Dis/Corporatization: The Biopolitics of Prosthetic Lives and Posthuman Trauma in Ghost in the Shell Films

Don­na T. Tong

Abstract: This paper explores the biopol­i­tics both implic­it and explic­it in Mamoru Oshii’s film duol­o­gy Ghost in the Shell. The pros­theti­ciza­tion of life for Major Motoko Kusana­gi is based upon an objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of a cyborg self enabled and lit­er­al­ized through tech­nol­o­gy that is also a (mis)representation that con­flates the bio­log­i­cal self and tech­no­log­i­cal self, and Oshii fur­ther prob­lema­tizes this rep­re­sen­ta­tion with the com­pli­ca­tion of the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion and traf­fick­ing of posthu­man lives, explic­it­ly exam­ined in more crit­i­cal detail in the sec­ond film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence. In oth­er words, Oshii arguably imag­ines the extreme end of biopow­er in a posthu­man world as human traf­fick­ing struc­tured by a glob­al­ized polit­i­cal economy.

Résumé: Cet arti­cle explore la biopoli­tique implicite et explicite dans la duolo­gie de films de Mamoru Oshii Ghost in the Shell. La pro­thé­si­sa­tion de la vie pour le Major Motoko Kusana­gi est basée sur une objec­ti­va­tion d'un cyborg habil­ité et lit­téraire à tra­vers la tech­nolo­gie qui est aus­si une présen­ta­tion défor­mée qui con­fond le soi biologique et tech­nologique, et Oshii probé­ma­tise encore cette représen­ta­tion avec la com­pli­ca­tion de la marchan­di­s­a­tion et le traf­ic de vie posthu­maines, exam­inés explicite­ment dans des détails plus cri­tiques dans le deux­ième film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence. En d'autres ter­mes, on peut avancer que Oshii imag­ine la fin extrême du biopou­voir dans un monde posthu­main comme un traf­ic humain struc­turé par une économie poli­tique mondialisée.


Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.OI.10.2.5 | PDF

Prosthetic Lives and Human Trafficking

In April 2016, media sources report­ed on how Hong Kong design­er Ricky Ma had spent more than $50,000 USD to cre­ate and build a robot in the like­ness of Scar­lett Johans­son (Glaser).

“The Scar­lett Johans­son Bot Is the Robot­ic Future of Objec­ti­fy­ing Women” by April Glaser
Image: BOBBY YIP/REUTERS
“$50,000 robot that looks like Scar­lett Johans­son.” Insid­er. YouTube. YouTube, 1 Apr. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2018.

This par­tic­u­lar use of cur­rent tech­nolo­gies in 3D print­ing, pros­thet­ics, and robot­ics is pos­i­tive­ly uncan­ny giv­en the pre­vi­ous year’s announce­ment of the same actress’ con­tro­ver­sial cast­ing in a live-action adap­ta­tion of Mamoru Oshii’s ani­mat­ed film Ghost in the Shell, a cyber-punk, dystopic film cen­tered on cyborg tech­nolo­gies in a posthu­man future.1 Mar­go Kamin­s­ki observes that the Scar­Jo robot not only under­scores the cur­rent “age of inter­ac­tive celebri­ty,” but also takes it to its tech­no­log­i­cal end­point. What is fright­ful about this new real­i­ty is not just the poten­tial for pri­vate­ly or com­mer­cial­ly man­u­fac­tur­ing life-like robots (eeri­ly actu­al­iz­ing Oshii’s “gynoid,” or sex robot, from Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence), but that the fact, as April Glaser points out, “Johans­son is lit­er­al­ly being objec­ti­fied” (Glaser). But what is the legal sta­tus of such usage of Johansson’s image? Accord­ing to Kamin­s­ki, “The com­mer­cial use of one’s face or name with­out per­mis­sion can be thought of as a pri­va­cy harm, found­ed in auton­o­my, dig­ni­ty, or per­son­hood,” and is ground­ed in con­cerns about mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and result­ing poten­tial harm (Kamin­s­ki). As such, right of pub­lic­i­ty cas­es where such mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion is alleged “employ a trope of ‘invol­un­tary servi­tude,’” imply­ing that using “a person’s face with­out per­mis­sion is like forc­ing that per­son to work at a job, harm­ing their dig­ni­ty” (Kamin­s­ki).

Inter­est­ing­ly, these issues of con­sent and (mis)representation involved in “invol­un­tary servi­tude” are already entan­gled in Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell duol­o­gy. In the first film, Ghost in the Shell (攻殻機動隊 Kōkaku Kidō­tai “Mobile Armored Riot Police”), Major Motoko Kusana­gi and her part­ner Batou dis­cuss her recent dis­en­chant­ment with their work as agents for Sec­tion 9, a “pub­lic-secu­ri­ty” gov­ern­ment agency.2 Kusana­gi agrees with Batou that they are not enslaved to Sec­tion 9, but only up to a point: “We do have the right to resign if we choose, pro­vid­ed we give the gov­ern­ment back our cyborg shells…and the mem­o­ries they hold.” How such mem­o­ries might be “giv­en back,” how­ev­er, is in no way clear. As a “ful­ly-cyber­ized” being, Kusana­gi appar­ent­ly only retains her orig­i­nal organ­ic brain; the rest of her body is lit­er­al­ly man­u­fac­tured and main­tained by cyber-techs employed by Sec­tion 9. In the sec­ond film, Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence (イノセンス, Inosen­su), which begins sev­er­al years after Kusanagi’s dis­ap­pear­ance at the end of the first film, Batou admits to his new part­ner Togusa that, “Her brains and hard­ware were gov­ern­ment prop­er­ty and her entire mem­o­ry, includ­ing the clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, were part of the deal.” Under these cir­cum­stances, res­ig­na­tion would be a kind of lit­er­al ter­mi­na­tion. As such, Kusanagi’s “pros­thet­ic life” amounts to a form of “invol­un­tary servi­tude,” com­pelling con­tin­ued employ­ment as a pub­lic-secu­ri­ty agent in order to pre­serve her con­tin­ued exis­tence and thus “harm­ing” her dignity.

Many crit­ics of Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell films have focused on their rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the posthu­man from dif­fer­ent angles.3 In this paper I focus specif­i­cal­ly on their biopol­i­tics, which inter­twine present and future-ori­ent­ed con­cerns about the posthu­man. The pros­theti­ciza­tion of life for Kusana­gi is based upon an objec­ti­fi­ca­tion of a cyborg self enabled and lit­er­al­ized through tech­nol­o­gy that is also a (mis)representation that con­flates the bio­log­i­cal self and tech­no­log­i­cal self. This prob­lem­at­ic con­fla­tion is already hint­ed at in the char­ac­ters’ inabil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish their own mem­o­ries from data, the lat­ter of which can be appro­pri­at­ed as pri­vate prop­er­ty. This con­fla­tion of mem­o­ry and data is wide­spread and under­girds many of our own mis­con­cep­tions about human thought process­es. In “The Emp­ty Brain,” Robert Epstein suc­cinct­ly denounces pop­u­lar-cul­ture fan­tasies that equate the human brain with a com­put­er. As he points out, unlike com­put­ers, humans are “not born with: infor­ma­tion, data, rules, soft­ware, knowl­edge, lex­i­cons, rep­re­sen­ta­tions, algo­rithms, pro­grams, mod­els, mem­o­ries, images, proces­sors, sub­rou­tines, encoders, decoders, sym­bols, or buffers” (Epstein, orig­i­nal empha­sis). To demon­strate the dif­fer­ence between human mem­o­ry and data stor­age, Epstein recounts hav­ing a stu­dent draw a one-dol­lar bill from mem­o­ry and then let­ting the stu­dent use an actu­al bill as an exem­plar. The first draw­ing is invari­ably less detailed and accu­rate and shows that human beings do not “store” rep­re­sen­ta­tions of objects as com­put­ers do, that peo­ple are “much bet­ter at recog­nis­ing than recall­ing,” since remem­ber­ing, for humans, involves “try[ing] to relive an expe­ri­ence” rather than retriev­ing data from stor­age (Epstein). Thus, the idea of eras­ing or implant­i­ng mem­o­ries already assumes that human brains are equiv­a­lent to com­put­ers; but this is a false assump­tion that the films elide.

In Oshii’s dystopic future this con­fla­tion of the biot­ic and the tech­no­log­i­cal, in fact, becomes the cen­tral means by which posthu­man lives are com­mod­i­fied and traf­ficked. In Ghost in the Shell, Kusanagi’s body is, in effect, owned by the state. Her sta­tus is implic­it­ly one of inden­tured servi­tude. Since the con­struc­tion and the con­tin­ued main­te­nance of her cyber­net­ic body are cost­ly and more­over beyond her own means, dis­con­tin­u­ing her employ­ment would mean “return­ing” those high­ly-expen­sive parts, not to men­tion her mem­o­ries as “data,” back to the gov­ern­ment that claims them as its right­ful prop­er­ty. The film sug­gests that her indi­vid­ual sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and qual­i­ty of life would be so dimin­ished by such for­fei­tures that she is essen­tial­ly trapped in a tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-enabled and -con­struct­ed posthu­man slav­ery. In Inno­cence, Oshii presents us with gynoids, or what are fun­da­men­tal­ly sex-bots, who are explic­it­ly prop­er­ty to be made, sold, trad­ed, and so on, and whose val­ue lies in their ado­les­cent appear­ance and affect. In oth­er words, Oshii arguably imag­ines what might be the extreme out­come of biopow­er in a posthu­man world where human traf­fick­ing is aid­ed and abet­ted by a glob­al­ized polit­i­cal econ­o­my and tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture. I am not con­tend­ing that tech­nol­o­gy is inher­ent­ly anti­thet­i­cal to human exis­tence, but rather observ­ing that Oshii depicts some of the dan­gers that should be addressed when we con­sid­er humanity’s rela­tion­ship with tech­nol­o­gy. In Oshii’s high­ly tech­nol­o­gized world, cor­po­re­al­i­ty is con­tin­gent, com­mod­i­fied, and con­stant­ly under attack. In this regard, Michel Foucault’s the­o­ry of biopow­er can help us con­sid­er how pow­er oper­ates in the lit­er­al con­struc­tion, main­te­nance, and cir­cu­la­tion of the cyborg, and the envi­sioned psy­cho-social ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this, includ­ing the ways in which prac­tices of pow­er in/form the sub­jec­tiv­i­ty or oth­er­wise impact the sub­jec­ti­va­tion of the cyborg.

