Picture of the Week #33: Motoko Kusanagi/Ghost in the Shell

I’ve just started putting together the abstract for a paper on the Ghost in the Shell franchise, with some emphasis on its metaphors of puppetry, dolls and simulacra (I’m also treating it as an “existential detective”) narrative, and while scrounging for sources online, I came across these wonderful drawings and cels from the films and, I reckon, the TV series, Stand Alone Complex from the personal collection of Geoffrey Clifton at his blog, Animation Utopia. I love to see these rough versions of the finished, painted products that will be laid on top of them. You can see so much dynamic energy in the artist’s strokes of the pencil. That energy will later transfer to the character, and the traces of the animator’s hand will be concealed beneath the perfected chassis of Major Motoko Kusanagi, still the most enigmatic, compelling figure in anime. In a brilliant article about the first film, Christopher Bolton argued that previous studies of the Major treated her as if she were a real cyborg facing existential crises, ignoring the extra layer of synthetic performance that her status as an animated fabrication brings into play:

The virtual or artificial nature of animated “actors,” who are always already technological bodies, complicates any effort by the film or the critic to draw or blur the line between natural and artificial or human and machine.

Nothing brings home her “technological body” like seeing the sketches beneath the facade.

  • Christopher Bolton, “From Wooden Cyborgs to Celluloid Souls: Mechanical Bodies in Anime and Japanese Puppet Theater.” Positions 10.3 (Winter 2002): 729-71.

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9 thoughts on “Picture of the Week #33: Motoko Kusanagi/Ghost in the Shell

  1. You are fun. I am also coveting your theme which does not happen too often. I will have to explore and check it out. Mostly showed in search of decent LOTR photos — which apparently you alone have — but should be back.

    • Thanks, Max. Good to have you around. The theme is Greyzed, a new one. It’s a little restrictive in some of its options, but it looks pretty cool. WordPress are bringing out new ones all the time at the moment.

    • Thannks, Motoko – I see you’ve been blogging about the whole Ghost in the Shell franchise. I’m due for a repeat viewing of SAC myself. Have you read the books, too? I have them on the shelf ready to read, but I want to go through everything in chronological order.

    • Hi, Vici. These drawings are preliminary sketches. The final versions you see in the film will have been painted frame by frame onto acetate cels, using these drawings as a guide. They might also use some digital effects in the new version 2.0.

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  4. Great blog, and your intro to Motoko is great . But where did you get that image of motoko doing a high kick, it looks like a animation sketch. Or what art book is it form

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