For fans of the original Ghost in the Shell anime and manga who might be perturbed by the fact that the live-action adaptation from Paramount Pictures is starring Scarlett Johansson, creating another instance of whitewashing in Hollywood, the studio is trying to make amends in an interesting but potentially problematic way.
When a Hollywood film is released in Japan, audiences can choose to see it with subtitles or dubbed by actors. In the case of Ghost in the Shell, the actors doing the voiceover work for the dubbed version will be the original voice actors of the anime adaptation from 1995.
News of the dubbed Ghost in the Shell version came from the Japanese site Natalie (via Kotaku), which reports that Atsuko Tanaka will lend her voice to Scarlett Johansson’s character Mira, the Americanized version of protagonist Motoko Kusanagi from the original anime. In addition, Akio Otsuka will be voicing Batou, a role that he already reprised for Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and Stand Alone Complex. Also joining him will be Kochi Yamadera as Togusa.
On one hand, this is good news for Japanese fans who want their dubbed movies to have gifted voice actors bringing a movie to life. Japanese audiences are very particular about the actors chosen to dub movies that aren’t in Japanese. Back in 2012 there was quite the backlash when some of the voice actors for the dubbed version of The Avengers were downright terrible, ruining the entire experience for many viewers. This happens because sometimes popular celebrities at the time are hired instead of actors who are the most talented person for a given job.
Ghost in the Shell anime director Mamoru Oshii had this to say about the hiring of his original voice actors for the Japanese dub:
“It’s been a while since they’ve played these characters. I definitely want them to deliver performances they see fit. They’re all pros, so there’s nothing to worry about, and I can only say that this is something to look forward to.”
Therefore, bringing in Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka and Kochi Yamadera to reprise their roles is a smart move as far as hiring the best person for the job. But on the other hand, it also calls even more attention to the fact that Paramount Pictures didn’t want to create a live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation with an Asian leading lady. Paramount has put plenty of Asian actors into this adaptation, but not having one in the lead felt like a slap in the face to fans.
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