Recognizing/(Re)Defining Human Trafficking

The audi­ence first meets Major Kusana­gi when she is tasked to assas­si­nate an ambas­sador help­ing a defect­ing com­put­er pro­gram­mer. How­ev­er, the focus of the film and Kusanagi’s main mis­sion are the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and arrest of the Pup­pet Mas­ter, a vil­lain­ous hack­er who “ghost-hacks” the “cyber-brains” of var­i­ous per­sons run­ning the gamut of all walks of life from diplo­mat­ic trans­la­tors to refuse col­lec­tors. After hack­ing them, the Pup­pet Master’s vic­tims are unable to remem­ber their child­hoods, per­son­al his­to­ries, or dreams and life goals. In the course of solv­ing the mys­tery and appre­hend­ing the Pup­pet Mas­ter, Kusana­gi ques­tions her iden­ti­ty as a cyborg, and chal­lenges what it means to be human, espe­cial­ly in a world in which peo­ple, like com­put­ers, can be “hacked” and have their mem­o­ries tam­pered with. Towards the end of the film, the Pup­pet Mas­ter down­loads into a female cyborg shell also man­u­fac­tured by the same cor­po­ra­tion as Kusanagi’s, and pro­fess­es to be arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence who “became self-aware” from “wan­der­ing var­i­ous net­works” and requests asy­lum from Sec­tion 9. This shell is imme­di­ate­ly stolen by Sec­tion 6 agents; but Kusana­gi and her part­ner Batou recov­er the Pup­pet Master’s cyborg body, and “she” con­fess­es that “she” took a cor­po­re­al form in order to meet and merge with Kusana­gi to tran­scend the lim­its of both of their exis­tences. Ulti­mate­ly, Kusana­gi agrees; but both cyber-bod­ies are destroyed by Sec­tion 6 agents at the moment of their merg­er, leav­ing Batou to recov­er Kusanagi’s “brain shell” and attempt to resus­ci­tate her by implan­ta­tion in a black-mar­ket cyborg body. She revives, and, after a brief con­ver­sa­tion with Batou, departs, des­ti­na­tion unknown, but with the under­stand­ing that, “The net is vast and limitless.”

The sec­ond film Inno­cence com­mences with Batou and his part­ner Togusa arriv­ing at a gris­ly crime scene. Batou fol­lows a lit­er­al trail of blood to decap­i­tat­ed police offi­cers and an ado­les­cent-look­ing gynoid, naked under an untied red robe with an iris behind her ear, hold­ing the head of one of the police offi­cers in her lap. She attacks Batou, and, when he throws her back, she whis­pers, “Help me,” as she rips open her own tor­so, in a cyber­net­ic allu­sion to Hans Bellmer’s Rose ouverte la nuit (Rose open at night, 1946).

Bellmer, Hans. Rose Open At Night, 1934. WikiArt. “Hans Bellmer: Famous Works,” N.d. Web. 13 Jan. 2018. <https://​www​.wikiart​.org/​e​n​/​h​a​n​s​-​b​e​l​l​m​e​r​/​r​o​s​e​-​o​p​e​n​-​a​t​-​n​i​g​h​t​-​1​934>

Oshii adds his own twist by hav­ing pan­els of the gynoid’s face also burst­ing open in a grotesque mir­ror­ing of her torso.

Thus begins Batou and Togusa’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the mal­func­tion­ing, mur­der­ous Hadaly 2052 gynoids, man­u­fac­tured by the multi­na­tion­al com­pa­ny Locus Solus.4 Fol­low­ing the clues from the bloody killing of Jack Volk­er­son, con­sign­ment inspec­tor for Locus Solus, Batou and Togusa ques­tion the local yakuza, lead­ing to a messy shoot-out. After­wards, Batou is giv­en a cryp­tic mes­sage about being “in the kill zone” right before his e-brain is “hacked,” caus­ing him to shoot his own arm, near­ly killing bystanders. Con­tin­u­ing with the case, Batou and Togusa seek out Kim, a dis­graced ex-spe­cial forces oper­a­tive, and at Kim’s decrepit man­sion of automa­tons, pup­pets, and tableaux vivant, Kusana­gi makes a brief cameo in her bor­rowed cyborg body from the end of Ghost in the Shell to leave clues for Batou. Batou and Togusa dis­cov­er through Kim that Locus Solus is hold­ing the kid­napped girls so that their “ghosts” can be copied onto the gynoids, pre­sum­ably to make the gynoids more real­is­tic and there­fore valu­able to cus­tomers. Batou infil­trates Locus Solus’s float­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing plant and faces the mur­der­ous gynoids. Just as they seem to over­whelm Batou, Kusana­gi down­loads into a gynoid body to help him. She con­fess­es to be behind the cryp­tic warn­ing about being “in the kill zone” when Batou was hacked. After shut­ting down the plant, they find and release one of the only still-con­scious girls who explains that, with the help of a remorse­ful Volk­er­son, she tried to cir­cum­vent the three-laws pro­gram­ming of the gynoids in order to “make trou­ble” so that some­one would notice and inves­ti­gate.5 The film con­cludes with Batou being reunit­ed with his dog while Togusa gifts his young daugh­ter, who had been dog-sit­ting, with a porce­lain doll.

What is the con­nec­tion between these two cyber­punk films and human traf­fick­ing? To begin with, it might be instruc­tive to define human traf­fick­ing. Accord­ing to the web­site for the Unit­ed Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), “Arti­cle 3, para­graph (a) of the Pro­to­col to Pre­vent, Sup­press and Pun­ish Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons defines Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons as the recruit­ment, trans­porta­tion, trans­fer, har­bour­ing or receipt of per­sons, by means of the threat or use of force or oth­er forms of coer­cion, of abduc­tion, of fraud, of decep­tion, of the abuse of pow­er or of a posi­tion of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty or of the giv­ing or receiv­ing of pay­ments or ben­e­fits to achieve the con­sent of a per­son hav­ing con­trol over anoth­er per­son, for the pur­pose of exploita­tion” (“What Is Human Traf­fick­ing?”). Exploita­tion as explained by the UNODC “include[s], at a min­i­mum, the exploita­tion or the pros­ti­tu­tion of oth­ers or oth­er forms of sex­u­al exploita­tion, forced labour or ser­vices, slav­ery or prac­tices sim­i­lar to slav­ery, servi­tude or the removal of organs” (“What Is Human Traf­fick­ing?”).6

While Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell duol­o­gy does not pur­port to depict real or even alle­gor­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of human traf­fick­ing, it nonethe­less does imag­ine a posthu­man future where tech­nol­o­gy and glob­al­iza­tion cre­ate the struc­tur­al con­di­tions that prop­a­gate human traf­fick­ing in ways that dis­turbing­ly par­al­lel the trends which Kath­leen Kim and Grace Chang pin­point in “Recon­cep­tu­al­iz­ing Approach­es to Human Traf­fick­ing: New Direc­tions and Per­spec­tives from the Field(s).” A report pub­lished by Human Rights First claims that, “An esti­mat­ed 21 mil­lion vic­tims are trapped in mod­ern-day slav­ery” (“Human Traf­fick­ing by the Num­bers”); how­ev­er, as Kim and Chang observe, our atten­tion is usu­al­ly only focused one par­tic­u­lar aspect of human traf­fick­ing, forced pros­ti­tu­tion. In the first Ghost in the Shell, Kusanagi’s sit­u­a­tion of a legal­ized inden­tured servi­tude is not sex­u­al slav­ery, but a broad­er mix of “forced labour or ser­vices” brought about by the exi­gen­cies of a glob­al polit­i­cal econ­o­my, where even the defec­tion of a com­put­er pro­gram­mer is crim­i­nal­ized as vio­lat­ing an arms export treaty. To counter the con­se­quences of “[t]he advance of com­put­er­i­sa­tion” that por­tends the extinc­tion of “nations and eth­nic groups” (as explained in the open­ing titles), cyborg agents like Kusana­gi are required to main­tain pub­lic secu­ri­ty; their tech­nol­o­gized bod­ies, how­ev­er, leave them behold­en to their employ­ers. As men­tioned ear­li­er, Kusanagi’s employ­ment is vol­un­tary up to a point; if she or any oth­er cyborg agent dis­con­tin­ues work­ing for Sec­tion 9, they must “give the gov­ern­ment back [their] cyborg shells… and the mem­o­ries they hold.” Her body is not hers, but is instead lit­er­al­ly gov­ern­ment prop­er­ty.7

Inno­cence thus takes the implic­it theme of human traf­fick­ing or forced servi­tude from Ghost in the Shell and makes it explic­it through its use of gynoids. The gynoids them­selves are a very obvi­ous case of human traf­fick­ing, fit­ting into the dom­i­nant under­stand­ing of human traf­fick­ing as pri­mar­i­ly “the pros­ti­tu­tion of oth­ers.” In solv­ing the mys­tery of the mur­der­ous gynoids, Togusa and Batou find that a black mar­ket in kid­nap­ping ado­les­cent girls is what pro­vides the infra­struc­ture for cre­at­ing these sex dolls in the first place, thus adding anoth­er lay­er to the film’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the traf­fick­ing of sen­tient beings, made obvi­ous through the impli­ca­tions of sex­u­al exploita­tion. The gynoids are tab­u­la rasa, in con­trast to Kusana­gi whose cybor­giza­tion is meant as an exten­sion of and/or com­ple­ment to her already exist­ing abil­i­ties. Yet, these dif­fer­ences arguably high­light the ways in which Oshii’s posthu­man future projects a polit­i­cal econ­o­my where cyborgs and tech­nol­o­gy are not only embed­ded in struc­tures of pow­er, but where the enslave­ment of female cyborgs also scaf­folds this hege­mo­ny. These two films thus high­light and cri­tique the biopol­i­tics that con­sti­tute and enable such exploita­tion, and the films make vis­i­ble the ways in which these anx­i­eties about tech­nol­o­gy and the self, while alle­gor­i­cal­ly imag­ined through cyborg and gynoid bod­ies, are becom­ing more and more salient with each tech­no­log­i­cal breakthrough.

