Major Motoko Kusanagi (草薙 素子 Kusanagi Motoko?) is a fictional Japanese character in Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell anime and manga series. She is a cyborg employed as the squad leader of Public Security Section 9, a fictional division of the real Japanese National Public Safety Commission. She is voiced by Atsuko Tanaka in the movies and the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series. In the English dubbing of the original film, she is voiced by Mimi Woods. In both the sequel and in the Stand Alone Complex TV series, she is voiced by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
Kusanagi's various incarnations in the manga, movies, and TV series all portray her differently. Since each of these has an independent storyline, Kusanagi's physical and mental characteristics have been modified in different ways to reflect the focus of each respective story.
The manga (pub. May 1989–November 1991)
As a commander
Motoko is a commanding presence when on assignment, but also trades insults with her troops. She constantly calls Aramaki "Ape Face", and when the Puppetmaster reveals the "Motokos" that exist in the minds of those who know her, Aramaki's "Motoko" is sticking her tongue out. She also smiles frequently, and gives the "V" for victory to her boyfriend. She does, however, discuss seriously whether she is a "real" person with her girl friend. However, she assumes a "horror movie"-style pose, and they both laugh at the end.
In the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface, a person known as Motoko Aramaki appears. She identifies herself as containing "Motoko Kusanagi" elements, along with Project 2501, the Puppetmaster. She is also identified as "Motoko 11". It is possible she is one of the "children" Motoko talked of creating along with her opponents.
Motoko Kusanagi's character is distinctly different in the movies because Ghost in the Shell and Ghost in the Shell: Innocence both follow one continuous time-line that is separate from the anime series as well as the original manga from which it is derived. Therefore the anime, manga and movies, are three separate alternate universes.
Ghost In The Shell (1995)
Kusanagi is the main protagonist in the movie Ghost in the Shell, where she is Aramaki's second in command in Section 9. She is a very effective leader and is able to use her wits and cybernetic body in bringing criminals to justice. However, despite the number of cyborgs in Section 9, Kusanagi hand-picks Togusa, who has undergone only minimal brain modification, to balance the roster, an interesting expression of her belief that homogeneity is a weakness and that versatility is a strength. Kusanagi is often contemplative and brooding, whilst her counterpart Batou is more extroverted and lively. She usually wields an M-23 submachine gun that, while fictional, bears a striking resemblance to a P-90 - though with the magazine mounted vertically on the underside instead of horizontally as is the case with the P-90.
Since she has a full cybernetic body, she is not certain her ghost, or her soul, retains any humanity. In fact, she speculates on the possibility that she's entirely synthetic, with artificially generated memories designed to fool her into thinking she was once human. She goes scuba diving for relaxation, although she is so heavy that she would sink like an anchor if any malfunction in her buoyancy devices were to occur. Her fatalistic attitude towards her diving thoroughly confounds Batou. Throughout the movie, she seeks to find answers to her questions and finally meets the Puppet Master, a rogue AI who became sentient and who is similar to her in its quest for existential meaning. By the end of the movie, Kusanagi and the Puppet Master merge to form a new entity that propagates itself artificially.
Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
In Innocence, the Major's first verifiable appearance occurs in Kim's manor, where she breaks into the hallway component of Kim's looping false memories and inserts herself (represented by the little girl prosthetic body Batou got her at the end of the first movie), a basset hound, and clues to alert Batou to a ghost-hack attempt on him and Togusa (their private code 2501 from the first movie is part of the clues). Later, the Major's ghost returns to help Batou on the Locus Solus' gynoid factory ship. However, only a fragment of her is downloaded as the host gynoid had insufficient memory. She notes with considerable disdain that the gynoid had barely enough memory for combat protocols. Her personality has not changed much from the first movie, except for gaining Project 2501's master-hacking skills. Her mind now operates from a satellite, and is even further detached from humanity.
While her actual appearance is mainly a cameo, she is ever present, and retains her fondness for philosophical musings, saying such things like "We weep for the blood of a bird, but not for the blood of a fish. Blessed are those that have voice. If the dolls could speak, no doubt they would scream 'I didn't want to become human.'" Before departing, she tells a despondent Batou, who realizes she is going to leave him again, that whenever he connects to the net, "I will be right beside you."
