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Major Motoko Kusanagi: A 'Ghost in the Shell' Character Analysis

Kyle Atwood is a published horror author who plays too many video games and watches too many horror movies to be of sound mind.


Motoko Kusanagi: Origins

Major Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg employed as a squad leader of Public Security Section 9, a fictional division of the very real Japanese National Public Safety Commission. Before this, however, there is much mystery surrounding her. She is really good at keeping her human emotions hidden, and what is left of her personal life she usually keeps to herself.

What is known is that Motoko was involved in a near-fatal plane crash when she was a child. As a result of her injuries, she underwent a full cybernization at the age of nine, with the only organic part of her being a part of her brain and a part of her spine. During this time she has also been confirmed to have had trouble with adapting to the use of her new body, breaking her favorite doll in the process. After this scene, we see that Motoko is, in fact, capable of crying.

Anyway, we jump ahead into her adulthood and we see that Motoko has become an elite forces squad leader and an expert in electronic warfare. During her time as the leader of a covert-ops squad, she met Chief Aramaki who recruited her to the Public Security Section 9. It has also been speculated that she may have served with her fellow squad members, Ishikawa and Batou, in the past during their time in the military. Other recruits include Togusa, Pazu, Borma, and Saito.


The depiction of Motoko Kusanagi varies depending on what medium you look at, considering the movies, manga, and anime all follow a different timeline, so I'll try to cover all of those bases in this discussion.

In the manga, she is perhaps the most different as she is shown having childlike mannerisms and a sense of immaturity that follows her during the earlier parts of the manga. She eventually matures into a spunky individual. As a whole, Motoko is much sexier, vivacious and comedic in the manga.

In the film, she is depicted as a brooding, thoughtful character. She is often shown questioning whether or not she has a ghost, which for those of you not familiar, a ghost is a soul in her world. This was strictly due to the director wanting to emphasize the fine line between human and machine, that fine line being a soul.

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In Standalone Complex, she retains more of her comedic side but often questions the state of the world itself, rather than the state of herself. This form of her is much closer to the manga than the film was. However, we also see elements from the film adaptation of the Major, more notably, as I mentioned before, her tendency to question society, the society she protects.

Motoko Kusanagi is believed to be bisexual as she often shows a sense of intimacy when conversing with other female cyborgs, yet she is shown also having feelings for Batou, a fellow Section 9 member. Going back to the sense of intimacy she has with fellow female cyborgs, it's been shown that it's a common trait for cyborgs to be more compatible with the same sex.

She also becomes curious about her sexuality and humanity and begins to explore through activities others have deemed "vices" in an attempt to understand.

My personal favorite depiction of the Major is in Standalone Complex. The anime blends the films and the manga together to create an ideal character, while also developing its own original version (easier considering she is given a much larger and more direct medium to work with).


Motoko Kusanagi is usually shown dressing provocatively, more often than not. This could be due to her efforts to better understand her feminity and humanity. When she is not dressed suggestively, she is found wearing various assortments of combat gear, some of which are capable of camouflage.

Major has an incredibly flexible prosthetic body and exhibits high levels of coordination, speed, and strength. The only thing that remains of her humanity is a small part of her brain and spine, the rest are all cybernetic implants that provide her with amazing abilities.

Motoko Kusanagi is perhaps the most feared member of Section 9, given her skill in martial arts, abilities, and intelligence; she is also a fantastic leader.



Naomi Starlight from Illinois on December 05, 2018:

One of my favorite anime characters! :) I should re-watch Stand Alone Complex soon. I want to re-watch Fullmetal Alchemist and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood too.

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