After watching Ghost in the Shell in DIGC330: Digital Asia, one though comes to mind first: “the dialogue’s complicated yo”. I’ve gotta say as much as I love sci fi settings, anime, cyborgs, tackling philosophical questions, Japan, and so many more elements present in Ghost in the Shell, it’s not high on my list of favorites (Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent franchise by all means, it just doesn’t resonate strongly with me). I get the feeling that this may be because I don’t fully relate to some of the themes that reflect certain cultures in Japan.
No Trade And No Tourism Makes Japan a Unique Place
In the early 17th century Japan introduced a policy of sakoku which effectively minimized relations with other countries for 200 years. Following the end of sakoku, Japan caught up in terms of technology relatively quickly. This relatively fast introduction of modern technologies to a previously closed off society arguably gave rise to fears surrounding humanities relation to technology. The character Togusa says he uses his revolver instead of an automatic weapon because he ‘likes’ it but Kusanagi say’s he doesn’t have to “worry about the mechanics jamming up”, this coupled with the fact he doesn’t have many augmentations, to me, reflects a fear of relying too much on technology.
Don’t Dead Spoiler Inside
Despite much of the movie exploring technology in a pseudo dystopian setting, there are montages of suburban settings with a subtle technological presence, accompanied by music containing both classic and more modern aspects of music in harmony. This and the ending where kusanagi awakes in a new, younger body, after merging with the puppet master and the audience is left with this ambiguous feeling for the future reflects a desire to live alongside technology despite these cultural fears.
You Said Someone, Not Something
Ghost in the Shell feature quite a lot of the naked female body and nude imagery but what I found interesting is that it was at no point explicitly sexual. Japan has very strict censorship laws on all pornography, video games, tv and film and anime, where all genitals and depictions of genitals or sexual acts must be obscured with pixelation or bars, etc. Nudity in Ghost in The Shell featured nipples at most. I think the abundance of the naked and semi naked bodies further reflects these fears of technology I previously mentioned but also in tandem with Japan’s arguably stifling sexuality culture with censorship and traditional views and opinions leading to a decline in sexual activity despite Japan’s infamous stigma of a colourful fetish scene.
If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Explore It Through Metaphors And Fictional Worlds
Watching Ghost in the Shell in a class at uni, I was in a position to be thinking about concepts such as the internet of things, wearable tech, cyberculture and more and it lead me to question why a Japanese anime seems like such a perfect platform to be exploring these concepts through a fictional story? I think a history of isolation and being thrust into modern technology and embracing it so widely most likely puts cyberpunk themes in the public sphere and issues surrounding declining sex ual activity puts issues of sexuality and personal identity in a public sphere.
What do you think about Anime being a platform for exploring taboo topics and fears? Perhaps you disagree and think the relationship between the key elements of Ghost in the Shell and the culture it’s conceived in are more complex than I’ve implied.