After watching Ghost in the Shell movie and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, I couldn't tell Major Motoko Kusanagi was an AI or she used to be a human.

Was Major Motoko Kusanagi a human in a past life, or was she an AI from the beginning?


The Major is a cyborg. Which means that she is a human with extensive biomechanical parts. As a child she was in an accident and had to replace much of her body with cybernetic prosthetics. Having so much cybernetic equipment as part of her made it easy for her to interact with the Puppet Master. In the end of the movie we see her body destroyed and her brain installed into a new body designed for adolescents.

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    In one of the animated films, or maybe the series, she met a guy who knew her when they were kids. That's about the only "hard" evidence that states for sure she was originally human. Otherwise, it's always left kind of vague. – Omegacron Feb 4 '15 at 21:57
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    In the new series (Arise) she states very clearly that she never had a real body. Episode ONE. The description of the "accident" referred to in the movie is much more detailed in Arise. She explains that the injury happened to her mother while she was unborn, and that her cyber-brain was created at that point, and her body was never born. – Jasmine Feb 4 '15 at 22:15
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    @Jasmine - Does "cyber-brain" mean it's entirely software, or is it possible they removed her fetal brain and put in computer implants of some kind to create a hybrid biological/artificial system? – Hypnosifl Feb 5 '15 at 0:01
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    @Hypnosifl - The latter. "Cyberbrain" means they have some greater or lesser degree of interfacing built into the brain, allowing direct connection to computer systems, as opposed to being fully organic (like you are). – Compro01 Feb 5 '15 at 0:33
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    In the original film, in the Japanese language version, the opening scene makes reference to her being on her period, which was adding variability to some of the signals her hardware was streaming to Section 9. Would seem pretty strong evidence of her biological origin and cyborg nature. – Lexible Feb 5 '15 at 2:24

Like others have said, the continuity for Ghost in the Shell varies depending on whether you're considering the manga, the various animes or the movies. I'll answer from the perspective of my preferred version, the 1995 movie by Mamoru Oshii.

In this movie, Motoko Kusanagi used to be human, but she has doubts about it. A major theme of the movie is precisely this: what makes a person human? What if we replaced almost all of the body with cybernetic parts: would we still be human? And what if we took that final step and replaced even the brain? What then?

This is the major existential worry that Kusanagi faces in the movie.

As evidence of both her past humanity and her worries about her present condition, consider this conversation she has with her partner Batou (taken from the script):

KUSANAGI: That robot. Did we seem similar to you?

BATOU: Of course not.

K: No. I don't mean physically.

B: Just what then?

K: Well, I guess cyborgs like myself have a tendency to be paranoid about our origins. Sometimes I suspect I'm not who I think I am. Like maybe I died a long time ago, and somebody took my brain and stuck it in this body. Maybe there never was a real me in the first place, and I'm completely synthetic like that thing.

B: You've got human brain cells in that titanium shell of yours. You're treated like other humans, so stop with the angst.

K: But that's just it. That's the only thing that makes me feel human: The way I'm treated. I mean, who knows what's inside our heads. Have you ever seen your own brain?

B: It sounds to me like you're doubting your own ghost.

K: What if a cyber-brain could possibly generate its own ghost, create a soul all by itself? And if it did, just what would be the importance of being human then?

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The original movies, Stand Alone Complex, and the new ARISE series are all separate continuities. Events in one are not necessarily applicable to the others.

In SAC, she has been a full body cyborg (everything except her brain is totally robotic) since her body was severely damaged in the plane crash that killed her parents when she was six years old. She was one of only two survivors, with the other being

Hideo Kuze

In ARISE, her brain was put into a prosthetic body before she was born.

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    In the original Ghost in the Shell movie, she used to be human. The whole point of the movie is her wondering what it means to be human when only a few brain cells are all that remain of her original self. – Andres F. Feb 5 '15 at 1:37

Kusanagi was and still is human. Well, human at their core. Kusanagi is a full-body cyborg. Essentially Kusanagi's totally normal human brain is encased in a cybernetic shell, and the entire rest of Kusanagi's body is mechanical.

