Ghost in the Shell hires Japanese actress Rila Fukushima amidst whitewashing controversy

The live-action adaptation of the classic manga has already come under fire for the casting of Scarlett Johansson as protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi

Clarisse Loughrey
Thursday 26 May 2016 09:45
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The live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation is in pretty hot water of late; so hot, someone's probably already collected the tea mugs in preparation.

The film has courted major controversy due to Scarlett Johansson's casting as the (clearly Japanese) Major Motoko Kusanagi, now only amplified by the first image of the actress in the role. Defining voices in the backlash included Ming Na-Wen, the voice of Disney's Mulan and current star of Marvel television series Agents of Shield, and comic writer Jon Tsuei; who argued the original manga is deeply rooted within Japanese identity.

The decision, however, has been defended by the Japanese publisher of the original manga; claiming that Johansson is "well cast", and that "we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place."

Now, The Hollywood Reporter reveals Rila Fukushima is set to join the cast; with the Japanese actress elsewhere known for her roles as Yukio in 2013's The Wolverine, and Katana on The CW's Arrow. The hope is that her relative familiarity with American audiences here means she won't be relegated to a minor role, perhaps giving some balance to the heavily white-led cast, with the film's few Asian actors pushed into supporting roles.

Really, though, Fukushima should have been playing the lead. Or if not her, perhaps the equally talented Rinko Kikuchi?


Ghost in the Shell will adapt Masamune Shirow's iconic manga of the same name; with Johansson's Major being a special ops, uniquely fashioned human-cyborg hybrid who leads the elite task force Section 9. Her job, to lead her unit in the elimination of the most dangerous threats to society; which sees her tested when she must face off against an enemy whose only goal is to destroy the cybernetic technology which saved her life.


Snow White and the Huntsman's Rupert Sanders is directing, with filming taking place in Wellington, New Zealand.

Ghost in the Shell hits UK cinemas 31 March 2017.

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