World of Ghost in the Shell

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Masamune Shirow's manga and anime series Ghost in the Shell takes place in a (post) cyberpunk version of Earth in the near future. The series focuses on Japan, but several other nations figure prominently in some stories. The world of Ghost in the Shell features significant advances in technology, the most significant of which is the cyberbrain, a mechanical casing for the human brain that allows mental interface with the Internet and other networks.



Fully encased cyberbrains revealed by deadly blunt impact, as seen in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

A cyberbrain (電脳, dennō) is a device in the fictional universe of Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow (and also in Shirow's later work Real Drive) that acts as a self-contained module containing, protecting, and interfacing an artificially augmented brain. The "brain" includes the brain stem but excludes the eyes, optic nerves, and most of the spine. By being physically self-contained, the cyberbrain allows the artificially augmented brain inside to function or be physically stored inside a body, to be physically transferred between bodies, or to be temporarily stored or transported outside any body. Cyberbrain implants, in conjunction with micromachines, allow the brain to initiate and maintain a connection to computer networks or other individuals who also possess a cyberbrain. This capability results in a number of unforeseen psychosocial phenomena whose emergence is a major plot element of the various Ghost in the Shell stories.

The process of augmentation of the brain in this fashion is referred to in the series as "cyberization" (電脳化, dennōka). It is not necessary for a subject to undergo complete cyberization, acquiring a full-body prosthesis, to support the cyberized brain; an individual may choose to only have their brain cyberized. Neuro (Brain) Cyberization is imagined to take three distinct forms:

  • Minimal cyberization, for the purposes of external memory and wireless communication, leaving the brain itself essentially identical to its biological form. Nano-scale interfaces are placed in the cerebellar region, permitting a pluggable interface, and allowing prosthetic parts to be upgraded.
  • Partial cyberization, replacing larger parts of the cortex with nanotechnological interfaces and computational elements. However, the autonomic systems of the brain remain intact, which is necessary to retain the "ghost" (ゴースト, gōsuto) (the term used in the series to refer to the soul). Physical improvements are limited to a very thin titanium shell around the cortex.
  • Enhanced/Advanced Cyberisation, a further extension of the procedure where the cyberbrain is modified specifically to the needs/occupation of the individual, retaining approximately 20% minimum of natural brain tissue. This procedure was initially an extension of the cyberization process for soldiers and victims who suffered neurological damage.
  • Full cyberization, in some extreme cases of disease or accident, in which as much as 97.5% of the original brain is replaced with artificial elements.


In the series, "super-class-A hackers" are able to take over people's cyberbrains, to the extent that they can alter memories or "steal eyes", altering the victim's sensory input. The Laughing Man character was able to alter the vision of an entire crowd and superimpose his logo over his face to disguise his identity. "Ghost hacking" (ゴーストハック, Gōsuto hakku) is a criminal technique wherein the victim's entire memory is replaced with false memories. This is notably used in the series by the "Puppet Master" in the first Ghost in the Shell film. "Cyberbrain hijacking" involves the replacement of a victim's cyberbrain with the criminal's own, while the same criminal retains another body in storage. Alternatively, a criminal may choose to place their cyberbrain into a copy of the victim's body, and then impersonate the victim. Both of these methods were portrayed in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episode DI: Face – MAKE UP.

In the series, Closed Shell Syndrome (閉殻症, heikakushō) is a form of cyberbrain-induced reclusiveness, occurring when users of cyberbrain technology shut themselves off from the outside world to avoid harming others or themselves. It can also be a psychological barrier induced by the subconscious to protect the ego from being overwhelmed by the depth and connective nature of the Internet. CSS patients have the appearance of savants with extremely high computer skills.

Cyberbrain sclerosis (電脳硬化症, dennōkōkashō) is a disease characterized by a hardening of the brain tissues precipitated by the cyberization process. It is described as being that century's cancer or tuberculosis. Cyberbrain sclerosis is described as being extremely rare, enough so that it doesn't deter most people from being cyberized, but it is incurable once diagnosed. In Stand Alone Complex, cyberbrain sclerosis patients are used by large corporations as guinea pigs in the development of micromachine (マイクロマシン, maikuromashin) technology, while the Murai vaccine (村井ワクチン, Murai wakuchin) for cyberbrain sclerosis is withheld from the public by those corporations via their political power - yet still being available to corporate executives and celebrities. This proves to be the explanation of the original "Laughing Man Incident", in which the Laughing Man kidnapped the head of Serano Genomics, a micromachine manufacturer, in an attempt to persuade him to reveal the depth of the corruption within the political and medical community over the vaccine.


