At the open of the movie, Section 9, the Internal Bureau of Investigations, is dealing with two
issues that may be related. The government is about to engage in diplomatic talks with the Gavel
Republic, a new-formed democracy who is seeking reparation and aide. At the same time, they
are faced with a puzzling series of attacks, in which a notorious hacker called “the puppet
master” is hacking into the ghosts, or essence/being/soul of humans. Aramaki, the leader of
section 9 suspects that the puppet master is attempting to infiltrate the Gavel talks for the
purposes of disruption or assassination. A third, seemingly unrelated issue, requires that Section
9 go in and assassinate a diplomat who is attempting to give political asylum to a computer
While all of this is going on, Major Kusanagi is doing some serious “ghost-searching” regarding
her status as human in relation to her totally cyborg body.
The Section 9 team is called into action when the puppetmaster is hacking into systems from
various locations around the city. They trace him to a garbage truck – he has hacked into one of
the route driver and has him doing hacks, all the while the truck driver thinks he is actually
accessing his estranged wife’s ghost. After a big chase scene, the driver is apprehended.
Another man, also working for the puppetmaster is chased through the streets of the city and
eventually captured by Kusanagi. This man’s name is Corgi and he has also been ghost-hacked.
He believes he is working to infiltrate the Gavel talks in order to assassinate one of the
participants. This story falls apart as the agency can find no connection between the man and
Gavel. The trash truck driver is dismayed to learn that he has never been married: all of his
memories of his wife and daughter are false, placed there by the puppetmaster in order to
manipulate him. It is unlikely that his real memories will ever be recovered.
Kusanagi’s soul searching continues as she goes diving in the ocean, even though her cyborg
body is a great liability should anything go wrong. She explains to Batou that when she is in the
depths of the ocean she feels fear, cold, loneliness, and even hope. If she or Batou should ever
resign, they would be forced to return their cyborg bodies and brains to section 9 “and there
won’t be much else left.” Suddenly Kusanagi begins speaking with a different voice – a quote
about dim images in a mirror…she then wanders the streets of the city, reacting strongly when
she sees another model body that is just like hers.
Meanwhile, a naked woman has wandered into the streets, been hit by a garbage truck, and taken
to Section 9. Her dismembered torso is accessed and it is revealed that she is a cyborg body,
manufactured by MegaTech. What is really distinct about her, however, is not her cybernetic
body, but that she has not been programmed, and yet, she is operating by herself. Even more
unusual, she has no human brain cells, but there is a ghost present in her auxiliary brain. The
ghost is structured similarly to those that have been copied from real ghosts except that no
deterioration has occurred as part of the copying process.
The Section 9 team meets to discuss the case. Togusa expresses doubt that there could be a ghost
in that shell. However, Batou counters that even dolls can have a soul and states that he would
Kusanagi’s body, as well as parts of Batou and the rest of the team. Togusa and Aramaki are the
only ones w/o megatech parts. Kusanagi and Batou are trying to discern the cyborg’s motives,
when Aramaki sternly counsels them that motive is irrelevant. Kusanagi is anxious to be the first
to dive in to the cyborg and her ghost.
She expresses further angst to Batou about her humanity, claiming the only thing that makes her
feel human is the fact that people treat her as human, her environment. If a cyber-brain can
generate its own ghost, then there is no particular importance to be placed on “the human.”
Nakamura from Section 6 arrives at Section 9 along with a Dr. Willis in order to claim the
cyborg’s body for their jurisdiction. They explain that they lured the puppet master’s ghost into
this cyberbody, while they killed his real body in real life, leaving an unidentified corpse
Tosuga notices that something is not quite right about the two men and alerts Kusanagi to the
suspicion that they have two others, in thermoptic camouflage, with them. As Aramaki,
Nakamura, and Dr. Willis face the dismembered cyborg, it begins speaking, running off of its
own internal power. It declares that they will find no corpse because before now, it has had no
body. It is here in Section 9 as an act of free will and as a sentient life form, it demands asylum.
