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Tag Archives: Mamoru Oshii


The Philosophy of Ghost in the Shell (1995)

The Wisecrack Youtube channel has a great video on the philosophy of Ghost in the Shell (the original one). It’s actually a very Western movie because it’s Hegelian through and through, and Hegel is as Western philosophy as it gets.

I left a comment on the video that I will cross-post here, for those interested.

Sure, I can explain.

There are numerous instances of Mamoru Oshii using reflections to embody Motoko’s search for her counterpart, or antithesis. Not necessarily with literal mirrors but with imperfect, reflective surfaces like glass or water. If you pay close attention you can maybe pick out a dozen or so instances. An obvious instance of the reflection motif is in the diving scene where Motoko rises to the surface and it looks like she “meets” herself: until the images meet, you can’t really tell who the Major is from her reflection. Her conversation with Batou after that scene goes hand in hand with that kind of confusion.

You’ll notice too that the reflection becomes “reality” when the Puppermaster hacks into the shell, especially where they are laying side-by-side on the museum floor. That was the physical meeting of the thesis and anti-thesis. You’ll also notice that the Major and the Puppetmaster have reverse existences: the Major was a human who became fully robotic except for her brain, while the Puppetmaster was essentially a program looking for a human body to achieve the full range of existence, even death.

Regarding the end scene when the Major-Puppetmaster figure is in the chair inside Batou’s safehouse: there’s a strange shot her in the chair which quickly cuts to the same shot, but a mirror image of it. The second shot is a different kind of quality than the first, so the effect isn’t quite as jarring. This was Oshii’s way of telling us by imagery that the synthesis is complete and the Major and Puppetmaster are now the same being. This scene is examined in this video, at mark 30:40 and onward: /watch?v=l9v8FzQ2btg

Hope that helps.

EDIT: Clarified some things.

EDIT 2: Contrast this with the 2017 Ghost in the Shell, which I also like, though not as much and for different reasons. Both films deal with issues of self-identity, but in different ways: Oshii’s Major lacks an identity because of the nature of her humanity, where ScarJo’s Major lacks an identity because of what others have done to her. In the former, existence is deceptive, in the latter, humanity is deceptive.

EDIT 3: Is Project 2501 a Boltzmann brain?

EDIT 4: No edit. Just a what up to my party peeps.