Scarlett Johansson’s Mom Is Japanese in GHOST IN THE SHELL, What Does That Mean for the Story?

Some intriguing new details have surfaced regarding Major Motoko Kusanagi's mother in the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and it just might offer some insight into Scarlett Johansson's white character in the film.

During an interview with the Associated Press, Japanese actress Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha, Sukiyaki Western Django) revealed that she has been cast in the film and that she will be playing The Major’s mother. So, a you have a Japanese actress playing a white woman’s mom. What does this mean? 

Well, The Major has a few different origin stories in the franchise. All of the films and anime series are loosely based on the manga comic, and since they have separate continuities, each one has a different origin for The Major. 

In one, she was in an accident as a young child that left her body beyond repair and resulted in her brain being encased in a metal shell and implanted in a cyborg body. The Major is one of a very select few to have a body that's 100% synthetic.

In another origin, the accident occurred while Motoko was still in her mother's womb, and as a result, her brain was transferred into a mechanical body before she was ever born.

Then there’s a third one where it's heavily implied that The Major is an A.I., but it’s never confirmed.

Since The Major’s mother will be a part of the film's story, we can scratch that last A.I. one off the list. This could a big spoiler plot twist, and if so, all that talk about whitewashing the movie is pretty much for nothing. 

The origin which makes most sense to me for the film is the one where The Major’s brain is encased in a metal shell. That brain can be transferred from one cyborg body to another. At times her body is damaged and destroyed while in the line of duty so she needs backup cyborg bodies to transfer into at a moment's notice. The character is also capable of connecting her brain to multiple cyborg bodies and controlling all of them. 

Now this is where things get interesting… Animemojo points out that it was previously announced that Japanese actress Rila Fukishima (Arrow, The Wolverine) had joined the film project, but there have been no details on who she plays. There’s a chance that she is actually playing the real Major Motoko Kusanagi, and Johansson is playing one of the shells that The Major’s mind is placed into for whatever her mission is. 

This is only speculation, but it makes complete sense to me. It explains why Johansson’s mother is Japanese in the film, and it explains what they cast a white woman in the role. Johansson isn't actually playing The Major, she is playing the synthetic body of The Major. 

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