Ghost in the Shell: The Major’s Body (2)

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The Major, or Motoko Kusanagi, is the protagonist of each incarnation of the Ghost in the Shell manga-anime-merchadise franchise. If you care to google, Motoko Kusanagi is autocompletes to “a man” and “is hot,” then “in bed with a boy” and “in bed.” For a science-fiction philosophy character named for her military position, we (the audience — although I don’t limit this to those who have experienced the fiction, as the Major is iconic) sure are caught up in thinking about her gender and sexual status. This is part 2 of a pan-franchise series (find part one here).

 

Theatrical poster, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence still, Mamoru Oshii, Production IG, 2004Innocence, Mamoru Oshii’s 2004 optional sequel to Ghost in the Shell, sees the evolved Major in a far more rudimentary body. The swivelling ball of her lower torso is unmasked, her joints all visible, and she’s a largely silent presence. She signifies a more gynaecological interest in a woman’s, or girl’s, body.

The theatrical poster for the film shows her body naked and penetrated by various wires, again, but this time her body is without her — dismembered and discarded.

HANS BELLMER Doll 1936 (cast in 1965)The visual research for this film included a world tour of doll museums, leading to a concentration on the doll crafts of Hans Bellmer — widely regarded by adult male-led art scenes as an erotic artist — whose work drew heavily from the concept of sexual adolescence. As wikipedia has it, “Bellmer’s work was welcomed in the Parisian art culture of the time, especially the Surrealists around André Breton, because of the references to female beauty and the sexualization of the youthful form.” As read secondhand in Livia Monnet’s Anatomy of Permutational Desire, Part II: Bellmer’s Dolls and Oshii’s Gynoids, Oshii’s published notebooks reveal that “[b]eholding the actual Doll model, Oshii confesses that he felt as if he were being reunited with a woman whom he had secretly worshipped and desired in his youth, knowing full well that he would never meet her.” The sexualised child-woman mixture existed as a desirable or fascinating concept for Oshii before it became the primary aesthetic of the film’s driving force: a crime story, which focusses on the implantation of children’s awarenesses into sex-service robots modelled to resemble adult women.

Above right: HANS BELLMER Doll 1936 (cast in 1965). Below, a gif of a scene in which an AI (later revealed to be a child forcibly implanted into a prosthetic body that resembles adulthood, subsequently sold as a sex device) self-destructs after murdering her owner.

 

Gif of scene from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Mamoru Oshii, Production IG, 2004. Gynoid self-destructs

I can think only of men who think they “don’t understand women,” and want to take them apart until they find … what? “Find out.” Are these men fictional? I don’t understand how much this film is about male sexual entitlement and how much it is of it.

tafinnocencestatues4elThe major’s ball-jointed, overtly manufactured appearance may critique the application of an adult body and intimate exploitation of a child’s psyche; it may apply the same exploitation to her in the audience’s perception; it may do both. This film is less popular, less culturally seminal, harder to source stills from, and (this feels critical to me) less cosplayed than Ghost in the Shell (1995) — or any other piece of the franchise. For example, it holds a Rotten Tomatoes 64% score to its predecessor’s 94%. Is this related to the Major’s relative dateable inaccessibility? Innocence presents her sexual status as ambivalent and unsettling, though many aspects of the presentation of her body to the audience are repeated, from the prior film.

Screen Shots from Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, 2004, Production IG, Mamoru OshiiBatou again protectively, or possessively, places an oversized garment around her shoulders. This time it is sleeveless, bulky, and the absurdity is more obvious.

I adore Batou. He does not understand; he tries to be so kind. My first viewing of this film was almost entirely caught up in sympathising with Batou’s sadness — the Major’s status as post-individual disembodied lifeform alarmed me, and her presence as a Bellmer-style physicality registered, lightly, as repellant. I tried to ignore her. Her on-screen presence in the film is brief — she has only come back as a cameo, for Batou.

This is the end of Oshii’s lead creatorship. Next: Stand Alone Complex, where the series takes a turn towards the ensemble, the Major receives no nude scenes but more slick shine, and I truly become a fan of the title.
Series Navigation<< Ghost in the Shell: The Major’s Body (1)Ghost in the Shell: the Major’s Body (3) >>
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About Author

The rock that drops on your head. WWAC Chief Comics Ed. Find me at claire.napier@wwacomics.com

7 Comments

  1. I love this series you’re writing! I’m a big GITS fan as well as a guy starting to really honestly contemplate how women are treated in popular culture so I’m in the right place at the right time for this!

