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Manga / Ghost in the Shell

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Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidōtai, literally "Mobile Armored Riot Police") is a manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow. The manga, first serialized in 1989, told the story of the counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9, a cyborg SWAT team led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, in Post-Cyberpunk Japan. It would go on to become a franchise, being followed by three more manga series, GitS: Human Error Processor, GITS: Man/Machine Interface and GITS: The Human Algorithm. It wa later adapted into two animated films, an anime and an OVA series. The films, Stand Alone Complex and Arise are in different continuities.

A live-action film, which used to be in Development Hell, was produced by DreamWorks SKG and finally released in March 2017. Scarlett Johansson plays the lead role; it's directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White & the Huntsman).

These manga provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: The Major.
  • Alternate Continuity/Revision: When Shirow Masamune first set out to write a sequel to Ghost in the Shell, he published what would become Human Error Processor in a magazine. When it was time to give it a stand-alone, paperback release, he'd realized that he had a much greater story to write, and released Man/Machine Interface, without saying a word of what he'd done. (Shirow is notoriously secretive.) The fan-reaction was...less than stellar, and eventually Human Error Processor was released as GITS 1.5. While the two sequels can be taken as a continuous continuity from Ghost in the Shell, there are some finer details that don't quite match up.
  • And Then What?: Asked by one of the Fuchikomas when another suggests that they revolt, followed by it realizing that all the things it wanted, like getting its oil changed by humans, were already happening.
  • Artificial Limbs: One of the chapters has Motoko's roommate Ran explaining in good detail the benefits of having a full-prosthetic body compared to just having part of your body replaced with prosthetics. Using Batou as a visual aid for comedic effect, they show him having his left arm replaced with a machine, and explain that the mechanical arm can only pick up as much weight as the organic body can handle. If you were to try and pick up too much weight, the arm would rip out right from the connection with the organic tissues.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Maj. Motoko Kusanagi basically witnesses Project 2501 all-but-literally fulfill this trope when she dives into its dying ghost. Soon afterwards, Project 2501 returns and joins with Motoko to become a new type of lifeform. Because this is Shirow Masamune, two of these lifeforms later join forces to ascend once more by merging with an artificial silicon lifeform.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted until the last quarter or so of Man/Machine Interface, when Motoko spends a lot of time diving. Shirow said in a margin note that he stopped drawing her nipples for convenience's sake.
  • Battered Bouqet: In one chapter, Section 9 leaves flowers on the grave marker of an officer killed in the line of duty. A couple panels later, they look back and see the bereaved family of the deceased angrily knock the bouquet off the grave marker.
  • Bowdlerization: The original flipped printing of the English localization of volume one replaced the virtual orgy sequence with a single panel of Motoko and her friends frolicking on a yacht (though Masamune's author notes about the original page were kept). The later unflipped version has these pages intact.
  • Brain Uploading: Ghost dubbing allows someone's ghost to be copied and inserted into other bodies, such as a clone, but the result is always more limited or more insane than the biological version, and the original suffers heavy brain damage and eventually death as a result. Ghost dubbing is illegal because of the clones or other embodiments that are released as a result (along with the said death of the original). Each and every one of those clones is the original copy of the soul. Attempting this process is punishable by life in prison or having your brain wiped. Batou and Togusa come across a ghost dubbing system in one chapter while investigating sex bots gone berserk, where it turns out that the ghosts of kids smuggled into the country by the mob were being dubbed into said bots.
  • Brown Note: Batou's reaction to intruding on Motoko's cyberbrain while she's having a virtual orgy with some female friends. Having a male body, he's hit with sensory input which he has no nerve endings for, and it makes him feel very ill. In other words, he experienced a female orgasm in a male body.
  • Butt-Monkey: Batou tends to be this for Motoko quite often.
  • Canon Welding: This manga is said to be in the same timeline as Shirow Masamune's other major work Appleseed, but besides the existence of the Human Liberation Front terrorist organization and the same Space Filling Empires, there isn't much reference to each other due to the century apart in the timeline. Man/Machine Interface, however, has a stronger reference to Appleseed via Motoko Aramaki working for Poseidon Industrial, a major player in the world of Appleseed.
  • Cat Smile:
    • Togusa of all people, gives one in Human-Error Processor while gloating his seniority over Azuma after he pissed off a woman they were tasked with escorting safely back home.
    • Batou can be seen with these when he's in a good mood.
    • The Fuchikomas often sport these whenever they're depicted with mouths for comedy's sake.
    • Motoko is depicted with one in a small panel near the end of the first manga.
    • Even Aramaki pulls one off every now and then when he's really sticking it to a political opponent.