Biopower and Corporatization of Cyborgs

In Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed, Fou­cault asserts that biopol­i­tics is best explained through a tidal shift in the exer­tion of pow­er by the state where, “The right of sov­er­eign­ty [which] was the right to take life or let live” becomes “the right to make live and to let die” (241). Where the apoth­e­o­sis of the monar­chial state’s pow­er lies in the king’s order or stay of exe­cu­tion, the con­tem­po­rary state’s abil­i­ty to with­hold or offer life-sav­ing or life-extend­ing mea­sures and tech­nolo­gies illu­mi­nates the dark path that the inter­sec­tion of the biot­ic and the tech­no­log­i­cal may por­tend. As such, Foucault’s biopow­er and biopol­i­tics are par­tic­u­lar­ly per­ti­nent to dis­cussing Oshii’s vision of a posthu­man world where tech­nol­o­gy is so ubiq­ui­tous that there seem to be almost no char­ac­ters with­out some sort of mod­i­fi­ca­tion and there­fore depen­dence on the biopow­er of the state. This is not to say that the state no longer retains “the right to take life or let live” (as evi­denced in cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment), but to high­light that a turn to biopol­i­tics inau­gu­rates a sweep­ing orga­ni­za­tion­al and infra­struc­tur­al change to the work­ings of the state. As Fou­cault notes, “I wouldn’t say exact­ly that sovereignty’s old right—to take life or let live—was replaced, but it came to be com­ple­ment­ed by a new right which does not erase the old right but which does pen­e­trate it, per­me­ate it” (241). Biopol­i­tics, unlike the old­er pol­i­tics from which it is dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed, “deals with the pop­u­la­tion, with the pop­u­la­tion as polit­i­cal prob­lem, as a prob­lem that is at once sci­en­tif­ic and polit­i­cal, as a bio­log­i­cal prob­lem and as power’s prob­lem” (245). Biopol­i­tics is thus not mere­ly about a shift in the orga­ni­za­tion and exer­tion of pow­er, but about how that shift is itself inex­tri­ca­bly linked to and embed­ded in dif­fer­ent knowl­edges and struc­tures. In Inno­cence, for exam­ple, even Togusa’s daugh­ter seems unable to escape the touch of biopol­i­tics as made uncan­ni­ly evi­dent in her “inno­cent” joy in her gift­ed doll, which is now hers to own and con­trol.8

The politi­ciza­tion of the biolog­i­cal, of life, is made very evi­dent in Oshii’s films, and Kusanagi’s inden­tured servi­tude itself offers a very con­crete exam­ple of biopol­i­tics, since her life is only made pos­si­ble through her con­tin­ued employ­ment at Sec­tion 9. Her par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances also high­light the myr­i­ad social and polit­i­cal rela­tion­ships nec­es­sary to give rise to such a sit­u­a­tion. Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell estab­lish­es Sec­tion 9, in con­trast to Sec­tion 6 whose purview seems to be domes­tic mat­ters, to be devot­ed to counter-ter­ror­ism, or secur­ing the nation from exter­nal threats. It is unclear, how­ev­er, whether tech­nol­o­gy is posi­tioned on the side of counter-ter­ror­ism or against it. The open­ing explana­to­ry titles assert that, “The advance of com­put­er­i­sa­tion… has not yet wiped out nations and eth­nic groups,” imply­ing the icon­o­clas­tic poten­tial of tech­nol­o­gy. Sec­tion 9 there­fore works to secure the con­tin­ued exis­tence of the nation as a nation, using the very tech­nol­o­gy that para­dox­i­cal­ly por­tends the anni­hi­la­tion of the nation itself.

This para­dox no doubt stems from anx­i­eties result­ing from a posthu­man soci­ety that seems to draw ever near­er. Indeed, with the (increas­ing) inter­pen­e­tra­tion of the organ­ic body with the tech­nol­o­gy by which dif­fer­ent med­ical advances that have been real­ized, the cyborg has become a par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tentious fig­ure in both our cul­tur­al imag­i­nar­ies and in fact. These very sci­en­tif­ic advances them­selves call into ques­tion not only the whole­ness of the organ­ic being, but also the sta­tus of the human. Don­na Haraway’s “Cyborg Man­i­festo” very famous­ly rumi­nates on the cyborg’s poten­tial to blur and per­haps even dis­man­tle ossi­fied cat­e­gories of race, gen­der, sex­u­al­i­ty, and so on through its hybrid nature. In “Sex and the Sin­gle Cyborg: Japan­ese Pop­u­lar Cul­ture Exper­i­ments in Sub­jec­tiv­i­ty,” Shar­a­lyn Orbaugh argues that,

The cul­tur­al prod­ucts that engage the notion of the cyborg help us to come to terms with the mean­ing of this new rela­tion­ship between the human body and tech­nol­o­gy as that rela­tion­ship unfolds: nar­ra­tive helps us to work through the fears and desires of a par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal-cul­tur­al moment. We are each of us already com­pelled dai­ly to face the break­down of the dis­tinc­tion between the mechanical/technological and the organic/biotic. Cyborg nar­ra­tives allow us, in Jen­nifer Gonzalez’s phras­ing, to per­son­i­fy, con­dense, and dis­place the anx­i­eties and hopes raised by this sit­u­a­tion. (436)

Some of these anx­i­eties and hopes are artic­u­lat­ed by and through those liv­ing lives altered or enabled by tech­nol­o­gy as in the case of Neil Har­bis­son, “the world’s first cyborg activist” implant­ed with an anten­na con­nect­ed to a sen­sor in his brain that “trans­lates colour into sound” (Jef­fries). While Harbisson’s self-coined “eye­borg” was ini­tial­ly meant to “help him counter a rare form of colour blind­ness called achro­matop­sia,” he had the device upgrad­ed to be Blue­tooth-enabled so that he “can either con­nect to devices that are near [him] or [he] can con­nect to the inter­net” (qtd. in Jef­fries). Har­bis­son claims that such tech­no­log­i­cal enhance­ments go beyond decid­ing to become a cyborg and are also “an artis­tic state­ment— I’m treat­ing my own body and brain as a sculp­ture” (qtd. in Jeffries).

Yet, per­haps the most inter­est­ing and telling fea­ture of Harbisson’s account is pre­cise­ly what it is miss­ing. His nar­ra­tive of his jour­ney “on the super­high­way to tran­shu­man­ism,” although it declaims artis­tic free­dom, bod­i­ly auton­o­my, and cyborg rights, does not account for the way that race, gen­der, or even class might inflect cyborg expe­ri­ence (Jef­feries).9 There is, for exam­ple, a jar­ring con­trast between his sto­ry and that of Vanil­la Chamu, a Japan­ese woman who became briefly famous after appear­ing on a Japan­ese vari­ety show in 2013 and who admit­ted to hav­ing under­gone more than 30 elec­tive surg­eries and pro­ce­dures “to look like a French doll” (Ashcraft). The tele­vi­sion show, how­ev­er, did not intro­duce her as “a liv­ing doll” as she desired, but as a “cyborg” (Ashcraft). The label implies “that she no longer looks total­ly human” (Ashcraft). The con­trast between the two nar­ra­tives, and who has con­trol over them, is sug­ges­tive of Harbisson’s priv­i­leged posi­tion, which allows him to dis­re­gard gen­der and race in ways that are denied to Vanil­la Chamu. For him, becom­ing a cyborg gives him agency over his body and sub­jec­tiv­i­ty in a way that Vanil­la Chamu is point­ed­ly denied. Her sto­ry is very bla­tant­ly shaped by con­struc­tions of race and gen­der, from a child­hood of being bul­lied for being “busaiku,” or “ugly,” to spend­ing more than $100,000 USD (Ashcraft) on var­i­ous pro­ce­dures to erase or rewrite that past trau­ma, and even her unwant­ed appel­la­tion as a cyborg. As a child, she was bul­lied and per­haps ostra­cized for fail­ing to meet beau­ty norms set for women in Japan­ese soci­ety, but she also responds to this social rejec­tion by rever­ing porce­lain French dolls. In some ways, this response also implies an inter­nal­ized racial hege­mo­ny that priv­i­leges white­ness and white as beau­ti­ful (more beau­ti­ful than Japanese).

These real-life accounts of “cyborgs,” as both embraced or exter­nal­ly imposed iden­ti­fi­ca­tions, demon­strate a kind of schiz­o­phrenic polar­iza­tion in cyborg expe­ri­ence. This polar­iza­tion is reflect­ed in Oshii’s films where cybor­giza­tion is imag­ined both as allow­ing humans to sur­pass their orig­i­nal bio­log­i­cal lim­its and as dehu­man­iz­ing. There is admi­ra­tion and, at the same time, dis­dain for the cyborg. Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell films imag­ine the cyborg in con­tra­dic­to­ry, polit­i­cal­ly-charged ways, veer­ing from a fix­a­tion on the super-human, gen­dered bod­ies of its female char­ac­ters to a vio­lent dis­re­gard for the same. This vio­lent dis­re­gard arguably stems from the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the cyborg. In “From Wood­en Cyborgs to Cel­lu­loid Souls: Mechan­i­cal Bod­ies in Ani­me and Japan­ese Pup­pet The­ater,” Christo­pher Bolton points out that, “At the sto­ry lev­el, the major [Kusana­gi] is both a strong hero­ine who has become pow­er­ful by inter­nal­iz­ing tech­nol­o­gy and a tech­no­log­i­cal object pos­sessed by oth­ers” (733, empha­sis added). The first film, as Bolton points out, vac­il­lates between a val­oriza­tion of the tech­nol­o­gy that has enhanced her abil­i­ties, con­vey­ing a “mes­sage of bod­i­ly tran­scen­dence,” and an appar­ent fix­a­tion on female sex­u­al­iza­tion and the body (736)—hence the gra­tu­itous nudi­ty which is only super­fi­cial­ly excused by the character’s con­stant need to dis­robe in order to make use of opti­cal cam­ou­flage embed­ded in her skin. Kusanagi’s cybor­giza­tion sug­gests that, “the gen­dered body is not tran­scend­ed by tech­nol­o­gy but, rather, objec­ti­fied and com­mod­i­fied to a greater degree” (Bolton 735). Where Bolton goes on to con­tex­tu­al­ize Ghost in the Shell with­in crit­i­cal the­o­ries on pup­petry and ani­ma­tion, I wish to con­cen­trate instead on the issue of com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion. The films them­selves cen­tral­ize this com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion, mak­ing it fun­da­men­tal to the struc­tur­al under­pin­nings that inform the biopol­i­tics of the cyborg.

