Dolls, Offsprings, and Automata. Analyzing the Posthuman Experience in Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Luiza-Maria FILIMON


More than a quarter of a century after its premiere, Mamoru Oshii’s movie Ghost in the Shell (1995) based on Masamune Shirow’s eponymous manga, remains a classic of the science-fiction and (post)cyberpunk genres. With its metaphysical explorations of what it means to be a human once most of the biological output has been digitalized and cyborg-fied, the movie investigated the dichotomies at the core of the human being and of its uncanny relationship with technology, of how both human and machine become intertwined through a mechanic process of quasi-transmog-rification. The 2004 sequel Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, which was also directed by Oshii, continues and further expands on the themes introduced in the first movie. If the first followed the actions of the elusive sentient artificial program, the Puppet Master, the sequel is centered on the investigation surrounding a series of murders committed by defective gynoids (female androids designed for sex) that kill their owners and afterwards commit suicide. Innocence is moored in philosophical and metaphorical references reiterating the notions referring not only to what the simulacra (dolls, androids, automata) or the ningyō (“human-shaped figures” (Brown 13)) say about us, but more importantly, to what the simulacra would say if they could talk (Chute paraphrasing Major Motoko Kusanagi). Divided in three parts, the article analyzes the plot of Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence through a narrative scheme proposed by Harrison Chute, deconstructing the movie according to four patterns: 1) problem;  character; 3) plot / theme; and 4) solution. Afterwards, it refers to its intertextual nature by referencing the books and concepts the movie alludes to directly or indirectly (Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s L’Ève future, Raymond Roussel’s Locus Solus, or Hans Bellmer’s dolls). Last but not least, the article explores the posthuman identity by addressing its connections to the human “paraphernalia” – affects, perceptions, sense of self. 

Keywords: anime, ghosts, cyborg, Das Unheimliche, Hadaly, Mamoru Oshii, Masamune Shirow, ningyō

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.17.4