It gives a big long speech (quoted below) that amounts to the fact that you cannot truly
distinguish between him and a human organism in the way that the Section leaders would like to.
As the cyborg declares that he is part of Project 2501 and denies that he is not an AI, the
intruders create a diversion and snatch the cyborg body. Section 9 all pursue the kidnappers,
while Kusanagi explains to Aramaki that it is most likely Section 6 behind the kidnapping, trying
to protect their own interests by keeping the cyborg from telling them too much.
It is shortly thereafter revealed to the audience, that Section 6 is indeed behind the kidnapping.
Ishikawa is able to find out that Dr. Willis is a top AI researcher and that the programmer who
was seeking asylum at the beginning of the film was working on Project 2501. Section 6 had
previously asserted that project 2501 was started to prevent the puppetmaster from hacking into
sensitive systems, but it is revealed that the project started one year before the puppetmaster ever
appeared. Section 9 suspects that Section 6 developed the puppetmaster for their own purposes
and have now lost control of it.
Meanwhile, Batou and Kusanagi are pursuing the kidnappers. She gets there first, as Batou
follows a decoy they’ve set up. She finds the cyborg protected by a large-scale tank and is pretty
much dismembered in the effort to get inside the tank. Batou shows up and destroys the tank
before it can kill her. She then asks to be connected to the cyborg so she can dive in.
Project 2501 was developed for industrial espionage and intelligence manipulation. It installed
programs on specific ghosts to manipulate people to Section 6’s maximum strategic advantage.
During the time it spent out on the net, it became self-aware. The programmers, specifically the
one from the beginning who sought political asylum, thought it was a bug. They trapped his
ghost in the cyborg body in order to separate it from the net.
(capable of perception by the senses) and recognizes his own existence. However, he still feels
his inadequacy because he cannot participate in 2 of the most basic human functions –
reproduction and death. Making a copy of his ghost is insufficient because it is an identical
image and does not allow for the variety that is so crucial to the survival of a species (this
strongly parallels Kusanagi’s stated reasons for recruiting Tosuga to the Section 9 team, because
of his unenhanced body / mind).
He proposes that he and Kusanagi merge, becoming a new being that is neither him nor her, but
something better. They will both be changed, but there is nothing to lose. She wants a guarantee
that she’ll remain herself. He will not make such a guarantee and tells her that her desire to
remain the same is a limitation.
She is puzzled by why he would choose her, as she cannot reproduce either. He explains that she
will propagate the net with their offspring. He will die when she dies. He chose her because they
are mirror images of one another’s psyche. They have previously been part of the network but
have been limited to one sector, now they will become part of all things.
The merge begins and Section 6 helicopters show up to take out both the puppetmaster and
Kusanagi. Batou protects her and has his arm blown off in the process. Cut to a scene of
Kusanagi, in younger form, sitting comatose in a chair. She looks fragile, like a doll or invalid.
She wakes, and speaking with a new voice inquires about her new body. Batou explains that it
was the best he could do on short notice on the black market. He then explains how the entire
case has been covered up, with Nakamura resigning. The only thing unaccounted for is her old
shell (which he has clearly taken and transferred the ghost into this new shell). He asks whether
“he” is still with her. Her old voice returns.
She explains that she is no longer the Major, nor the puppetmaster, but something else. The film
ends with her asking where the newborn will go next, for the net is vast and infinite.
Major Themes & Symbols
Status of the human – 2501’s speech, quoted below, complicates the question of humanity. It
both indicts humans for not wanting to consider him real, and problematizes their own
conceptions of their human selves.
Variety – Kusanagi has recruited Tosuga because overspecializing breeds weakness, they need
variety on their team. Similarly, 2501 wishes to reproduce in the human sense in order to
produce variety in his species;
Mirrors / mirroring – Batou’s mirrored lenses; Kusanagi’s double in the streets; mirror image
when diving; quote about dim images in the mirror; 2501’s assertion that they mirror each other
tampered with. DNA is positioned as genetic memory, etc.; photos manipulated to “prove”
Ghost – soul, essence, being, mind; separates humans from robots and AIs.