The two films high­light the con­struc­tion of the cyborg (or gynoid), spend­ing approx­i­mate­ly five min­utes show­cas­ing the process in each movie, in ways that ques­tion the sta­tus of the cyborg in human soci­ety (and thus what it means to be human). Set to Ken­ji Kawai’s now-icon­ic musi­cal score “Mak­ing of a Cyborg,” the open­ing titles present a filmic cat­a­logue of Kusanagi’s “shell.”10 The sequence begins in media res with a met­al skele­ton already wrapped in fibres mim­ic­k­ing mus­cles and ten­dons. The sequence calls atten­tion to Kusanagi’s “brain” with a mon­tage of a lim­it­ed-side, high-angle shot of a met­al skull in sev­er­al con­nect­ed pieces with the “frontal bone” join­ing the rest of the skull, fol­lowed by a green-light ren­dered scan of a brain, and then final­ly a back-shot of the met­al skull clos­ing up, pre­sum­ably with an organ­ic brain inside.11 The depic­tions of med­ical imag­ing of Kusanagi’s body or body parts are usu­al­ly fol­lowed by frames of her body in “real-time”—except for her brain. Besides leav­ing the ques­tion of Kusanagi’s a pri­ori bio­log­i­cal self unan­swered (is she ful­ly arti­fi­cial with false mem­o­ries à la Rid­ley Scott’s 1982 Bladerun­ner, or is her organ­ic brain the only remain­ing com­po­nent of her orig­i­nal bio­log­i­cal self?), the cat­a­logue also shows a com­plete lack of human involve­ment; every aspect is auto­mat­ed. Cyber­net­ic tech­ni­cians, doc­tors, and staff are only shown observ­ing and tak­ing notes dur­ing the “birthing” process. 

The mech­a­niza­tion of birth not only dis­so­ci­ates cyborgs from humans in very lit­er­al ways, but also demon­strates the inter­pen­e­tra­tion of polit­i­cal econ­o­my and biol­o­gy. In “All That Mat­ters: Techno­science, Crit­i­cal The­o­ry, and Children’s Fic­tion,” Ker­ry Mal­lan describes “The ‘birth’ of the Major … as a result of com­pu­ta­tion­al num­bers and codes” (157).12 The medi­at­ed pro­ce­dure high­lights the pre­dom­i­nance of mech­a­niza­tion and pre­sum­ably com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy, dis­so­ci­at­ing the cyborg from human soci­ety through its com­plete­ly auto­mat­ed “birth.” More­over, as Shar­a­lyn Orbaugh observes, a “fea­ture of organ­ic repro­duc­tion as we know it is the impor­tance of place—the space of embod­i­ment. One is born from a spe­cif­ic place, the body of the moth­er, into a spe­cif­ic place. This hap­pens only once, in that time and that place” (“Sex and the Sin­gle Cyborg” 447). This sin­gu­lar­i­ty, how­ev­er, does not hold for Kusana­gi, who can always be recon­struct­ed, “emerg[ing] time and again from the same process” (Orbaugh 447). An anx­i­ety about replace­abil­i­ty and repli­ca­tion haunts the film and is espe­cial­ly evi­denced in a sequence, set to Kawai’s score “Rein­car­na­tion,” in which Kusana­gi, trav­el­ing by fer­ry along the canals of the city, meets the eyes of her dop­pel­ganger, visu­al­ly and aural­ly imply­ing that the oth­er woman is also a cyborg.

After the bloody scene with decap­i­tat­ed police offi­cers and a half-nude gynoid that opens Inno­cence, Batou and his tem­po­rary part­ner Togusa go to con­fer with the local police foren­sics spe­cial­ist, Har­away (obvi­ous­ly named after the the­o­rist and schol­ar Don­na Har­away). In her macabre lab filled with dis­mem­bered, deac­ti­vat­ed, and defunct gynoids hang­ing in yel­low-tint­ed bags, Har­away explains that the Hadaly 2052 is “equipped with organs unnec­es­sary in ser­vice robots,” obvi­ous­ly “intend­ed for par­tic­u­lar func­tions”; that is to say, the par­tic­u­lar mod­el “is a sexaroid.” Haraway’s con­clu­sion casts the mak­ing of the gynoid in an even ghast­lier light than the one that haloed the mak­ing of Kusanagi’s cyborg shell.13 The gynoid, in con­trast to Kusanagi’s cyborg, does not mim­ic the mus­cu­loskele­tal struc­ture of a human body, but instead pays dis­tinct homage to Hans Bellmer’s Dolls. Visu­al­ly, like Bellmer’s “arti­fi­cial girls,” Oshii’s gynoids are con­struct­ed from ball joints, wires, and tub­ing, rem­i­nis­cent of pup­petry and sig­nal­ing a kind of uncom­pli­cat­ed (or less com­pli­cat­ed than in Kusanagi’s cyborg) con­struc­tion that can be eas­i­ly mass-pro­duced and thus com­mod­i­fied. The anx­i­ety about replace­abil­i­ty and repli­ca­tion in Ghost in the Shell, pre­vi­ous­ly oblique, is made very bla­tant in Inno­cence.

La Poupée, Hans Bellmer, Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter of Pho­tog­ra­phy, web, n.d., 10 Feb. 2018, https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/la-poup%C3%A9e-5

Indeed, the visu­al allu­sions to Bellmer’s works are not just about the uncan­ny and the poten­tial­ly end­less pro­duc­tion of dop­pel­gangers that the army of gynoids at the end of the film real­izes, but also about the biopol­i­tics at work in the cre­ation of this eerie legion of gynoids. Livia Monnet’s “Anato­my of Per­mu­ta­tion­al Desire: Per­ver­sion in Hans Bellmer and Oshii Mamoru” pro­vides an in-depth his­to­ry and analy­sis of Bellmer’s “arti­fi­cial girls” made out of “two life-size man­nequins” (Mon­net 286). In her fol­low-up, “Anato­my of Per­mu­ta­tion Desire, Part II: Bellmer’s Dolls and Oshii’s Gynoids,” Mon­net con­sid­ers their influ­ence on Oshii’s film, and how the ani­mat­ed fea­ture expands on Bellmer’s ideas. Indeed, in one part of the “birth” sequence, Oshii “includes the brief appear­ance of a vari­a­tion of Bellmer’s Tor­so Doll; the split­ting of his Bellmer­ian pro­to­type into two iden­ti­cal artic­u­lat­ed dolls that float toward each oth­er until their lips touch in a chaste kiss” (“Anato­my of Per­mu­ta­tion Desire, Part II” 154). While Mon­net ana­lyzes this scene in terms of Bellmer’s art and the­o­ry of desire and per­ver­sion, I wish to con­cen­trate on how this Bellmer­ian homage is also about repli­ca­tion. It extends in macro what the con­struc­tion cat­a­logue begins in the micro: the gynoid forms from what seems to be cell divi­sion, but then visu­al­ly morphs into mechan­i­cal and pup­pet-like struc­tures. Unlike the cyborg of Ghost in the Shell with its intact and com­plete cor­po­re­al frame, this “birth” sequence starts with sep­a­rat­ed body parts. This is a body that can be eas­i­ly decon­struct­ed and whose parts are eas­i­ly inter­change­able. The title of Kawai’s accom­pa­ny­ing music for this “birth”—“The Bal­lade of Pup­pets: Flow­ers Grieve and Fall”—evokes the gynoid’s lack of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and unique­ness as well as their tem­po­ral brevity.

The biopol­i­tics of the gynoid in Inno­cence are about this per­va­sive sys­tem of com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion and cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of what are not typ­i­cal­ly con­sid­ered com­modi­ties to be bought and sold. At the first debrief­ing about the case, Batou and Togusa are giv­en the specifics about the Hadaly mod­el, includ­ing that it was “devel­oped for test­ing” and was “pro­vid­ed free of charge to con­trac­tors.” It is unclear what kind of “test­ing” could have been involved; but the gynoid, as a “pet” mod­el designed specif­i­cal­ly to be able to have sex­u­al inter­course, is itself a kind of cur­ren­cy, “gift­ed” to var­i­ous per­son­ages, includ­ing politi­cians and “retired Pub­lic Safe­ty official[s],” hence requir­ing Sec­tion 9’s involve­ment as Chief Ara­ma­ki explains. The gynoids not only stand in for traf­ficked girls, but are them­selves repli­ca­tions of traf­ficked girls, “ghost-dubbed” from those kid­napped and held hostage by cor­po­ra­tions like Locus Solus. The film seems to sug­gest that while the bio­log­i­cal girls are some­what finite com­modi­ties, the gynoids can be infi­nite­ly pro­duced even as their organ­ic prog­en­i­tors dete­ri­o­rate from the “ghost-dub­bing” process. There are also some dark impli­ca­tions that the gynoids are not only mar­ket com­modi­ties them­selves, but also, like the Pup­pet Mas­ter pro­gram of Ghost in the Shell, might be col­lect­ing data for exploita­tion. In the final scene of the birth of the gynoid, the view rotates around her upper tor­so, end­ing on a close-up of her left eye, which opens to reveal a cornea whose out­er rim mim­ics that of a cam­era lens. Pos­ses­sion of a “sexaroid” like the Hadaly 2052 is, in the words of the foren­sic spe­cial­ist Har­away, “Noth­ing to brag about to your neigh­bors but hard­ly ille­gal,” though its man­u­fac­tur­ing ori­gins and pos­si­ble use of it for sur­veil­lance and non-con­sen­su­al record­ing def­i­nite­ly are illegal.

Dis/Corporatization of Cyborg Bodies and Posthuman Trauma

In addi­tion to their adroit imag­in­ing of the encroach­ment of biopow­er into soci­ety via the cyborg, Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell films also quite deft­ly ques­tion sub­jec­ti­va­tion and sub­jec­tiv­i­ty under such cir­cum­stances. What is “self” if brains can be trans­plant­ed, e-brains can be hacked, and peo­ple can be “ghost-dubbed”? The duol­o­gy seems to dra­ma­tize a Carte­sian mind-body dual­i­ty that favors the meta­phys­i­cal over the phys­i­cal. Indeed, the dis­dain for the phys­i­cal is lit­er­al­ly vio­lent in the films, as cor­po­re­al forms are torn limb from limb. Orbaugh’s provoca­tive­ly and per­ti­nent­ly titled essay “Who Does the Feel­ing When There’s No Body There?” pos­es the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion that haunts such dis/corporatization of humans and sen­tient beings.