In Ghost in the Shell, a "cyborg" (サイボーグ, saibōgu) is a human who has had full-body cyberization (義体化, gitaika), possessing a partly or entirely prosthetic body which has parts that can be exchanged or replaced when damaged. Cyborgs do not eat normal food; rather, they eat special processed protein bars which provide nutrients for their remaining organic parts. This "food" does not taste good to those who still have organic taste buds due to an inability to manipulate taste input cybernetically. The most heavily cyberized individuals, such as Major Kusanagi, have only their soul or "ghost" remaining as proof of their humanity - even their physical brains are made of synthetic materials. As Kusanagi muses in the original film, she doesn't even have tangible physical proof of even being human anymore.

Therm-optic camouflage[edit]

Major Kusanagi with an active therm-optic camouflage

An important technology used in the series is therm-optic (retconned from "thermo-optical") camouflage (光学迷彩, kōgaku meisai). Members of Section 9 as well as their Tachikoma tanks have the ability to activate a special camouflage technology which enables them to blend in with the environment, making them near-invisible across all visible spectrum and thermal imaging. It is an active stealth system which projects ambient conditions of the opposing side, thus rendering the masked object transparent by transmission. The system is not perfect, as it seems unable to compensate for sudden changes and physical impacts and not impervious to close observation. It also has difficulty working in rain or if walking through shallow water. A faint translucent distortion is shown as the limitations of the technology. In the legal landscape of the series, usage of the technology without a warrant is heavily restricted. The use of this technology by Section 9 is the exception, and not the norm - further highlighting their extraordinary legal standing.

In the Stand Alone Complex alternate timeline, however, this technology seems to have been perfected and is capable of operating in highly illuminated environment, as evidenced in the episode "Android and I". The visual distortions are therefore purely for the benefit of the viewers.

There is present-day research into the active optic camouflage at the University of Tokyo inspired by the technology's fictional portrayal in the series.[1]

Think tanks[edit]

Think tanks are robotic weapons platforms that make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance their abilities. In the Japanese version, they are officially referred to as "multi-legged tanks" (多脚戦車, Takyakusensha), but they are more commonly referred to as "think tanks" (思考戦車, Shinku, the kanji are read as "Think" rather than Shikōsensha). The most prominent think tanks are those used by Section 9 in its various incarnations, including the Fuchikoma (フチコマ, original manga), Tachikoma (タチコマ, Stand Alone Complex), Uchikoma (ウチコマ, Solid State Society), and Logicoma (ロジコマ, Rojikoma, Arise). Section 9's think tanks are spider-like in appearance, having four walking legs, a pair of front-mounted manipulators, and a segmented body. The pilot sits in a posterior pod attached to the main body, but the tanks can operate independently using their AI.[2] The AI of the tanks exhibit learning algorithms to help them adapt to new situations and these experiences are synchronized among the tanks after each mission. Fuchikoma and Tachikoma AIs have childlike personalities and the latter's AI develop rapidly over the course of Stand Alone Complex, almost to the point of sentience and individuality. Uchikoma are seen at the end of 2nd GIG after the destruction of the satellite containing the Tachikoma AIs. Their AIs have been considerably limited, and their subsequent failure during a mission in Solid State Society leads to the return of the Tachikoma.

The think tanks in each series often exhibit a childlike demeanor. During the development of Stand Alone Complex, the creators had wanted to include Fuchikoma into the new series, but could not due to copyright issues.[3] Instead, they designed Tachikoma using Fuchikoma as inspiration.[4] There are several Tachikoma models seen in video, manga and after-market toys.[5][6][7] There is a brown one with a more squat rear end, a yellow "construction" version, as well as yellow and red "cyber" versions named Musashi (ムサシ) and Max (マックス, Makkusu).[8] A prototype Tachikoma is seen in the PSP Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex game. In Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society, a 2006 anime television movie continuation of the anime series, the Tachikoma have their own names.[7]


Ghost in the Shell takes place in the mid-21st century. World War III was a nuclear war primarily involving wealthy and powerful developed countries whose destruction resulted in fundamental changes in the global balance of power, as long-established national boundaries and concentrations of population were broken. World War IV was a non-nuclear war (also known as the Second Vietnam War) triggered by the ensuing collapse of many developing countries.

