3. The original Ghost in the Shell animated movie was released in 1995. It’s based on a 1989 manga by Masamune Shirow. It takes place in 2029, when most of humanity have cybernetically enhanced bodies.
The main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, and her team work for a police force hunting one of the world’s worst hackers — a guy named the “Puppet Master,” who can literally hack into people’s minds. The original film is a shoot-‘em-up action flick but also an incredibly thoughtful meditation about what it means to be human. Think Blade Runner but a little deeper. It’s one of the best-selling anime films of all time, and its legacy is unparalleled.
6. Last week, Paramount released its first look at Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi.
7. And once again, fans were furious.
13. Then ScreenCrush dropped this bombshell. Producers reportedly experimented with using CGI to make Johansson “appear Asian.”
Paramount fired back and said, “A test was done related to a specific scene for a background actor which was ultimately discarded. Absolutely no visual effects tests were conducted on Scarlett’s character and we have no future plans to do so.”
But ScreenCrush is staying firm. “Despite Paramount’s denial, we stand by the assertion that visual effects tests were performed on Ms. Johansson’s character and likeness,” it wrote.
15. But what about fans in Japan? Well, the reactions haven’t been as angry, but people appear to be uncomfortable about the whole thing.
“I cannot accept that Scarlett Johansson plays the leading role. If not [a Japanese person], they should use [an Asian person].”
17. Some are happy that at least a few Japanese actors are involved. For instance, famous Japanese comedian Takeshi Kitano was recently cast in a lead role.
“They seem to use CG effects to make ScarJo look like an Asian. Use [an] Asian. It’s cheaper to use [an] Asian.”
19. Basically, the overall attitude appears to be that “it can’t be helped.” Which, sadly, they may not wrong about. This is far from the only film going through this sort of controversy right now.
“Personally, Takeshi Kitano in Aramaki is good, ScarJo as Motoko Kusanagi is good too. Some people say an Asian actor should play Major, but it can’t be helped because it’s Hollywood.”
22. A quick summary of Death Note: A high school student named Light finds a notebook dropped by a demon. If you write someone’s name in the book they die immediately. Light decides to do what anyone would do — use the book to become a serial killer.
By the way, there already is a Japanese live-action Death Note movie, and it’s pretty good! You should watch that one instead and not think about the audacity of casting the kid from The Naked Brothers Band as one of Japan’s greatest serial killers.
23. OK, maybe at this point you’re like, “I don’t care about this P.C. nonsense, they’re making these movies for people in America, the movies should have American actors. Freedom!” OK, sure, whatever, you’re wrong, Hollywood doesn’t exist in a vacuum, BUT…
24. …if you like anime and you want to see good movies get made, you’d know we’ve been down this road before. In 2009, 20th Century Fox cast a white dude as Goku in a live-action version of Dragonball — one of the most famous anime franchises ever.
26. Here’s another one for you (while not technically a Japanese anime property): The heavily anime-influenced Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender was similarly awful. They cast a kid named Noah Ringer as the main character, Aang.
28. Hahaha… ha… and we haven’t even talked about the absolute shitshow surrounding the American live-action Akira movie.
The 1995 Ghost in the Shell film owes a lot to the 1988 anime movie Akira. It similarly mixes intense action sequences with psychological and philosophical introspection. Akira is largely considered not just one of the best anime films ever, but one of the greatest science fiction movies EVER MADE. An American adaptation has been stuck in development hell for years.
29. Jaume Collet-Serra — the director of such films as Run All Night (aka Liam Neeson-doing-Taken-again-but-not) and House of Wax — was attached to direct. Here he is talking about how ONE OF THE BEST SCI-FI MOVIES OF ALL TIME didn’t have strong characters.
Coming Soon: ….if you were going to do it in live-action, one would hope you would bring something new to the table. What is it you are bringing specifically that is going to make it yours?
Collet-Serra: I hope that I can bring strong characters. In the original source material, I don’t think the main characters are the protagonists. What I’m hoping is to bring characters…
Collet-Serra (cont.): Nobody’s interesting. Tetsuo’s interesting because weird shit happens to him, and Kaneda is so two-dimensional. That’s part of the Japanese culture, they never have strong characters. They’re used as a way to move the other philosophy forward.
30. You see, respecting the Japanese identity of an anime property might have a direct correlation with how much a studio cares about the movie version being any good.
31. A white Major Motoko Kusanagi is like a French Captain America. It’s goofy and wrong.
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