‘Ghost In The Shell’: Hideo Kojima, Japanese Market Okay With Scarlett Johansson Casting

Ghost in the Shell was hated by many for whitewashing its main character but the Japanese market and Hideo Kojima are actually okay with Scarlet Johansson.

We have witnessed the world cry foul when the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell was announced to cast star Scarlet Johansson as the main character, Major Mira Killian. The issue of “white-washing” many anime adaptations in the Hollywood scene has been struck by Ghost in the Shell, The Guardian reported, which basically argued that the western fans were just tired of seeing American characters reprise Asian roles. This has been especially true for the disappointing adaptations of The Last Airbender and Dragon Ball Z in the past, both films deciding to employ American characters instead of the original Asian lineage.

Scarlet Johannson's casting has been widely criticized as Hollywood white-washing [Image by Paramount Pictures]

But as white-washing and boycotting Ghost in the Shell became the banner of many western fans, the Hollywood Ghost in the Shell adaptation finally lands in the country where it originated and the Japanese fans are actually okay with it—it being Scarlet Johansson playing the lead role. In fact, their frustration about the Hollywood adaptation is so much different from the cries of the western fans.

Ghost in the Shell only opened in Japan last Friday and it’s reported to have a rating of 3.5 stars on Yahoo Japan Movies, with four stars for its visuals and three for its story. The Hollywood Reporter, however, sounds off Japanese people who got to watch the Hollywood adaptation of Ghost in the Shell and their disappointments are more with the story than with Johannson.

In fact, some like Tomoki Hirano, a big fan of the original manga and anime, says that she actually liked Scarlet Johannson’s casting for the role of Major.

“Because it was a Hollywood production, they could use that size of budget to create those visuals of that quality.”

She [Scarlet Johansson] was very cool. I loved her in The Avengers, and I wanted to see this because she was in it. If they had done a Japanese live-action version, they would have probably cast some silly idol [girl-band member].”

Ghost in the Shell, as The Concordian notes, is visually stunning, as most Hollywood sci-fi films are, nowadays. And that scored really high in the books of Japanese fans since most Japanese live-action adaptations really don’t get a tenth of the $110 million budget DreamWorks and Paramount put together for the Ghost in the Shell adaptation.

Hideo Kojima, the creator of renowned video game franchise Metal Gear, adds his two cents about the latest Hollywood adaptation and zooms into the film’s overall plot and story shortcomings instead of Scarlet Johansson’s casting.

The failure of Ghost in the Shell lies not in the casting of Johansson but in the overall story development [Image by Paramount Pictures]

He writes over at Glixel that, as a fan of the original Ghost in the Shell material, he feels that the adaptation was able to stay true to its source material, which is not entirely good or bad.

“Even with all the latest visual technology, though, the film basically boils down to a series of faithfully recreated scenes from the anime. This is not a bad thing per se. As a fan of the manga and anime, it was a pleasant surprise, and the respect that the movie shows in mimicking the anime is unquestionable. As a real fan of the original works, though, I can’t help but feel that the production was trapped in the shell of the original, and as a result, it fails to come into its own.”

Kojima even goes to explain that much of the success of the original Ghost in the Shell material stems from the fact that it was published in a time where the internet was still a huge unknown. Now that internet is as common as your next-door neighbor, Ghost in the Shell might have lost some of its spark in the fact that it failed to reinvent itself to make the same impact in the present.

The adaptation failed to make the same impact as the original Ghost in the Shell material [Image by Shochiku Company]

“In 2017, one cannot simply whisper ‘the net is vast and infinite’ and hope for the impact such a statement had 22 years ago when it was uttered by Motoko Kusanagi to such great effect. In 1995, the internet was a mysterious, brave new frontier; today, it’s a known quantity. Smartphones are glued to our hands, and we are constantly connected. For us, the net doesn’t feel vast or infinite.”

“In this modern world, then, where is the ghost of this latest Motoko Kusanagi to reside? When looking for a new shell, portraying individual identity by returning to the shell of oneself may have been the only choice.”

As of April 9, Variety reports that Ghost in the Shell is still underperforming at $41.3 million from 46 foreign box office markets, putting the film at a global net of $124.4 million, which is a disappointing figure for a film that cost $110 million to create.

[Featured Image by Paramount Pictures]