As a result of these wars the global geopolitical landscape has become heavily balkanized, with even formerly strong developed countries like the United States divided into smaller, less stable competitors. Civil wars and non-state revolutionary movements pose a constant security threat worldwide, and the millions of refugees displaced by the global tumult have become a major problem. The continuing advance of technology, particularly cyberization technology and the Internet, has also drastically increased the frequency of cyber-terrorism. The island nation of Japan emerged from these conflicts politically intact, and occupies a position of relative privilege.


Japan is a major world power, having gained equal footing with the descendant countries of the former United States. This status is very much the result of its scientific and technological prowess; in particular, it is currently the only country with access to "radiation scrubber" technology. Also known as the "Japanese Miracle" (日本の奇跡, Nihon no Kiseki), these nanomachines can eliminate nuclear fallout, although they must be distributed before a blast occurs to work effectively.

The Japanese economy is one of the world's strongest, and the Japanese as a whole enjoy a high standard of living. However, Japanese society is far from perfect.

The geography has since changed. The Kantō region has been destroyed by nuclear bombs in the nuclear World War III (in the original manga it is by an attack from the Ameri-Soviet Union, in S.A.C. it is China) as well as in the non-nuclear World War IV. The land that Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, and Yokosuka once stood on is gone, having been submerged due to crustal deformations from the bombings in the World Wars. The Kansai region has been left relatively unscathed. The Seto Inland Sea off the coast of Kobe has been reclaimed, with the land becoming the new city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture (新浜県新浜市, Niihama-ken Niihama-shi), sometimes referred to as New Port City (ニューポートシティ, Nyū Pōto Shiti). Niihama briefly served as the provisional capital for Japan until the Prime Minister's offices and home were moved to Fukuoka. Niihama remains a population center, with Section 9's headquarters located in the city. It is connected to Kobe by the Niihama Bridge (新浜大橋, Niihama Ōhashi, replacing the real world Akashi Kaikyō Bridge). The island of Iturup has been returned to Japan, and it has become a bustling city; however its ambiguity in the international sphere has made it become a special economic zone where criminal organizations like to keep their headquarters. The Nemuro Peninsula has become occupied by foreign powers during the various wars. Japan plans on recapturing it through cyber warfare. In the Stand Alone Complex universe, the Tōhoku region is devastated, with the cities of Sendai and Niigata destroyed, remaining solely as craters from a nuclear bomb during World War III. Maizuru in Kyoto has also been destroyed, and the entirety of Okinawa Island has been submerged due to nuclear bombardment by China in World War III.

While the government of Japan is a parliamentary democracy, political corruption is an issue, often driven by the competition of corporate, military, and bureaucratic interests. These groups make use of considerable and indiscriminate surveillance and espionage.

The Self-Defence Forces continue to be legally bound by Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan. They, along with a variety of police organizations, help to maintain order, often via methods that greatly compromise individual and press freedoms.

The demographics of Japan have been shaken by the post-war influx of Asian refugees; their illegality confines them to ghettoes such as the one on Dejima, leaves them vulnerable to exploitation, encourages identity fraud and other crime, and leads to ethnic tensions. Their presence and status constitute a major national political issue.

The trade and abuse of illegal drugs, including "cyber-drugs", human trafficking, and other activities of Japanese Yakuza and Chinese organized crime syndicates also pose a threat to internal security.