While Orbaugh brings Don­na Haraway’s ear­ly writ­ings on the cyborg to bear on Oshii’s cyborg films and vice ver­sa, she doesn’t real­ly answer the ques­tion in her title, and I would argue that this lack of answer is due to two inter­re­lat­ed issues: posthu­man trau­ma and the lim­its of dis/embodiment. Orbaugh notes that Inno­cence was con­ceived in response to a ques­tion in an inter­view in which Oshii was asked, “If humans have no mem­o­ry and no body, in what sense are they still human?” (204). For Oshii, if one is with­out mem­o­ry and bod­i­less, what remains is omoi, which, as Orbaugh explains, “can be trans­lat­ed as thought, feeling/emotion, or even love, depend­ing on the con­text” (204). Thus, the epi­gram from L’Ève future that starts Inno­cence—“If our gods and hopes are noth­ing but sci­en­tif­ic phe­nom­e­na, then it must be said that our love is sci­en­tif­ic as well”—seems to gloss the film as indi­rect­ly cel­e­brat­ing the capac­i­ty for love as the ulti­mate rai­son d’être for exis­tence while nev­er answer­ing “who” or “what” is doing the lov­ing; it is sim­ply enough that love exists. This inter­pre­ta­tion is sug­gest­ed by Orbaugh’s obser­va­tion that Oshii’s Inno­cence, like Haraway’s the­o­ries about com­pan­ion species, also explores the inter-sub­jec­tive world between dogs and humans through Batou’s love for and care of his pet bas­set hound. On one lev­el, this love is very clear­ly “sci­en­tif­ic” since, as Batou explains to Togusa and Ishikawa, his dog is a clone from the orig­i­nal (imply­ing that the orig­i­nal may be deceased, or else sug­gest­ing, as was the case in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Elec­tric Sheep?, that own­ing “real,” bio­log­i­cal ani­mals is a sta­tus sym­bol reserved for the rich and there­fore beyond Batou’s means). How­ev­er, even these “inno­cent” loves between man and com­pan­ion-ani­mal are clear­ly fused with biopol­i­tics, and thus chal­lenge such an “inno­cent” exegesis.

A large part of the “dark” nar­ra­tives that belie a sim­ple val­oriza­tion of love as the defin­ing aspect of being human is the trau­ma that haunts the films. Posthu­man trau­ma is invoked right from the start of the first film. When Kusana­gi first appears on-screen, she is cov­ered in a dark trench coat with sun­glass­es cov­er­ing half her face, even though it is night­time. There are com­pet­ing streams of sounds that sim­u­late mul­ti­ple radio chan­nels play­ing at once as she tries to hack or elec­tron­i­cal­ly eaves­drop on her tar­gets, only to be inter­rupt­ed by her colleague’s call­ing her name. She face­tious­ly dis­miss­es his ques­tion­ing of the “sta­t­ic” in her brain with the com­ment, “It’s that time of the month” (even though as a cyborg, she can­not repro­duce bio­log­i­cal­ly). While seem­ing­ly humor­ous, her dead-pan deliv­ery, com­bined with the viewer’s lat­er knowl­edge of her cyborg sta­tus, make the dia­logue more mor­bid than light­heart­ed. I think that beyond being dark­ly humor­ous, this moment and oth­ers indi­cate a kind of body dysmorphia.

A sense of dis­con­nec­tion from her own cor­po­re­al­i­ty plagues Kusana­gi through­out the film, from the moment when she “wakes up” in her apart­ment after the “mak­ing of a cyborg” sequence all the way through to Batou’s res­ur­rec­tion of her in a jar­ring­ly ado­les­cent cyborg shell at the end of the film.14After inter­view­ing the hacked garbage man, Kusana­gi mus­es to Batou about what makes up an indi­vid­ual: “A face to dis­tin­guish your­self from oth­ers. A voice you aren’t aware of your­self. The hand you see when you awak­en. The mem­o­ries of child­hood, the feel­ings for the future.” The visu­al nar­ra­tive of the film makes clear that these are ele­ments that can be fal­si­fied or copied ad infini­tum, from Kusanagi’s own face which she sees repli­cat­ed on her dop­pel­ganger to her voice that can be “repro­grammed” to her hand that is mass-pro­duced by a cyborg con­struc­tion com­pa­ny (not to men­tion, mem­o­ries that can be hacked and changed).

Kusana­gi is clear­ly at odds with her own cor­po­re­al exis­tence. Her apa­thy towards her cyborg body is reflect­ed in her indif­fer­ence to her own nudi­ty and her deep-sea div­ing hob­by which could end in her death if the floaters that counter the weight of her heavy cyborg body fail. Her body dys­mor­phia is most pro­nounced when she forces her own bod­i­ly destruc­tion attack­ing the tank that pro­tects the shell of the Pup­pet Mas­ter, which was req­ui­si­tioned by Sec­tion 6 to pre­vent Sec­tion 9 from dis­cov­er­ing that this arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence was ini­tial­ly and ille­gal­ly cre­at­ed as an espi­onage pro­gram. The film grotesque­ly high­lights the rup­tures of mus­cles, ten­dons, joints, and even bone as she futile­ly wrench­es away at the top hatch of the tank, lit­er­al­ly tear­ing apart her arms and legs as the force exceeds her own bod­i­ly capac­i­ty: “As Kusana­gi strug­gles with a tank­like [sic] armored jug­ger­naut, her arti­fi­cial mus­cles bulge and swell until she assumes Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger-like pro­por­tions, final­ly exert­ing such enor­mous forces that she lit­er­al­ly pulls her­self apart” (Bolton 733). As Bolton observes, “Por­trayed in stud­ied slow motion and accom­pa­nied by Kawai Kenji’s eeri­ly low-key score, the major’s final dis­mem­ber­ment has a vio­lent but curi­ous­ly affect­less qual­i­ty that high­lights her dis­re­gard for the phys­i­cal form” (733). He argues that this dis­re­gard for her body aligns with her desire to be free from Sec­tion 9: “Kusanagi’s body is destroyed and only her brain remains intact, [this is] an out­come that frees her from that body and from Sec­tion Nine” (734). More­over, her merg­ing with the Pup­pet Mas­ter allows her “to tran­scend the body” so that “she near­ly escapes embod­i­ment alto­geth­er” (735). I agree that the film’s nar­ra­tive tra­jec­to­ry sup­ports this analy­sis, but it obscures the implic­it posthu­man trau­ma of which her lack of affect is a symptom.

This posthu­man trau­ma in Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell films brings togeth­er the increas­ing atom­iza­tion of the body (and its com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion) and sub­se­quent psy­cho-social effects. The med­ical­iza­tion of the body, as Fou­cault cogent­ly argues, is not only linked to the rise of dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ty (i.e. the rise of the sci­ences as dis­ci­plines pro­duc­ing what he calls a “medico-sex­u­al regime”), but also dis­ci­pli­nary pow­er in general—in oth­er words, biopow­er (Fou­cault, The His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty 42). As Les­ley Sharp notes in “The Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Body and Its Parts,” “sci­en­tif­ic forms of knowl­edge cur­rent­ly frag­ment the body with increas­ing reg­u­lar­i­ty” with the mate­r­i­al effect of “a pro­lif­er­a­tion in the mar­ketabil­i­ty of human body parts… [and] the ever increas­ing atom­iza­tion of the med­ical­ized body” (289). Oshii’s films lit­er­al­ize this frag­men­ta­tion, high­light­ing the ways the mar­ket chal­lenges an “assumed human desire to pro­tect per­son­al bound­aries and guard body integri­ty” (Sharp 287).

There are no real-life ana­logues that could cap­ture the degree to which Kasuna­gi expe­ri­ences the atten­dant trau­ma of col­laps­ing bound­aries and bod­i­ly integri­ty brought about by her cybor­giza­tion. The clos­est pro­ce­dure would be a head trans­plant, such as Valery Spiri­donov vol­un­teered to under­go. Spiri­donov suf­fers from “Werd­nig-Hoff­mann dis­ease, a genet­ic dis­or­der that wastes away mus­cles and kills motor neurons—nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that help move the body” (Kean). While “many sci­en­tists and ethi­cists have slammed the project, accus­ing the sur­geons involved of pro­mot­ing junk sci­ence and rais­ing false hopes,” Sam Kean notes, “The past few decades have been a gold­en age of trans­plant med­i­cine” with “[n]ew sur­gi­cal tech­niques [mak­ing] reat­tach­ing del­i­cate struc­tures eas­i­er, and pow­er­ful new drugs … all but eliminate[ing] the threat of rejec­tion” (Kean). How­ev­er, beyond the excru­ci­at­ing costs (esti­mat­ed any­where from $10 mil­lion to $100 mil­lion) and inten­sive labour (approx­i­mate­ly 80 sur­geons are involved), there are more intan­gi­ble costs. Anec­do­tal­ly, Teri L. Blauer­south, LPCC, dis­cussed with me sto­ries of patients with heart valve implants com­plain­ing about feel­ing emo­tion­al­ly blunt­ed or numbed by the sim­ple fact of the heart valve reg­u­lat­ing their car­diac rhythm to the point that their hearts lit­er­al­ly no longer raced when excit­ed, ner­vous, fear­ful, and so on. Such anec­do­tal accounts high­light the intan­gi­ble costs of such pro­ce­dures for some­thing cer­tain­ly less inten­sive and encom­pass­ing than a head transplant.

Per­haps the clos­est frame­works for attempt­ing to under­stand the pos­si­ble trau­ma from becom­ing a full-body cyborg are from psy­cho­log­i­cal research on body con­cept and image.15 In “Men­tal Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Body: Sta­bil­i­ty and Change in Response to Ill­ness and Dis­abil­i­ty,” John D. May­er and Myron G. Eisen­berg dis­cuss not only how body con­cept and body esteem may be involved in “cen­tral aspects of the self-con­cept,” but also how such aspects may influ­ence a person’s health and vice ver­sa (155). For instance, ill­ness may lead to low­er body esteem and there­fore may dam­age one’s body con­cept. Under these cir­cum­stances, ill­ness may cause neg­a­tive self- and body-con­cepts. In a relat­ed sce­nario, if a per­son has neg­a­tive self- and body-con­cepts, then such views may depress the immune sys­tem and cause or oth­er­wise exac­er­bate sub­op­ti­mal health conditions.

It is clear that Kusana­gi does not have a pos­i­tive body con­cept and esteem, as evi­denced by her com­plete dis­re­gard for her cyborg self, from her dis­re­gard of her own nudi­ty (which can­not be cul­tur­al as Batou invari­ably turns away from her nude body in embar­rass­ment or tries to cov­er her with his jack­et) to her own con­scious­ly self-destruc­tive actions. Orbaugh agrees that “Kusanagi’s lack of shame is not depict­ed as a moral issue” because “Kusana­gi in a sense stands for the inau­then­tic­i­ty of the body/shell, and it is there­fore not sur­pris­ing that she exhibits no affec­tive con­nec­tion with it or through it” (“Emo­tion­al Infec­tiv­i­ty: Cyborg Affect and the Lim­its of the Human” 162). Part of Kusanagi’s neg­a­tive body con­cept no doubt stems from the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of her cor­po­re­al­i­ty as Bolton argues; but trauma­ti­za­tion from such exten­sive bod­i­ly mod­i­fi­ca­tion can­not be denied even as it is rarely direct­ly ref­er­enced or addressed in the film.

