Motoko Kusanagi

Motoko Kusanagi
Motoko Kusanagi
Ghost in the Shell character
Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd GIG Motoko Kusanagi.png
Major Motoko Kusanagi of Section 9, as portrayed in the anime series.
First appearance Ghost in the Shell (manga)
Created by Masamune Shirow
Voiced by Japanese
Atsuko Tanaka
Maaya Sakamoto (young)
Mimi Woods (1st film)
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (TV series, 2nd film)
Alison Matthews(OVA)
Aliases Chroma (online name)

Major Motoko Kusanagi (草薙 素子 Kusanagi Motoko?) is a fictional Japanese character in the Ghost in the Shell anime and manga series. She is a cyborg employed as the squad leader of Public Security Section 9, a fictional division of the real Japanese National Public Safety Commission. She is voiced by Atsuko Tanaka in the movies and the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex anime series. In the English dubbing of the original films she is voiced by Mimi Woods and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn in the sequel and in the anime series.

Kusanagi's various incarnations in the manga, movies, and TV series all portray her differently. Since each of these has an independent storyline, Kusanagi's physical and mental characteristics have been modified in different ways to reflect the focus of each respective story.



Kenji Kamiyama had a difficult time identifying her and couldn't understand her motives during the first season of Ghost in the Shell:Stand Alone Complex. Due to this he created an episode in the second season where he recounted her past. He was then able to describe her as a human who was chosen to gain this superhuman power, she probably believes that she has an obligation to use that ability for the benefit of others.[1] English voice actor and director Mary Elizabeth McGlynn states she loved playing the role of Motoko Kusanagi and described her as "someone that was that strong, and still kind of feminine at times, but also kick-ass".[2]



Motoko is a commanding presence when on assignment, but also trades insults with her troops. She constantly calls Aramaki "Ape Face" as well as other members in Section 9, and when the Puppet Master reveals the "Motokos" that exist in the minds of those who know her, Aramaki's "Motoko" is sticking her tongue out. She is much more light-hearted and immature in some occasions. Due to the Puppeteer case, she started to change and become much more serious.

In the sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface, a person known as Motoko Aramaki appears. She identifies herself as containing "Motoko Kusanagi" elements, along with Project 2501, the Puppeteer. She is also identified as "Motoko 11" hinting that there is more than one.

Film series

In the film series by Mamoru Oshii, the Major's appearance is significantly different in comparison with her manga and TV series appearance. Unlike her manga counterpart, the Major has an androgynous face and rarely shows emotion. Like the manga, Public Security Section 9 investigate into looking for a genius hacker terrorist called the Puppet Master. Kusanagi is frequently portrayed in the film as contemplative and brooding, in contrast to the down-to-earth nature of her colleague Batou.

Since she has a full cybernetic body, she is not certain her ghost retains any humanity and speculates on the possibility that she is entirely synthetic, with artificially generated memories designed to fool her into thinking she was once human. Throughout the movie, she seeks to find answers to her questions and finally meets the Puppet Master, a rogue AI who became sentient and who is also looking for existential meaning. In the climax of the film, Kusanagi and the Puppet Master "merge" to form an entirely new entity that exists free of physical boundaries and propagates itself through the Net.

In Innocence, picking up three years after the events of the original movie, the Major herself does not make any sort of appearance.

Throughout the film, the Major makes her first "true" appearance in Kim's manor, where she breaks into the hallway component of Kim's looping false memories and inserts herself (represented by the little girl prosthetic body she inhabited at the end of the first movie), providing clues to alert Batou to Kim's attempted ghost-hack on himself and Togusa.

The Major's ghost eventually returns in person to help Batou on the Locus Solus gynoid factory ship. Using a satellite transmission, she attempts to download her ghost into one of the Hadaly gynoid production models - however, due to the insufficient memory of the gynoid's e-brain, she is only able to download a fraction of her full ghost into the doll. (She notes with marked disdain that the gynoid had barely enough memory for her combat protocols.) Her personality has not changed much from the first movie - she still retains her fondness for philosophy and her considerable skills in battle, though she has also gained the Puppet Master's formidable hacking abilities. In a climactic sequence, she tears apart her mechanical body in the process of opening the ship's CPU hatch in order to hack into it. After successfully locking down the ship and uncovering the truth behind the conspiracy, Kusanagi prepares to once again disappear into the Net, but reassures a despondent Batou that whenever he logs in, she will always be beside him.

TV series

Motoko Kusanagi in her JGSDF khaki military uniform and form fitting combat suit.

The Major retains much of her personality and spunk from the manga in the anime series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and its followup Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG, although she isn't disrespectful toward the Chief like she is in the manga. As in the original manga and unlike the movies, where she had black hair and blue-grey eyes, she now has blue-purple hair and red-violet eyes. Throughout the series, The Major maintains her signature commanding presence and authority. Among the various members of Section 9, Kusanagi is usually the one Chief Aramaki singles out to accompany him on official and off the record business. Kusanagi's personal life is not shown much in the first season. She underwent cyberization at a very early age and had trouble adapting to the use of her body which resulted in her inadvertently breaking one of her favorite dolls. She holds a wrist watch as proof of her past.

