In this post, I wanted to talk about the recent 2017 Hollywood movie adaptation of the Anime/Manga Ghost In the Shell (GITS). For those of you not familiar with the GITS media franchise, it was originally a cyberpunk Manga created, written, and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, debuting in 1989. The manga was very popular, and in 1995 the first Anime film installation of GITS was made, which was a large international success. The sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, was “Honored best sci-fi film at the 2004 Nihon SF Taisho Awards,” and was also featured in the 2004 Cannes Film Festival as “only the sixth animated film to be featured at Cannes ever.” These are rather remarkable achievements and milestones for Anime, adding to the legacy of GITS as one of the most successful Anime/Manga media franchises of all time. Since then, GITS has had multiple TV series and movie installations, all of which have seen International success.
One of the newest trends in the world of Anime are Live-Action adaptations, which have essentially all been previously done internally in Japan. What makes the newest Live-Action adaptation of GITS so impactful on the Anime industry is the fact that it is a Hollywood production. For anyone familiar with global pop-culture, you are surely aware of the success and prestige of a movie production being done with the label of “Hollywood”, or rather the American film industry. This typically involves a larger budget, which in turn creates more improvements in many areas such as CGI effects, production, casting, directing, etc.. This also means that they are mainly targeting the North-American audience, which usually leads to predominantly white actors being casted. The new 2017 Ghost in the Shell movie has multiple caucasian actors portraying Japanese based characters of the GITS franchise, where the setting takes place in Japan and thus they are presumably characters of Japanese/Asian decent. In the new Hollywood film, the main character of GITS “Major Motoko Kusanagi”, is portrayed by caucasian actress Scarlet Johansen. This has displeased many fans who have publicly decided to boycott the film for that very reason. The film has flopped since it’s release and is expected to actually lose money or barely catch up to its $110 million budget. In my opinion this is actually a very negative result in the grand-scheme of things, and as a big fan of Anime who hopes to see some great Live-Action adaptations done from Hollywood, this does not bode well for the future. It has created somewhat of an uproar from GITS and Anime fans, who see this as a classic example of “white-washing”.
White-washing is a term used to describe the casting of a film with mainly caucasian actors portraying characters who are not supposed to be of caucasian decent in the original story. However I shy away from the term “white-washing”, as it can be demeaning to some. Hollywood certainly has a history of this type of behavior, and obviously the USA has a bad history of racism and in fact still struggles with racism; a significant part of why this still happens today. In my research I wanted to see how actual Japanese citizens feel about the decision for the casting of the main characters, which was nicely done in the video below with real interviews of Japanese citizens:
I cannot speak for those of the Japanese culture who see this in a negative light, but I can definitely understand the argument against the casting of white actors/actresses for Anime roles. However, I will say that if you are a fan of Anime/Manga and truly want to see well-done Live-Action adaptations created, then you should not boycott the film but rather support it for the hopes of more adaptations in the future. I have seen nearly all of the GITS Anime installations, and after seeing the movie I thought it was actually well-done at staying true the franchise, but still has some obvious flaws. The uproar created by fans online is actually a good thing for the future because I can guarantee that anytime Hollywood loses money, they will be seeking answers as to why, and hopefully they will address this issue correctly in the future while taking into account the wants/needs of the fans from the native country of the product.