In the case of the gynoids and kid­napped girls of Inno­cence, the trau­ma is both more straight­for­ward and yet odd­ly absent from the nar­ra­tive. Being abduct­ed and held in what are met­al cocoons are obvi­ous­ly trau­ma­tiz­ing expe­ri­ences, and the effec­tive cata­to­nia of the major­i­ty of the girls can be seen as trau­mat­ic respons­es to their cap­tiv­i­ty and con­fine­ment beyond the sup­posed degra­da­tion caused by “ghost dub­bing.” (It is unclear whether the degra­da­tion is phys­i­cal, men­tal, or a com­bi­na­tion of the two, only that as Kusana­gi explains, “In past ani­mal exper­i­ments, sci­en­tists mass repli­cat­ed inte­ri­or copies but had to aban­don the prac­tice as it destroyed the orig­i­nal being.”) The girls’ trau­ma is indi­cat­ed through their phys­i­cal con­fine­ment, eerie silence, and lack of respon­sive­ness. The rows of cocooned girls, with only their unmov­ing faces and closed eyes vis­i­ble through a small por­tal in each met­al cof­fin, present an uncan­ny visu­al­iza­tion of their trau­ma and reit­er­ate anx­i­eties about repli­ca­tion and replace­abil­i­ty pre­vi­ous­ly raised in Ghost in the Shell. In this instance, the girls’ faces appear iden­ti­cal and their non-respon­sive­ness fur­ther sug­gests a lack of indi­vid­u­al­i­ty. They, like their gynoid coun­ter­parts, are an army of iden­ti­cal bod­ies, made by their dis/corporatization. Where the cyber­iza­tion process in Ghost in the Shell high­lights the mechan­i­cal and tech­no­log­i­cal repli­ca­tion of (cyborg) bod­ies, here the “ghost dub­bing” of Inno­cence dra­ma­tizes the trau­mat­ic dupli­ca­tion of (biot­ic?) subjectivities.

How­ev­er, the film does not ful­ly explore the trau­mat­ic con­nec­tion between the kid­napped girls and the gynoids. First­ly, the trau­ma expe­ri­enced by the gynoids is com­plete­ly off-screen, implied only by the near-nudi­ty of the mur­der­ous gynoid that Batou shoots at the start of Inno­cence and the foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tor Haraway’s expla­na­tion of “extra parts” that pet- or work-mod­el robots would not have. The police pro­ce­dur­al film only uncov­ers and expli­cates that the girls are abduct­ed to be “ghost-dubbed” and that, “It was the ghosts that made Locus Solus gynoids so desir­able” to their clients. But what does it mean that the gynoid is “ghost-dubbed” (or “real­is­ti­cal­ly” copied) from an ado­les­cent girl? There are some very dark impli­ca­tions that the clients do not val­ue the gynoids mere­ly for their girl­ish appear­ances, but also for their girl­ish reac­tions, which would involve trau­mat­ic respons­es since unwant­ed sex­u­al con­tact would inevitably be trau­ma­tiz­ing. Thus, the frag­men­ta­tion of the body that is arguably at the root of Kusanagi’s trau­mat­ic body dys­mor­phia in Ghost in the Shell is extend­ed in Inno­cence’s posthu­man world to the “ghost” or sub­jec­tiv­i­ty that was seem­ing­ly rei­fied at the expense of cor­po­re­al­i­ty in Ghost in the Shell. This is demon­strat­ed by Batou’s harsh rebuke of one res­cued girl that she and Volk­er­son didn’t “con­sid­er the victims”—“Not the humans,” but “the dolls endowed with souls.” In this light, the gynoid’s mur­der­ous ram­page is not just about “mak­ing trou­ble” so that the kid­napped girls can be even­tu­al­ly res­cued, but also a trau­mat­ic response to sex­u­al slavery.

Posthuman Warfare

In Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed, Fou­cault asserts that, invert­ing Clausewitz’s propo­si­tion, “Pow­er is war, the con­tin­u­a­tion of war by oth­er means” (15). Pow­er is inevitably and inher­ent­ly war-like since “pow­er is not pri­mar­i­ly the per­pet­u­a­tion and renew­al of eco­nom­ic rela­tions, but that it is pri­mar­i­ly, in itself, a rela­tion­ship of force” (15). Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell duol­o­gy dra­ma­tizes the inher­ent­ly com­bat­ive dis­po­si­tion of pow­er, made very obvi­ous in the biopol­i­tics of Kusanagi’s inden­tured servi­tude to Sec­tion 9 and in the con­struc­tion and cir­cu­la­tion of the gynoids. The explana­to­ry titles at the start of Ghost in the Shell inad­ver­tent­ly reveal a great deal about power’s his­tor­i­cal­ly inim­i­cal nature even while osten­si­bly ges­tur­ing towards the pos­si­bil­i­ty of equal­i­ty: “In the near future cor­po­rate net­works reach out to the stars, elec­trons and light flow through­out the uni­verse,” sug­gest­ing a tran­scen­dence of a mere­ly human indi­vid­u­al­i­ty, but for the time being“the advance of computerisation…has not yet wiped out nations and eth­nic groups.” On one hand, “wip­ing out nations and eth­nic groups” is a nod to the, at the time, grow­ing asso­ci­a­tion of elec­tron­ic fron­tiers and free­doms with com­put­er­i­za­tion as dra­ma­tized in films like Hack­ers (1995). In Hack­ers, one hacker’s man­i­festo pro­claims, “We [hack­ers] exist with­out nation­al­i­ty, skin col­or, or reli­gious bias” in this “world of the elec­tron and the switch, the beau­ty of the baud.” Togeth­er, the two films, which pre­miered a few months apart, demon­strate the increas­ing cor­re­la­tion of dig­i­tal bound­less­ness and lib­er­a­tion with com­put­er tech­nol­o­gy in pop­u­lar cul­ture. How­ev­er, on the oth­er hand, these open­ing titles for Ghost in the Shell are also imbued with great vio­lence since “wip­ing out nations and eth­nic groups” has been his­tor­i­cal­ly accom­plished through colo­nial­ism and mil­i­tary war­fare; it has nev­er been benign or uplift­ing, despite colo­nial log­ics and rhetoric. And indeed Kusanagi’s inden­tured sta­tus can be con­strued as ulti­mate­ly embody­ing a kind of neo-impe­r­i­al log­ic of secur­ing the nation with tech­no­log­i­cal advances and com­put­er cod­ing rather than rely­ing sole­ly on phys­i­cal force.

In this man­ner, Oshii’s film duol­o­gy imag­ines and stages the ways in which war is fur­ther inter­nal­ized with­in civ­il soci­ety, even apart from the state cen­tral­iza­tion of the author­i­ty to wage war. As Fou­cault notes in Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed, “The State acquired a monop­oly on war”—“with the growth and devel­op­ment of States through­out the Mid­dle Ages and up to the thresh­old of the mod­ern era”—so that “it grad­u­al­ly tran­spired that in both de fac­to and de jure terms, only State pow­ers could wage wars and manip­u­late the instru­ments of war” (48). He argues that, “The imme­di­ate effect of this State monop­oly was that what might be called day-to day war­fare, and what was actu­al­ly called ‘pri­vate war­fare,’ was erad­i­cat­ed from the social body, and from rela­tions among men and rela­tions among groups” (48). In the Ghost in the Shell films, biopow­er is not about pre­sent­ing a shift from extrater­ri­to­r­i­al con­flicts to inte­ri­or ones, or the sub­sti­tu­tion of one for the oth­er, but rather about how pow­er can per­me­ate soci­ety so whol­ly as to be exert­ed upon an indi­vid­ual at the atom­ic lev­el through the dis/corporatization of the body. Even while “pri­vate war­fare” or the abil­i­ty of feu­dal class­es to make war became a state monop­oly, war itself did not dis­ap­pear from soci­ety, but instead became dis­turbing­ly more dif­fuse and ubiq­ui­tous. The cyborg enti­ties of Oshii’s duol­o­gy are “instru­ments of war”.

How­ev­er, the ways in which Oshii’s cyborg is an “instru­ment of war” in Inno­cence is par­tic­u­lar­ly dis­turb­ing, uncan­ni­ly demon­strat­ing the dif­fu­sion of biopow­er into every lev­el of this posthu­man soci­ety. When Batou infil­trates Locus Solus’s gynoid-man­u­fac­tur­ing plant, delib­er­ate­ly sit­u­at­ed in inter­na­tion­al waters in order to obfus­cate juris­dic­tion­al author­i­ty, he is met with the onsite man­agers, them­selves non-humanoid androids demar­cat­ed by archa­ic Chi­nese num­ber­ing, releas­ing the unsold gynoids as a lit­er­al army. These autonomous sex dolls are not repro­grammed with attack pro­to­cols; rather mar­tial pro­gram­ming is already embed­ded in them, which, in ret­ro­spect, helps explain the mur­ders at the start of the film that pre­cip­i­tat­ed Batou and Togusa’s involve­ment in the case. Dur­ing the foren­sic inves­ti­ga­tion at the begin­ning of Inno­cence, Har­away found that “these gynoids are capa­ble of self-autho­riz­ing attacks against humans” because of a nul­li­fi­ca­tion of “Moral Code #3,” which con­strains robots to “[m]aintain exis­tence with­out injur­ing humans” (an inter­tex­tu­al ref­er­ence to Isaac Asiminov’s Three Laws of Robot­ics). Thus, the gynoid’s attack off-screen of the police­men and her on-screen attack of Batou are not wild flail­ing, but very clear­ly expres­sive of com­bat knowl­edge. In this way, the gynoid, as an embod­i­ment of biopow­er, also reveals how we can, as Fou­cault argues, “under­stand pow­er by look­ing at its extrem­i­ties, at its out­er lim­its at the point where it becomes cap­il­lary” (Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed 27). The gynoid, as an arti­fact of human inge­nu­ity and cre­ativ­i­ty, is mod­eled, as Har­away com­plains to Togusa, “on a human image, an ide­al­ized one at that.” Kusana­gi, how­ev­er, remarks, “If the dolls could speak, no doubt they’d scream, ‘I didn’t want to become human.’” This repli­ca­tion of human­i­ty in a non-human con­struct is not just about the van­i­ty and ego­tism of human engi­neers, but about how biopow­er cir­cu­lates between the non­hu­man and the posthu­man. Even as the traf­ficked girl screamed that she “didn’t want to become a doll” in response to Batou’s scold­ing, Oshii’s two films actu­al­ly dra­ma­tize how dis/corporatization envelopes the human and the human-look­ing, how the posthu­man is uncan­ni­ly more and more embody­ing the log­ics of commodification.

