In the first review of Ghost in the Shell, the Major had just escaped Kuze’s attempt to hack her mind and had found his location. She, Batou, and another member of Section 9 rushed off to find Kuze before he could escape. Major tracks Kuze’s signal to a Yakuza club, and after fighting some thugs, they find the source of the signal in the basement level of the club, but Kuze isn’t there. All he’s left behind is a hologram which threatens them and disappears. Major then realizes the basement has been rigged to blow and pushes Batou out of the room. However, she isn’t fast enough. Major is caught in the explosion, and Batou looses his eyes in the blast.
When Major wakes up, Dr. Ouelet confronts her about doing the deep dive into the hacked robot. Major is surprised that the doctor is upset, but Dr. Ouelet assures her that she is just worried. Major then visits Batou and sees that he has chosen new synthetic eyes which are much more advanced. Soon afterward, a doctor from Hanka is murdered by Kuza, and Major realizes that Kuze is targeting people directly connected to the cooperation. He’s looking for Hanka employees who were involved with a project called 2571. She then learns that Dr. Ouelet was connected to the project and tries to find the doctor before Kuze.
The next scene shows two garbage men having a conversation. They suddenly stop talking and start their truck. The men crash into Dr. Ouelet’s car and produce machine guns. As the doctor climbs out of the car, one of the garbage men demands to know about project 2571, but before he can find anything out, Major and the others find them, kill one of the garbage men, and capture the other.
As they are interrogating the man, he tells them that he has a daughter and wishes to go home. However, Section 9 has researched the man’s past. He’s lived alone for many years. His mind has been hacked, and false memories were added to his brain for some unknown reason. The remake does a poor job explaining why this was done, while the original does a better job describing the purpose behind the scheme, but in either case, the implications of this concept are just plain terrifying.
What’s really possible when it comes to hacking a mind? Can someone completely steal someone’s autonomy, make them drive their garbage truck into someone else’s car, make someone point a gun at another human being? Furthermore, how ethical would it be to kill them? In the 1995 anime, Batou gives a line which indicates that the people who are hacked by what they call “ghost hackers” are held with contempt by the characters. The word the English translators used when Batou describes the hacked man is pathetic. The idea seems to be that these individuals possess a particularly weak mind, but would this really be the case? Could anybody be hacked? And what would the attitude of those around you be when it came those poor souls who had their autonomy stolen? Could they be tried and found guilty in a court of law? Would they be hated? And in time, would anybody be able to trust anybody else? Are you really talking to your mother, or is it a government agent looking for some way to frame you? Here’s my advice. When the day comes for all of us to be connected to the internet, in words of Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.”
While the man is crying, terrified and confused, he suddenly goes still, and the Major realizes that Kuze has entered the poor man again. The other members of Section 9 find the signal Kuze is using and begin to trace it while Major steps inside the glass cage to have a chat with the hacker. Nothing of consequence is said, but they manage to trace the signal and find where Kuze is really hiding. Section 9 rushes off to catch him, but not before the poor hacked man hangs himself.
They follow Kuze’s signal to a strange building filled with people covered in a white powder. Workers are drilling holes into the people’s skulls and connecting them to a web of wires. Kuze has been hiding by creating a network of human minds. One of the benefits of this network is that he is able to jump from place to place without being noticed. The movie is somewhat unclear about the exact nature of this network, and it’s another moment where the original and the remake part ways. In the original, the network is really all the information available, and a consciousness was created with this information by another group called Section 6. This consciousness becomes known as the Puppet Master. The way the remake differs serves as the twist in the plot.
As Section 9 searches the building, Major is separated from the others and surprised by a group of thugs. They overpower her and take her to a hidden room where she is connected to the similar web of wires as the captured men in white powder. Here, Kuze reveals himself and tells her that he is her prototype. She was the first successful experiment, but there were others. At first, Major doesn’t believe him, but then she sees the image of the same small building she’s been seeing in her “glitches” tattooed on his chest. She asks what the building is, and he admits that he doesn’t know, but the image haunts him.
Then Batou and the others find Major and Kuze and begin firing. Kuze escapes because the Major cannot bring herself to capture him. Everyone from Section 9 looks at her, and she runs from them as well, escaping down an adjacent hallway. Later, she confronts Dr. Ouelet about what Kuze has told her, and the doctor confesses that everything the hacker said is true. There were ninety-eight failed experiments before the Major was created. The doctor also admits that the memories of drowning and the death of the Major’s parents were also lies. Heartbroken, Major leaves Dr. Ouelet’s apartment and disappears. We’ll look at what happens after that in the next review.