'Ghost in the Shell' – Philosophy, Explosions, and Identity

Updated on January 27, 2020
Sam Shepards profile image

Hi, I'm Sam, I love movies. My main interest is science fiction and zombie movies. Pessimistic and survival films I also enjoy a lot.

In 2029 Asia, technology has assumed an even more fundamental role in everyday life. Each person’s thoughts, memories, and emotions can now be stored and transported as “Ghosts,” and can be placed on different cyber bodies called “shells,” which virtually guarantees that machines with superhuman abilities have consciousness. This technology, still not mass-produced, has revolutionized the military and medical fields. Thanks to the “ghost in the shells”, human organs are easily replaceable by improved synthetic counterparts.

Motoko Kusanagi, the leader of the assault team of the Public Security Section 9, is a full-body prosthesis, augmented-cybernetic human thanks to her “ghost”. Motoko, along with his partner Batou, is assigned to capture an elusive hacker known as the Puppet Master.

Ghost in the Shell begins as a story framed in the communion of tradition with new technologies. Hong Kong, perhaps the city that best represents that mix, is the obvious visual inspiration of the fictional city in which these characters live. The music, created by Kenji Kawai, marks the same tone. In the opening theme, called “Making of a Cyborg”, Kawai uses the ancient Japanese language of Yamato and a mixture of traditional Japanese notes and Folk Bulgarian for the futuristic message. And during the film, that communion becomes evident in scenes like the one where Motoko’s cyborg body is repaired with a mix of high technology and the ancient technique of acupuncture.

Of course, in a context where it’s possible to digitize human consciousness, the eternal debate about what makes us humans is an essential part of the narrative.

Since she has a fully cybernetic body, Motoko constantly doubts her own humanity. At times she believes that her “ghost” doesn’t really have any humanity but is the product of an artificial memory designed to deceive her into believing she is human. “The only thing that makes me feel human is the way I’m treated”, Makoto tells Batou, revealing in the process the Turing test as the possible single mechanism for certifying humanity.

The Puppet Master, on the other hand, has the certainty that he/it is completely human. In an interrogation scene, the Puppet Master uses uncertainty as an argument; “a memory cannot be defined, but it defines mankind”. Arguing further that he has the right to proclaim himself as a living entity like any other because of “the inability of science to determine exactly what life is”. Fallacy or not, the argument leaves his human interlocutors speechless and unable to refute his/its logic.

What's Your Rating for Ghost in the Shell

See results

In its philosophical reflection on identity, Ghost in the Shell displays an additional puzzle about gender roles. Motoko’s body looks feminine and she sardonically jokes about having PMS, but her genesis, clinical and methodical, has nothing to do with fertilization but with assembly lines and synthetic liquids. Motoko has an androgynous face, asexual behavior, and a cybernetic body that can’t menstruate, reproduce, or die. The final twist, which deepens the relationship between Motoko and Puppet Master, further examines this topic.

Ghost in the Shell became a cinematic classic because all those philosophical statements were displayed with masterful easiness, in a wonderful animation full of explosions, bullets, and exploding bodies. It proved, like no other film, that an audiovisual work can be highly entertaining without sacrificing intelligence. It's no surprise that this Mamoru Oshii film is the direct influence of The Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix, a film that ended up changing the industry.

Movie Details

Title: Ghost in the Shell

Release Year: 1995

Director(s): Mamoru Oshii

Actors: Atsuko Tanaka, Iemasa Kayumi, Akio Ôtsuka a.o.

5 stars for Ghost in the Shell


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)