Scarlett Johansson stars as iconic manga and animation figure Matoko Kusanagi, an alias used by the transhuman lead of futuristic, philosophical manga series “Ghost in the Shell.”
Johannson and producer, Rupert Sanders, received online backlash for her casting as a non-Japanese actress. “Whitewashing,” as the idea is known, is when foreign media is interpreted in Hollywood with non-native acting talent.
Johannson responded to critics through Marie Claire, saying she “certainly would never presume to play another race of a person,” and that diversity is important in Hollywood.
The publisher of one Ghost in the Shell series expressed his approval of the 2017 movie adaptation.
“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast,” said Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodansha’s Tokyo headquarters. “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”
While the debate about “race-facing” and “whitewashing” continues, Kusanagi is not human–highlighting the complexity to the concepts of race and identity in science fiction.
However, the images of young Kusanagi from the film’s promotional material show Kusanagi as a young asian female, who then acquires Johansson’s cyborg model as a result of traumatic injury and government interference.
The android body that the “ghost”–as transhuman consciousnesses like Kusanagi are called–inhabit in this futuristic title is that which has been mass produced, fitted for a cyberbrain and modified for combat as well as enhanced for cybernetic operations.
In “Ghost in the Shell (1995),” the Major’s model is the very same of the antagonist known as the Puppetmaster–who appears with blue eyes, light skin and blond hair.
In her manga appearances, the Major has dark hair and blue-grey eyes. Her popularized animation appearances feature purple-black hair and red-purple eyes.
While the original Matoko Kusanagi from the 1989 manga is a more sexual, provacative character who engages in the very lucrative, very illegal side-business of same-sex cyborg brothel organizations, Johansson is likely to play the Major from later series.
The film has been given the PG-13 rating.
The plot of the popular 2003 animated TV series “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex,” follows the Major as she works for the fictional department of the Japanese government known as Section 9.
Kusanagi in her animation appearances is an authoritative investigator, struggling with existential questions as a transhuman cyborg. Packed with action, Ghost in the Shell solidified itself in animation and manga for its powerful mixing of action-packed plot and overarching themes of identity, individuality and consciousness.
Johansson has released the first five minutes in a promo available for online viewing. The opening to the film pays many homages to the Stand Alone Complex series as well as impressive visuals and costume design in the same vein.
Pilou Asbaek, who also acted alongside Johansson in “Lucy,” will play the role of the Major’s second in command Batou.
The 2017 adaptation has earned a 7.3/10 on IMDB. Ghost in the Shell premiers Friday March 31.