Public security bureaus[edit]

Section Description
Section 1 Also known as the Special Service Squad. It is responsible for conducting investigations on very serious criminal cases. Its jurisdiction is limited to Japan only,[9] supposedly under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Home Affairs.[10]
Section 2 Controlled by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and is in charge of law-enforcement matters regarding unauthorized biomedical experiments taking place without MHLW authorization, as well as patent enforcement.[9]
Section 3 Has duties similar to those of the American DEA, enforcing drug policies within Japan.[9]
Section 4 A special-forces military unit on the JGSDF, also known as “The Rangers”.[9] It likely reports to the Minister of Defense. Its missions and capabilities are similar to present-day SOCOM; all its members have identical white cybernetic eyes. Section 4 re-emerged in the Stand Alone Complex during the Dejima Refugee Crisis in an operation to recover a nuclear warhead from members of Section 9. The conflict between the units ended when Batou revealed that he was once a Ranger himself, and both units returned the warhead to JGSDF. Unlike most modern Ranger units, the Rangers have female soldiers.[11]
Section 5 Unknown
Section 6 An ISTAR unit that first appeared in the original Ghost in the Shell manga and film, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs[9][10] known as the Treaty Council.[12] Due to maintenance and political concerns, members do not have cyberization/prosthetics like much of Section 9. Section 6 gained notoriety by becoming the first unit to effectively assassinate another member of Public Security during the end of the original Ghost in the Shell film. They were also responsible for guarding anything related to Project 2501.[12] They are in charge of gathering intelligence on international crime and terrorism.[10]
Section 7 Unknown
Section 8 Unknown
Section 9 Public Security Section 9 (公安9課, Kōan Kyūka), also referred to as Public Safety Section 9 in some translations, is a fictional intelligence department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is an elite counter-terrorism unit specializing in cyber-warfare, as by the mid-21st century the line between the two has blurred, and most acts of terrorism involve cyber-fields to at least some degree. Section 9 is also often tasked with high-profile or politically sensitive responsibilities, such as guarding ambassadors (due to perceived threat of terrorism), etc. The public at large is unaware that Section 9 actually exists, though the Diet of Japan and other security sections are generally aware of them as a black operation unit. Section 9 is more of a police unit than a military one, though the overwhelming majority of its members have former military special ops backgrounds.[13] In the original movie, it's known as the Shell Squad or Security Police Section 9.[14] Its operatives are trained in various methods ranging from police investigations to cyber warfare, as their structure was based on the German GSG-9.[9] They had cross-training exercises in the past with the British SAS's 22nd Regiment.[15]

American Empire[edit]

Post-partition United States, as seen in Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG and Appleseed

The American Empire (米帝, Beitei, AE), also known as Imperial Americana, is a fictional country appearing in Masamune Shirow's anime and manga series' Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed, featuring most prominently in Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. 2nd GIG. The AE exists from before 2020 and at least until 2147, and consists primarily of the American states that had formed the Confederate States of America, plus parts of the Great Plains and Southwest.[citation needed]

After the end of World War III, the United States is partitioned by an unspecified process into three rump states: the American Empire, the Russo-American Alliance (米露連合, Bei-Ro Rengō, in pre-1991 materials, the Ameri-Soviet Union (米ソ連合, Bei-So Rengō)), and the rump state United States of America (アメリカ合衆国, Amerika Gasshūkoku). The American Empire is the only successor state to play a major role in world politics. Its government seems driven by a desire to restore its diminished power and prestige, towards which end it adopts a policy of militarist aggression and open imperialism, directed primarily against Latin America.[citation needed]

Due to war damage inflicted on its economy and its weakened political position, the American Empire enters into a security pact with Japan, which had escaped World War III largely unscathed. One of the principal reasons the American Empire seeks the treaty is its desire to co-opt the "Japanese Miracle"; this technology makes the Ghost in the Shell universe's nuclear weaponry somewhat less apocalyptic in its implications than the real-world article, since the radioactive particulates created by an atomic event can be safely contained, reducing the weapons' deterrence potential.

The pact also reaffirms Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, thus helping to prevent Japanese superpower status.


In 1999, Beijing was destroyed by a massive meteor impact, causing the fall of the Communist Party of China. China and Taiwan have since reunited, and the unified China (中国, Chūgoku) is now a multi-party democracy with a higher degree of political and personal freedom than before.

Sino-Japanese relations remain strong throughout the series, as the nations have moved on from the differences of World War II. This pan-Asian rapprochement is a serious concern to the American Empire, which is engaged in a Second Cold War with China.

The world's largest economy, China is part of a trading bloc which includes most of Southeast Asia and India (the second-largest economy). Its considerable economic growth has not been of equal benefit to its citizens, and poverty is much in evidence; however, at least part of this can be attributed to the collateral damage of war.