Works Cited

Anders, Char­lie Jane. “Stun­ning Shots of the Real-Life Hong Kong Loca­tions Fea­tured in Ghost in the Shell.” Giz­mo­do, 3 August 2011, https://​io9​.giz​mo​do​.com/​s​t​u​n​n​i​n​g​-​s​h​o​t​s​-​o​f​-​t​h​e​-​r​e​a​l​-​l​i​f​e​-​h​o​n​g​-​k​o​n​g​-​l​o​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​-​f​e​a​-​5​8​2​7​538. Accessed 20 June 2015.

Ashcraft, Bri­an. “Why This Japan­ese Woman Turned into a ‘Plas­tic Surgery Cyborg.’” Kotaku, 7 May 2013, https://​kotaku​.com/​w​h​y​-​t​h​i​s​-​j​a​p​a​n​e​s​e​-​w​o​m​a​n​-​t​u​r​n​e​d​-​i​n​t​o​-​a​-​p​l​a​s​t​i​c​-​s​u​r​g​e​r​y​-​4​9​3​2​6​2​883. Accessed 27 July 2017.

Bolton, Christo­pher. “From Wood­en Cyborgs to Cel­lu­loid Souls: Mechan­i­cal Bod­ies in Ani­me and Japan­ese Pup­pet The­ater.” Posi­tions, vol. 10, no. 3, Win­ter 2002, pp. 729-71.

Epstein, Robert. “The Emp­ty Brain.” Aeon, 18 May 2016, https://​aeon​.co/​e​s​s​a​y​s​/​y​o​u​r​-​b​r​a​i​n​-​d​o​e​s​-​n​o​t​-​p​r​o​c​e​s​s​-​i​n​f​o​r​m​a​t​i​o​n​-​a​n​d​-​i​t​-​i​s​-​n​o​t​-​a​-​c​o​m​p​u​ter. Accessed 20 May 2016.

Fish­er, Sey­mour. “A Fur­ther Appraisal of the Body Bound­ary Con­cept.” Jour­nal of Con­sult­ing Psy­chol­o­gy, vol. 27, no.1, 1963, pp. 62-74.

Fou­cault, Michel. The His­to­ry of Sex­u­al­i­ty, Vol­ume 1: An Intro­duc­tion. Trans­lat­ed by Robert Hur­ley, Pan­theon Books, 1978.

—. Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed: Lec­tures at the Col­lège de France, 1975-76. Trans­lat­ed by David Macey, edit­ed by Mau­ro Bertani and Alessan­dro Fontana, Pic­a­dor, 1997..

Gard­ner, William. “The Cyber Sub­lime and the Vir­tu­al Mir­ror: Infor­ma­tion and Media in the Works of Oshii Mamoru and Kon Satoshi.” Cana­di­an Jour­nal of Film Stud­ies, vol. 18, no. 1, Spring 2009, pp. 44-70.

Glaser, April. “The Scar­lett Johans­son Bot Is the Robot­ic Future of Objec­ti­fy­ing Women.” Wired, 4 April 2016, https://​www​.wired​.com/​2​0​1​6​/​0​4​/​t​h​e​-​s​c​a​r​l​e​t​t​-​j​o​h​a​n​s​s​o​n​-​b​o​t​-​s​i​g​n​a​l​s​-​s​o​m​e​-​i​c​k​y​-​t​h​i​n​g​s​-​a​b​o​u​t​-​o​u​r​-​f​u​t​u​re/. Accessed 15 July 2016.

Hack­ers. Direct­ed by Iain Soft­ley. Unit­ed Artists, 1995.

Houri­g­an, Daniel. “Ghost in the Shell 2, Tech­nic­i­ty and the Sub­ject.” Film-Phi­los­o­phy, vol. 17, no. 1, 2013, pp. 51-67.

Human Traf­fick­ing by the Num­bers.” Human Rights First, June 2017, https://​www​.human​rights​first​.org/​r​e​s​o​u​r​c​e​/​h​u​m​a​n​-​t​r​a​f​f​i​c​k​i​n​g​-​n​u​m​b​ers. Accessed 8 August 2017.

Jef­fries, Stu­art. “Neil Har­bis­son: The World’s First Cyborg Artist.” The Guardian, 6 May 2014, https://​www​.the​guardian​.com/​a​r​t​a​n​d​d​e​s​i​g​n​/​2​0​1​4​/​m​a​y​/​0​6​/​n​e​i​l​-​h​a​r​b​i​s​s​o​n​-​w​o​r​l​d​s​-​f​i​r​s​t​-​c​y​b​o​r​g​-​a​r​t​ist. Accessed 27 July 2017.

Kamin­s­ki, Mar­go. “What the Scar­lett Johans­son Robot Says About the Future.” Slate. The Slate Group, 7 April 2016. Web. 11 June 2016.

Kean, Sam. “The Plan to Save a Life by Head Trans­plant.” The Atlantic, Sep­tem­ber 2016, https://​www​.the​at​lantic​.com/​m​a​g​a​z​i​n​e​/​a​r​c​h​i​v​e​/​2​0​1​6​/​0​9​/​t​h​e​-​a​u​d​a​c​i​o​u​s​-​p​l​a​n​-​t​o​-​s​a​v​e​-​t​h​i​s​-​m​a​n​s​-​l​i​f​e​-​b​y​-​t​r​a​n​s​p​l​a​n​t​i​n​g​-​h​i​s​-​h​e​a​d​/​4​9​2​7​55/. Accessed 26 August 2017.

Kim, Kath­leen, and Grace Chang. “Recon­cep­tu­al­iz­ing Approach­es to Human Traf­fick­ing: New Direc­tions and Per­spec­tives from the Field(s).” Stan­ford Jour­nal of Civ­il Rights and Civ­il Lib­er­ties, vol. 3, no. 2, 2007, pp. 1-28.

Mal­lan, Ker­ry. “All That Mat­ters: Techno­science, Crit­i­cal The­o­ry, and Children’s Fic­tion.” Con­tem­po­rary Children’s Lit­er­a­ture and Film: Engag­ing with The­o­ry. Edit­ed by Ker­ry Mal­lan and Clare Brad­ford. Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2011, Pp. 147-81.

May­er, John D., and Myron G. Eisen­berg. “Men­tal Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Body: Sta­bil­i­ty and Change in Response to Ill­ness and Dis­abil­i­ty.” Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Psy­chol­o­gy 33.3 (1988): 155-171. Print.

Mon­net, Livia. “Anato­my of Per­mu­ta­tion­al Desire: Per­ver­sion in Hans Bellmer and Oshii Mamoru.” Mechademia 5: Fan­thro­polo­gies. Edit­ed by Frenchy Lun­ning. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2010, pp. 285-309.

—. “Anato­my of Per­mu­ta­tion Desire, Part II: Bellmer’s Dolls and Oshii’s Gynoids.” Mechademia 6: User Enhanced. Edit­ed by Frenchy Lun­ning. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2010, pp. 153-69.

Orbaugh, Shar­a­lyn. “Emo­tion­al Infec­tiv­i­ty: Cyborg Affect and the Lim­its of the Human.” Mechademia Vol. 3: Lim­its of the Human. Edit­ed by Frenchy Lun­ning. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2008, pp. 150-72.

—. “Sex and the Sin­gle Cyborg: Japan­ese Pop­u­lar Cul­ture Exper­i­ments in Sub­jec­tiv­i­ty.” Sci­ence Fic­tion Stud­ies, vol. 29, no. 3, Novem­ber 2002, pp. 436-52.

—. “Who Does the Feel­ing When There’s No Body There? Crit­i­cal Fem­i­nism Meets Cyborg Affect in Oshii Mamoru’s Inno­cence.” Simul­ta­ne­ous Worlds: Glob­al Sci­ence Fic­tion Cin­e­ma. Edit­ed by Jen­nifer L. Fee­ley and Sarah Ann Wells. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2015, pp. 191-209.

Oshii, Mamoru, direc­tor. Ghost in the Shell. Palm Pic­tures, 1998. DVD.

—. Ghost in the Shell 2: Inno­cence. Dream­Works, 2004. DVD.

Park, Jane Chi Hyun. “Styl­is­tic Cross­ings: Cyber­punk Impuls­es in Ani­me.” World Lit­er­a­ture Today, vol. 79, no. 3-4, Sep­tem­ber 2005, pp. 60-63..

Penic­ka-Smith, Sarah. “Cyborg Songs for an Exis­ten­tial Cri­sis.” Ani­me and Phi­los­o­phy: Wide Eyed Won­der. Edit­ed by Josef Steiff and Tris­tan D. Tam­plin. Open Court, 2010, pp. 232-41.

Sharp, Les­ley. “The Com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the Body and Its Parts.” Annu­al Review of Anthro­pol­o­gy, vol. 29, 2000, pp. 287-328.

Yuen, Wong Kin. “On the Edge of Spaces: Blade Run­ner, Ghost in the Shell and Hong Kong’s Cityscape.” Liq­uid Met­al: The Sci­ence Fic­tion Film Read­er. Edit­ed by Sean Red­mond, Wall­flower, 2005, pp. 98-111.

What Is Human Traf­fick­ing?” Unit­ed Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, https://​www​.unodc​.org/​u​n​o​d​c​/​e​n​/​h​u​m​a​n​-​t​r​a​f​f​i​c​k​i​n​g​/​w​h​a​t​-​i​s​-​h​u​m​a​n​-​t​r​a​f​f​i​c​k​i​n​g​.​h​tml. Accessed 5 August 2017.

