<<< Prior Page
Masamune Shirow, real name apparently Masanori Ota, needs little introduction (though some websites have idiotically mixed him up with Toshihiro Kawamoto). As the creative mind behind the phenomenally popular manga series of Appleseed (1985), Dominion: Tank Police (1986) and Ghost in the Shell (1989), all of which received anime adaptations in some form, almost everyone who plays videogames is likely to have experienced his work, or a derivative thereof. After all, there has always been overlap between the world of manga, anime and videogames, and it's impossible to partake in one without some influence from the others. He's also been directly involved with some original videogames, such as Fire Emblem and the Horned Owl series. The particularly adventurous may have even partook of Shirow's erotic art books, produced later in his career, with images of shiny lithe women ranging from the exquisite to the downright disturbing. If you want to see super sexy NSFW renditions of the future, keeping in theme with his earlier Ghost in the Shell, try Bing searching (with safety off) for Galhound.
There doesn't seem to have been any proper videogame adaptations of Dominion: Tank Police, whereas Appleseed received a couple of Japan exclusive titles, including one on PS2. Ghost in the Shell however received plenty of games, which isn't really surprising given its cyberpunk theme. As a creative work it's perfectly suited to the world of videogames. Set variously around the year 2030, the overall theme of Ghost in the Shell is of humans integrating further and further with machines, with people choosing to be "cyberized" - that is, having their brain augmented to interface directly with computers, even having portions of it replaced with nanomachine electronics. It even gets philosophical in places, questioning the nature of being human. Of course with this rise in technology, so too is there a rise in technology based crime, with people's cyberbrains being "ghost hacked", or taken over. This is where Public Security Section 9 comes in, dealing with hackers and "cyber terrorists". The group is comprised of an eclectic mix of characters, with various degrees of augmentation.
Major Motoko Kusanagi
The lead heroine of the Ghost in the Shell world and in command of Section 9, the Major's background is shrouded in secrecy. As a cyborg she's the most synthetically augmented in Section 9 along with Batou; her entire body is synthetic, apart from her brain. She has a good relationship with Batou, making jovial banter on occasion in the games. In uncensored editions of the manga she's portrayed as having some rather kinky lesbian threesomes. Kusanagi is a playable character in both SAC titles on PS2 and PSP.
Second in command after Kusanagi. He's also had much of his body augmented, including having his eyes replaced. Although he looks like a tough guy, he's a bit of a softy at heart, doting on his Fuchikoma / Tachikoma. Batou is playable in both SAC titles on PS2 and PSP. On PS2 his levels take a more standard action-shoote approach to Kusanagi's nimble platform leaping, while on PSP he has more health.
The family man of the unit, Togusa is almost entirely human, only with a cyberbrain enhancement. He's an ex-cop, rather than ex-military like the others, and so catches a bit of flak for it. In the games he's generally more laid back than the other characters. On PS2 he provides a support role, while on PSP he's playable and has a slightly faster movement speed.
More prominent in the manga and anime than the games, Saito is the chief sniper of Section 9. His left arm is cybernetic, while his left eye was replaced with a "Hawkeye" allowing him to connect to satellites for precise aiming. He doesn't seem to turn up in the PS1 game, plays a support role on PS2, but is playable on PSP. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to offer any advantage over the others when using sniper weapons.
The background guy who deals with incoming data, Ishikawa will crack open and decrypt files found out in the field, then relay the information back to the team. Prominent during cut-scenes on PS1, he also shows up to offer background support on PS2 and PSP.
An old man with a wild hair style, he is the least cyberised along with Togusa. Quite strict, he's also honourable and keen to ensure the well being of his crew. Usually he oversees operations from headquarters, offering support (or barking orders) on PS1 and PS2, but in the PSP game he takes an active part in a couple of missions, requiring an escort. He's also playable in multiplayer.
The Think Tanks
You never saw these guys in the film, did you? That's because they're mainly in the manga, which makes the PS1 game (which has them in the starring role) more of a manga adaptation than film adaptation. Although AI controlled robots, the Fuchikoma have enough personality to warrant their own profile box. Generally they behave like heavily armed children, curious about the world and with cute personalities, but also deadly. Able to operate interpedently, members of Section 9 can ride around while inside their abdomen. They're able to use optic camouflage to go invisible, and can walk around on walls. Referred to as "think tanks".
These guys are only found in the Stand Alone Complex spin-off. Allegedly the original Fuchikoma design couldn't be used due to legal copyright issues, so Masamune Shirow drew an entirely new model, inspired by the originals. Despite trawling the internet, the only source for this fact is this fansite. The actual design is more cuboid and ugly compared to before, but their personalities are as adorable as ever. They also feature more strongly in the overall narrative. There's only one level in the PS2 game where you control a Tachikoma, but you can't make it walk on walls. In the PSP game you constantly have one as an assistant and can ride around inside it when you choose.
The franchise overall is huge. There were three manga volumes of the original series by Shirow, followed by two film adaptations of these volumes by Mamoru Oshii, who gamers may recognise as the guy behind the shockingly dreadful Sky Crawlers film, which itself became a videogame. Here things become a little confusing, as the original GitS manga/anime spawned a kind of spin-off TV series, titled Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. It re-uses the same main characters, and is set in roughly the same world, but in some kind of alternate storyline universe. For starters, the Fuchikoma robots from before are replaced with entirely redesigned Tachikoma. SAC was expanded into a follow-up series and a third feature film, not directly related to the previous two films.
The non-game related side gets really complicated really fast, with a myriad of art books, soundtracks, toys, DVD releases, an OVA adaptation, remakes and innumerable re-releases of various materials in slightly tweaked forms. The games meanwhile are based on both the original GitS and its alternative universe SAC spin-off, and they come with their own related tidal wave of merchandise. In a situation similar to the Zenki series, the games are wildly eclectic, obfuscated by a complex licensing hierarchy. For consoles, three different developers produced three different games for three different systems in three distinct styles/genres. Additionally there are at least three Japan-exclusive mobile phone games we know of, by two different developers, plus at least two distinct pachinko/pachislot machines by two different companies. Recently there was also the announcement of an unnamed game (presumably an MMO) in the works. And all this doesn't even touch upon the many publisher and outsource names which grace the splash screens for all of the above.
Don't let this quagmire of disparity dissuade you though. All you need to keep in mind is that the three main GitS releases are comparatively inexpensive, fairly easy to find, and all three are varying degrees of high excellence.
Special thanks to Corsair and Roushimsx on the HG101 forums for scanning various materials - some magazine scans courtesy of Retro Mags.