ByAngelo Delos Trinos, writer at
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Angelo Delos Trinos

Ever since the announcement of the live-action adaptation of Ghost In The Shell, fans of the legendary cyberpunk title have been wondering with whom Major Motoko Kusanagi (Scarlett Johansson) would clash.

Ghost In The Shell's latest trailer revealed that Kuze from the spin-off Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig will be the film's primary antagonist. He's an unexpected choice given his obscurity and lack of popularity. He's not poorly written in the previous series, but Kuze fails to stand out from his more colorful colleagues.

Rupert Sanders directs Takeshi Kitano in 'Ghost In The Shell'
Rupert Sanders directs Takeshi Kitano in 'Ghost In The Shell'

In an interview, director Rupert Sanders explained to Collider that Kuze will not be a straightforward retelling of the character but a "kind of amalgamation" of the series' most well known villains.

Kuze borrows a few facets from different characters in the series, he’s not just Kuze and he’s not just the Puppet Master. So he’s a kind of amalgamation, so the way he moves through the network and stuff is borrowed from other elements. He’s kind of our own creation, and Michael Pitt was incredibly immersed in that world... We’re not doing Puppetmaster. It’s not Laughing Man. It involves Kuze. The Kuze story.

Knowing what we do now, here's what could be expected from this new take on Kuze based on his original incarnation and Ghost In The Shell's most well known antagonists.

Warning: Spoilers from the various Ghost In The Shell movies and TV show to follow.

Good Old Existentialism

Puppet Master (center)
Puppet Master (center)
  • Character: The Puppet Master
  • Appeared In: Ghost In The Shell (1995)
  • Voiced By: Iemasa Kayumi (Japanese) and Tom Wyner (English)

The Puppet Master was originally known as Project 2501 - a covert military experiment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) owned by Section 6 that suddenly grew sentient and hostile. The Major was tasked to apprehend the Puppet Master, but instead, she grew a personal connection to the mysterious hacker. Ghost In The Shell is known for its philosophical themes and existential crises, and no character embodies this better than the Puppet Master.

Though the Puppet Master won't appear in the live-action Ghost In The Shell, we can still expect to see echos of philosophy and existentialist beliefs the character propelled in the original animated film. Sanders said that one of the core themes of Ghost In The Shell will be the Major's "sense of self and resolving how she defines herself in terms of memories." Memories and their shaky nature as proof of human life, as it turns out, were an argument the Puppet Master used in its case to prove its sentience. Expect the use and subsequent deconstruction of memories to surface in Ghost In The Shell, even if it's a more simplified and streamlined version than the original's thematic execution.

The Puppet Master's determination to prove that it is not just a talking program struck a cord with the Major in the original anime movie, and the same could be expected from her connection to Kuze in the upcoming live-action movie.

Occupy Neo Hong Kong

Laughing at the system
Laughing at the system
  • Character: The Laughing Man
  • Appeared In: Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex - The Laughing Man
  • Voiced By: Koichi Yamadera (Japanese) and Steve Blum (English)

Of all the Ghost In The Shell cyber-extremists and criminal villains, the Laughing Man is probably the most famous one thanks to his style that may remind some people of the revolutionary V from V For Vendetta or the hacker Elliot from Mr. Robot. In fact, the Laughing Man was so influential that the real life hacktivist group Anonymous co-opted the character's logo and core beliefs for a while.

Though he's just an otherwise normal human being with amazing hacking skills, the Laughing Man left a lasting impact on everyone in Stand Alone Complex. The Laughing Man rose to both fame and notoriety after he publicly assaulted a corrupt businessman at gunpoint. His actions were then mimicked by imitators who too were disillusioned with the system. Dubbed by the media as "The Laughing Man" thanks to his jovial avatar, he soon became the face of mass social unrest in Stand Alone Complex - even if doing so wasn't his original goal.

The start of an unexpected revolt
The start of an unexpected revolt

Given today's heated political climate, it would a missed opportunity if the live-action film didn't incorporate at least a bit of the Laughing Man's rhetoric and style in its story. Sanders mentioned that both criminals and the government will be abusing the technological advances of the new world, and this could open the door for the story's take on public distrust and anger. The Laughing Man's methods, beliefs and rage against the ruling classes could pave the way for Kuze's personal mission to expose some mysterious conspiracy involving him, the Major and those in power.

Familiar Faces And Origin Stories

Terrorist or hero? Hideo Kuze in 'S.A.C. 2nd Gig'
Terrorist or hero? Hideo Kuze in 'S.A.C. 2nd Gig'
  • Character: Hideo Kuze
  • Appeared In: Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig and Ghost In The Shell: S.A.C. 2nd Gig - The Individual Eleven
  • Voiced By: Rikiya Koyama (Japanese) and Kirk Thornton (English)

Just like almost every main antagonist in the series, Kuze was more of an extremist with good intentions rather than an outright villain. But the one thing this member of the terrorist group the Individual Eleven has over everyone else is that he shares a personal connection to the Major - a connection that goes all the way back to their childhood. He may not be the most famous criminal the Major had to apprehend, but Hideo Kuze is still one of the most personal foes she ever faced.

Sanders' Ghost In The Shell is rumored to be an origin story for the Major, and Kuze's inclusion would make sense if that's true. (For the most part, little about the Major has been revealed, and this may be the first time fans will get to see her full-fledged origin story.)

Kuze also knew who the Major was before her Ghost (a.k.a. her soul) was transferred into the cyborg body she currently resides in, and this promises some interesting backstories for the movie should this plot thread be used.

Michael Pitt as Kuze
Michael Pitt as Kuze

It should be noted that the appearance of Kuze (played by Michael Pitt) in the movie looks different from his anime counterpart. Though still an artificial human and hiding in the shadows, Kuze looks more like a damaged cyborg than a regular one in the coming adaptation. How much of Kuze's original character will be used in Ghost In The Shell has yet to be confirmed, but his terrorist actions motivated by somewhat understandable goals are sure to make a comeback.

The original Major and Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost In The Shell'
The original Major and Scarlett Johansson in 'Ghost In The Shell'

Translating an animated work to live-action is hard enough on its own, let alone something as complex and thought-provoking as Ghost In The Shell.

Though using Kuze may be unexpected for some fans, the choice to use a lesser-known adversary instead of a fan favorite is an interesting and exciting decision on the creative team's part. Doing so will give Ghost In The Shell's new and different story some room to breathe without being chained to the established canon. This will also give the story's longtime followers a different experience while providing newcomers easy access into the deep world of Ghost In The Shell.

Here's hoping that despite all the changes and anticipated simplification, Ghost In The Shell lives up to fans' lofty expectations and breaks the curse of American live-action anime adaptations.

Check out the latest trailer for Ghost In The Shell below.

What are you expecting to see from the new Kuze in 'Ghost In The Shell?' Also, what other elements from the previous 'Ghost In The Shell' incarnations are you hoping to see in the live-action version?

Image c/o Paramount Pictures
Image c/o Paramount Pictures


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