Ever since Scarlett Johansson was announced as the lead actress for the “Ghost in the Shell” live-action adaptation, the production has been met with controversy and claims of whitewashing. A petition was launched to replace Johansson with a Japanese actress. But not everyone is criticizing the casting, and a new piece published by The Hollywood Reporter focuses on the reaction the casting has received in Japan.
“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast,” said Kodansha’s Sam Yoshiba, director of the publisher’s international business division. Kodansha originally published the manga in 1989. “She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.” Yoshiba added that this film is “a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world.” He also said that a recent trip to the film’s New Zealand set left him impressed by the respect with which the filmmakers were showing the source material.
Outside Kodansha, the general reaction in Japan has been one of surprise. As THR notes, many overseas already assumed the role of Major Motoko Kusanagi would go to a white actress since the film is a Hollywood production. “If you want a Japanese cast, then a Japanese company should make the film in Japan,” longtime manga fan Tetsuya Kataoka told THR.
Another fan, Ai Ries Collazo, pointed out that while casting a non-Japanese Asian actress might have caused the film to go over better in America, that would have provoked a worse reaction in Japan. “[A]t least they didn’t cast a Chinese actress, like they did in ‘Memoirs of a Geisha.’ [Zhang Ziyi] actually did an amazing job, but it was like: really? Again, can’t they find a Japanese actress?”
For more of the international perspective, Kotaku has collected comments from Japanese fans regarding this Hollywood production, which both echo and differ from the opinions expressed above.
Filming is under way in Wellington, New Zealand, for a U.S. release on March 31, 2017.
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