This week’s ‘Ghost in the Shell’: What’s inside the Shell critiques one of my favourite scenes from the film. This week we going diving with Kusanagi both in the computerised sense as well as to the bottom of the sea. The scene is a perfect scene and is a representation of the heights that can be achieved within the animated genre. It is essentially a scene which can speak about the film itself without using many words. It represents this ability to maintain the ‘Ghost in the Shell’s’ Byzantine shell whilst simultaneously exploring the core essence of ‘Ghost in the Shell’. This scene therefore acts as an excellent critique of exploring how the Ghost can escape, temporarily, the shell but cannot indefinitely.
Then we skip the eighth scene where Kusanagi is roaming around Newport City in a scene that really reaches the pinnicle of animation. A beautiful score accompanies a superbly animated scene. We, instead, skip ahead to a scene in which may begin to question our Ghost; our own humanity. Scene Nine will prompt many questions for you to try and answer and whether you can actually answer them. A scene which poses many questions but unfortantly does suffer from some pretentiousness of its creator, Mamoru Oshii. I wonder if any readers have any opinions of the questions posed by The Puppet Master in scene nine. If you do I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to hear from you if you have anything to say about these two scenes or ‘Ghost in the Shell’ in general.
Anyway let’s get to business…
7: Looking through the glass darkly.
This scene is one of my favourite scenes in the whole film because of the beautifulness of Kusanagi returning from the deep deep “darkness of the sea”. It is one of my favourite scenes from any anime because its wonderful artistry. If I had to award an anime for stunning aesthetic then it would be for ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and the award would be won on this scene and the way in which I seem to join Motoko in feeling like “I almost feel as though I could change into something else.” A scene which is a fusion of brilliant traditional anime artistry combined with the exquisiteness of the contemporary CGI and use of Digital Cell Work to create this scene’s beauteous backgrounds. This scene is fantastically good!
This is the scene where Kusanagi takes a rather dangerous dive to into the “darkness of the sea”. She also takes Batou on her boat and they do not chat about normal things like girls and clothes and science fiction anime but rather they philosophise. Or rather Kusanagi philosophises about her ghost, soul, and whether she has one while Batou sits there and acts as a normal human being basically asking “why are you thinking this way?”.
This scene is a lot about what defines a human being or an individual as themselves. Kusanagi and Batou are used as devices in this scene to elaborate about what exactly is human is this post-human world. Kusanagi has been seriously affected by the Rubbish Collector’s manipulation and the implantation of memoires of which were not his own. Therefore the dive is a way for Kusanagi to escape and, perhaps, to feel more human because she is risking death diving in such a fashion. She risks her life everyday because she works with Section Nine but this is different. She chooses to dive into the sea outside that hazardous lifestyle.
It is obviously very emotional for her. As she says “I almost feel as though I could change into something else.” and Batou suggests she feels she could escape from Section Nine. Obviously both feel that society and the corporations who control and manipulate that society set boarders that they cannot attempt to escape from. Kusanagi feels a pang of deep irritation that she cannot escape these boundaries and while it is clear that these boundaries are suffocating Kusanagi, it is also clear that humans have boundaries that they cannot break. Kusanagi in this way could be interpreted as being too human in the way in which she perceives those boundaries and her quest to break through those boundaries is not human. Indeed the Puppet Master was born in the sea of information. A human creation but not humanity itself. So although she, in this scene, personifies Oshii’s lament for the humanity of the past, his protagonist is ultimately not human, as humans know it, by the end of the film. Perhaps Oshii is trying to say that we need to be less human to become more human and move away from technology to move back to a place where humans do not feel boundedness. In this way perhaps we need to look through the glass darkly to achieve this state of “Nirvana” that is granted to Kusanagi at the conclusion of in the film.
So there is a ring of truth to what Susan Napier describes as “the next fall…[where] Kusanagi seems to be attempting to discover a core self, one that is accessible through the technological apparatus of her diving gear but is incased in the organic womb of the sea.” In many ways it could be likened to meditation in Buddhism where one empties their head of all distractions and the emotions felt by a true Buddhist attempting to reach Nirvana can be seen in Kusanagi’s dive. So although in Japanese Buddhism there are Deities, because of the Japanese belief in both Buddhism and Shintoism, Kusanagi would be elevated to become a far greater person than you or me, not a God like Gautama Buddha has become in Japanese (Zen) Buddhism, because she has surpassed the pleasures desired by the flesh and therefore achieved Nirvana, a state of mind in which all has become clear to the Buddhist in question; they no longer require to fulfil the desires of the flesh. She is therefore becoming a type of human that only Gautama Buddha could describe.
However her dive does not quell her insatiable need to define her own ghost, soul. This is because Kusanagi, ironically in some ways, quotes the Book of Corinthians, that is the two books written by Saint Paul to the Christians of Corinth to advise them how to be good Christians in the early development of the Church, quoted through her body by the Puppet Master. It quotes…
“For although I see through a glass darkly soon I shall see face to face.”
1 Corinthians 13-12:13.
The Puppet Master.
