Ghost In The Shell Publisher ‘Never Imagined’ A Japanese Actress In The Lead Role

Ghost In The Shell Publisher ‘Never Imagined’ A Japanese Actress In The Lead Role

While Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Japanese cyborg Motoko Kusanagi has been controversial in the West, the original Tokyo-based publisher of the Ghost in the Shell manga seems totally cool with it.

Kodansha, one of Japan’s largest publishers, first put out the manga in 1989, and as AnimeNewsNetwork reports, began reprinting the manga after Production I.G successfully pitched the project to Hollywood on its behalf.

[Full disclosure: The now-defunct Kodansha International previously published two of my books.]

“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well-cast,” Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodansha’s headquarters in Tokyo, told The Hollywood Reporter (via AnimeNewsNetwork and RocketNews). “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”

“This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world,” said Yoshiba.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this comes after Yoshiba recently came back from the movie’s New Zealand set and said, as The Hollywood Reporter writes, “he was impressed by the respect being shown for the source material.”

Well, save for the bit about the main character being white and all.

While the manga’s publisher might have never imagined a Japanese actress, there was a recent report that stated the filmmakers ran tests to see if Johansson could look Asian through CG.

In Japan, however, many people online don’t seem too upset or even surprised about the casting. Some said they didn’t care because they had no plans to see the film anyway.

[Image: Paramount/Dreamworks]


  • That’s great, but the publisher gets a cut out of whatever the film makes (it’s their license!). Also who cares what the publisher thinks? The only person related to the original manga that can say this sort of thing is Masamune Shirow himself.

    • I bet you whatever you want, anything at all that Shirow is perfectly happy, if not ecstatic, about the choice of Johansson. Check out some of his less known works (take in account that they are in its great majority VERY nsfw) and you’ll see that he has a big american fetish.

      That aside, Kodansha owns the rights, so their word is also relevant.

      • As 2chan was discussing, there just isn’t very many good Japanese actresses who can speak English well.

        • I don’t know about that. Furthermore there are a lot of Asian American actresses that speak English very well that would have fit the part. After all, the real issue here isn’t that she isn’t Japanese. It’s that Hollywood has once again taken a role that is clearly non-white and whitewashed it.

          • Do you also get upset when Japanese “Asianwash” caucasian roles? Because they do it like, ALL the time.

          • There’s two things here. First of all there aren’t an abundance of white/black/you-name-it actors being passed up for jobs and living in Japan nor is Japan’s movie industry anywhere near as big as the USA.

            Second of all… even if it did, two wrongs don’t make a right.

          • Well first of all, there’s neither an abundance of English speaking Japanese people in Hollywood either. In fact, i dare say that the amount of gaijins ready to be typecasted into western roles in Japanese pictures is higher that the amount of Japanese actors in Hollywood. Now think that you don’t need /a/ Japanese actress or any at all. You need a woman in her 20s or early 30s with an athletic body and perfect mastery of English. That’s much rarer than you may think.

            Second, I’m not trying to justify a “wrong” with another, just saying that that’s how the industry works given the limitations of budget, availability and the expected bias of the viewers.

          • If this were a one off thing then you’d be right. But it’s not. It happens constantly. It’s bad enough that Hollywood tends to write white leads all the time. But when a lead comes along that is not white, Hollywood will often whitewash them.

          • I thought it was pretty hilarious to read on the other article, the Japanese messageboard comment, “Well, Attack on Titan movie was about two Japanese characters in an otherwise all-western country, and the movie was all-Japanese, so I’m not going to complain.”

  • “We never imagined a Japanese actress in the role” sounds overtly like they’re saying “we don’t think a Japanese actress was right for the role” but I am willing to bet, especially with the Japanese’s propensity for politeness even when in disagreement, that what Sam Yoshiba really meant was “we didn’t think that Hollywood would ever cast a Japanese actress anyway ’cause they’re a bunch of racist fucks so shikata ga nai”

  • Regardless of what the actual author says. I think most people are upset because this has continuously been happening. Avatar, Dragonball, that Hawaii movie… it gets a bit disheartening when you are under represented in the hollywood film industry which is set in a country that prides itself as a melting pot of cultures and races.

