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The Japanese Internet Reacts to Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

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Last week, the world got its first look at Scarlett Johansson as Major Kusanagi in Hollywood’s upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie. The decision has been controversial in the West, and here is what some, certainly not all, of the folks online in Japan are saying.

The decision to cast Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi, an augmented-cybernetic Japanese woman, has led to whitewashing criticism. The movie’s producers even considered making the film’s white lead look more Asian via CG special effects. Yikes.


Via threads on Japan’s biggest bulletin board 2ch (here, here, and here) and My Game News Flash, one of Japan’s biggest game blogs, below is a cross-section collection of some of the comments floating around Japanese cyberspace.

A couple of things to unpack. While My Game News Flash writes that there has largely been indifference in Japan to the decision to have a white actor play Kusanagi, do keep in mind, these comments should ultimately be seen as representative of the individuals who made them, so your mileage might vary. Another thing to keep in mind is that many Asian people living in Asia might have a different perspective on race issues than those living in the West. Also, opinions of the Japanese internet might not reflect society’s at large, but regardless, here we go.

“This is wrong lol”

“Seems authentic.”

“I can definitely say that the one thing they’re more true to than I thought they’d be is the hairstyle lol.”

“The gap between Japan and abroad is interesting. Japan: A white person is okay, right? Abroad: We won’t forgive white-washing, cast an Asian person.”

“Well, then, who as a Japanese person (an Asian) would be good?”

“Japanese people don’t really care, and that’s really depressing.”

“White people rule Hollywood.”

“I laughed at them casting a foreigner as a Japanese character.”

“She looks way too kind.”

“I’m not going to watch this, so whatever.”

“There aren’t high-level Japanese actresses, so this can’t be helped...”


“Twenty years earlier, this would’ve been Milla Jovovich.”

“I have no idea why people are complaining this much.”

“At this year’s Academy Awards, there was criticism that about all the white people, so perhaps this outrage is linked to that.”

“Well then, how about Rinko Kikuchi?”

“I hate Scarlett Johansson because she appeared in that movie that made fun of Japan. She’s ugly, but she might have a face that white people like.”

“Taylor Swift would’ve been better.”

“For the Japanese dub, please use a proper voice actress. Without fail.”

“Yep, this is a Hollywood film.”

“There would be controversy no matter who starred.”

“If it’s going to be an Asian in Hollywood, then it would be someone like Lucy Liu. Scarlett Johansson is fine.”

“I guess it’s that white people are taking work from Asian people.”

“It’s unfortunate but only natural because there aren’t many Japanese (actors) who can speak English.”

“Scarlett Johansson looks terrible with black hair. It doesn’t suit her at all.”

“Then, who would be better?”

Ko Shibasaki, perhaps. That’s the only one who came to mind.”

“I thought it was okay that they didn’t use a Japanese person.”

“The original manga is quietly saying, ‘Please make this anime only.’”

“Putting race on a cyborg...”

“A Japanese actor wouldn’t sell the film.”

“Don’t care too much about this image. My concern is the substance.”

“You know it’s going to end up totally different, so who cares about the casting.”

“I wasn’t even looking forward to this movie in the first place.”

“If only they had put Rinko Kikuchi as Motoko Kusanagi, there wouldn’t be any issue.”

“This stinks of a B movie.”

“Even though in the Attack on Titan manga, the characters were foreigners, the movie version was all Japanese people, so I’m not going to complain.”


[h/t @messofanego]

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