Ghost in the WTF
99.65% of the time, I am a live and let live kind of consumer of media. When I watch a movie or TV show, I watch it for what it presents, and I try really hard not to place preconceived notions on top of entertainment because it is entertainment: if we go in expecting something specific, we might as well have stayed home and just fantasized about our ideals in our heads and saved the time and admission fee.
But everyone has a line that must not be crossed, and I’m here today to talk about mine. Recently, there was a supposed “leak” of cast images from the live action Ghost in the Shell (GitS) movie being handled by Steven Spielberg and starring Scarlett Johansson. There were only a few supposed images that had surfaced previously of Johannson in character as Major Motoko Kusinagi, the leader of the anti-terrorist group Public Security Section 9 (or just Section 9). The casting of a Westerner — a white Westerner — in the role of a character who is supposed to be Japanese by virtue of the fact that the series originated and takes place in Japan, kind of lit a lot of people’s Bunsen burners, because the Internet. Me, I couldn’t really care less about this particular bit of drama. GitS is one of my top three all time most favorite series in all of human history, and I thought that the images of Johansson in the role looked pretty legit. I wasn’t even miffed that they were doing a live action version, except for the fact that the movies and the series have all been pretty densely packed, philosophically, which probably wouldn’t play well with a wide release in the West.
But these photos that recently found their way onto the Internet — if they are, in fact, real — made me cringe so hard I had to make an appointment with a chiropractor.
I can’t even imagine how they managed to make the leap from source to realization.
Next, Togusa. Togusa was originally a detective, and was recruited by Section 9 for his investigative skills, but stands out because he’s the only one on the team with a family which, in conjunction with the fact that he has the least amount of cybernetics, makes him the team’s “human ground wire”.
Under any other circumstances, I don’t think anyone would notice this casting, except for the fact that the original Togusa is about 15-20 years younger, and is well known in the GitS fan community as the only character in the future who still rocks a fucking mullet.
Thankfully, that’s pretty much where the WTF starts to run out of steam. Here’s Aramaki, the government official who is in charge of Section 9.
He’s got really distinctive white hair, and is so old that Batou, the Major’s right hand man, calls him “the old ape”, which might be a slur in Japan, but might also be a really weird term of endearment.
Saito is the team’s sniper. You might not get that from the fact that he’s got a friggin eyepatch, but the eyepatch is actually a covered-up cybernetic rangefinder that interfaces with his rifle. I think they did a pretty good job with this casting, and even managed to get the scar in there.
Ishikawa doesn’t get out in the field much. He’s the cyberwarfare expert, and usually spends his time tracking down information and hacking systems for the team. Again, pretty good choice here.
And now for what fans would probably consider to be the “most important casting decisions”. First up: Batou. According to the recent revisionist series GitS:Arise, Batou was a member of a rogue military unit and adversary of Kusinagi before she convinced him to sign on with the newly formed Section 9. In the series, he’s presented as particularly tall and muscular, and like Borma, has two cybernetic optical implants. See if you can spot the difference in this supposed cast picture.
I suppose under low light conditions, you might not know the difference, although the actor looks more confused than intimidating (I don’t blame him in the least). I read that someone suggested that the lack of the implants suggested that this movie takes place before Batou had the optics installed, which would put the plot somewhere outside of the normal timeline. Considering Arise screws with the timeline of the movies anyway, I’m not going to discount the possibility, but I do have to ask why do that when people know characters the way they are depicted in the movies and series?
And last but not least, the “most offensive casting choice” of them all, which turns out to actually be pretty damn spot on.
Conspicuously absent is Paz, who is usually palling around with Borma as the team’s muscle. Maybe because they chose to cast Borma they felt that Paz was redundant, and because Paz has no noticeable external cybernetics…or they couldn’t find someone else who looked as stupid in googly eyes.
Now, in trying to find reference images for this post, I learned that there’s a goddamn GitS: Arise stage play in Japan, and for those of you who are harrumphing over the movie’s choices (if these images are legit), then take a look at these characters, who look way more “authentic” and true to the manga, movies, and series, almost to a comedic fault (I’m pretty positive Ishkawa’s beard is glued on, although the actor playing Aramaki is the actor who provided the voice in the movies and series, so that’s cool).