This year marks the 20th anniversary of the theatrical release of Ghost in the Shell, (and 26 years since the manga was first published).
There is no denying the influence this film has had on Hollywood. From James Cameron to Steven Spielberg, directors have praised writer Matsume Shirow and director Mamoru Oshii for their work on the series. Ghost In the Shell was a game changer as it introduced a true Japanese post-cyberpunk world to American audiences.
In a futuristic dystopia where man is slowly being replaced by machine, cyborg detectives Major Motoko Kusanagi and her partner Batou investigate an elusive hacker known only as the “Puppet Master.” After a string of hacked identities and the emergence of a “Project 2501,” the two chase the Puppet Master down to an abandoned warehouse where the Major learns about an illegal operation to hack the ‘ghosts’ of citizens.
The original film was followed up nearly a decade later by the sequel Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence.
The franchise also launched several television properties including two seasons of Ghost In the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and a the made-for-TV movie Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society.
In 2013, the franchise was rebooted in the prequel series Ghost in the Shell: Arise.
Not to be outdone, Hollywood is now making a live action WHITEWASHED, hot-mess film adaptation of Ghost In The Shell starring Scarlett Johansson.
Although, Johannson is playing the Major, this is not the first time the character has been replicated by a white woman. The popularity and characterization of Major Motoko Kunsanagi set a new standard for live action female heroines in action films. They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and Hollywood does not hesitate to cross the line between homage and rip-off.
In the two decades since Ghost in the Shell premiered, female characters from blockbuster sci-fi films have striven to emulate its success. These characters all share common features to the Major — short dark hair, all black everything, a flat affect — but none of them are the Major.
1. TRINITY: THE MATRIX
Directors Lana and Andy have been vocal about the influence Ghost in the Shell had on The Matrix, and their film career overall. Trinity is probably the closest Hollywood has come to a live action Motoko Kunsanagi. Mitsuhisa Ishikawa of Production I.G, the company that produces Ghost in the Shell, has talked about their movie served as inspiration for the Wachowskis.
2. SELENE: UNDERWORLD
Selene, the “death dealer,” with her short black hair, pale skin, and skin-tight outfit, slightly reminds me of the section 9 combat suits. Since the franchise has been dubbed, “The Matrix with Vampires,” it is no wonder I see a bit of the Major in the protagonist.
3. AEON FLUX
The animated Aeon Flux actually pre-dates the Ghost in the Shell movie, though the MTV series came two years after the GITS manga was first published in Japan. In the show, the character carries her own signature look, which is why I don’t understand the look they went with for Charlize Theron in the live action film. I mean this is not even trying to be discreet about ripping the entire look of the Major. All that’s missing is the purple hair.
4. ALICE: RESIDENT EVIL
Well, to be fair, Alice, has copied elements from many different sci-fi inspirations. However, somewhere between Resident Evil 3: Extinction and Resident Evil 4: After Life, the tone of the films completely changed. Alice went from being a self-sustained character to becoming just another Motoko/Trinity/ Selene/Aeon clone, complete with a skin-tight catsuit, short hair, and guns.
It’s obvious Ghost in the Shell continues to have a strong influence on Hollywood. As cyberpunk films continue to grow in popularity, the influence will be come more noticeable to fans. Most of the time, films tend to miss the mark when it comes to female protagonists, and since Major Motoko Kusanagi is a strong, smart, ass-kicking, special ops commander, whom is dubbed the world’s most experienced hacker, I guess now I can see why Hollywood wants to replicate that.
10 thoughts on “Four Hollywood Rip Offs of Motoko Kusanagi”
I don’t even understand what you are trying to say.
I am actually disappointed that while female protagonists are being influenced by cyberpunk films, there are not that many cyberpunk films being released or developed. It is such a great genre with so much potential and yet it is under utilized. What are your thoughts on this?
Man, I am so sorry I am just seeing this a month later. I agree with you totally. However, I have noticed they are upping the futuristic genre. Especially, with the making of the Ghost In the Shell Live action movie. It’s lazy of Hollywood to do such a thing but hey, what should we expect?
It’s alright, we all get busy. I have been trying to get through books for reviews. While Hollywood is making more futuristic movies, they are still not coming up with more original ideas that stimulate the genre. It is more or less taking ideas from previous movies and books.
None of the characters here come even close to the major from Ghost in the Shell.
Trinity from The Matrix may exist inside a digital world but that’s it she’s not a cyborg she doesn’t work with the police for any special operations group so she has nothing to do with the major from Ghost in the Shell.
Saline from Underworld is a vampire assassin again has nothing to do with major,
Who is a cyborg.
Aeon Flux is kind of cyberpunk ish but just like the other two above are nothing connected to Ghost in the Shell or even inspired by the main character is not a cyborg nor is she dealing with her identity this entire series is the only about different points of god.
Alice from Resident Evil is a normal woman fighting against zombies.
Nothing to do with ghost in the shell.
The comparison made between these characters it’s nothing more than based on the fact that they’re just very powerful strong women.
Kusanagi’s look is copied multiple times. Her look has to be the inspiration for characters.
Dude, the girls all look and act just like the major in those films. In trinity case, the director actually admitted gits was a major influence. See what I did there?
I’ll give you Trinity )as the matrix borrows the green binary from GITS), BUT I think reducing those heroines to Major knock offs is unfair.
Major Motoko is a very typical heroine of the cyberpunk genre, and the genre was just as much inspired by Gibson’s ‘Neuromancer’, who’s heroine Molly Millions who IS the short haired, androgynous tough as nails superwoman with cybernetic implants. This (with Blade Runner), had a HUGE impact on the cyberpunk genre, and The Sprawl Trilogy’s central heroine can’t be overlooked.
Second, those heroines are influenced by another very Hollywood archetype: the femme fatale. I think a lot of them are very inspired by Catwoman aesthetic in their tight leather outfits, and also Trinity (the matrix had a far greater effect on Western cinema than GITS), so if anything most of those heroines are Trinity knock offs
I disagree with you about Aeon Flux.
Everyone is forgetting Ash from Oshii’s live-action GITS-type film Avalon, from 2000. He wrote and directed it. Ash has The Major’s hair, engages in c-space battles in a cool online game, fights a giant tank, there’s the Oshii analog, a Bassett hound, and the ending is typically ambiguous. Love it to DEATH!!!
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