Cyborg Subjectivity: Ghost in the Shell texts
This paper will not construct a model of the
technology of subjectivity per se?rather, it will attempt to deconstruct
the model of the technology of subjectivity of the main character (cyborg
Major Kusanagi) by comparing and contrasting the two versions of Ghost
in the Shell: these versions consist of the manga (Japanese comic)
by Masamune Shirow and the anime (Japanese animation) film directed by
Mamoru Oshii, while focusing more on the film. The Majorís attempts to
define her „ghost,“ which can be seen as an attempt to define her subjectivity,
will be examined: as Mobina Hashmi points out in his or her essay, „Japanese
Anime in the United States: Gender, Sexuality, and Techno-Bodies,“ [Ö]
in the Shell directly takes on questions of modes of being and consciousness
in an environment where machines and humans are interfaced in increasingly
intimate ways“ (2). This paper hopes to similarly explore this concept
using the theories of Karatani
Kojin and Immanuel Kant.
To facilitate this, the terminology of this paper will be defined, and
both texts will be summarized.
are methods to describe the narratives of the texts. Fabula means, „what
happens“ in the story, while sjuzhet concerns „how it is told“ (Jackson).
The definition of the term cyborg
will be „the literal sense of a human-machine symbiont“ (Mobina 2), and
as a representation of „a revolution in human
consciousness because it throws into radical uncertainty dualities
such as self/other, nature/science, public/private, body/mind
and subject/object that are the foundation for the modern Western subject“
(Mobina 4). A cyborg, then, is a manifestation of Karataniís cogito: „What
cogito truly indicates is a consciousness of the difference between those
systems, and sum indicates the ëbeingí in the gap between those systems“
(Non Cartesian 2). In other words, a cyborg
IS the consciousness of the gap between machine and human.
The heroine of the film, Major Kusanagi, consists of a „shell“ (mechanical
body, and an augmented brain) and a „ghost,“ which is literally a small
section of the Majorís original brain tissue, but is also alternatively
referred to as a human consciousness, a mind, and a soul; „ghost“ comes
to collapse all of these definitions. This configuration allows her to
plug into cyberspace and otherís peopleís minds merely through thought,
but also allows others into her brain. Her mission is to capture a „ghost
hacker,“ one who can „hack“ into otherís minds, even causing „simulated
experiences,“ or false memories. The hacker is identified as the Puppet
Master, a sentience spontaneously born in cyberspace. The film concludes
with the Major and the Puppet Master merging, and the Major/Puppet Master
transferring into a childís body. The sjuzhet focuses on the Majorís meditations
on her consciousness and references the Christian religion through biblical
quotations from 1 Corinthians. According to David Chute in his review
of the film, „In general, Oshiiís approach to GitS [Ghost in the Shell]
differs from Shirowís in emphasizing human and philosophical concerns over
political and technological ones“ (84).
The manga is episodic, fitting its comic book format, and, as mentioned
previously, has a political focus. Masamune defines words such as „ghost“
precisely in a glossary. Although the fabula of the penultimate scene,
the final confrontation with the Major and the Puppet Master, is exactly
the same as in the manga and the film, the sjuzhet in the manga is quite
different?while persuading the Major to merge, the Puppet Master does not
use the heterosexual reproductive vocabulary and Christian
rhetoric as it does in the film, but one of genetics and karma. The
fabula of the final scene in the film and the manga is the same as well?the
Major/Puppet Master enters a new body?but the sjuzhet is significantly
different in the manga?the „unification“ is placed not in a childís body,
but in an androgynous one that proves male.
The Major states in the film,
like all the components that make up me, as an individual, with my own
personality. Sure, I have a face and a voice to distinguish myself from
others, but my thoughts and memories are unique only to me and I carry
a sense of my own destiny. Each of those things are just a small part of
it, I collect information to use in my own way. All of that lends to create
a mixture that forms „me“ and gives rise to my consciousness. It is only
within boundaries I feel free to express myself (Ghost in the Shell).
However, several statements that the Major makes are not true. To unpack
this, first consider Kantís definition of personality (according to the
Glossary): „In the Paralogisms in A, the third paralogism is that of
personality, the conclusion of which is that the soul is a person.“ Therefore,
the filmís collapsing of the concepts of ghost is wrong in a Kantian sense.
