Ghost in the Shell Publisher 'Never Imagined' a Japanese Actress in the Lead Role

[Image: Paramount/Dreamworks]
[Image: Paramount/Dreamworks]
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

While Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Japanese cyborg Motoko Kusanagi has been controversial in the West, the original Tokyo-based publisher of the Ghost in the Shell manga seems totally cool with it.


Kodansha, one of Japan’s largest publishers, first put out the manga in 1989, and as AnimeNewsNetwork reports, began reprinting the manga after Production I.G successfully pitched the project to Hollywood on its behalf.

[Full disclosure: The now-defunct Kodansha International previously published two of my books.]


“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well-cast,” Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodansha’s headquarters in Tokyo, told The Hollywood Reporter (via AnimeNewsNetwork and RocketNews). “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”

“This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world,” said Yoshiba.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this comes after Yoshiba recently came back from the movie’s New Zealand set and said, as The Hollywood Reporter writes, “he was impressed by the respect being shown for the source material.”

Well, save for the bit about the main character being white and all.

While the manga’s publisher might have never imagined a Japanese actress, there was a recent report that stated the filmmakers ran tests to see if Johansson could look Asian through CG.


In Japan, however, many people online don’t seem too upset or even surprised about the casting. Some said they didn’t care because they had no plans to see the film anyway.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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I’ve never seen or read Ghost in the Shell. Is the character supposed to be Japanese? Dragonball had the excuse of Goku being an alien, and the movie’s cast was primarily Asian anyway. If the character is supposed to be Japanese, then this is certainly a problem. Regardless, this is a good discussion to have, especially after Prince of Persia, Gods of Egypt, and other movies in recent memory that have cast white actors in minority roles. People like to use the “merit” excuse (I think the person most qualified for the job should get it!), but that doesn’t fly when minority groups are never given the opportunity to prove their worth. How many Asian actors do Americans know of? Ask any casual movie going white person to name an Asian actor and I guarantee you without a doubt they will shy away from the question by jokingly saying Godzilla.