This Japanese translation is what quells any sense of Kusanagi’s finding her “core self” because she hungers to find a meaning to her existence. This is what Kusanagi personifies in every minute of the film summed up in one question: just what defines me as a human being and an individual. The quote from the bible is apt because Kusanagi’s view is being tinted by darkness which is clouding her vision to see any hope. Such a boundary can only be relieved by her diving into the darkness of the sea because her emotions shine through in that darkness. Susan Napier sums Kusanagi’s feelings up brilliantly:
“Kusanagi herself is looking through a glass darkly, searching for some fuller image of herself, one that may go beyond her lonely individuality.”
So in this part of the article we have grappled with the idea that Kusanagi is attempting to become a better human and needs to define her own Ghost in such a way. She, perhaps, experiences a Buddhist meditation while diving in the “darkness in the sea”. We also learn a little about the way in which Oshii has interpreted the world around him. He sees through a glass darkly. We also learn that this scene is stunningly well done in regards to its beautiful artistry.
9: Identity Crisis:
“Of course [the body discovered on the highway run over] doesn’t have a organic brain in its head but we’ve detected what looks like a ghost in the axillary computer brain.”
This scene is all about identity and what makes an individual an individual. This is the dilemma personified by the Puppet Master, or the carcass that has arrived at Section Nine head quarters after getting run over on the motorway. Kusanagi really does start to worry about her ghost. As Batou puts it “you’re questioning your ghost?”. Batou serves, like in scene seven, as the voice of the audience. He takes up the challenge of common sense and normal humanity. This is not to say that Kusanagi’s doubting is not human, but rather to say, in relation to real life, that people who go this far probably need to go and study philosophy and philosophise, instead of just doubting your ghost, soul, on a constant basis.
This scene also introduces the viewer to the political divisions within the governmental police force, I.e. the fact that the diplomatic Treaties Bureau or section six can go behind section nine. However this is really secondary to the role that Kusanagi and Batou play in the lift. Kusanagi is used as a device to foster the lament that Oshii feels about humanity whilst Batou represents the audience’s thoughts and feelings, to and extent. The body with a ghost is a device used to stimulate the question: can anything have a ghost?
If we approach this like we would if were to find ourselves in the world of ‘Serial Experiments Lain’ then there would be two sides to the argument. One side, Tachibana General Labs, would say that the wired is not the next step in human evolution. The other side, The Knights, would argue that humanity’s time in the “real world” is limited. Our evolved selves like in the wired.
The same principle belongs to this scene in “Ghost in the Shell”. Togusa says “you guys don’t think there’s a ghost in that thing.” Such a suggestion is fairly radical considering the wider ramifications of non-humans possessing souls. Batou retorts “I wouldn’t be surprised if it had one.”
Batou uses the example of a doll to illustrate his point. Essentially what Batou is saying is very close to what Arthur Koestler is saying in his book ‘The Ghost in the Machine’: if a primitive brain structure within an object is present than that very same primitive brain can develop itself into being a greater mind in line with humanity’s own.
Koestler’s definition of primitive is this idea that the ghost, or remains, of the more primitive brain structure is what drives the darker urges within in our souls. Therefore primitive can be seen as being old in regards to age but also this idea that in time past primitive humanity was selfish and greedy. What Koestler is saying is that the human brain is at a stage of development that is, at its core, not motivated by materialistic things but is clouded by ghosts of the past. This is the foundation on which Koestler builds his ‘Ghost in the Machine’.
In this scene the idea that a doll is greedy, callous or devious etc. is really not cricket as it is merely a ghost line, there is a trance of the ghost within the backup brain, at this point. However there is discussion as to the fact that the implantation of this ghost line is obvious and points to the fact that it is the handiwork of Puppet Master. In this way it can be seen that Puppet Master needs Kusanagi as much as Kusanagi needs the Puppet Master because both ghosts feel a need to quell both doubts and these primitive urges in order to achieve, as discussed in scene seven, the form of Nirvana which is achieved at the conclusion of the film.
This scene merely marks another of Kusanagi’s doubts about her own ghost. The presence of the, at the this point, unknown Puppet Master makes her all the more doubt her own ghost. Again Kusanagi and Batou are used as devices by Oshii to discusses how humanity defines itself later.
She wonders whether she, as a full cyborg, is actually human. Perhaps driven by her loneliness her feelings underlie a greater thirst for knowledge which all humans wish to know: why am I here? And why am I human? Are examples of the questions she is really asking. Batou, in my eyes, is more human than his female colleague because he does not know what defines him as a human precisely but he knows, intuitively, that he is human and his ghost is what makes him so. It is this degree of uncertainty which defines humanity in this way. We know that a soul and a greater range of emotions distinguish humanity from the animal kind that inhabit the Earth but we do not know how to define a soul, ghost or brain.
So in conclusion, this scene is all about identity and how to define a human one. The Puppet Master poses an interesting look at how the mind works and while not taking ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ so acutely Oshii is able to craft an interesting question: define your humanity! Batou is, in my opinion along with Togusa, the most human in Section Nine. He works with the boundaries set by others for him whilst accepting his humanity although not able to define it accurately. However Kusanagi is not searching for humanity, in a way she is searching for something greater, like Nirvana, when all will become clear for her. The Puppet Master is here, however, to solve her problems. However, first of all, It will pose a problem for all viewers of the film to try to answer.