There is, however, a sequence early on in a convenience store in which a voice resembling the Major's voice can be heard warning Batou that he is in danger. Whether the warning genuinely came from her, or was part of the hack attempt, or was perhaps simply a thought of Batou's, is unknown. If it is genuine, it would predate the appearance in the major sequence as the first appearance, but if it is false, then it was simply part of the hack attempt.
Stand Alone Complex
The Major retains much of her personality and spunk from the manga in the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and its followup Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG, although she isn't disrespectful toward the Chief like she is in the manga. As in the original manga and unlike the movies, where she had black hair and blue-grey eyes, she now has blue-purple hair and red-violet eyes.
1st GIG (Stand Alone Complex)
Major Motoko Kusanagi's formal introduction in the first season comes during the first episode, when Section 9 is called in to resolve a hostage situation at a Geisha house. Throughout the series, The Major maintains her signature commanding presence and authority. The Major could best be described as a lone wolf, relying very little on outside help to accomplish her goals. Among the various members of Section 9, Kusanagi is usually the one Chief Aramaki singles out to accompany him on official and off the record business.
About half-way through the first season, Kusanagi starts having reservations about the use of the Tachikoma sentient tanks, which have begun showing signs of individuality and curiosity not befitting their use as combat weapons. When Batou's Tachikoma escapes Section 9's Tachikoma storage facility and proceeds to go on an unauthorized joy ride through the city and spends the day with a young girl looking for a lost dog, Kusanagi begins to seriously contemplate having them returned to the lab. This feeling is further increased when the tank that was supposed to be watching her back wanders off. Ultimately, she decides to have them stripped of the weaponry and sent back to the lab that manufactured them for analysis and further work.
During the last of the episodes of the first season, Kusanagi, like the rest of the members of Section 9, becomes a target of Narcotic Suppression Squad (NSS) agents and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) after discovering the truth behind the Laughing Man scandal. She is first targeted by the JMSDF, who damaged her prosthetic body, forcing Kusanagi to seek much needed repairs. During her prosthetic body swap, an NSS agent attempts to kill Kusanagi, but fails after the real Laughing Man saves her. After Section 9 is disbanded, its various members are captured by shock troopers of the Umibozu (an unofficial JMSDF special forces unit adept at paramilitary operations) until only Batou and Kusanagi are left. It was only after the three remaining Tachikoma sacrificed themselves to save Batou that she realises that their individuality made them better weapons. She even speculated that they might have gained ghosts, becoming truly alive. As Batou and Kusanagi attempt to leave the city, Umibozu commandos ambush and subsequently arrest Batou, and supposedly assassinate Kusanagi.
After Section 9's fall, Togusa sets out to assassinate the man responsible for its dissolution when he is intercepted by Batou, who brings him back to the team's new headquarters. Here, all members of Section 9—including Kusanagi — are revealed to be alive and in good health, and the first season concludes with the reinstatement of Section 9.
As in the manga, Kusanagi maintains her provocative dress, wearing nothing more than thigh-length boots, a strapless leotard with no trousers, and a leather jacket, as except in cases where this is inappropriate; during such times she will usually appear either in a tan military officer's uniform with markings that denote her rank as a Major, or in a black and grey tight-fitting combat suit that the team uses on its raids and other paramilitary operations (see top picture). In rare cases, Motoko will adopt other styles of dress appropriate to her surroundings, such as a London police officer and a garbage lady. She still maintains a dim view of sexism in all forms and methods; even going so far as to empathize with sex robots, despite how she herself dresses.
Kusanagi's personal life is not alluded to much in the first season, although the events of the episode "Missing Hearts" suggest that she underwent cyberization at a very early age (approximately age 9), and that she had trouble adapting to the use of the body which resulted in her inadvertently breaking one of her favorite dolls and crying at the same time (which we rarely see - her eyes aren't shedding tears to say the least). Based on the episodes "Decoy", "Missing Hearts," and "Scandal", some people have suggested that Kusanagi may be a lesbian. Most fans lean more toward her being bisexual, citing her boyfriend (in the first manga), and her close friendship with Batou.
