Monday, July 12, 2010

Lonecow's Top 10 Anime Women - Motoko Kusanagi

In the future we will all be able to choose our bodies, just as one would choose a car. Or at least that is the future Shirow Masamune predicts in Ghost in the Shell. However, if anyone could go down to the local 'body' shop and pick up a new and improved shell, who in their right mind would pick the Borma model:

Luckily, the women in the future don't have nearly the bad taste the men do, and so we have beauties such as Motoko Kusanagi running around, kicking ass and showing quite a bit of her own in the process.

Number 08: Major Motoko Kusanagi
Show: Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Not a whole lot is ever said about The Major's past and that helps to add to her mystique and intrigue. She was involved in some wars, and had her body replaced at a very young age.

Due to her having a prosthetic body most of her life, she tends to be more in touch with her robotic side then her human side at times. But it has led her to be the best detective in Section 9. And she isn't all robotic, as she can be playful and even a little flirtatious with her BFF, and partner Batou.

Why she is on my list: In many ways, Motoko is the pin up girl for anime in America, as a lot of people, myself included were introduced to anime and manga through Ghost in the Shell. For me personally it was the manga that popped my Japanese cherry blossom. I remember seeing the movie first, when I was a teenager because it had been heavily advertised in Wizard magazine. Images of it were shown in that magazine pretty regularly and my adolescent mind was absolutly bewildered that Japan had animation with beautiful naked women running around.

But when I finally saw the film, I thought it was cool, but didn't leave a lasting impression. There was something about it that I kind of liked, but it just didn't grab me. The same can be said for Akira. I know I'm supposed to love it, but I don't.

However, the idea behind Ghost in the Shell, I always found interesting. People giving up there bodies and replacing them superior robotic prosthetic bodies. So, still being into comics at the time, I got a hold of the Ghost in the Shell manga. That is where I fell in love. The manga was much more my style. The characters had more life, The Major especially as she was a prankster instead of an emotionless doll. Also I was impressed by the level of detail in Shirow's side notes. Every single sci-fi instance in the book was footnoted with an obsessive level of detail as to how this seemingly impossible technology could one day be possible. Even details as to how Batou can have a robotic arm and not have the weight rip off his human tissue were intricately explained with diagrams and annotations. It made the entire world seem like such a valid possible future.

And while I liked the Major in the manga a lot, she was almost a little too quirky. Most of the time she is going around giving people a hard time, or taking time off to participate in a lesbian orgy (which Shirow also explains in painstaking detail as to why same-sex robot sex is better then straight sex because when they link their minds together, having a brain pattern of a different sex can cause problems or something like that, I wasn't really paying attention (read: boobs) ), that all of a sudden when the ending comes, and everything gets really serious her personality seems out of place.

That brings us to GitS: Stand Alone Complex, the real evolution of Motoko Kusanagi. The creators of SAC really took a long hard look at the GitS movie and the Manga and said, "Okay, what works and what doesn't", and the result was an excellent sci-fi detective television show, that would put American shows like CSI and Law and Order to shame.

One of these aspects was taking parts of Motoko from the movie and mixing her in a perfect blend with parts of her from the manga. She is mostly all business, like we see in the film, but she smiles, dates, plays pranks on her team members, in other words is human.

Last week Koji picked Revy as his number 9, and the reason I liked Revy personally is that she reminded me a lot of the Major. Revy is like an "evil" version of Motoko. They are both strong women in a male dominated world, but there isn't a single male in that world who even comes close to their strength and determination. Also, despite how they are both dressed, sex is very rarely an issue with them and is never once used to help them advance in their respective worlds.

I actually prefer when Motoko is dressed more conservatively because it makes her character less of a sex object and more of an "Ellen Ripley" of anime, which is what she is (though that won't stop me from posting sexy pictures of her on the sidebar). When she first came onto the scene women were either supporting characters, or magical girls. Motoko was one of the first to break the gender divide in modern anime, which was quite an accomplishment in Japan at the time.

The Major is probably the longest standing woman on my Top 10 list. Other anime girls come and go, but Motoko will always get your back. For that she will always have a place on this list.

Seiyuu: Atsuko Tanaka Voice Actress: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

Notice this week I included the American voice actress. McGlynn is a rarity among English dub VAs in that she is just as good as her Japanese counterpart. Switching between both languages on the DVD is almost like Motoko is just flipping a switch in her voice box to change language on the fly because they sound so similar. That goes for the entire cast as well. GitS: SAC has probably one of the best voice casts in English dubbed anime. These kind of accomplishments need to be rewarded and acknowledged, because it is such a rare thing. There is no overacting, and no weird voices being used that you wouldn't hear from normal people you meet on the street. Real people used to make real characters. Why more dubs can't follow suit will always boggle my mind.

McGlynn started playing Motoko for SAC, and is also an ADR director which partially explains the quality in her voice work. But where she only played Motoko in SAC, Atsuko Tanaka has played the Major in all her incarnations.

Because of her deep mature sounding voice, Tanaka is often given the roll of villains or mysterious women. She also voices Castor from Fate/Stay Night and Helba from .hack, two of my other favorite Japanese entertainment properties. She has played Chun-Li in a couple of Street fighter games, though she is not Chun-Li's main voice box. Most recently she might be recognized as the voice of Claudette from Queen's Blade....

Seriously, how did a show like Queen's Blade manage to get so many A-list Seiyuu voice talent?

Honorable mention: Fujiko Mine

Fujiko was on my Top ten list for a very long time, and I figured with Motoko being the reigning veteran on the list it would be a good time to give Fujiko a little love. Fujiko in a lot of ways is the anti-Motoko. They are both strong sexy women in male dominated anime's. But where Motoko uses experience and analysis to get ahead, Fujiko almost exclusively uses her sex appeal. Though she is also a brilliant thief, so her don't discount her intellect.

The thing about Fujiko that I have always liked is that throughout the years in all the incarnations of Lupin III she is the only character that changes looks every single time. It's like they changed the actress playing her, and we are always supposed to just know it is her. And we do, because she changes depending on the taste of the audience. I suspect if a new Lupin III was to be made today she would be very much moefied.

But she has always been a character that compels any male watching the show because she is just so damn sexy and intriguing. Personally my favorite Fujiko was from the second Lupin III TV series. There is something very 70s sexy about her appearance that makes her seem more of a normal beauty as opposed to the knockout bombshell that she has been displayed as more recently.