    The reason that many Japanese are not upset can also be seen as they who live in a country with its own film industry do not see this misrepresentation and thus it is mainly us, the foreign asians who don’t quite live in the community that feels so misrepresented.

    • They are really different cases that must be taken in consideration one by one. Avatar is a travesty because the characters were clearly designed to be certain ethnicity. There was a clear diversity subtheme in the original. Dragon Ball? Not so much. Yes, the movie is outrageously bad but not because any offending representation abuses. Most of the cultural and narrative elements in DB are lifted from Chinese mythology. The architecture or names of cities are not Japanese. The character design doesn’t look Japanese. The only Japanese thing in DB other than the original spoken language is the food and some names.

      GitS fall much closer to DB than to Avatar. While the setting is definitely Japan, it is so only by name. It is a highly futuristic state with very little traditional Japanese elements that could be placed anywhere in the world. Japanese identity is not relevant or defining for the characters. It is pretty much a story that could be reproduced with very little definition loss for any culture or country.

      Now let me ask you: Would you, insist that a Japanese recreation of Blade Runner had an American cast? I don’t think so.

      • Ah but you forget. There WAS an outcry even if it was the other way round. The Attack on Titan manga was supposed to have just the one half Japanese person, but they cast everyone as Japanese. Even the Japanese themselves were making some noise about the castings, and here everyone knew it’s impossible to find that many good white actors that can speak Japanese.

        Ghost in the shell requires only one Asian lead. Meh

        • But why, why must Motoko be Japanese (other than to fit the name. Are they keeping the name, btw?) Being Japanese is of no relevance to her character. Hell, she’s barely human, which is the point of the movie! By GitS 2.0 she doesn’t even have whatever was left of her original body anymore.

          Mikasa being Asian is an actual (if minor) plot point in AoT but it’s understandable that the expense of making the whole rest of the cast caucasian in a Japanese production was prohibitive. For GitS, sure, they could have gone the extra mile and get one Asian. But that would have been an additional effort for likely a reduction in the potential viewership.

          • Yes agreed. Your last sentence basically sums up the whole reason for this. Hollywood is afraid of casting a female Asian lead coz of the “potential lost” in viewership. If that is true or not remains to be seen.

          • Yep, you have to admit it’s a pretty expensive wager they are making with a mostly unknown franchise. They’re just trying to increase their odds of success.

    • So most people are upset that Japanese people are under represented in film. Yet they have their own film industry. Seems if you want to see Japanese people in film you have a whole industry’s worth of film to choose from.

    • All I know is, there would be a huge storm coming from Japan if they got a Korean or Chinese actress to do the role.

      • Let’s also not forget the character is a “ghost” in a cyborg “shell” which, taking Asia’s “whitening” industry makes the casting of a manufactured cyborg shell highly likely to be white even with a Japanese name.

        But you know….. “racist its racist its racist racist everything is racist”

  • Just wanna point out that everybody at Capcom loves the Street Fighter movie. It has always been making them money.

  • If the movie is in English why does it matter that there’s an anglo actress? Almost every time i see a Japanese actor in a Hollywood movie they cant speak without a thick accent which doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie. If the movie was spoken in Japanese, then they should cast Japanese actors. That would probably be a better movie anyway.

    • You didn’t see Pacific Rim, did you? You poor fool. Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori was a revelation.

  • Personally, I’ve never had a problem with a western actress playing the role. My problem is Scarlett Johansson always having that try hard look on her face, they could have gotten better actresses to play the role.

  • Amazing! Luckily there’s plenty of white people to get offended on their behalf!

  • well aint that a tad racist. She needn’t be Japanese, us asians would just like someone to represent us visually similar enough… and there are plenty of asians Japanese, Korean or Chinese who speak english fluent enough for you not to be able to tell.

