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Archive for January 7th, 2012

By Bob Clark

Since its original release from 1989 to 1991, the Ghost in the Shell manga has become one of the most widely recognized franchises in comics and animation alike, living on through numerous permutations and in the hands of three principle authors over that time– Masamune Shirow, author and illustrator of the of the original manga series; Mamoru Oshii, director of the film adaptation; and Kenji Kamiyama, director of the two Stand Alone Complex television series. Though their various takes on the property range from the abstractly philosophical to the concretely physical, from fast-paced action to surreal sexual interludes, the one main thing that each iteration has had in common is its focus on the standout character of Major Motoko Kusanagi, the top agent in Japan’s Section-9 security force, a top-of-the-line cyborg who spends her time between playing hard on missions and harder on R-&-R wondering about what it all means.

However, the character of the Major recedes to varying degrees in the furthest reaches of each creator’s handling of the series. Kamiyama’s Solid State Society picks up two years after SAC’s 2nd Gig, and portrays a Kusanagi gone rogue to investigate cases that Section-9 restrains her from, including a series of bizarre deaths related to a master hacker known as “The Puppeteer”. Oshii’s sequel film Innocence picks up where the original story left off and follows agents Batou and Togusa as they try to piece together a mystery without the help of the Major, disappeared into the net after tracking down and fusing with the Puppeteer artificial-intelligence. Finally, there is Shirow’s own follow-up manga, Man-Machine Interface, which follows Motoko herself in one of the various parent-child personalities that have sprung up after her fusion with the Puppeteer and transformation into something close to god-like status as an omniscient navigator of the web. One thing that they all share is the degree to which they attempt to confront existential crises of identity through the character of the Major, and those around her. Another thing they have in common is the fact that, by and large, they don’t make very much sense.

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