When Scarlett Johansson was announced as the lead in Rupert Sanders' live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell
, people had issues with her suitability for the role. And now that the film has been released, opinions are divided. Whitewashing issues aside, some feel that her interpretation of Major Motoko Kusanagi is not true to the character.
That in itself opens a whole other can of worms though, as the Major has been portrayed in quite a few different ways already. In Masamune Shirow's original graphic novels, the Major is a mercenary on contract with Government forces, a confident (sometimes arrogant) leader of a team of specialists. She also has a penchant for jokes, booze, drugs and gleefully experiments with debauchery. Her past and gender are a secret for everyone, the reader included, and some characters hint she was born a guy, switching bodies at will and currently using a young female body for convenience.
That's an awfully big contrast with the Major as portrayed in Oshii Mamoru's 1995 anime film. With full support by Shirow to change whatever he wanted, Oshii re-created Kusanagi with an older look, a melancholy contemplative disposition, and stuck in a trap. She's unable to quit her job as that would mean having her memories of secret missions deleted, and she fears that would change her identity, the life lessons she's learned. She toys with death as a possible release, and when a cybercriminal offers her a way out, she takes it.
While the film was a darker, more thoughtful take on Shirow's source material, it still managed to include a lot of impressive technical designs and kick-ass action scenes. In the television series Stand-Alone Complex
the focus shifted from philosophy to "cool action", and with it came a new Major Motoko Kusanagi, one with purple hair, red eyes and occasionally wearing bizarre fan-service outfits. She now also had a backstory: a dying child who could only be saved by having her brain put in a new mechanical body. This Kusanagi is very much a woman-on-a-mission, moody at times but mostly intent on cracking the case and getting her opponent down.
Recently we saw another reboot with the Arise
series of OVAs. We get a younger Kusanagi (not even a major yet) who learns and shows she's ready to play with the bigger guns, more a talented teenager than a seasoned professional. You might think it a prequel to Stand-Alone Complex
, if not for some distinct changes in the backstories, especially Motoko Kusanagi's own.
Each of these interpretations take place in mutually exclusive universes, and each has its own distinct Kusanagi. Therefore I can't fault the live-action version for doing a re-invention of the character once again, though I do think it's a shame they went with yet another Robocop
But after this big intro, let's go for the question of the week. Which version of Motoko Kusanagi do you like best? Chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!
(The picture above shows the animated ones in chronological order: Shirow's manga is on the left, then we get Oshii's film version, then Stand-Alone Complex and Arise is on the right)
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