The second season begins much like the first, with a hostage situation and Section 9 (unofficially) on the scene. After receiving the permission of Prime Minister Kayabuki, Kusanagi orders Section 9 in to resolve the conflict. The scene climaxes with a shot right out of the original film. In accordance with the deal Prime Minister Kayabuki made with Aramaki before the raid, Kayabuki fully reinstates Section 9 for their success in resolving the situation without losing any of the hostages. In a surprising move, Kusanagi reverses her earlier position on the Tachikoma mini tanks and reinstates them as members of Section 9. This may be due in part to the heroic sacrifice of three of these units to save Batou at the end of the first season. The Tachikomas clearly retain their old impishness, as one plays a 'gotcha' prank on Batou, who had a real soft spot for the blue tanks.
About a third of the way into the second season, Kusanagi — fed up with the way Section 9 is being used by Kazundo Gouda and his Cabinet Intelligence Service — undertakes a risky sorté to infiltrate the CIS’s computer database. With the aid of the Tachikomas in their new net agent forms, the Major gains access to the central CIS database and learns that the CIS is behind a recent series of terrorist events in Japan, and also confirms that Section 9 is being manipulated in an effort to sway public opinion against the growing refugee population in Japan. This information, along with the other events in the series, leads Kusanagi to suspect that Gouda is attempting to overthrow the Japanese government, or at the very least, shake it up in such a way as to advance his position in it.
Shortly after Kusanagi’s infiltration of the CIS database, the Individual Eleven, a terrorist organization responsible for a violent string of attacks on unsuspecting Japanese citizens and vital government interests, surfaces in Nagasaki. The group makes one short speech atop a skyscraper before committing mass suicide by mutual decapitation with katanas. Aramaki, acting on his suspicion that Gouda had something to do with it, orders Section 9 to launch a full-scale investigation into Gouda in an effort to tie him to the Individual Eleven. The investigation comes to a head when a nuclear bomb is discovered in Nagasaki; Kusanagi, with the aid of other Section 9 members, secures the plutonium from the atomic bomb in an effort to tie it to a CIS-run nuclear reactor excavation project, thereby linking Gouda to the nuclear bomb and the Individual Eleven incidents.
During one of Saito's flashbacks, it is shown that during World War IV Saito was a mercenary sniper, however he was defeated in a gun battle with Motoko (Which is also how he lost his left eye). Motoko subsequently forced Saito to join her unit as a rifleman.
During Section 9’s transportation of the plutonium to the SPring-8 synchrotron radiation facility for analysis, the Japanese Self Defense Army and Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force are officially ordered to mobilize and head for Dejima Island, where the refugees have declared their independence. In a last ditch effort to prevent the oncoming civil war, Prime Minister Kayabuki publicly announces plans for intervention by the United Nations. Concurrent with this announcement, Aramaki orders Kusanagi to infiltrate Dejima Island and capture Hideo Kuze, leader of the refugee insurgency, hoping that handing both him and the plutonium over to the UN inspectors will defuse the refugee situation. Shortly after this announcement, all communication in the Nagasaki area is disabled, preventing the team and Aramaki from communicating with each other. Kusanagi, realizing the seriousness of the situation, assumes command of all Section 9 members — including the Tachikomas — for the upcoming Dejima operation. Upon arriving in Dejima, the Major and her teammates become separated after a JMSDF helicopter attack, leaving Kusanagi to pursue Kuze by herself. She succeeds in finding and capturing him, but both Kuze and Kusanagi become trapped under a pile of rubble after a missile strike- it is during this that both become aware of who the other is, and their hidden history together (see below). Both were rescued by Batou, and were evacuated from Dejima by helicopter.
As Section 9 regroups from the Dejima operation, Kusanagi and Batou receive word that Gouda intends to defect to the American Empire. Kusanagi, angered by the needless loss of life on Dejima and the Tachikoma tanks as a result of the conflict, manages to gain access to the elevator Gouda intends to use to reach the ground floor. When the door opens at the top floor, she fires several rounds of her machine gun into Gouda, killing him instantly; however, she failed to stop the assassination of Kuze at the hands of an American Empire assassin.