In the Stand Alone Complex universe, China remains known as the People's Republic of China (中華人民共和国, Chūka Jinmin Kyōwakoku), and it is they who are the primary combatants against Japan in World War III. It is their bombings that destroy the cities of Tokyo, Sendai, Niigata, and Maizuru, as well as Okinawa Island.


In the original manga, North Korea and South Korea have reunited into a single Republic of Korea (大韓民国, Daikan Minkoku). Additionally, the American Army has set up a military base on reclaimed land.

However, in S.A.C. 2nd GIG, it is revealed that the Korean civil war has continued well through the fourth non-nuclear World War, with the United Nations' peacekeeping forces requesting assistance from the JSDF to help end a conflict.


After the third and fourth World Wars, the American Empire was left militarily and economically devastated and in an effort to regain prestige as a major power engaged in open imperialism in Mexico and other parts of Latin America under the pretext of overthrowing the corrupt governments of those nations. In the late 2020s, the American Empire invaded and occupied much of Mexico; the invading forces used psychological warfare and intimidation techniques such as killing women in smaller villages and torturing prisoners in an attempt to break the spirit of the Mexican resistance. This was compounded by a relentless carpet bombing campaign against major cities and a nuclear weapons strike on Monterrey. Large groups of American, British, and Japanese mechanized infantry and armored divisions were then sent in to mop up all remaining Mexican forces, which led to extended bouts of tank-versus-tank fighting and constant guerrilla warfare which lasted for months.

While the American Empire was initially successful in its campaign and occupied large parts of northern Mexico, they were unable to move further into the country and suffered massive casualties at the hands of both the Mexican military and mercenary forces hired by the Mexican government. Eventually the American-led coalition was forced to withdraw and as a result the American Empire's prestige further deteriorated and it lost much of the goodwill of the international community.

It is not specified what happened to the Mexican state after the war but it is known that it claimed victory over the American Empire and later expanded to absorb the countries of Central America.

Serano Genomics (セラノゲノミクス, Serano Genomikusu), a major manufacturer of cybernetics, electronics and medical technology featured prominently in the series, is based in Mexico; it is the fourth largest company in the world, boasts offices in the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan and is powerful enough to exert influence over the Japanese government, suggesting that Mexico has become a major technological and economic power. It is part of a single large trading bloc comprising all of South and Central America.

Siak Republic[edit]

The Siak Republic (シアク共和国, Shiaku Kyōwakoku) is a fictional state in the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex universe, referred to in the film, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex - Solid State Society.

The Siak Republic is presumed to occupy the present territory of the Republic of Singapore and the surrounding territory of Riau, Indonesia. At some point within this fictional universe these territories must have merged to become a new state, adopting the system of government of the old Singaporean republic. The name is derived from the Siak Regency[16] of Riau. At some point before the film, the Siak Republic's ruling regime, led by General Ka Rum, was deposed, and Ka Rum lived in exile in Japan.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-11-08. Retrieved 2006-11-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Masamune Shirow (w, a). Ghost in the Shell (1991), Titan Books
  3. ^ Ghost in the Shell - Characters. Retrieved on September 13, 2008.
  4. ^ Shirow, Masamune & Kodansha (2002–2005). Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Official Log 1. Kodansha. p. 104. ISBN 1-59409-571-X.
  5. ^ Ghost in the Shell (video game) (PS1 video game). Sony Computer Entertainment.
  6. ^ Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (DVD).
  7. ^ a b Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society (DVD).
  8. ^ Masamune Shirow (w, a). Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface (2003), Dark Horse Comics, Inc
  9. ^ a b c d e f Ghost in the Shell -- Japan. Retrieved on August 26, 2008.
  10. ^ a b c GITS Mythology. Archived 2009-09-07 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on September 5, 2008.
  11. ^ "To the Other Side of Paradise – THIS SIDE OF JUSTICE". Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Season 2. Episode 25. 2005-01-08. Animax.
  12. ^ a b Midnight Animation's Public Security Section 6 Page. Retrieved on September 13, 2008.
  13. ^ "Sunset in the Lonely City – ANNIHILATION". Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Season 1. Episode 24. 2003-03-11. Animax.
  14. ^ Midnight Animation's Public Security Section 9 Page. Retrieved on September 13, 2008.
  15. ^ Stand Alone Complex Visual Book 1, page 14.
  16. ^ Siak