When I first heard about a live action version of Ghost in the Shell was being done, my reaction was the same as a lot of anime fans, “Oh no, why?!” Undoubtedly, I was reminded of the previous failed attempts that were Dragon Ball Evolution and Avatar: The Last Airbender (Yes, I know it is not an anime but still). So, you can imagine my concerns that a live version of a classic anime like Ghost in the Shell was actually happening. My worries were very high because it is a popular classic anime that was one of the forerunners of the anime movement in the 1990s. My only thought was, “Please don’t mess this up.” Well, I can put my misgivings aside. The live Ghost in the Shell film has achieved something that has eluded Dragon Ball and Avatar—being a worthy adaption. Scarlett Johansson does an excellent job of portraying the Major. There some similarities to the anime albeit changes were made to specific scenes. The opening of the film mirrors that of the anime’s opening where we see the Major’s body being created. Other noteworthy scenes include the water fight, the infiltration of a building and the spider tank battle. While changes to the story and situations leading to iconic moments in the anime were expected, they were kept to a minimum as not to deter fans while paying homage to their originality. The premise of ghost-hacking individuals is present in the live adaption but with minor changes. The hacker is not referred to as the Puppet Master, however, his abilities remain intact. The Major’s iconic camouflage ability is shown with near accuracy to the anime as well as her dive from atop a building while using it.
As mentioned, there are changes made to Ghost in the Shell. The previous changes are subtle but the big change is to Motoko Kusanagi, who is not referred to by her name in this film. Here, she is given the name Mira Killian. Along with that name comes a backstory to her past, something that was not revealed in anime movie and only hinted at in the subsequent series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG. This was likely done to give her an actual identity and flesh out her story a bit more. This may raise eyebrows but it does help with this incarnation of her. We also get a look at how Batou got his cybernetic eyes, another aspect not covered in the anime. Aesthetically, Ghost in the Shell matches the anime and manga closely, and makes wise use of the source material. The characters and costumes are near accurate though with color changes (i.e.-combat uniforms are black rather than beige in the anime). Most notably, Major Kusanagi’s form-fitting camouflage outfit is spot on for the anime counterpart. The city itself is very futuristic looking and more lavish than how it is depicted in the anime movie and series.
Just as a reminder, this is not based on the any of the Ghost in the Shell anime series. When the live movie was announced, fans quickly jumped at the project and voiced their dismay without mercy. Unfortunately for a lot of them, if they had done the research they would have discovered that this film is based on the 1995 anime movie, not “Stand Alone Complex.” Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is a spinoff series and the Major’s appearance is different from her design in the original anime movie. By comparison, Scarlett Johansson closely resembles the Major in her 1995 debut where she looks more American. Her appearance in Stand Alone Complex gives her a more Japanese look and this served as the basis for fans’ outcries.
Overall, Ghost in the Shell is a very good adaption of the original movie and manga series. Scarlett Johansson does a remarkable job of portraying one of the most iconic characters in anime, which isn’t surprising considering she has starred in roles of this type before, mostly notable as Black Widow in Marvel’s “Avengers” film series. Usage of the source material is admirable. The city looks like it was taken out of a sci-fi anime. Any changes made to the characters and storyline are minimal and really does not take away from what is familiar to fans. You can look past these changes and see that Ghost in the Shell is worthy of being a well-adapted live action anime.
And for all you still upset over the accused “white-washing” of Major Kusanagi, please, watch the original 1995 Ghost in the Shell anime movie to get a better understanding. Then go see the film at your discretion.
Ghost in the Shell’s water fight in one of the most iconic scenes in anime.
That same scene is near perfect in the live adaption.
The opening sequence of the original recreated in the live version of Ghost in the Shell.