Ghost in the Shell: Girls and Dolls

7 Comments
Anime, Culture

Spoiler-ish discussion of issues raised in the anime. Recommended to have seen the first season and up to episode thirteen of the second season.

Ever since I saw the last few episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex I’ve been thinking about something Batou said to Matoko. It was along the lines of, “Why do you always choose a female cybernetic body?” Since then I actually picked up a copy of the Ghost in the Shell manga, and in the manga he is continually referring to Matoko as a “gorilla.” The art style of the original manga is significantly different from what we see in the anime series as well — In the years since the Ghost in the Shell movie Matoko’s form has gone from a muscular but still attractive woman to a much more lithe, sexy look.

Does Batou know something we don’t? Although I find it unlikely that the character we know as Matoko Kusanagi was born a man — As the viewer we really have no way of knowing. She’s a character who ostensibly has gone through a number of artificial bodies. The body she uses is no more integral to her than a favorite pair of jeans may be to us. Comfortable and familiar, but just trappings.

I’ve been mulling over these issues of late because I wonder what sort of societal implications might arise due to the availability of body-swapping and/or the proliferation of lifelike body replicas. I’m forced to ask myself whether there’s anything intrinsic about female personalities that I like… And while there are a number of items I could list, if I’m realistic I don’t think the absence of those qualities would dissuade me from being attracted to an artificially-perfect female body.

I recently watched an episode (Episode #3) where a rich government official held an after-hours party where he and other government officials all came accompanied by cybernetic dolls. Although the dolls as depicted hold no interest for me — What’s the attraction of a completely mindless and subservient being with no personality to speak of? — I can’t be certain that other people would think the same way. And if the doll had a sophisticated AI (similar to, but less annoying than, the Tachikomas)? That would be difficult to resist, I think. Ultimately, I think, this world would end up being populated primarily by men. Sure, walking along the street you would likely see many females, maybe even more than before, but their brains … Given that a significant portion of the female evolutionary strategy is dedicated towards attracting mates with physical attractiveness I can’t see a reason why in an age where physicality was fungible that would continue to be successful.

And isn’t that a scary thought? [Un]Fortunately, ahem, we’re at least a few years away from being able to transport brains into artificial bodies. But hopefully it’s not too far off, even if it will cause a little havok.

7 Responses

  1. Part of the reason Motoko has shifted from a more stronger look to a lean sexy look in the manga is due to Masamune Shirow’s focusing in his style. He has said in interviews that he generally likes the stylized look of the women he draws, which is why he draws almost all of them in that style (not just Ghost, but Dominion and others).

    I’m fairly certain Motoko has always been female. In the manga it never really goes into her past, but in 2nd gig (anime) there is a decent amount of assumed history. It is also a good point because it creates a nice division between the members of Section 9. The team is so varied as far as talent goes, so why not make one of the most capable members female? It’s just her gender, and has no effect on her abilities – although the physical side does present benefits in some missions.

    As far as the name calling, I’m pretty sure they refer to Aramaki as the ape – or at least that’s how I remember it. I may be wrong, however, but in the manga at least he is drawn fairly stylized as well.

    The movies are a whole different matter, because Oshii put so much detail and meaning into them. Motoko is very important in both movies, and she is barely in Innocence.

    Hope that makes a little sense.

  2. You’re right, Shirow’s style has changed from the original manga to later works. And, to be fair, for the high-quality color covers Matoko was always made very alluring.

    One the point of Matoko being female — I’m fairly certain she is as well, but as just a brain-in-a-shell we really have no way to definitively tell that. I suppose you could do a brain scan and the various biological differences between male and female brains would show up, but I get the sense that the anime/manga tries to be neutral on brain differences between sexes — Either that or you could say it’s much more concerned with differences between ghosted-humans and “artificial intelligences.”

    I believe in the Manga Aramaki’s referred to as an ape and Matoko as a gorilla — There’s a nod to this in GitS: SAC 2nd GiG where, during the episode where Saitou is playing poker and telling the story of how he met Matoko, Ishikawa refers to her as a gorilla. In the Manga if I recall correctly it’s mostly Batou’s way of referring to her, so I suspect it’s his way of being endearing without actually revealing his feelings. It’s possible it’s meant in an ironic way as well if we assume Matoko’s appearance in the manga is more as a result of Shirow’s drawing style at the time than as a direct reflection of his vision of what she would look like in photorealism. That is, it could be like calling a person “fatty” if they are very skinny.

  3. Given that a significant portion of the female evolutionary strategy is dedicated towards attracting mates with physical attractiveness I can’t see a reason why in an age where physicality was fungible that would continue to be successful.

    And I can’t see how the human race would have survived this long if the female evolutionary strategy was anything like what you’re suggesting.

