Ghost in the Shell, known in Japan as Mobile Armored Riot Police, is a seinen manga series written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow, which spawned the media franchise of the same name. The manga, first serialized in 1989 under the subtitle of The Ghost in the Shell, and later published as its own tankōbon volumes by Kodansha, told the story of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9, led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, in the mid 21st century of Japan. Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface was the sequel work which follows the story of Motoko after merging with the Puppeteer. The last volume, Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor, contains four separate cases.
The books contain Shirow’s thoughts on design and philosophy, including sociological issues, the consequences of technological advances and themes on the nature of consciousness and identity. Several artbooks have been released to detail the concept art and the world of Ghost in the Shell. All three volumes have received mainly positive reviews.
Ghost in the Shell begins in 2029, and features Section 9, led by Chief Daisuke Aramaki and Major Motoko Kusanagi, as they investigate the Puppeteer, a cyber-criminal wanted for committing a large number of crimes by proxy through “ghost hacking” humans with cyberbrains. As the investigation continues, Section 9 discovers that the Puppet Master is actually an advanced artificial intelligence created by a department of the Japanese government, taking up residence in a robot body. After destroying the latest host of the Puppeteer, Section 9 believes all is well, until the Major discovers the Puppet Master in her own mind. After hearing the Puppeteer’s wishes to reach its next step in evolution, Kusanagi allows it to become one with her own ghost. After this event, the Major leaves Section 9 to work as a private contractor, with the remaining members of the unit Batou, Togusa, Ishikawa, Saito, Paz, Borma, and Azuma, continuing their work as covert operatives, occasionally meeting up with the Major in her various guises. These stories were later collected under the name Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor. In 2035, the Major, now known as Motoko Aramaki, works as a security expert for Poseidon Industrial, now an entity composed of multiple identities that she controls via the network in other prosthetic bodies that attack industrial spies, assassins, and cyber-hackers, solving various crimes, while still at her day job. However, a psychic investigator finds something dangerous emerging as the teachings of a professor of artificial intelligence fall into the wrong hands and attempt to intermingle with the Major’s current evolving sense of self. These stories are collected under the title Ghost in the Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface.
Primarily set in the mid-twenty-first century in the fictional Japanese city of Niihama, Niihama Prefecture, otherwise known as New Port City, the manga and the many anime adaptations follow the members of Public Security Section 9, a special-operations task-force made up of former military officers and police detectives. Political intrigue and counter-terrorism operations are standard fare for Section 9, but the various actions of corrupt officials, companies, and cyber-criminals in each scenario are unique and require the diverse skills of Section 9’s staff to prevent a series of incidents from escalating.
In this cyberpunk iteration of a possible future, computer technology has advanced to the point that many members of the public possess cyberbrains, technology that allows them to interface their biological brain with various networks. The level of cyberization varies from simple minimal interfaces to almost complete replacement of the brain with cybernetic parts, in cases of severe trauma. This can also be combined with various levels of prostheses, with a fully prosthetic body enabling a person to become a cyborg. The heroine of Ghost in the Shell, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is such a cyborg, having had a terrible accident befall her as a child that ultimately required that she use a full-body prosthesis to house her cyberbrain. This high level of cyberization, however, opens the brain up to attacks from highly skilled hackers, with the most dangerous being those who will hack a person to bend to their whims.