Ghost in the Shell Movie – 5 Things You Need to Know

If you’re talking about Akira, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, then you can Ghost in the Shell absolutely not missing in that list of classics. The anime is now more than twenty years old, but the cultural impact is still noticeable. The Japanese anime put the genre on the map in the West in 1995. Reason enough for DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures to join forces, resulting in a live-action film. You can read the five most important facts about this here.


Ghost in the Shell is an action-packed science fiction movie with a cyberpunk theme. The story takes place in the future and revolves around Major. She is a hybrid human-cyborg who heads the Special Anti-Terrorism Unit Section 9. The organization is threatened by a mysterious enemy who wants to wipe out all advancements in cyber technology.

The underlying theme of the film is the danger that technological progress poses. Major has no more memories. Cybernetic implants may make humans more powerful and smarter, but losing humanity is the downside of the coin.

Not a copy of the first anime

The direction is in the hands of Rupert Sanders, known for the film Snow White and the Huntsman from 2012. Although there are many recognizable shots in the trailers, Sanders says that he did not make an outright copy of the 1995 anime. That storyline is too philosophical and introverted to take over straight away.

The director takes elements from the original, Innocence and Stand Alone Complex, and has invented a story around it. For example, there is no Puppet Master or Laughing Man, but Kuze is a new villain who does have some similarities with them.

Scarlett Johansson plays Major

Scarlett Johansson plays the lead role of Major in Ghost in the Shell. Margot Robbie was previously polled, but she was too busy shooting as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad. Johansson is one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood right now. She played in Lost in Translation, The Island, Lucy and various Marvel films, among others.

In addition, a few other well-known actors have been cast. Japanese veteran Takeshi Kitano (Battle Royale, Outrage) Chief Daisuke Aramaki, Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire, I Origins) plays the role of villain Kuze, Danish actor Pilou Asbæk (Borgen, Game of Thrones) will play the skin of Batou and finally Chin Han (Marco Polo, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) makes an appearance as Togusa.

Whitewashing controversy

The Ghost in the Shell movie does not come without some controversy, by the way. The ultimate choice for Johansson as lead actress, for example, resulted in the necessary criticism. Not because of her acting, but because of ‘whitewashing’. Ghost in the Shell is originally Japanese. The story is set in Asia and the majority of the cast is Asian, but in the end a Western lead actress was chosen.

Johansson has responded to the allegations. She says she never intended to breed another race, especially if people could be hurt by that. Johansson sees a franchise with a female protagonist merely as a unique opportunity. The director of the film defends his choice by stating that Johansson is “the best actress of her generation”.

Masamune Shirow’s manga as a source of inspiration

The Japanese Masamuni Shirow (pseudonym for Masanori Ota) is the spiritual father of Ghost in the Shell. Major saw the light of day in the Japanese magazine Young Magazine in 1989, then under the name Mobile Armored Riot Police: The Ghost in the Shell. Two years later, the story was re-released as a standalone manga and the English translation followed in 1995. Ghost in the Shell then grew into a popular franchise with various manga, artbooks, anime and games.

Ghost in the Shell is praised not only for its artistic visual style, but above all for the political intrigue and philosophical approach of the story. Shirow was inspired by Arthur Koestler’s essay The Ghost in the Machine. In turn, Shirow has once again been a source of inspiration for the makers of The Matrix.

Ghost in the Shell will run in Belgian cinemas from March 29, 2017 and can be seen in the Netherlands from March 30, 2017.