Kusanagi’s diving episode. Vast and infinite; diving = exploration, adventure, etc. connecting
vs. being ensconced by; Much more “fluid” than Gibson’s concept of the net.
Complexity theory and emergence: seems to draw upon complexity theory; Emergence is
described by Wikipedia
as the process of complex pattern formation from simpler
rules… For a phenomenon to be termed emergent it should generally be
unpredictable from a lower level description… agents in DAI, emergence is a
central concept in complex systems yet is hard to define and very controversial.
There is no scientific consensus about what weak and strong forms of
emergence are, or about how much emergence should be relied upon as an
explanation in general. It seems impossible to unambiguously decide whether a
phenomenon should be considered emergent.
My notes from How We Became Posthuman:
Homeostasis – first stage of cybernetics in which systems are self-maintaining via
feedback loops; i.e. a human being’s ability to sweat functions to maintain stasis
in body temperature; the observer is outside the system
Reflexivity – 2
stage of cybernetics: reflexivity is the movement whereby that which has
implicates the observer in the system; a threat to subjective observation
Virtuality - 3
stage of cybernetics; results in the split between information and reality
evolution; debate over whether discrete packets of information can be said to be
“alive”; entails a rethinking of deep structures in which informational code
underlies the entire universe. The cultural perception that material objects are
Mizuho Daito – programmer on project 2501; seeking asylum at the beginning of the movie
Nakamura – head of Division 6
Major Motoko Kusanagi – female protagonist; cyborg body, human brain, cyber-brain
enhancements; questions her own status as human as a result of all her cyber-enhancements;
Batou – mirrored lenses; crush on Kusanagi; not totally cyborg body but major enhancements
was an upstanding guy, with few enhancements, who adds variety to the team; constantly teased
about his old-fashioned, non-automatic weapon.
Ishikawa – another member of the Section 9 team
Colonel Maless – the former junta leader from Gavel who is seeking asylum at the same time the
government is about to enter talks with the new Republic. The government must choose between
aiding the new republic or sheltering Maless. He is suspected of being connected to the
puppetmaster but falls out of the plot after Gavel is revealed as a decoy.
Dr. Willis – AI researcher who heads project 2501. Helps Nakamura, et. al. kidnap the cyborg /
Puppetmaster / 2501 – portrayed as an infamous hacker; turns out it is a program which has been
doing the work of Section 6, which eventually became sentient and uncontrollable; wants to
merge with Kusanagi and propagate their new self all over the net.
Differences Japanese original vs. English Dub
Portrayal of women: in the Japanese version, in the opening sequence, when Batou asks
Kusanagi about all of the noise in her brain, she replies “it’s that time of the month.” In the
English version she gives a different, decidedly non-menstrual response. When the team of
Section 9 researchers are about to access the wayward cyborg’s brain, they say “on to the
disassembly” in the English version. In the Japanese version, they say “time to rip her apart.”
This may seem minor but given the other ways in which the female body is appropriated /
violated / etc. it makes a big difference.
Memory: in the scene where Kusanagi and Batou discuss their cyber-enhancements while out on
a boat, she says that if they ever retired, they would have to give back their cyberbodies and
cyberbrains, and the memories that go with them; this is left out of the English version. This
seems like a gross error as memory becomes so important to the overall theme of the movie later.
In the same sequence above, Kusanagi states that if man realizes a technology is possible, he will
achieve it, like it is instinct. The translation of the Japanese reads “almost as though it is wired
into the core of our being,” drawing a human/machine parallel that is later expanded by 2501.
When accused of lying for self-preservation, 2501 replies:
When trying to convince Kusanagi to merge with him, 2501 states: