Tag Archives: The Puppetmaster

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.

Video: Ghost in the Shell vs. The Matrix Analysis

Some decent thoughts here, with requisite spoiler warnings if you haven’t seen the entire film. The film is, however, must-see for science-fiction or technology/futurist enthusiasts, as long as you’ve already gotten past the “animation is for kids” reservation that you may have. If you haven’t yet, please do get past that assumption before watching it because you won’t be able to absorb it properly.

The video’s title is misleading since he spends ample time explaining Ghost’s predecessory position to The Matrix than examining thematic elements. I was glad he included the boat scene (one of my favorites of all time), but the voice performance in the English dubbed version gets mangled. Not so much because of the actress (Mimi Woods, who does an average job) but there’s some inherent mechanical difficulties in having to match mouth movements with the translated English words. If I ever have the time and inclination I want to upload the subtitled version to do it justice.

Anyways, the narrator skirts around the Cartesian mind vs. body problem and doesn’t seem to state it outright that there is no separation between body and mind. We can infer that from the fact of memory being readable and rewritable, and copyable—as it is in the Ghost universe—though with everything in philosophy, there can still be arguments against it.

LogosSteve also points out the marriage/childbirth themes, which I didn’t really notice that much before. It’s interesting to note that the verse spoken by the voice in the aforementioned boat scene, 1 Corinthians 13:12 sits in a chapter known for its exposition of Christian love, which is used in some marriage ceremonies.

* Note the similarities in voice quality and roles between Tom Wyner as the English-voice Puppetmaster and Lawrence Fishburne’s Morpheus.