In episode 11 of the second season, we learn that Kusanagi underwent full cyberization due to severe injuries she suffered in a plane crash when she was just six years old. Only she and a young boy survived. She was in a coma until it became apparent that she would die without undergoing cyberization. (Both of the children's parents died in the crash.) The boy had lost the use of much of his body except for his left hand, which he used to make origami cranes non-stop in order to make a wish for the unconscious Motoko to wake up. Two years later, the young Kusanagi was brought to see him after receiving her first artificial body to encourage the boy to undergo cyberization. However, the boy, not recognizing her as the same girl who had survived with him, proposed that if she could fold a paper crane with her cybernetic fingers, then he would undergo the cyberization. Motoko was unable to do so because she had not yet mastered such minute motor control, and the boy rejected the cyberization because he wanted to continue to make paper cranes for Motoko, whom he thought had died. After that day, Motoko never returned to the hospital and left him to make paper cranes, saying, "I'm going to practice making origami cranes so that I can fold them for you some day, okay?" That day, he relented and underwent cyberization, later becoming Hideo Kuze. Motoko did not have enough dexterity to fold a paper crane until later in her life.
Season two also serves as a revamp for Kusanagi's attire, more regularly garbing her in attire that is notably less provocative than in the past. She wears the form-fitting black and gray combat uniform much more often, and for street clothing, she wears low-ride blue jeans over a long-sleeved leotard. Some fans have also noticed that the Major's bust has been somewhat enhanced with this season. At the end of the 2nd GIG, the Major wore a gray vest as opposed to the white of her teammates. For formal occasions, she often wears a dark suit-jacket and ankle-length skirt, with a split up to the thigh.
Solid State Society
Major doesn't show up much in Solid State Society. Her first scene was a classic, the famous Major on a building then falling off, disappearing into the darknesss. The first scene with her was the beginning of Solid State Society. She shows up later as Chorma, CIS body. She returns to her normal body after "Chorma" restores. She is suspected to be the Puppeteteer, but this is changed when she rescues Togusa from a suicide attempt. It is hinted that she comes back to Section 9 at the end. She leads Section 9 on a raid to find the Puppeteer. The end of Solid State Society was another classic, she repeats her famous line. "The net truly is, vast and infinte."
Some ambiguity across the various story arcs of Ghost in the Shell has resulted in speculation that Kusanagi may not actually be ranked as a Major. The ambiguity stems from situations in which officers of a lesser rank appear to be in command of either Section 9 generally or Kusanagi specifically, such as when Kusanagi appears to take orders from an American Empire Non-commissioned officer (NCO). Her collar insignia is that of a JGSDF NCO, and Ishikawa tells Batou that she is addressed as Major because of her skill in combat. Furthermore, the concept art for Kusanagi in the same episode shows her wearing a collar insignia of santou rikusou, generally translated as "sergeant"; in the meantime, the drawing itself is titled kusanagi gochou, or "Corporal Kusanagi."
Aside from the aforementioned incident, there have been other occasions where Kusanagi's rank as a Major seems to be overlooked. For some, this suggests that Major is not her formal rank, but rather a nickname given to her at some point in Kusanagi's past. Some think that Major may have been a rank Motoko attained during her service with Japan's conventional military forces before becoming a black ops agent. Since Batou and Ishikawa served under Motoko during this time, the notion of them continuing to refer to her as "Major" as a nickname out of habit and/or nostalgia would seem to fit. Some of this ambiguity may also be attributed to mistranslations of the anime and manga series into English prior to distribution in North America and other English speaking countries.
Supports of Kusanagi's rank being that of Major point to several episodes in which she appears in her JSDF officer's uniform. On each occasion, the shoulder straps of the uniform worn by Kusanagi bear the insignia of a Major, suggesting she does hold the rank of Major in the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces. Supporters also point out that the rank of Major may be in the Japanese Public Safety Commission rank hierarchy, and that as black operations unit it is possible that her rank is "simulated" rather than official.