  • I really don’t care. It seems to be in capable hands and Scarlett Johansson is a solid choice, so bring on the film.

    • Actually, I’d argue that the casting shows the film is NOT in capable hands- they’re so creatively bankrupt and lacking in imagination that they can’t even fathom casting anyone other than Scarlett “Black Widow” Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi. Seriously, she’s a good actress but… why HER of all people? As Motoko Kusanagi?

      No, the film is going to be terrible.

      • So a well-known and proven actress that fits the age and body type of the character in question and that has an excellent track record playing an acrobatic action hero is a poor choice? You’d rather they pick the first Japanese woman they can find and toss her into the role just because her nationality, and wager their hundreds of millions of dollars super production on her being any good in the role and audiences liking her? Just how many English-speaking Japanese women fitting the above description do you think there are in Hollywood that you speak as though they are spoiled for choice but they stubbornly stick to the known factor?

  • I’m just laughing at all the Western salt being thrown at this movie. There are so many articles out there showing that the people of Japan, the publisher, anyone involved with the original manga or anime DO NOT CARE about a white actress playing the character. All the “outrage” is coming from the same people: Western White people!

    Call me racist, wrong, whatever. Deep down you know this is the truth. All the salt and outrage about this casting choice is coming from the same outrage sources that love to complain about every god damn thing.

    As long as the movie is good, who gives a shit? I’m done with all these outrage articles. Kotaku is one of the problems instead of trying to be one of the leaders in the solution.

  • So a white person is playing an anime character who was also white… And that’s a problem because?

    Well, save for the bit about the main character being white and all.

    Seems a bit racist to tell Japanese people what they should be doing with their IP. It’s almost like you’re suggesting Japanese people don’t have the ability to make their own decisions or something…

      • She is a cyborg. To be honest, I never thought of her looking Japanese. I always thought she would have that Japanese pale skin mixed race vibe that is often considered ideal beauty in Japan. A name does not define race. I know Japanese girls whose Japanese names are Emma and Elli. People crying race issue are making it one, meanwhile no one who they feel should be offended are. So stop whining. Full disclosure, my wife is Japanese and I have spent a lot of time there.

        • Grabbing at straws. Clearly Japanese name is Japanese. You’re arguing using exceptions.

          • No the only person grabbing at straws is the one where their cry of racist is floating away out of reach…. Stay offended for the real people who are offended… white people.

          • I’m not white and I’m not happy with the casting. but i don’t really see it as a racist issue so much. Just see it as another wasted opportunity for a more ethnically diverse lead role in Hollywood

          • Sorry can you repeat that in Spanish gmano? It’ll probably be easier to understand you in your native language.

      • Also a cyborg shell… So you know could be purple and still have the name Kusanagi

        • Read your own comment. You assumed the anime character was white. No idea where you got that from. And if you think my real name is gmano then sorry but I can’t help you any further 🙂

          • No assumptions. Look at the original film and tell me what colour Motoko’s skin is, if not white.

            Motoko is white and could also be Japanese, but it’s irrelevant to the themes of the film. And your assertions of race are completely missing its point.

            And if you think my real name is gmano then sorry but I can’t help you any further 🙂

            Really? That’s your defence of your logic that people are their name’s nationality? Weak dude.

          • Nah you’re now making a totally different argument from your original comment. This is better. You really gotta read your original comment and see what you were saying. You pretty much said “hey she’s white in the anime, why can’t she be white in the films”, you never implied that it was irrelevant to the theme of the film, and you never totally did not mean her literal skin colour.

            And I don’t have to defend a comment you never made any arguments against

  • Just want to point out that the real issue has nothing to do with Japan or what Japanese people think. Rather it’s that Hollywood has been whitewashing lead characters who aren’t white consistently. This is a problem for actors of colour mostly who get shut out of many lead roles (look it up… it’s a real phenomenon).

  • All this discussion and I’m just happy that they got the hair right. Man, they always mess the hair.

  • i dont think their being racist. its just stupid but they have to put bums on seats.

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