  • Chameleon Camouflage: In the various incarnations this is known as thermoptic camouflage, presumably because it also works in infrared.
  • Characterization Marches On: Motoko's not nearly as stoic here as in the anime adaptations. She starts off as a total ass who doesn't care about saving your butt unless it's specifically her job to do so. She's selfish, greedy, lazy, catty, high-tempered, and sometimes even mischievous or spiteful. As the volumes shift from dark comedy to a more serious plot though, the Major's characterization gradually loses the upbeat nature and becomes colder and pensive, much like later adaptations characterizes her.
  • City on the Water: Poseidon Industrial in Man/Machine Interface is based on one.
  • Cloning Body Parts: A company in Man/Machine Interface grows cloned organs in pigs. Stand Alone Complex borrowed this for one of its episodes.
  • Court-martialed: Major Kusanagi is at one point charged with manslaughter in the line of duty after Section 9's antics (specifically her reflexively killing the person they were trying to capture when he snuck up behind her) are caught on film. She skips court before the verdict is read to ferret out what's really going on.
  • Cyberpunk / Post-Cyberpunk
  • Death of Personality: In the original manga there's a mention that the penalty faced by the Criminal of the Week for "ghost-dubbing" is "death or mindwipe".
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: In the final pages of the original manga, the Puppet Master/Motoko hybrid floors Batou when she tells him that the feminine-looking artificial body she's in is actually male.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Character dynamics within Section 9 are very different in the first few chapters of the original manga than in the later chapters, and the adaptations. Batou is a dumbass. Everyone seems to hate Togusa. Most jarringly, the relationship between Aramaki and the rest of the team is mutually distrustful and antagonistic. At one point, Batou blows up Aramaki's car. As a prank.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The Soviet Union still existed when the manga was initially published in the early 90's and has a small presence in the story, which takes place around 2030. Masamune himself would revise following reprints to reflect their downfall in 1992.
  • Fanservice:
    • The lesbian threesome in the original manga, and several shots of female service androids in revealing outfits.
    • Man/Machine Interface goes out of its way to provide crotch shots, and for one panel, Motoko being pleasured by cyber-tentacles.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Years after the first volume was published Shirow admitted that the only reason he drew an all-girl orgy was because he "didn't want to draw some guy's butt."
  • Heart Drive: Cyborgs usually only have their organic brain encased in a cyberbrain shell as the last remaining organic part of their body. Very few people are shown to be able to survive without having it directly inside their body.
  • Hollywood Encryption: Done with the Hand Wave that the Major and the more techie members of Section 9 are just that good. However, sometimes they run across security that actually counterattacks their hacking, which might be something of an aversion (encryption that can scramble your brain? AWESOME).
  • Mythology Gag: Anna and Uni Puma show up as a couple of merchants in the streets of Etorofu. They get about 2 pages worth of dialogue. A Fuchikoma tries to barter with them for a piece of merchandise, but ends up accidentally stealing it when it ran off. Anna was pissed and grabs a machine gun, but Uni figures it was probably stolen merchandise in the first place anyway and says to just let it go.
    • They show up again in Human Error Processor in a crowd scene gawking at an explosion from a nearby apartment building.
    • The tank driver in the wheelchair from Dominion Conflict 1 is shown on the page before.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Section 9 is named after real-life German counter-terrorism unit GSG9 (Border Guard, Unit 9).
  • Naughty Nurse Outfit: The nurses carrying out cyborg modifications have some rather Stripperiffic costumes.
  • No Periods, Period: Averted after the first few pages. The period produces "noise" in Major Kusanagi's brain. Given that she's a full-body cyborg...
  • Not What It Looks Like: Subverted by the threesome. While what's happening on the page is happening, underneath all that is an illegal, drug-enhanced data-sharing sim that uses the threesome as its interface.
  • Prequel in the Lost Age: According to Shirow note  this is a prequel to Appleseed. The Silicon entity seen in Man/Machine Interface will go onto become the Gaia supercomputer that runs Olympus. Additionally, Yoshino, who is an agent of Poseidon (22nd century Japan) is the 101st offspring of Motoko and the Puppet Master. Additionally Poseidon's early years, from when it was a private company and not Japan's successor state, are also seen. The degradation in cyber technology was apparently a result of some attack on the net, leading to its absence 100 years later.
  • Recursive Canon: The Puma Sisters from Dominion Tank Police appear working on a stall. A few pages later we see an in-universe advertisement for the Dominion Tank Police Manga.
  • Remote Body:
    • In the original manga Motoko fakes her death to escape her Court Martial by allowing her remotely controlled body to get shot in the head.