In the original manga, Kusanagi's portrayal differs from that of the movie. She has a much more slapstick, vivacious, and sexy personality. She participates in a lesbian sex splash panel and has a boyfriend. The in-universe explanation for the lesbian sex panel seems to be that cyborgs of the same gender are especially compatible. This splash panel is apparently a "side business" for Motoko, as stated by Masamune in the back of the manga collection.
Apparently, "e-sex" (as depicted in the splash panel) is a lucrative but illegal act. This is because it ties together the users' nervous systems to allow shared simultaneous sensations; such intimate connections have the potential for serious complications, as illustrated by the accidental arrival of Batou.
Motoko's body is one of the most advanced models on the market, possessing 16²/cm² skin tactile elements, meaning she has a greatly heightened sense of touch. These nerves render her e-sex acts especially pleasurable; therefore, she makes a good profit from these activities.
Heterosexual e-sex is especially illegal, because such acts entail immense pain, caused by the fact that nerves stimulated by one user are stimulated simultaneously and blindly in another user. Homosexual e-sex is safe because the participants has the same body parts being stimulated (in Motoko's three-way panel, the fondling of a breast). When Batou accidentally crashes Motoko's panel while trying to contact her, he experiences intense pain since he is receiving stimulation for organs and bodily parts which he does not possess.
Whatever the technical rationale for all this, Shirow said in his poster-book, Intron Depot 1, that "I drew an all-girl orgy because I didn't want to draw some guy's butt."
This panel was cut from the original American release of the manga, as it would have entailed giving the book an "adults only" rating. Ultimately, Shirow decided it wasn't important to the plot. In the second edition, released on November 17, 2004, the scene is completely unedited.
Another, less important, fact about her sexuality is that she has a boyfriend during a latter story in the manga. He works for Section One, and they have been dating for seven months. Batou considers this "a new record."
In Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG Episode 17 "DI Mother and Child - RED DATA," having taken a teenage male to a hotel after rescuing him from several yakuza, Motoko exits from a shower wearing nothing except panties and a towel draped around her neck which covers her chest. After conversing with the boy, both share the same bed for the night, with Motoko removing her towel before getting into bed. The boy asks Motoko if cyborgs can still have sex, to which Motoko responds by turning to face the boy, her chest still covered by a blanket, and asks, "You care to find out?" After this line, the scene unfolds with slight differences, depending on which version of the show one is viewing. In the American version, the boy replies, "Another time." Motoko then chuckles to herself, and still facing the boy puts her cheek on her fisted hand, and then the screen fades to black. In the original Japanese version, the boy simply responds, "Nah." Motoko says nothing, and while still facing the boy, does the same actions with an almost dejected, but amused look on her face as the screen fades to black. The scene is sexually suggestive throughout, and while it can be argued that Motoko is using her sexuality to gain the boy's trust, there was nothing to have been gained by allowing herself to be endeared to a boy who was, at the time, attempting to form a drug gang to rival the yakuza from which he had been rescued.
In episode 5 of Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. Motoko is offered a cocktail by a rather provocatively dressed girlfriend while checking some information related to the Laughing Man case. Another girl, walks in and several slides later the two friends sleep next to Motoko on a giant bed, while Kusanagi keeps checking the case.
- In the anime, this agency is referred to as the "Cabinet Intelligence Service", but in other GITS material it is known as the "Cabinet Intelligence Agency"
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig Episode 14 “Beware the Left Eye -- POKER FACE”
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG DVD Box Concept Art Book
This article contains information from some of the following sources:
- Ghost in the Shell (manga)
- Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor (manga)
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface (manga)
- Ghost in the Shell (anime)
- Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (anime)
- Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)
- Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C 2nd GIG (anime)
- Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society (anime)
- Ghost in the Shell: White Maze (novel)
- Ghost in the Shell: Revenge of the Cold Machines (novel)
- Ghost in the Shell: The Lost Memory (novel)
- Ghost in the Shell: After the Long Goodbye (novel)