The Cyberpunk Mania of Ghost in the Shell 

Ghost in the Shell Anime Cover

Ghost in the Shell is based on the manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. The animation studio Production I.G produced a few different versions of the show along with several film adaptations and video games. The show is primarily set in the 21st. Century in a fictional Japanese town called Niihama also known as New Port City. 

The manga as well as most of the anime series follow the individuals that belong to a group called Public Security Section 9, which is a force of different professionals to prevent crime that have a police background. There are political agendas and counter terrorism in this section, but the many corrupt officials, companies and criminals require unique approaches to prevent escalations. 

In this dissonance of a post cyberpunk future, technology is much more advanced and many of the population have what is called a cyberbrain, that allows them to tap into various local networks. Obviously this skill and cyberization varies from simple to complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts and prostheses. Becoming a full cyborg is definitely possible as well. 

The main character is Major Motoko Kusanagi, who is a full cyborg due to an accident as a kid that caused the need for full body prosthesis. The unfortunate and dooming reality is that the cybernization allows for highly skilled hackers to attack and open up brains. 

Ghost in the Shell anime visual

Animated Series

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002-2005) 

This first anime rendition was written and directed by Kenji Kamiyama and ran for two seasons. The original character design was done by Hajime Shimomura and the soundtrack by Yoko Kanno. In the shoe the year is 2030 and many people are now cyborgs. The members of Public Security Section 9 find themselves in ongoing investigations that embroil the group into corruption amongst branches of the Japanese government. 

Season 1

In the first season, we witness the Laughing Man incident. Essentially, it is revealed to the Major that several micromachine manufacturing corporations along with the government withheld vital information on an inexpensive treatment to an awful cyberization disease in order to gain a profit from the more expensive micromachine treatment. 

We watch him abduct one of the company owners and try to force him to reveal the truth on live television. But a hacker covers the owner’s face with a laughing face logo to all viewers streaming. Section 9 discovered these companies and several Japanese politicians later used the Laughing Man’s image to garner public support and profit, and they began a campaign to disseminate the truth. 

This ultimately leads to the Cabinet labeling them as domestic terrorists and forcibly disbanding them. They are able to capture several members, but it really is just a ruse to deceive the government. Section 9 group members re-group and in the end bring the micromachine corporations and corrupt politicians to justice, resulting in the termination of the current Japanese government. 

Season 2

The second season takes place two years after the events of the first season and dives into the political and social ramifications of the two world wars that happened prior to the events of the series. During the Third and the Fourth World Wars, about three million Asians became refugees of Japan as a source of cheap labor. These ‘invited refugees’ were from the reclaimed island of Dejima, but became unemployed in the post-war period, and their social unrest borders another war. 

Section 9 tries to manage the refugee issue and successfully stop a hostage crisis caused by a domestic terrorist group known as the Individual Eleven. The group hopes to stir up the refugees’ spirits by fighting for them against the Japanese government.

The group also comes into contact with Kazundo Goda, head of the Cabinet Intelligence Service. They deescalate tense situations with refugees and assist him in transporting plutonium through Dejima. Unfortunately their efforts result in several failures and refugee deaths, further straining relations.

Section 9 ultimately discovers that Goda is a manipulation of both events, leaking the social virus that creates the Individual Eleven ideology and creating a new Stand Alone Complex, as well as the intentional failures with the refugees. Ultimately they find that Goda is guilty of his part in all the horrific refugee incidents and killed. 

Ghost in the Shell: Arise Alternative Architecture (2015) 

This anime series was directed by Kazuchika Kise, written by Tow Ubukata and music by Cornelius. It ran for one season with 10 episodes. This series is a bit different and strange as it begins with the climax of the series instead of the beginning. 

Telling the story backwards in this way is a bit confusing, with varied characters and multiple timelines. We see the major execute an unarmed woman and out of context it is baffling, but when watched in chronological order it carries a lot of emotional impact. 

Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 (2020) 

This latest rendition and series is directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama is one season with 12 episodes. It is the year 2045 and it is just after an awful economic disaster, the Simultaneous Global Default. All forms of currency both paper and electronic were destroyed and the top 4 nations of the world are at the end in a kind of war to keep the economies going. 

Members of Public Security Section 9 now have a contract group name called ‘GHOST’ and use their cybernetic enhancements and battle expertise to make money while breaking up hot spots of warfare and tension all across the world. However, a strain of ‘post-humans’ and other conspiracies cause Section 9 to come back together to restore justice. 


