Welcome to final ‘Ghost in the Shell’: What’s inside the Shell? This time we skip three scenes which were not suitable for analysis, if you wish to though you could analyse these yourself and post them on here, and go stright to one of ‘Ghost in the Shell’s’ signature scenes: scene 13. Oshii’s pretentiousness seeps through into most of work, tainting it and asphyxiating any attempt to make it watchable. Conversely, the Floating Museum cuts off that seeping ooze and rather allows Oshii to realise his perfect scene. This scene is the synthesis of complex animation and story line complimented by a stunning score and a truly perplexing ending. This last ‘Ghost in the Shell’: What’s inside the Shell? Will attempt to reconcile this synthesis in what is truly Oshii’s defining piece. ‘Patlabor’, and most of Oshii’s other work, cannot even attempt to reach the heights of what ‘Ghost in the Shell’ does! This scene is one of the reasons why.
13: The Puppet Master explained, well to the best of my ability at least anyway!
This scene is the final scene in which the viewer sees Kusanagi and The Puppet Master in the same, respective, bodies. After chasing, in scene eleven, Section Six’s decoy; Batou comes to save Motoko from the tank, at the end of scene twelve. Scene thirteen is the scene in which Motoko and The Puppet Master come face to face in what can be said to be a meeting of two people searching for each other for an extremely long time.
However this is not an assignation, but rather a clinical critique into what the two really want: to become something greater than they are at present. It is not just Kusanagi’s curiosity driving her to this point in the film but it is also her insatiable need to fill a void in her own humanity.
However it is also the Puppet Master’s wish to become more human. Like ‘Blade Runner’s’ Replicants who wish to obtain a certain amount of humanity through prolonging their own existence, a very human thing, The Puppet Master was a mechanically engineered entity spawned in order to manipulate various organisations and individuals. However it kept learning, through the access It had to the information available through the various nets it explored. That is why It said it had been “born in the sea of information”.
The reason why It desired a certain level of humanity is emphasised by the idea it expressed of having off-spring. Rather than be asexual, that is not needing to procreate but rather to just clone oneself, The Puppet Master desires children. One reason is the fact that it is scared of dying “There’s the possibility that one virus could utterly destroy me.” Another is because of this idea of boundaries.
The Puppet Master has abandoned its non-corporeal, not restricted by boundaries in the sense a physical human body is, state in order to gain the boundaries presented by a human because it knows that those boundaries are what define humanity itself. So while The Puppet Master personifies the constant cyberpunk issue of Non-human entities not being human whilst simultaneously desiring to become humans, e.g. Replicants and the Humans who are trapped within the confines of The Matrix whilst simultaneously representing for Kusanagi this capability of being able to allow her to access the knowledge to achieve Nirvana.
There is a scene involving The Tree of Life, in this case (assuming this is a Shinto reference) a reference to the idea that after one dies one is represented as a branch of a tree, and reference to death is one of the few theological layers. The fact that the Puppet Master talks of death whilst examining the, slightly damaged, Tree of Life is important as it proves a very important piece of Japanese culture within the very contemporary, and sometimes western, attitude present within Cyberpunk science fiction.
However the Tree of Life is more than a theological reference in this instance but a look at the way in which generations of humans have passed down their genetic information in the same way that The Puppet Master does. The fact that he needs “variety to guard against extinction” as those represented by the Tree of Life is important. It links in with the idea expressed in scene four that being all the same and not introducing variety is “slow death”.
This is the genesis of a new kind of human. A new race! That is what The Puppet Master needs from Kusanagi.
“After the merging, you will bear my offspring into the net itself.”
-”Sounds like your getting the better part of the deal here.”
-”I wish you’d appreciate my network and functions a bit more.”
Puppet Master and Kusanagi discussing “the deal”.
So what does Kusanagi get? Well in many ways its a leap of faith for her! She has no real concept of what It has to offer. This is likeable to the “second fall” located in scene seven. Kusanagi regularly takes her dive of faith. She could die because of her inability to float and all to find her soul within the darkest depths of the sea. However she never finds fulfilment.
However what she gets is fulfilment in this fall. The fall into the Puppet Master’s mind is what essentially will redefine her as a human being. As something greater than you or me because she will have access to information that will lead her to the state of Nirvana over the state induced by idea of Samsāra, not being able to achieve enlightenment and therefore Nirvana because of one’s thoughtless and selfish nature. So this act of faith will therefore allow her to reach Nirvana.
So why Kusanagi? Why not Batou or Togusa? Well “Because I see you in myself. As a body sees its reflection within a mirror.” This is because Kusanagi has the ability to reach Nirvana because of her desire to change. Although initially scared of change, “what guarantee is that I’ll remain me?”, she wants the very change that she is initially scared of. This is manifested in scene eight where Kusanagi explores Newport City and sees herself. This clone is the Puppet Master and It too knows that it wants to live within the boundaries of the physical human body. Kusanagi wishes to find enlightenment and therefore find Nirvana. The net of which the Puppet Master talks about is without boundaries but one needs to be in a physical body to be able to do the things that the Puppet Master desires.
Susan Napier discusses this scene and this is where the term the “final fall” comes from because Napier is right in asserting that the film is about falls which act as a catalyst for the viewer to explore Kusanagi’s character. The first fall, in scene one, “privileg[ed] the body.” In that it explored “a number of contradictory elements encompassed in Kusanagi’s body and mind”.