    Motoko’s choice (if it is a choice, though in all likelihood it’s her original gender/sex) of a female body is the same as the use of Togusa in the group: Evolution is not about homogenity, it’s about diversity, and therefore reproducing with ugly people. Though Motoko is as strong and resiliant as Batou, the female body makes her more likely to be more agile and better balanced than her male counterparts. Her social experiences as a woman would also add diversity and much needed experience to her leadership of the group, especially when dealing with AIs, which in the Ghost worlds are depicted as mostly female for a reason: The concepts of “woman” and “cyborg” are always beholden of “men’s” problems in society. Even the innocent child who is mentally raped to reproduce her ghost and then physically raped in that gynoid form is a projection of the fears regarding female empowerment and the increasing dependence on technology to bring pleasure once sought in face-to-face contact with human beings.

    It is a scary thought, but one that’s obviously attractive to many men: Why do you Hugh Hefner is so rich?

  4. Wow, D. You want to deny that a female’s physical attractiveness is a highly significant factor (if not the single most important factor) in attracting mates? That’s a pretty bold stance to take, feel free to back it up rather than just making snide remarks.

    Evolution is not about homogenity, it’s about diversity, and therefore reproducing with ugly people.

    What? No and no.

    “Attractiveness” is an indication of physical (and thus genetic) fitness. Barring factors such as defacement or hygiene which may decrease an individual’s attractiveness without affect her genetics your best bet is likely to be the most attractive mate. Like it or not, attractiveness is also correlated with g.

    Furthermore, Evolution isn’t about either “homogenity” or “diversity.” Evolution doesn’t give a damn about political correctness, Evolution is about success.

    Motoko is as strong and resiliant as Batou, the female body makes her more likely to be more agile and better balanced than her male counterparts.

    So Batou and all of the other people using male-shaped cyborg bodies are intentionally using inferior bodies? Right. Unfortunately I don’t think reality actually conforms to videogame-inspired notions that women are faster and more agile.

    Her social experiences as a woman would also add diversity and much needed experience to her leadership of the group…

    You mean the social experiences as a full-prosthetic cyborg in the shape of a woman? Dump Batou or Pazu or Bomer into a new body and they’d have the same social experiences.

  5. You want to deny that a female’s physical attractiveness is a highly significant factor (if not the single most important factor) in attracting mates?

    Ahh, now I see your point. Your poor grammar made the sentence seem like you were talking about the females attracting mates who were attractive. However, yes, I would, since your argument is just projecting some shallow men’s incorrect perceptions of what “evolution” is about onto women. Women’s standards of beauty in the sense you are talking about are only important inasmuch as they reflect the “wealth” of the man the woman is attached to.
    “Attractiveness” is an indication of physical (and thus genetic) fitness.
    Considering there are many obscenely overweight people out there with otherwise “good” or “normal” health genes, I really don’t think this is correct.
    Evolution doesn’t give a damn about political correctness, Evolution is about success.
    And success in an evolutionary environment has nothing to do with human concepts of beauty, and everything to do with ensuring your genetic material continues on in some way no matter what the occurance. That means you have to cover for drought and flood, wind and hail, increase in food sources and a decrease in food sources, high levels of intense sunlight, low levels, and most importantly, as many kinds of disease as you can. Most of these factors have nothing to do with attractiveness. In some cases, people’s perceptions of what is attractive are detremental to their given genetic survival in a certain environment.
    So Batou and all of the other people using male-shaped cyborg bodies are intentionally using inferior bodies?
    You’re missing the point by assuming difference and diversity means inferiority. And thus missing the entire point of Ghost. Please see previous comments about Togusa. Is he inferior because he’s using a human body instead of an cybernetic one? The point of the show is that he isn’t, both because of the physicalities of this and because of the social experience he has that’s different to his cyborg counterparts and makes him stronger mentally in some areas where they are weak.
    Dump Batou or Pazu or Bomer into a new body and they’d have the same social experiences.
    They would but their previous experience as a man with their own individual personality and body-identity would effect how they handle these experiences. Just as transexuals have different gender experiences as woman than women who have been female from birth do.

  6. D, I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt here but the things you say seem incoherent.

    Women’s standards of beauty in the sense you are talking about are only important inasmuch as they reflect the “wealth” of the man the woman is attached to.

    What do you mean by this? It seems like you are saying that attractiveness is purely a social construct used as a signifier of “wealth”?

    And success in an evolutionary environment has nothing to do with human concepts of beauty…

    Really? So when it comes to choosing mates a human’s faculties of discrimination are entirely ineffectual?

    You’re missing the point by assuming difference and diversity means inferiority…

    Really? That’s interesting because you seemed to be saying, “Matoko is just as good as Batou in X and Y, but even better than him because of Z.” There’s no indication in what you wrote that you’re implying anything other than superiority/inferiority.

    They would but their previous experience as a man with their own individual personality and body-identity would effect how they handle these experiences.

    And?

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