The Symbolism of Major Kusanagi’s Origami Cranes
Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex’s The second season is a mix of thrilling cyberpunk political drama and confusing directions that didn’t overshadow the first season, but still contain some spectacular moments for the franchise. SAC’s Season 2 overarching story, The Individual Eleven, failed to capture the terror and wonder of a fully integrated sci-fi world that Season 1’s Laughing Man story so perfectly embodied. . Still, it carried emotional weight for the often static leader, Major Motoko Kusanagi. Unlike Season 1, where stand-alone episodes had most of the character development, Season 2’s connected episodes carry a solid share of the development load.
Adding myths to a long-running mystery character can be dangerous, as seen with the frequent retcons in the stories of western comic book characters. Yet it can also pay emotional dividends that add refreshing complexity to these characters. ghost in the shell smartly leaned into the technical side of its world to humanize the Major, which plays nicely with the core themes of the franchise. The execution may be flawed, but the impact of “Kusanagi’s Labyrinth” is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Human cybernization and the theme of identity are central elements that define ghost in the shell. Unfortunately, this focus on identity and the philosophical aspects of self often leads the franchise to gloss over the physical adjustments and frustrations of acquiring a new body. The Major struggles to come to terms with her new cybernetic reality unfolding when she unknowingly wanders into a mysterious shop containing a classic car and the bodies of well-preserved young cyborgs.
Seeing these bodies almost surprises the Major as she reminisces about the tragedy and struggle that developed her identity. Kusanagi and a boy of the same age were the only survivors of a horrific plane crash and needed entire cyborg bodies to repair the damage, lest they be left crippled or worse. The entire process of cybernization is difficult for an adult, so the physical, mental and emotional impact on orphaned children could be catastrophic.
Kusanagi and the boy, Hideo Kuze, react to trauma in contrasting ways, drawing attention to the spectrum of young people’s reactions to the medical technology of this future. As Kusanagi seizes the opportunity for a new life, Kuze sinks into depression after losing his human body. The subtle differences and strange aspects of Cyborg Valley dissuade Kuze from accepting a new life.
Kuze mentally shuts down but compulsively folds paper cranes to hope for good fortune for him and Kusanagi. After life-saving surgery, Kusanagi defends her cyborg body with all its clumsy aspects. In contrast to his stoic modern approach, Kusanagi carries himself with an optimistic exuberance that hints that his worst days were yet to come. Luckily, this experience lasted deep into her youth as she nagged Kuze to break free from the paralysis.
Even though Kusanagi awkwardly stumbled and fumbled while adjusting to her new body, she rarely gave up hope. However, Kuze not only remained sullen, but tried to peddle cynicism about Kusanagi by goading him to the limits of his body. He promised her that she wouldn’t be able to make a left-handed origami crane. This action is particularly poignant for Kuze since even in his paralyzed state he could confuse the cranes together, while Kusanagi probably couldn’t due to the clumsy fingers and fake muscles of a cheaper, older cyborg body.
The symbolism of this deceptively simple task drove Kusanagi to frustration and annoyance as she wavered over her perceived limits. Nonetheless, even through the tearing and shredding struggles of Crane and Crane, Kusanagi began to impact Kuze and the staff who witnessed his conduct. These cranes began to embody more than luck and longevity. They have become the manifestation of perseverance.
This struggle to accept a new physical reality tells what the characters of ghost in the shell who have undergone complete cyberization have gone through, adding more weight to their story. Major’s stumbles and successes as she adapts to new motor skills speaks volumes about her temperament. At the end of the sequence, she effortlessly bends a crane to leave as a keepsake for Kuze and her personal growth.