Weapons in Ghost in the Shell

Peter Peng '08, English 65, The Cyborg Self, Brown University (Spring 2005)

Like Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, the anime Ghost in the Shell also contains a large array of technological weaponry. In one of the opening scenes, Major Motoko Kusanagi infiltrates a building using an advanced form of camouflage called Therm-optics that essentially makes one invisible to the naked eye. Although most of the characters in this anime have augmented body parts such as extendable and branching fingertips, Bateau's eye augmentations (which are able to detect Therm-optics), no one in the building notices the Major until she has already killed her target and escaped. One character even gasps, "I don't believe it! Therm-optics!" as if implying despite all their advanced security and technology, they were not able to detect the Major. What does this say about advanced technology? Perhaps depending on technology whole-hearted for security or confidence is not such a wise idea. Or is it simply that the Therm-optics technology is so advanced, even more so than security technologies in Ghost in the Shell, that it cannot be detected?

In another scene involving Therm-optics, two men and an invisible entity enter Section 9's headquarters. The government has forbidden Therm-optics in official buildings for obvious security reasons, but these men successfully camouflage the third entity, undetected by any of the advanced securities. Only Togusa's intuitive observation of the extra time it took the elevator doors to close suggests something is wrong about the men's entrance. Only Togusa cares to check the pressure and weight sensor readings, revealing the invisible entity.

Togusa also has an obsession with his outdated revolver that he refuses to trade in for an automatic gun. Why do you think he holds onto his revolver even when the Major informs him that the automatics are no longer as unreliable as they used to be?

Ironically, the Major also transferred Togusa over from the police force because he is still largely biological unlike the rest of the team. She explains, "If we all reacted the same way, we'd be predictable, and there's always more than one way to view a situation. What's true for the group is also true for the individual. It's simple. Overspecialize and you breed in weakness. It's slow death." What statement about technology is Ghost in the Shell making here? Perhaps the cyborg body itself can be a weapon. For Togusa, having an indispensable human body with pain sensors might cause him to be less reckless, but for the Major, living in a machine body that can be replaced might make her more bold. What other possibilities does having the biological Togusa on the team suggest?

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Last modified 24 April 2005