Ghost in the Shell, from Classic Japanese Animation to a de-Japanized American Version

Ghost in the Shell, from Classic Japanese Animation to a de-Japanized American Version

Kanako Itamae, Hiroshi Saito, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Ghost in the Shell is internationally recognized for being a classic and iconic Japanese animation film based on the future. It remains to be widely respected to a new generation of international fans of animation. However, while a live-action film is awaited by many animation fans the end result appears to be based on a de-Japanized version.

Culturally, to Americanize Ghost in the Shell is a sad indictment of a film industry in America that seems out of touch with the changing sands. In truth, Ghost in the Shell is a great opportunity to not only highlight the soft power of Japan but, equally important, it is a great opportunity for a leading Japanese female actress to break down the usual stereotypes.


Sadly, this isn’t going to be the case because the film is going to de-Japanize the iconic Ghost in the Shell. In other words, Major Motoko Kusanagi is being turned into a typical American leading female figure. Not only this, the selected actress, Scarlett Johansson, is even going to lose the name Motoko Kusanagi unless pressure makes the filmmakers alter course based on race issues. Therefore, the de-Japanized version of the leading female figure in the original Japanese animation film is being erased from memory in its entirety unless changes are made based on complaints.

It appears that filmmakers in America based on past realities, and on the new Ghost in the Shell film, are at pains to find non-Asian female actresses. Yet, it is clear that the original Japanese animation version belongs to the ultra-technological society where it was created. After all, in the 1980s the endless rise of Japan was on the horizon prior to the economic downturn that would blight this nation from the early 1990s and onward. This reality means that just like Blade Runner fused the future of the world within the realms of modern Tokyo – and the technological advancement of this nation – the strong Japanese cultural traits of Ghost in the Shell come alive within visions of the future.


All this is being lost within the live-action American film because Ghost in the Shell is now being Americanized. This is based on the leading actress being a million miles away from Major Motoko Kusanagi in terms of ethnicity and identity.

Therefore, the upcoming American film titled Ghost in the Shell is being deprived of not only connecting with the original Japanese animation film but, equally important, a great opportunity to bridge cultures is being lost. It matters not that other actors in the film come from various nationalities. After all, Major Motoko Kusanagi is instrumental to the original Japanese animation version of Ghost in the Shell and surely it isn’t nigh impossible to find a Japanese female actress in the modern world – if it is, then why?


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