Notes

  1. This cast­ing choice elicit­ed accu­sa­tions of white-wash­ing since the pro­tag­o­nist of Ghost in the Shell is named Motoko Kusana­gi, a name that is explic­it­ly eth­ni­cal­ly Japan­ese, while Scar­lett Johans­son is patent­ly not of Japan­ese descent or of any Asian back­ground. How­ev­er, this paper, while ref­er­enc­ing the live-action ver­sion, focus­es on Mamoru Oshii’s full-length ani­ma­tion films; an arti­cle ana­lyz­ing issues of race in the live-action film star­ring Scar­lett Johans­son will be reserved for future pub­li­ca­tion.↩︎
  2. Kusana­gi and Batou have this con­ver­sa­tion while aboard a boat in what looks like the bay of Hong Kong. In “On the Edge of Spaces: Blade Run­ner, Ghost in the Shell and Hong Kong’s Cityscape,” Wong Kin Yuen ana­lyzes Oshii’s curi­ous choice of a Hong Kong-esque back­drop for his film. There is a fas­ci­nat­ing kind of reverse-Ori­en­tal­ism where the Japan­ese direc­tor looks towards West­ern cyber­punk films like Bladerun­ner, which use Asian bod­ies, sym­bols, and para­pher­na­lia to demar­cate a dystopi­an future. In “Stun­ning Shots of the Real-Life Hong Kong Loca­tions Fea­tured in Ghost in the Shell,” Char­lie Jane Anders doc­u­ments the real-life scenes from Hong Kong that are adapt­ed into Ghost in the Shell with jux­ta­posed pho­tographs and film stills. In this reverse—or internalized—Orientalism, the ani­mat­ed stylings drawn from real-life Hong Kong are used also to sig­nal a future, not nec­es­sar­i­ly dystopic, full of cur­rent­ly-imag­ined tech­nolo­gies and engi­neer­ing while the pre­pon­der­ance of Japan­ese terms, nam­ing, and oth­er cul­tur­al cues indi­cate a con­fla­tion or per­haps flat­ten­ing of all things Asian lead­ing some crit­ics to con­sid­er the film to be set in some future Japan.↩︎
  3. For instance, in terms of the usurpa­tion of bio­log­i­cal repro­duc­tion (Shar­a­lyn Orbaugh’s “Sex and the Sin­gle Cyborg: Japan­ese Pop­u­lar Cul­ture Exper­i­ments in Sub­jec­tiv­i­ty” and Ker­ry Mallan’s “All That Mat­ters: Techno­science, Crit­i­cal The­o­ry, and Children’s Fic­tion”), the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of exter­nal­ized mem­o­ry (William Gardner’s “The Cyber Sub­lime and the Vir­tu­al Mir­ror: Infor­ma­tion and Media in the Works of Oshii Mamoru and Kon Satoshi”), the gen­der­ing of the female cyborg (Jane Chi Hyun Park’s “Styl­is­tic Cross­ings: Cyber­punk Impuls­es in Ani­me”), and even cityscapes in cyber­punk films (Wong Kin Yuen’s “On the Edge of Spaces: Blade Run­ner, Ghost in the Shell and Hong Kong’s Cityscape”), to name just a few.↩︎
  4. Hadaly is the name of the android cre­at­ed by a fic­tion­al­ized Thomas Edi­son in Auguste Vil­liers de l’Isle-Adam’s 1886 nov­el L’Ève future (Tomorrow’s Eve). Oshii’s Inno­cence begins with an epi­graph from the same nov­el: “If our gods and our hopes are noth­ing but sci­en­tif­ic phe­nom­e­na, then it must be said that our love is sci­en­tif­ic as well.” The com­pa­ny name is a ref­er­ence to the 1914 sci­ence-fic­tion nov­el of the same name by French writer Ray­mond Rous­sel.↩︎
  5. Here, the “three laws of robot­ics” is a direct allu­sion to Isaac Asimov’s rules, first intro­duced in his short sto­ry “Runaround” (1942), lat­er anthol­o­gized in I, Robot (1950). These three laws pro­hib­it robots from injur­ing a human through either action or inac­tion, com­pel the obe­di­ence of robots to any orders giv­en by a human as long as these orders do not con­tra­dict the first law, and last­ly oblige robots to pro­tect their own exis­tences inso­far as this pro­tec­tion does not come into con­flict with the oth­er laws (Asi­mov).↩︎
  6. How­ev­er, this def­i­n­i­tion which cen­ters sex­u­al slav­ery as defin­i­tive of human traf­fick­ing actu­al­ly obscures the quan­ti­ta­tive evi­dence. In con­trast to gov­ern­men­tal and polit­i­cal con­fla­tions of human traf­fick­ing with forced pros­ti­tu­tion, “a recent study by the Coali­tion to Abol­ish Slav­ery and Traf­fick­ing reports that clients traf­ficked to Los Ange­les are sub­ject to exploita­tion in many fields, includ­ing domes­tic work (40 per­cent), fac­to­ry work (17 per­cent), sex work (17 per­cent), restau­rant work (13 per­cent), and servile mar­riage (13 per­cent)” (Kim and Chang 5). While exact num­bers can­not real­ly be deter­mined, these esti­mates do demon­strate that human traf­fick­ing skews towards forced labor sit­u­a­tions that do not large­ly involve sex. Kim and Chang argue for a new con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of human traf­fick­ing as “ground­ed in under­stand­ings of the process­es of glob­al­iza­tion, and the coer­cive nature of most migra­tion with­in this con­text” in order to “[view] traf­fick­ing as coerced migra­tion or exploita­tion of migrant work­ers for all forms of labor, includ­ing a broad spec­trum of work often per­formed by migrants, such as man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture, con­struc­tion, ser­vice work, servile mar­riage and sex work” (6). This dif­fer­ent frame­work high­lights “coer­cion cre­at­ed by the destruc­tion of sub­sis­tence economies and social ser­vice states through neolib­er­al poli­cies imposed on indebt­ed send­ing coun­tries by wealthy cred­i­tor nations” (6).↩︎
  7. This thread of posthu­man slav­ery or inden­tured servi­tude is tak­en up explic­it­ly in the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series, an orig­i­nal video ani­ma­tion and tele­vi­sion series that reimag­ine Shirow’s man­ga. In it, Kusana­gi is explic­it­ly bound to the 501 Orga­ni­za­tion which is the legal own­er of her pros­thet­ic body and so her ser­vices are at the agency’s dis­pos­al in exchange for her cor­po­re­al­i­ty. How­ev­er, for the pur­pos­es of this paper, I wish to con­cen­trate on Oshii’s vision of a posthu­man future in his own reimag­in­ings of Shirow’s world.↩︎
  8. This end­ing scene is made ghast­ly and emp­tied of “inno­cence” in light of the argu­ment that Togusa had ear­li­er in the film with foren­sic pathol­o­gist Har­away about the nature of doll play in child devel­op­ment and psy­chol­o­gy. Some of the impli­ca­tions will be dis­cussed in more detail below.↩︎
  9. While the dic­tio­nary def­i­n­i­tion for “tran­shu­man­ism” is “the belief or the­o­ry that the human race can evolve beyond its cur­rent phys­i­cal and men­tal lim­i­ta­tions, espe­cial­ly by means of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy,” there aren’t clear delin­eations between posthu­man­ism and tran­shu­man­ism (Google​.com). It seems that tran­shu­man­ism might be con­sid­ered a sub­set of posthu­man­ism.↩︎
  10. In “Cyborg Songs for an Exis­ten­tial Cri­sis,” Sarah Penic­ka-Smith explains that Kawai’s musi­cal theme for the film “is a Japan­ese wed­ding song for purg­ing evil influ­ences before mar­riage” in an ancient form of Japan­ese rit­u­al (234-35). How­ev­er, the final line of the lyrics—“The dis­tant god may give us the pre­cious blessing”—is not sung until the third occur­rence of the musi­cal theme at the end of the film (Pne­ic­ka-Smith 235). Its absence in the open­ing cred­its thus frames Kusanagi’s exis­ten­tial cri­sis about spir­it and form, her anx­i­ety that if her cor­po­re­al­i­ty is syn­thet­ic so too might be her sense of sen­tience.↩︎
  11. As Ker­ry Mal­lan notes in “All That Mat­ters: Techno­science, Crit­i­cal The­o­ry, and Children’s Fic­tion,” “These instances offer hyper­bol­ic accounts of how the body is made and unmade. This making/unmaking cor­re­sponds to med­ical tech­nolo­gies and pro­ce­dures such as the per­cu­ta­neous nephro­scope, which allows doc­tors to blast kid­ney stones to smithereens with a bom­bard­ment of sounds waves” (161). The scans them­selves seem to ref­er­ence both exist­ing med­ical tech­nolo­gies as well as com­put­er­ized imag­ing used most­ly in graph­ic and visu­al arts. As with my con­tention that the film rep­re­sents and refracts exist­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal con­cepts of body, self, and trau­ma, it also rep­re­sents and refracts exist­ing visu­al ref­er­ences from med­ical, artis­tic, and com­put­er frame­works.↩︎
  12. Here, I think Mal­lan mis­takes bina­ry cod­ing that dynam­i­cal­ly intro­duces the title cred­its with the visu­al nar­ra­tive of Kusanagi’s cyborg “birth”.↩︎
  13. In Inno­cence, the con­struc­tion of the gynoid is set to Kawai’s “The Bal­lade of Pup­pets: Flow­ers Grieve and Fall.” Penic­ka-Smith cogent­ly expli­cates how Kawai’s musi­cal com­po­si­tion helps Oshii reverse Koestler’s asser­tion that “machines can­not become like men, but men can become like machines” to how “machines do become like women” (237). As she observes, “from its first note, Kawai binds his new theme to the rene­gade gynoids, those human machines which are Oshii’s response to Koestler,” where “the voic­es start alone, sound­ing ten­ta­tive and uncer­tain,” and “[t]he music is more melan­choly, reflect­ing the gynoid’s sta­tus as a slave rather than an inde­pen­dent woman” (238). She argues that the birth sequence alludes to the doll fes­ti­val Hina­mat­suri, where “fam­i­lies pray for the hap­pi­ness and pros­per­i­ty of their daugh­ters and to ensure they grow up healthy and beau­ti­ful,” ironiz­ing the traf­fick­ing of young girls dis­cov­ered by Batou and Togusa (239).↩︎
  14. It is unclear whether she even needs to sleep as a cyborg, but the scene also casts doubt upon her pros­thet­ic life and her sub­jec­tiv­i­ty as a cyborg. Is the “mak­ing” of her pros­thet­ic self an exter­nal flash­back, a mem­o­ry, or a dream? I think that the film’s nar­ra­tive struc­ture tends to point to an exter­nal flash­back, where the sequence func­tions as diegetic analep­sis, but argu­ments can also be made for the lat­ter two pos­si­bil­i­ties. In the Japan­ese lan­guage ver­sion, when she ini­tial­ly awak­ens in her new cyborg shell, Kusana­gi speaks with a dis­turbing­ly high, young-sound­ing voice. Her voice lat­er and abrupt­ly changes to her low­er, more adult reg­is­ter, sig­nal­ing aural­ly that she has adapt­ed to or tak­en con­trol of this new body. The dis­junc­tion between the vocal reg­is­ters estab­lish­es a sense that this is not her body, that it real­ly is just a shell.↩︎
  15. Ear­ly psy­cho­log­i­cal stud­ies, such as Sey­mour Fisher’s “A Fur­ther Appraisal of the Body Bound­ary Con­cept,” used the term “body image” “to des­ig­nate the atti­tu­di­nal frame­work which defines the individual’s long-term con­cept of his body and also influ­ences his per­cep­tion of it” (62). Body image is nec­es­sar­i­ly relat­ed to body bound­aries; but, as Fish­er points out, “there is vari­a­tion in how def­i­nite or firm one per­ceives one’s body bound­aries to be” (62). The ear­ly test­ing of body image and body bound­aries relied on sub­jects’ descrip­tions of inkblot images, meth­ods which have since been dis­cred­it­ed.↩︎