© 士郎正宗・Production I.G/講談社・攻殻機動隊2045製作委員会
© Shirow Masamune, Production I.G/KODANSHA/GITS2045

interview #01

Original author Shirow Masamune talks about “Ghost in the Shell” #02

Text, Young Magazine Editorial Department

Although it isn’t unknown for Shirow Masamune to explain his works in separate books or companion pieces, he has very rarely taken interviews on his work Ghost in the Shell. While he spoke with director Mamoru Oshii for “Weekly Young Magazine” in the lead-up to the premier of the 1995 film Ghost in the Shell, that conversation centered on the film and sidestepped the manga. Even when featured in Weekly Young Magazine’s “Red Pig” column, the interview centered on work as a manga author, only lightly touching on his actual creations at the end. He was later interviewed for Glénat SA, a French publisher, but the interview was a Q&A on expression and drawing techniques that did not engage with manga stories.
In other words, this is the first in-depth interview with Shirow Masamune about the manga the Ghost in the Shell. From the factors that spurred him to write the manga to its focus on cutting-edge technology, we got to speak to the author about his works, 30 years after the fact(in a series of three interviews).

#02 Modes of Expression Born From Communication Issues

-Art is a critical part of manga, even if the information is drawn directly from researchers. Where did you get the ideas for your drawings?


Shirow Masamune(“Shirow”): I’ve wondered myself about where some images came from, like the ones with the arrays of rings of fine lines for cyberspace. There are two levels to it, and the more familiar level is images like Leiji Matsumoto’s drawings with all the train gauges and meters for Galaxy Express 999. I’m not sure if this is rational, but I felt something like the ring functions of cyberspace from the images of rows of circular things. And on another level, it came from my dad’s job. My dad worked on lettering for a printing company, and we had lots of round bottles filled with paint in our home. From my first memories, I always wondered about what they were. These rows of round things with beautifully colored contents gave me a dreamy sense of something I couldn’t understand, and gave me the idea that rows of round images are evocative of SF. That’s also why Leiji Matsumoto’s art had such an effect on me, and I think that the image of rows of rings came to me with a sense that “this is a good fit” when I was trying to depict a mysterious, unknown space.


-Your idea for wired connections to the back of the neck was also innovative in that era; did you draw inspiration from anywhere, for it?


Shirow: At the time, it was quite hard to get across the idea of wireless connections. I had scenes in Appleseed where the police robots get hijacked via wireless connections, and where the operators in a control center get hacked visually while looking at a computer screen, but those didn’t get across to audiences. In that era we didn’t have cell phones, let alone smartphones, so I had to have characters connect to a wire when they were sending data. You can see a wired connection, so I expressed the idea with wired connections to the cervical spine when I wrote The Ghost in the Shell.

From The Ghost in the Shell (Written by Shirow Masamuane, Published by Kodansha)


And I chose the cervical spine because I suspected it would be more efficient and easier to manage heat when connecting to nerve clusters closer to the telencephalon. There are also a lot of convolutions near the cerebrum, which makes me think it would be hard to place power- and communications-related implants there.


-You also draw on Greek and Japanese mythology, among others. Is there a reason for that?


Shirow: The same conflicts between monotheism and polytheism, as well as on basic thinking about things like philosophy, literature, and drama, all of it is unchanged in the modern era, going back to ancient Greece. And not just Greece; the world was full of different pantheons, from Egypt to India, the Celts, Germanic cultures (and Norse mythology), as well as Japan. And these were concepts people had. And I feel like there’s overlap between the traveling bards that used to spread stories of the gods and interpretations of them with those stories, and the way everyone freely shares good and bad information alike on social media in our era.


The Ghost in the Shell has its own pantheon of charming characters, too. How did you decide to arrange them, when you settled on the idea of your overarching universe?


Shirow: As the protagonist, Motoko Kusanagi was a bit set – as I mentioned earlier – but the most difficult for me was probably Batou. He’s her subordinate but has an equal presence, and I worried about how to characterize him that way. He could’ve been more serious and formal, but that would put him into more of a vertical relationship with her. I wanted them to have a relationship where he was supportive but also could engage her in casual conversation, and I remember having a tough time finding points to compromise on. I think in my original design, he was a bit more condescending and acted like the senior in the relationship and was more self-important. He had similar nuances to Ibachi and Raizo from Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – the kind of character that the protagonist fits in with.

From Ghost in the Shell: ARISE border1


-How about Togusa?


Shirow: I needed a character like Togusa who’s always giving explanations and directions, since everyone else is a veteran specialist that wouldn’t share a helpful explanation. He’s also there to show the organization is somewhat accepting of outsiders. And he’s kind of a clumsy character, so he makes mistakes that are pretty bad for Kusanagi and Batou over the course of the story.


-If Batou is a challenge, which characters are easier to depict?


Shirow: The Fuchikomas. This is just my personal impression, but I think a lot of manga characters and their introduction, development, turns, and conclusions are all tightly designed and controlled down to the details by the author and editor. But there’s another approach of giving characters autonomy and a personality and letting them start taking action themselves. That approach comes from the manga creator Tetsuya Chiba from Kodansha’s Manga School. Chiba teaches that you can approach things as an author by giving the characters autonomy and sort of following their course, but the Fuchikomas are my only characters of that type. So they sort of move on their own and are a breeze.


Continue to #03 “The Game of Life” in Both the Past and Future




Manga author and illustrator. Began working as a manga author and illustrator in 1982. He went on to create works including prominent examples Appleseed, Dominion (starting 1984, Seishinsha), The Ghost in the Shell (starting 1989, Kodansha), and Pandora in the Crimson Shell: Ghost Urn (starting 2012, Kadokawa). His primary works as an anime creator include Black Magic M-66. He is also active in a variety of other fields, including gaming and art collections.