In the first season, Kusanagi started questioning the use of the Tachikoma sentient tanks, due to them showing signs of individuality and curiosity not suited for combat. Ultimately, she decides to have them stripped of their weaponry and sent back to the lab that manufactured them for analysis and further work. When the Tachikoma sacrificed themselves to save Batou, Major Kusanagi understands that she was wrong in halting the usage of the Tachikoma and sees that they have evolved to have ghosts themselves.

In the second season her past was revealed. She was once a little girl who had been in a plane crash causing her to be in a coma. A boy who was also a victim of the plane crash continuously made origami cranes, in hopes of giving them to her when she woke up. Motoko was eventually taken away when medical complications occurred. The boy thought she had died, but she was actually being cyberized and given a full prosthetic body. When she returned to see the boy, the boy did not recognize her and ignored her. When she left the hospital, the boy realized she was the girl in the coma and made a decision to get cyberized and look for her, but he never saw her again. Throughout the second season, the Major and section 9 go against a terrorist group called "The Individual Eleven". Believing it to be another stand alone complex they unwillingly teamed up with Kazundo Gouda in order to figure out their motive. When the 11 leaders of the individual eleven reveal themselves, they all kill each other except for Hideo Kuze. It was later revealed that Hideo Kuze was the little boy who Motoko once knew as a child and caused complications for her when she discovered this.

In the Solid State Society OVA, The Major has left Section 9 for two years and doesn't appear much in the first half of the film. She first appears on a building jumping off into the darkness. She shows up later as Chroma, CIS body, to warn Batou to stay away from the "Solid State Society." She returns to her normal body after "Chroma" re-stores herself in the recharging chamber. She is suspected of being the Puppeteer, but is no longer suspected when she rescues Togusa from a suicide attempt. She leads Section 9 on a raid to find the Puppeteer. At the end of Solid State Society, she repeats her famous line, "The net is truly vast and infinite."


In the original manga, Kusanagi's portrayal differs from that of the movie. She has a much more vivacious and sexy personality, and early in the manga she participates in a lesbian cyber-threesome while on leave. This is apparently a "side business" for Motoko, as stated by Masamune in the back of the manga trade paperback. She has a boyfriend during a later chapter in the manga. He works for Section One, and they have been dating for nearly seven months. Batou considers this "a new record."

Shirow noted in his poster-collection, Intron Depot 1, that "I drew an all-girl orgy because I didn't want to draw some guy's butt."

The pages were cut from the original American release of the manga, as it would have entailed giving the book an "adults only" rating. Ultimately, Shirow decided it wasn't important to the plot, and two panels were redrawn to match continuity. In the second edition, released on November 17, 2004, the scene is completely unedited.

In the animated TV series, Motoko has a similar sex life, but with a less explicit depiction. She is seen waking up in a bed with other sleeping women, presumably a reference to her business in the manga. She has no specific boyfriends or lovers, but she has a relatively close relationship with Batou, and shows intimacy with Kuze; "the first boy she ever loved". She also uses herself as a honeypot on several occasions, distracting a male police officer and at one point posing as a sex doll. She generally dresses very provocatively (i.e. “like a hooker”), showing off her body, but no one seems to notice, except for one time the Chief made a comment to her about her attire, which she shrugged off.


Motoko Kusanagi was ranked #13 on IGN's "Top 25 Anime Characters of All Time".[3]


General references

  • Ghost in the Shell (manga)
  • Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor (manga)
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Man/Machine Interface (manga)
  • Ghost in the Shell (anime)
  • Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (anime)
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (anime)
  • Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C 2nd GIG (anime)
  • Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society (anime)
  • Ghost in the Shell: White Maze (novel)
  • Ghost in the Shell: Revenge of the Cold Machines (novel)
  • Ghost in the Shell: The Lost Memory (novel)
  • Ghost in the Shell: After the Long Goodbye (novel)

Further readings

  • Chipman, Jay Scott (2010). "So Where Do I Go from Here? Ghost in the Shell and Imagining Cyborg Mythology for the New Millennium". In Perlich, John; Whitt, David. Millennial mythmaking : essays on the power of science fiction and fantasy literature, films and games. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co.. pp. 167–192. ISBN 9780786445622. 
  • Dinello, Dan (2010). "Cyborg Goddess". In Steiff, Josef, Tamplin, Tristan D.. Anime and philosophy : wide eyed wonder. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court. ISBN 9780812696707. 
  • McBlane, Angus (2010). "Just a Ghost in a Shell?". In Steiff, Josef, Tamplin, Tristan D.. Anime and philosophy : wide eyed wonder. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court. ISBN 9780812696707. 
  • McCarthy, Helen (2006). 500 manga heroes & villains. London: Collins & Brown. p. 114. ISBN 9781843402343. 
  • Napier, Susan J. (2001). "Doll parts: Technology and the body in Ghost in the Shell". Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke experiencing contemporary Japanese animation (1st ed. ed.). New York: Palgrave. pp. 103–120. ISBN 9780312238636. 
  • Schaub, J. C. (2001). "Kusanagi's body: Gender and technology in mecha-anime". Asian Journal of Communication 11 (2): 79–10. doi:10.1080/01292980109364805.  edit

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