identical to a shot of Kusanagi during the pursuit of the first 'puppet'. [1] ( There is also a clear relation between the conception of the Matrix and the cybernetically enhanced brains of Ghost in the Shell. (The Wachowski brothers, makers of the Matrix trilogy, admitted the influence of Ghost in the Shell in an interview. [2] (

Another impact is the real-life development of optical camouflage as worn by Kusanagi. [3] (

Book references (manga)

See Also

External links

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es:Ghost in the Shell fr:Ghost in the Shell ko:공각기동대 ja:攻殻機動隊 pl:Ghost in the Shell ru:Ghost in the Shell sv:Ghost in the Shell


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