The technology of Ghost in the Shell has gotten advanced to the point where people can directly interface their brains with computers, which is the source of many issues in the various Ghost in the Shell stories. But what it boils down to is that Kusanagi is still human, they just make heavy use of the cyborg technologies available to them.

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    I'd consider her transhuman after the merge with the AI in the first movie. So I don't fully agree with the "still is human" in the movie continuity. – CodesInChaos Feb 5 '15 at 8:17
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    I'd say she was originally human. Whether she remains human (even before merging with the Puppet Master) is something she continually questions during the first movie. I'd say it's the main theme of the movie! – Andres F. Feb 5 '15 at 14:44

First off, I have not read the manga, and I will be making sweeping statements that may not apply to the manga.

That said - Lets go through the evidence.


  • Human-like AI is both possible, and demonstrated in every incarnation of GiTS, though even the most sophisticated examples like proto tend to lack cyber-brains.
  • 'Ghost-dubbing' or copying a cyber-brain is also possible (and demonstrated), but the copy is inferior.
  • A cyber-brain would also be pretty heavily augmented to be able to interface seamlessly with both the cyber-bodies and external machines. You also see them outside of the body from time to time in their metal cases.
  • The arise series also introduces a couple of characters that have used 'AI chips' to replace brain functions in their ailing brains.

The major

Origin story

The major's origin story varies from continuity to continuity (arise/stand alone complex/the manga and the movies all exist separate from one another, in spite of their similarities)

  • In arise, the major has been a cyborg from birth (or at least a kind of brain in a jar).
  • In Stand alone complex a plane crash left her in a coma; forcing(?) the use of a cyber-body to revive her.
  • The movies do not make any specific mention of her origins to my knowledge.



  • Military-issue cyber-body with cyber-brain.


  • One of the best hackers in the world, and having control over her cyberbody above and beyond most.


The major probably isn't an AI judging solely from the fact that she predates the indistinguishably-human variants AND has a cyber-brain.

It is however quite possible that the major isn't the first... heading section nine is rather dangerous after all. The technology does exist to make copies as well as offset the ailing abilities of poor copies with AI chips, perhaps even pushing her abilities past her otherwise (relatively) normal contemplates.

In all, I would argue that the major is (technically) human, though your mileage may vary in a what measure is a non-human kind of way.

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Motoko is supposed to represent the closest mankind has ever gotten to what is known as the machine singularity. When mankind is fully integrated with machine.

In computer terms, a ghost in the shell is when a computer program begins to write it's own code, nullifying the need for any programmer. This was believed by scientists as the first signs of a computer becoming self aware or artificial intelligence.

Only a few times have it's been seen when code has appeared out of no where. It was always thought it was programmed by a ghost.

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  • Do you have any references or quotes to back this up? – AJL Nov 18 '16 at 23:33
  • Read "A Ghost in the Machine" A novel the entire concept of GITS was based off. – Cheesepuff Nov 18 '16 at 23:59

From what I gathered from SAC she was born very sickly. Motoko's brain was transferred to an artificial body because she was dying. The first generation of bodies were cumbersome and lacked fine motor skills and touch sensitivity. That why she was so clumsy. Later on her brain was damaged and they transferred her "ghost" into a cyber brain. If you truly pay attention to her you see that she's disconnected from normal humans, or at least ones with biological brains. She views love very coldy and to her sex is simply sex. I've always felt her disconnect is because much of what makes someone human is lost during the digitization of a persons brain. It's evident throughout the entire GITS series and movies and not just with the Major.

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  • There's several major factual errors here. In SAC she wasn't born sickly. She had survived a plane accident (barely) that had killed everyone but herself and another boy, and surgery wasn't enough to save her. Also, cyber brains aren't replacements for organic human brains - it's a term for the organic brain once it's been placed into a metal case, for protection and for interfacing with cyborg parts. That is to say, Kusanagi still has a biological brain in her head, encased in metal like any other cyborg. Batou, Chief Aramaki, and others have the same thing. – doppelgreener Feb 6 '15 at 0:05
  • I stand corrected. – Destroyer73 Feb 6 '15 at 12:06

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