    • In Man/Machine Interface her "daughters" have several remotes stashed all over the world as well as occasionally puppeteering other cyborgs.
  • R-Rated Opening: The Your Head A-Splode scene from the original anime movie had its origins in the very first sequence of the manga.
  • Rule of Cool: Various footnotes explain that some of the vehicles are not drawn to scale, and that cyberspace wouldn't really "look" like anything - but it's cooler when it does. They even go so far to point out when a character's suggestions and line of thinking wouldn't actually work.
  • Sex by Proxy: Batou gets hit with this. Aramaki orders him to contact Motoko and pull her off leave, so he proceeds to dive into her mind...while she's in the threesome. As noted elsewhere, it's not a pleasant experience for him. The scene got heavily censored in the original US release, but was included in the reprint (the page picture). Kodansha's latest version removes it entirely, but dialogue makes it clear what's going on.
  • Shown Their Work: The margins are crammed with Shirow's footnotes informing the reader that he knows very well that cyberspace doesn't look like that, and this plane wouldn't actually be that large, or that 16^2 refers to the size of the micromachines used for skin sensitivity, and not the amount of artificial nerve endings per square centimeters. The author notes at the end of the first manga shows he really REALLY did his homework with political, technological, theological, and philosophical themes presented.
  • Situational Sexuality: Heterosexual brainsex is impossible for biological reasons, so the Major's cyber orgy is with other girls. (Actually, Masamune just didn't want to draw a guy's butt.)
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
  • Spider Tank: The Fuchikomas, as well as the "German Spider Tank"
  • State Sec: Rare heroic example, as the protagonists are part of Public Security Section Nine. They operate with great autonomy, are only ever seen reporting to the Prime Minister or the Minster of Home Affairs, regularly violate laws which would bind other governmental organizations, and thanks to virtually no oversight, almost never get caught doing so. While Section Nine itself is only a small elite team of mostly ex-military operatives with a small support staff and a lot of cutting-edge equipment, they are still only one of at least eight other Public Security Sections, each with a different structure and area of responsibility. What little is known about the other Sections places them more within government control.
    • Section 1 covers internal investigations within Japan, similar to the FBI.
    • Section 4 is a group of Rangers, like the Navy Seals.
    • Section 6 works like the CIA, and is the only section that can take out hits on other government agents.
    • Other sections fill in roles similar to the Drug Enforcement Agency and medical investigations.
  • Stop Hitting Yourself:
    • The denouement of chapter two has the Home Affairs Minister insinuate over video conference that he'll make trouble for Section 9 unless Motoko toes a political line (this after their preceding mission caused a political mess). Motoko asks to link with him directly 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.
  • Stripperiffic:
  • Stumbling in the New Form: Kusanagi's old body is destroyed and Batou puts her brain into the body of a Bishounen guy by accident, having mistaken the guy for a woman. Kusanagi complains that it's going to take some time to get used to walking with a penis and testicles hanging between her legs.
  • Submarine Pirates: Motoko caught a bunch of pirates in a stolen Imperial American submarine sneaking under her clients' floating city. Fortunately she had a better sub.
  • Talking to Themself: All of the major female characters in Man-Machine Interface turn out to be offspring of Motoko Kusanagi and the Puppetmaster (the protagonist is number 11), and one of them is Kusanagi/the Puppetmaster.
  • Technical Pacifist: Aramaki is too old to do any fighting. He's always been the political leader of Section 9 who takes care of the paperwork, and doesn't have a violent bone in his body. However, when he learns that Section 1 was trying to hunt down and kill Motoko as part of a gambit they got caught up in, he pulls out a gun and cocks it right in the face of Section 1's leader without a second thought, ordering him to call off his men.
  • Technology Porn: This series enjoys showing off the various technologies that the future has. The various forms of mecha as well as interacting through the net in particular.
  • Unusual User Interface: Both the jacks used to access the web, the internal LAN's sometimes used to hack or get hacked, and even subverted by using normal keyboards. There's also talking in barcodes and laser communication by staring at people with Eye Beams.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Practically everyone, male and female. Togusa lampshades it after knocking down a woman attacking him, claiming that he believes in "equality for the sexes".
  • You Can Never Leave: The cyborgs of Section 9 require constant high-level maintenance, and there would be little left to resign once the government had taken back all its classified cyber-technology. As it turns out the Major discovers a way to Take a Third Option.

Alternative Title(s): The Ghost In The Shell One Point Five Human Error Processor, The Ghost In The Shell 15 Human Error Processor, The Ghost In The Shell 2 Man Machine Interface