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 six of a pan-franchise series (find previous parts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
The connection that Batou and the Major have is not interesting because of its unknown factual chronology. It’s interesting, and touching, because it’s intangible. It’s analogous to the titular ghost: more than the sum of body parts and circumstances.
Explaining “how they met” (and playing with ~at first they hated each other) — how gauche. But gauche is the order of the day. I’ll just treat you to a slideshow, shall I?
There’s nothing to this choice of clothing beyond “tight, tight, naked-tight, fit torso!”. She’s vacuum sealed in and the camera — sorry, this isn’t a film, is it? Ooyama’s pen, drawing from his imagination — just loves coming up from behind, below, or both. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the ‘net…
Ooyama outlines her vulva. He does it carefully. He shows you the precise contours of each of her labia, and how her body curves from her anus (if she has one — cyborg, remember?) and past her vagina (again: if). My visual literacy delivers this message from the images’ creators, editors, publishers: You could power on up into there, if you wanted, reader. Look, she’s got high heels on; you could easily get her off balance. It’s distasteful to the extreme.
Here are two panels that come quickly in sequence. Narrative context: Batou is trapped, he hates the Major, he thinks she’s an enemy and he’s rudely dismissive about her prosthetic nature; he scathingly blames her for what he perceives as her low self-valuation. The high-heeled boot of discipline. Her torso so tightly restrained in battlefield garments that her appearance approaches insectoid. Her apparently unaroused, but nevertheless fetishised (and oh boy, reader, but is that ever a pet hate), nipples. She looks down over her breasts, and her trousers are sucked fiercely up into the devouring void. What’s being communicated here? Is this supposed to teach us about Batou? A desire/repulsion cyberbody hangup?
Batou, as usual, is the emotional centre of the story and does the most reacting. He reacts to everything, and everything we learn about the Major either comes through him, or through our being privy to her cyberbrain communications. A dislike of Kurtz’ capitalist motivations is the only beat in the story that adds any new dimension to events within Arise — but all this does for me is create a hole in the emotional connection I thought she and the Major had. It changes my perception of the story, but it lessens my engagement. The Arise interactions between Batou and the Major actually seem to ring false having read Sleepless Eye. Animated, they seemed to be virtual strangers. This manga creates an intimacy of shared trauma.
I’ll bring back this tweet I made a few months ago: Arise has taken too many of the Major’s character components from her, and she isn’t “who she is”. From Arise back to Sleepless Eye, she’s increasingly juvenile and appears as a child multiple times. Rather than building a core of strength, as per the childhood appearances in Stand Alone Complex: 2nd Gig, these childhood flashbacks — and even brainspace childhood remnants — serve to emphasis how vulnerable this poor little lonely bad(daaamn that)ass is. Kurtz uses a scene from Motoko’s childhood as leverage. See what I did there, with the name? Batou views a childlike version of her through cyberlink, once he’s learnt to sympathise with her. He comes by this sympathy in the normal way: she sacrificed her body to save his. In the next scene his sympathy turns to pity, as she’s talked about as an object by a man she called comrade.
Above: cyberbrain child-Motoko and Batou. Below, in the scene that Kurtz invokes: Motoko wears a dress, knee socks. SAC:2nd Gig‘s youthful shorts and t-shirt combo is very likely to occur on the same child; it all depends on the whim of the day. For sure. That said, I suppose it’s a coincidence that this alarmingly vulvic manga emphasises femininity when exhibiting the Major’s early youth?
Speaking of Kurtz, a character introduced and revealed as the Major’s betrayer in Arise. Let’s meet her again, earlier in their relationship. Here’s how she debuts in this manga. Try not to be distracted, but what’s happening with her torso skin? Under the breast, there. It falls like a curtain. Well, I won’t sniff at bodily diversity, but I do think it’s an accident, considering this feature is not repeated within Arise: Ghost Pain. This comic’s art’s not 100% technically bad. Some panels, such as this one to the left, show an understanding of muscular anatomy and the physicality of force that’s unfortunately sublimated in the up-pelvis illustrations partially listed above. Even the occasional over-detailed spread largely works for me in context, such as this one, which might be effectively expressing the physical reaction to sudden knowledge of extreme danger. The costuming problems remain (that sternum-bisecting breast separator does nothing more than hold on her sleeve. Is your cyborg right arm cold?), and the focus doesn’t really leave the breasts, does it?
This cropped scan cuts off where the bottom of the page does. That’s seriously the bottom of the page. You still alive? TITS.
No. They’re powerful objects, I’ll grant you. Made of some stern stuff. Still at full salute, even after a passel of bullets has made its way through her! I could say more, but why bother? I think this manga is pointless, low on storytelling, low on women, and high on fetish. It adds nothing to my enjoyment of Ghost in the Shell and lessens my appreciation of Arise, which was already shaky. We get the familar beats, but what’s repetition for its own sake worth?
She gets to not be dead. He gets a medal.
Probably for chivalry, idk.