The second fall, found in scene eight, is one which is about finding her “core self”. As discussed earlier, this is an early connection to faith and a form and perhaps a way to quell Kusanagi of the bad thoughts she has been having about her own humanity. Napier is very interested in critiquing the body and its boundaries in her own analysis of ‘Ghost in the Shell’, so therefore Kusanagi’s final fall, “…a metaphorical one, a ‘dive’ into the mind of the Puppet Master…”, is about “the notion of body and identity”.
Napier believes the scene is cleverly directed in order to yield “a double identification” from animating the scene in a such a fashion that the viewer observes the same things as Batou does before the dive and through to the Puppet Master’s, formerly Kusanagi’s eyes, point of after the dive takes place. Napier asserts that this allows the viewer to see all the boundaries be crossed as shown in the way in which Kusanagi and The Puppet Master switch their bodies. She concludes that this “fall has allowed her finally to leave her body and to begin to move towards a larger, more encompassing entity.”
This certainly seems more like the Human Instrumentality of ‘Evangelion’ rather than the type of Buddhist theology that has been suggested throughout this article. Napier nearly hits the whole idea of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ in this sentence, in spite of her phrasing, that Kusanagi is seeking to become something greater than the whole of her humanity can actually be. Humanity’s physical and mental boundaries can no longer satisfy Kusanagi’s need for fulfilment in regards to her own Ghost. She knows there is something more, as personified in her “second fall”, to her own life that she must fulfil and her body and current mind could not transcend the boundaries enough to find them. This is why the Puppet Master says that “Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you” because It knows what kind of human Kusanagi is: one who needs to find the kind of Enlightenment that It can offer.
In a way this film is about information and the way it is transferred and the way in which it is manipulated, stunted, taken away and implanted again. Information is an extremely powerful weapon and the way in which it is deployed in this film suggests that in the future information itself will be at the centre of the way in which the world works rather than the capitalist greed on which current society is delicately perched on. Information can transcend all boundaries because it is what defines us and as such is the key element in making Newport City the way it is already.
Susan Napier concludes nicely that “‘Ghost in the Shell’ may lament the loss of the individual soul epitomised in Kusanagi’s forlorn beauty, but also accepts the new technological world and possibilities of different kinds of spiritual connections.”
However Napier’s conclusion, that ‘Ghost in the Shell’ is synthesis of mourning the passing of humanity and the protagonist’s attempts to rediscover their own humanity within the context of a society that is experiencing the transition between a world of humanity developing into a post-human society, is contested by another academic: Sharalyn Orbaugh.
Orbaugh is writing about “species reproduction in a cyborg society”. This scene is the embodiment of her study. She writes about this in relation to the idea of the subjectivity found within singularity and sexuality. The Cyborg society represents a place in which sexuality in the conventional fashion is dying out and to be single is becoming more and more common place. Indeed she asserts this idea that Kusanagi may appear as a woman does not matter because “the sexed body as [a] reproductive body has no meaning in the cyborg state.”
In this way Orbaugh refers to this current scene as one in which “a completely new form of reproduction… that will emerge from the increased cyborgization of of the world.” and explores the way in which the perfect bodies encasing the cyborgs have “limits imposed on [their occupants'] subjectivity by such perfect control and how these limits may be transcended, moving to the next step of evolution.” In this scene The Puppet Master “offers [Kusanagi] her unique chance to overcome the limitations of her cyborg nature” by merging with It to become an actual human, as opposed to a mere “automaton”, because she is carrying out “one of the defining characteristics of a life form.”
Orbaugh concludes that this is an indication that the subjectivity relating to both sex and singularity because “‘merging’ is the result of individual desire and will…[and] with great…sacrifice.”
Although Orbaugh’s interpretation seems slightly amiss, mainly because the idea that The Puppet Master and Kusanagi are having sex seems far-fetched. It seems to me as if the word “merging” in this circumstance is taken out of context. Although Orbaugh offers a very good argument but when I merge with the traffic off a slip road I do not have an organism for example. It could also be argued that when a brick layer puts mortar and bricks together it “merges” to create a wall. There is no sex involved.
In the context of this scene Kusanagi and The Puppet Master are striking a deal on which to transcend what remains of humanity to become something greater! Rather than evolving this scene invokes a measure of spirituality in regards to its Buddhist and Shinto roots. This scene is about transcending humanity rather than becoming more human. Though, I am sure, Orbaugh would disagree.
However Orbaugh, like Napier, makes some fantastically astute points. For example Orbaugh suggests that “The…subjectivities even of the cyborg Kusanagi and the new life-form Puppet Master are recognisable to those of us still struggling with our modernist perceptions of personhood” which is brilliant!
In conclusion this scene is about Kusanagi and The Puppet Master joining up into a symbiotic relationship that will transcend the current human race, of which is beginning to die out in the biological and objective sense in regards to the amount of true humans living, by giving birth to children that are human but born with access to information only available to those with the capability too can. There is no real lament here for the human of the future will be those that can access a net that is “both vast and infinite”.
I hope you enjoyed ‘Ghost in the Shell’: What’s inside the Shell! I really enjoyed writting and it was a big challenge but I got there in the end! Anyway back to sleeping and revising for various exams coming up! Thanks for reading.