Ghost In The Shell's Product Placement Pisses Me Off

This last weekend marked the Japanese premiere of Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 1 Ghost Pain. Needless to say, I enjoyed the film. What I didn’t enjoy was the incredibly blatant and distracting product placement surrounding the film — like this three-minute commercial for the Microsoft Surface.

The commercial stars the cast of Ghost in the Shell: Arise as they attempt to steal some data and upload it to a Microsoft Surface tablet PC… for some reason. It’s actually rather well animated and has some seriously entertaining action scenes.

So, as just a fun little commercial, I suppose I don’t have too much of a problem with it. It’s the fact that this product placement is also in the film proper that really gets in my craw.

In the actual film, the Surface showed several times. Twice on a giant, flashy billboard in the background and several more times being used by the Major as her personal computer. This is annoying on two levels.

First, this is a 2013 tablet PC being actively used in 2027 — which would be like any of us using a PC from 1999 in our daily lives. And second, Ghost in the Shell is set in a world where cybernetic technology is the central component of everyday life. If you have both full-dive capability (like in The Matrix) and a permanent AR interface, why would you ever use a tablet? It would be faster and easier to simply call up the data on your cybernetic eyes.

That isn’t the only product placement in the film, of course. An Infiniti luxury car shows up in a few scenes. But at least it makes sense to see a classy luxury car 14 years in the future — unlike an ancient tablet PC.

In general, product placement has been becoming more and more common in theatrical anime over the past few years. The Evangelion rebuild films have had long lingering shots of a Lawson’s convenience store — not to mention the loving shots of the beer in Misato’s fridge — and the characters of Macross Frontier actually go into a FamilyMart convenience store as a plot point in one of their films.

And frankly, I am OK with that kind of product placement. After all, it makes sense that convenience stores (and beer for that matter) would exist in those anime. It’s when products are being shoehorned into the movie whether they make sense or not — when the product placement starts to devalue the world being created — that I start to get angry.

Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 1 Ghost Pain was released in Japanese theatres on June 22, 2013. Funimation will be releasing it in the United States; but if you can't wait, the Japanese Blu-rays — which include English subtitles — will be released on July 26, 2013.

The second chapter of this series Ghost in the Shell: Arise border: 2 Ghost Whisper will be released in Japanese theatres on November 30, 2013.


    Wow. Yeah that's pretty full on. And makes no sense when the whole point is that they're hardwired for net access. Why tie yourself to a tablet like that?

      Maybe it's so that they don't risk having their brain hacked by connecting it to the internet. Critical systems should never be connected to the outside world, unless absolutely necessary.

      Of course, Togusa is completely human, so he still needs normal computers anyway.

        He's not, he has a slight brain augmentation (verbatim quote from the 1st film).

        I think he's got the neck jacks just like everyone else too. In the first film he access the car park sensors without any kind of device.

    there is a line for product placement, and its usually quite easy to cross, but i'm totally for tasteful use of product placement. It means more money for the guys making it (whatever 'it' is, games,anime, etc), which can mean a more polished final product from the (slightly) higher budget. Personally, I don't really think a background ad for something - like the tablet above - is very 'in your face' or an offensive kind of product placement. Besides, they have to use some brand of computer/beer/convenience stores/whatever why not make it one they can get a few bucks off instead of some generic made up name?

    I saw the Nokia Windows Phone placement in Man of Steel and I thought that was pretty unsubtle... but it's still not the worst example.

    Remember in Casino Royal where they wrote in whole scenes talking about his Omega watch, and his tuxedo?

      I dunno, Man of Steel's phones are a little different. How can you not do a product placement when a character uses a mobile phone in a movie? Everyone has a smart phone, and smart phones can't just have their label removed like an old Nokia. If you want to show what's happening on the screen you've got to show an OS and as much as it looks like an obvious product placement (and almost certainly is) it still looks better than a fake OS.
      It's like when TV shows use fake websites instead of Google, YouTube, Twitter, Google Maps, etc. The product placement is actually less distracting than if they use a Peach gTab instead of an Apple iPad.

      I don't like obvious product placements or that sort of selling out in general, especially the GITS ones for the Surface where it's super distracting, but it's getting a bit hard to tell the difference between a paid spot for an iPhone and a director deciding iPhone is the default for smart phones.

        I actually, oddly, didn't even notice the phone to be honest? People use them for everything every day anyhow, so it didn't even occur to me?

    You're saying why would they use a tablet in GitS. Have you seen the two previous movies? They have old PC in the old ones and keyboards as well. Clearly they're keeping inline with their existing theme that current technology paradigms are not as outdated as you think. Also a flashing billboard in neo-japan seems about right to myself.

    If you find it surprising/dislike/don't-agree they're using a tablet here you must then logically HATE it in the previous films and anime for that matter that they use keyboards. Going to chalk this one up with Richard(author) having a bias against it being MSFT.

    I personally have no doubt that were they non-descript tablets this article would not exist.

      Fair point on the internal logic of technology within GiTS. However, the argument then goes that if every other product within the film is generic, why should it be acceptable to have a single licenced product?
      The core of this article, as evidenced by examples for NGE and Macross, is that focused product placement within a fictitious universe acts to detract from the overall experience. Whether a particular business is present or not has little standing on such an observation.

        Agree they could have just continued to use blank device. Though high-quality productions nowadays do not come cheap so maybe they needed funding. I admit though that I am bias in that I like GitS a lot and I also like Windows a lot so yeah *shrugs* :]

    This is one reason why I'm glad that Berserk Golden Age Arc movies are Dark Fantasy.

    Give me the classic products like Panaphonic, Magnetbox. and Sorny!

    I actually didn't notice she was using a Surface in that scene, though I did notice the commercial on the billboard. While it does seem odd to be using a tablet in 2027, there is kind of a story-related reason why she does it. Her cybernetics are infected with a virus that affects her perception and memory. She's interfacing with an external device directly to try and sidestep that.


    Familymart branded convenience store lord knows how many decades out of place and on a colony ship in space? WELL THATS FINE

    Makes perfect sense, Japan is actually about a decade behind the western world when it comes to computers. No, really, businesses here still fax up the wazoo and if they even have computers they still use XP. It's hilariously embarrassing.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now