    One thing I think is worth noting about this movie is that I read that it wasn’t even billed as GITS 2 in Japan but as a separate story that just happened to occur after the first movie. I don’t think a US audience would have been able to digest that without it being tagged with the GITS title but it’s decidedly not your standard GITS vehicle. I think that’s why it’s less popular and generally overlooked when people think of GITS as a franchise. I personally still liked it, though!

    I’d be interested in seeing these themes analysed in the context of Japanese pop culture and gender and juvenile sexuality issues since this is a Japanese story to begin with. I’m not saying that to minimize what you’re doing because I really dig the analysis but I think that could give some added insight into what we’re seeing in the Major’s creation.

    With regards to him putting the vest on the robot body the Major inhabited at the end of the film, I always took that as a more practical step in making her easier to identify from all the other identical robots they were going to fight. I recognized the similarity with the previous movie and the symbolism of Batou’s protective affection for the Major, but this time around there was a valid reason beyond chivalry.

    Do you plan on looking at the GITS manga at some point for this series? That would also be interesting considering how Shirow tends to roll with his depictions of dainty women sheathed in hard, cold power armor.

    But yeah, I like what you’re doing here!

    • Claire Napier on

      Thanks Mike! That’s good to hear.

      That’s pretty interesting, it not being billed as GitS. Sort of weird since the paedophilic ghost dubbing plot is right out of the manga, but it’s not like I can’t see the differences between Innocence and a more regular franchise entry.

      I agree, actually, with your third paragraph — I would have to do way, way, WAY more research though, before touching juvenile sexuality in any pop culture other than my own (and even then, I’d have to do a lot of unenjoyable reading/looking/thinking). Not least because I find a lot of the relevant material absolutely enraging. I’d be super-interested to read someone with greater experience discussing that — I wrote this series from my limited, one-person POV because I couldn’t find anyone discussing what I wanted to read about. Unfortunately without being able to read Japanese I’m (we’re?) probably not going to be too lucky there.

      Export of the franchise is a pretty important element to consider, though. I get into that a little more when I reach Arise.

      I do! Next is Stand Alone Complex, then the original manga, then Arise, then the Arise manga. I’m not touching Man-Machine Interface (or the other manga season which I have forgotten the name of), unless I change my mind for some reason. SAC second gig probably wont get its own focus, although having said that I’ve realised how ridiculous a decision it is to leave out the series in which her prosthetic childhood is explicated. So maybe it will.

      Thanks again!

    • Sarah Richardson on

      Mike – Your interpretation of why Batou puts the jacket on her is interesting. I can’t read it as anything but a chivalrous gesture due to Batou’s body language. Even though it serves an additional practical reason, it’s not the first time he’s tried to clothe the Major while she’s all ‘Don’t got time for clothes’.

      Claire – I love that you brought Bellmer into this. His dolls are so creepy with that same innocent yet sexualized vibe. Great parallel to make!

      • Claire Napier on

        I find Bellmer so BOTHERSOME. Even as an art teen I was all “I sort of… get it?” but what I got was maybe 60-80% “get away from me”.

        Which makes sense, as he was an adult refusing to give up the sexual frisson youth had allowed him, and I was still a youth.

  2. Ar Sanahatahar II on

    “Oshii’s published notebooks reveal that “[b]eholding the actual Doll model, Oshii confesses that he felt as if he were being reunited with a woman whom he had secretly worshipped and desired in his youth, knowing full well that he would never meet her.” The sexualised child-woman mixture existed as a desirable or fascinating concept for Oshii before it became the primary aesthetic of the film’s driving force: a crime story, which focusses on the implantation of children’s awarenesses into sex-service robots modelled to resemble adult women.”
    Wow, so the stuff that looked disturbing and non-sexual to me is an author appeal after all D: . And Oshii is a perv just like Shirow but more sophisticated 😀 . Wow, that’s so messed up 😀 .

    Reminds me of these guys that caught balljoint fetish from watching Rozen Maiden 😀 .

  3. If you read the manga its hinted that the major was at one time a man or a boy put in a woman’s body.

    • a) that’s actually irrelevant here
      b) as you can see, this is part of a series of articles; if you view them all you’ll see that I cover and have indeed read the manga
      c) show me where bruv