Ghost in the Shell (1995) 

This first film was written by Kazunori Itō and directed by Mamoru Oshii, and stars the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka, and Iemasa Kayumi. The music is composed by Kenji Kawai and has a really interesting incorporation of elements of an ancient Japanese language. 

It takes place in 2029 Japan, and follows Motoko Kusanagi, who is a cyborg public-security agent. He seeks and tries to hunt down a notorious hacker who goes by the surname of Puppet Master. He can hack the computerized minds of cyborg human minds and modify their identity. 

This reality makes Motoko face her own identity and wonders what her life would feel like if she possessed more human traits. This unexpected curiosity of hers sends the case down an unexpected path. 

There are many interesting themes woven into the film that focus on self identity within the scope of so much technological advancement. This title is also regarded as one of the most prominent anime films of all time and immensely commended for their visuals that were a combination of traditional cel animation and CGI animation.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

Written and directed by Mamoru Oshii with music by Kenji Kawai and stars the voices of Akio Ōtsuka and Atsuko Tanaka. This film gained amazing acclaim and won best sci-fi film at the 2004 Nihon SF Taisho Awards and was in competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. 

The film centers around a case Section 9 is investigating that starts with a series of confusing deaths from malfunction gynoids, which are doll-like sex robots. It turns out they had been deliberately tampered with in order to trigger a police investigation. 

The dolls hold a ‘ghost-dubbing’ machine, which is an illegal procedure which produces ‘information-degraded, high-volume copies’, but results in the death of the originals. Young girls were kidnapped by the Yakuza and sold to LOCUS SOLUS for this process. Two of the girls conspire with a LOCUS SOLUS shipping inspector named Volkerson to cause the malfunctions and thus draw official attention to their plight.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Solid State Society (2006) 

Written collectively by Kenji Kamiyama, Shotaro Suga and Yoshiki Sakurai and directed by Kenji Kamiyama, this film continues the adventure and arc of Section 9. Set in 2034, Section 9 has increased considerably in size and they continue to deal with complicated cases. They look into the assassination of Ka Rum, who was a former dictator of the Siak Republic. 

This unveiled an intricate terrorist plot using children as vectors for a cybernetic virus. The investigations again point to the hacker, “The Puppeteer.” The kidnapped children were intended carriers of the virus. Section 9 begins to suspect a larger conspiracy when they are part of a larger body of 20,000 children.

Soon afterwards, more children disappear and Batou reveals to Togusa that he believes Kusanagi to be the Puppeteer. Through a tactically planned mission Section 9 is able to intercept a Siak sniper. They are able to reveal from him that the Puppeteer is actually a mechanism in the Solid State and cannot be killed. 

Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (2008) 

This film is a reproduced version of its original 1995 counterpart. It was written by Kazunori Ito, directed by Mamoru Oshii with music by Kenji Kawai. It was released in conjunction with Oshii’s other film The Sky Crawlers. The new version features new styles of animation with updated digital and film technologies such as 3-D-CG, but still keeps certain original footage. 

Additionally, there is a new opening, digital screens and holographic displays. 

The soundtrack is the same but was re-recorded and remixed in 6.1 Channel Surround. Randy Thom of Skywalker Sound reprised his role as sound designer, having worked previously on Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. The dialogue was also re-recorded, with minor details changed to add variation from the original script.

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2014) 

This final film rendition is written by Tow Ubukata and directed by Kazuya Nomura. It is set after all of the events of Arise, and involves the assassination of the Prime Minister of Japan, which the public resounds as the “greatest event since the war.” It is up to Section 9, led by Major Motoko Kusanagi, to unveil and find the true meaning and purpose of the murder. 

Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie

Video Games

Ghost in the Shell was developed by Exact and released for the PlayStation in July 1997 in Japan by Sony. This is a ter game featuring a brand new storyline where the player is a new member of Section 9! Additional games were developed based on the franchise for online as well. 

Ghost in the Shell is a world like no other. A world similar to Blade Runner, but an expansive multiverse that does not shy away from themes that delve into the philosophical and the existential. This cyberpunk science fiction series is sure to amaze you with its dynamic and riveting plots and twists. 

(C)士郎正宗・Production I.G/講談社・「攻殻機動隊 新劇場版」製作委員会
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