In addition, the Major does not literally have a face to distinguish
herself from others, as the film itself points out. In one scene, she sees
a model of a cyborg identical to her?in another, the cyborg the Puppet
Master chooses to inhabit is identical, with only blond hair to differentiate
it from the Major.
The value that the Major places on her memories is problematic, for
although she illustrates Kantís theory of synthesis, as evinced in the
scene where she says, „Just a whisper, I hear it in my ghost“(Ghost
in the Shell) when she has an intuition that the government has something
to do with the Puppet Master and is later proven to be right; she also
knows that memories can be falsified, as evinced in the scene in which
„simulated experiences“ are planted into a truck driver and he believes
that he has a wife and child when indeed he does not. So, how can she assert
that her „thoughts and memories are unique only to me?“ (Ghost in the
Shell). Kantís theory of synthesis is „í in its most general sense,
[Ö] the act of putting different representations together, and of grasping
what is manifold in them in one act of knowledge“ (Kant
Glossary). He has said about experience that it is[…] a synthesis
of perceptions“ (Kant Glossary). The major would probably agree with this
statement, since it seems to echo her assertion that „I collect information
to use in my own way“ (Ghost in the Shell); also, she is shown valuing
the collected information of others, such as her insistence on having a
human on her task force to make sure she has access to many differing perceptions.
This contradiction is never resolved in the film. In the manga, this scene–so
pivotal to the film–never takes place, and the Major does question her
Problematic as well is the Majorís relationship to the government. Although
she realizes their culpability in regards to the Puppet Master, she is
dependent upon them for her shell. If she were to resign from Section 9
(the governmental section she is employed by), she would have to return
it, leaving only a bit of original brain tissue. Her more sanguine attitude
towards them than that of her coworker, Batou, can be explained perhaps
by the Christian bent of the film?in Christianity, God is omniscient, omnipotent,
and omnipresent, so if one is accustomed to that paradigm, the idea of
someone monitoring thoughts is not as foreign as it could be. Although
the Major is not identified as a Christian per se, she is open to and eventually
comes to espouse the Christian rhetoric of the Puppet Master by agreeing
to merge with it.
The Majorís fascination with boundaries?pushing them, for example, as
she does when she goes scuba diving despite the fact that her cyborg body
is too heavy to do so?is what leads her to finally cross them, when she
decides to join with a consciousness that did not originate in a body.
The film Ghost in the Shell illustrates the resistance and eventual
capitulation of a cyborg to a postmodern, „de-centered and fragmented by
nature“ (Vivian 1) subjectivity, realized by the need for change and an
increased willingness to redefine the notion of human consciousness. One
of Karataniís arguments on Descartes is as follows: „In todayís terminology,
we would say Descartes recognized that we belong to a certain system, paradigm,
and episteme. He considered the body a machine; and in the same sense,
even spirit?a thinking subject?can be deemed a machine dominated by a certain
Cartesian 2). While obviously Descartes was not describing a
cyborg, the metaphor holds. The Major illustrates her transition to a specifically
Cartesian Cogito as defined by Karatani: the kind of self that is conscious
of how the self is dominated by a certain system or structure“ (Non
Cartesian 2) when she cuts her ties with both her beliefs about her
former subjectivity and the government.
Atlantic Baptist University. Religious Studies 1023: The New Testament
and Its Context.
„The First Letter to the Corinthians.“ May 6 2002.
Chute, David. „The Soul of the New Machine.“ Film Comment, May-June,
Jackson, Earl Jr. „Terms for the Analysis of Narrative.“ Feb 27 2002
„Kant Glossary“. May 6 2002.
Karatani Kojin. „Introduction to Non Cartesian Cogito.“ Apr. 18 2002.
Masamune, Shirow. Ghost in the Shell. Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics.
1995. First Published Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.1991.
Mobina, Hashmi. „Japanese Anime in the United States: Gender, Sexuality,
Bodies.“ CyberNature/CyberCultures: Redefining Natural and Cultural
May 6 2002.
Vivian, Bradford. „The Threshold of the Self.“ Philosophy and Rhetoric
Waugh, Patricia, Philip Rice. Ed. Modern Literary Theory: A Reader,
Arnold Publication. 4
Japan Forum One
Japan Forum Two
|PMJF 9||PMJF 10||PMJF 11|
|PMJF 12||PMJF 13||PMJF 14|
|Study Guide One||Study Guide Two||Study Guide Three|
|Study Guide Four|
ed., Arnold, Edward, 2001 160.