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Franchise / Ghost in the Shell

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L-R: The Major, The Major, and The Major.
Not Pictured: The Major or The Major.

Ghost in the Shell is a highly influential Cyberpunk franchise about a cyborg woman that leads an elite Japanese police force. It began with a manga that first started publication in April 1989 and finished publication in November 1990. Since then, the series has spawned multiple adaptations, including movies — both animated and live-action — multiple animated TV series, video games, tie-in novels, and spin-off manga and comics.

In addition to the original manga, there are three subseries that all use the title "Ghost in the Shell", all unrelated from each other outside of being based on the same source material. Each iteration of the series features (mostly) the same cast of characters, the same setting, and explores the same themes of identity, memory, philosophy, and political intrigue.

Besides the above series, there is also a handful of one-off media:

This page is for the franchise in general. Please place examples for specific adaptations on their respective pages.

The Ghost in the Shell franchise provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: The protagonist in almost all installments is a cyborg woman named Motoko Kusanagi, the leader of Section 9, an elite special ops police force in Japan. As a cyborg, Kusanagi displays incredible strength and physical resilience, to the point that her teammates, themselves also cyborgs, are frequently left awestruck.
  • Adaptational Seriousness: The original manga is filled with numerous comedic elements such as Black Comedy, sight gags, Batou being a Butt-Monkey for comedy's sake, Motoko Kusanagi being greedy, petty, bitchy, and snarky, and plenty of exaggerated expressions thanks to Masamune Shirow's art styles. Mamoru Oshii's 1995 adaptation conveys a complete tone shift by refocusing Motoko and Batou as stoic and introspective while focusing on philosophy and the nature of humans and technology in a Cyberpunk setting, as well as more proportionally realistic depictions in the art style. Every series that has followed has continued with a fairly grounded reality within its story settings, usually only allowing humor to develop naturally from character interactions.
  • Alternate Continuity: Each of the adaptations has its own backstory and interpretation of Section 9 that is incompatible with other adaptations.
  • Cyberpunk: Each installment explores topics of how technology can influence our concept of identity, our memories, and the impact it has on society as a result.
  • Franchise Codifier: The original manga features a consistently comedic tone all throughout thanks to Masamune Shirow's art style allowing for easy and humorous expressions. It was Mamoru Oshii's anime adaptation in 1995 that set the tone of the entire franchise by removing all comedic elements and focusing on heavy philosophy regarding the nature of one's self, human integration with technology, and the meanings of life and artificial intelligence. Every adaptation since have been fairly focused police dramas with only occasional light-hearted comedic elements that happen naturally through the cast's personalities. Most people who know of the GITS franchise through the original movie's heavy impact on popularizing anime to western cultures would be shocked to learn that the original manga is an action comedy and probably could never imagine Major Motoko Kusanagi as being greedy, angry, catty, bitchy, or bashful. Only the PlayStation video game would ever try to recreate the comedy present in the original manga. And just as Oshii's film would set the tone for future adaptions as a whole, it also set up certain character personalities and traits for those same adaptions. Batou harboring an attraction to Motoko? Togusa being the least augmented member of the team? Both traits originated in that and were never once implied in the original manga. Even Togusa continuing to use a Mateba after the Major told him to upgrade is something the movie originated, as he drops the gun after Motoko tells him to in the manga.
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg: Full-body cyborgs are commonplace, with the cybernetically-modified brain (and, at least in the manga, the spinal cord) being the only organic portions remaining. The original anime film's opening credits show Motoko Kusanagi's body being created, and one chapter in the original manga shows a civilian woman going through the entire process, in much greater detail. The practicality of such extensive cyberization is discussed in one chapter, as only having Artificial Limbs limits the amount of work they can do before the stress pulls them off the organic body they're attached to.
  • Good Policing, Evil Policing: Many of the villains are corrupt government and law enforcement, weaving the conspiracies that the overall anti-heroic, but honest, Section 9 have to investigate.
  • Gonk: The politicians Aramaki has to interact with are hideous, sometimes barely looking human.
  • Public Domain Artifact: "Motoko Kusanagi" is an acknowledged pseudonym in every iteration of the franchise. The Kusanagi, or "Grass Cutter" is one of the artifacts of the Japanese Imperial Regalia. It's the equivalent of naming someone as "Jane Excalibur" in Western media.
  • Running Gag: Not exactly a gag, but every adaptation is guaranteed to have the Major trying to solo a tank and rip her arms off at the elbows in the process.
  • Stop Hitting Yourself: Played for Laughs with a recurring gag where Motoko hacks another character's body to make them punch themselves in the face.
    • Ghost in the Shell:
      • In chapter 2, Motoko gets irritated with the Minister of Internal Affairs when he starts to insinuate that he may interfere with later operations if she doesn't toe a particular line—their last mission caused a bit of a political mess. She asks to be linked to his cyberbrain directly to give her reply, and makes him punch himself in the face.
      • In chapter 3, Batou remotely mind-links with Motoko while she's in the middle of a cybersex session with several female Friends with Benefits and starts complaining about the nerve signals he's getting from organs he doesn't have. Cue Motoko making him punch himself in the face so hard one of his Electronic Eyes cracks.
    • At the end of the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode "Missing Hearts", Motoko challenged Batou after he boasts about the physical superiority of male prosthetic bodies. He puts up his fists, ready to strike, but she simply smiles back at him. In that brief instant, Motoko hacks Batou's body and makes him punch himself out, then tells him she looks forward to reading his report on the way that he properly used all the muscles in his head.
  • We Will All Be History Buffs in the Future: Many characters spout off about all sorts of historical occurrences and books. Justified by the fact that cyberbrains allow people a direct connection to the Internet, and provide dramatically enhanced memory.
  • World War Whatever: As part of the backstory in most of the incarnations, one or more World Wars broke out that ended up reshaping global politics.