How To Read The 'Ghost In The Shell' Manga To Prepare To See The Sci-Fi Epic Onscreen
Some fans have been waiting on a Ghost In The Shell live-action movie for almost 30 years; others may find the new Scarlett Johansson sci-fi flick to be an entry point to a new passion. The futuristic movie is based on a Japanese manga series, which first appeared serialized in an anthology called Young Magazine in 1989. Written by Masamune Shirow, the comics didn't get an English publication until 1995. In 2017, Ghost In The Shell is considered a tentpole crossover hit — one of the collections that solidified the international bankability of manga. With Johansson kicking ass onscreen as Major, an artificially enhanced super-soldier, it's the perfect time to discover or revisit the books that inspired the movie. So where can you read the original Ghost In The Shell manga?
The first thing to know is that the Ghost In The Shell saga is comprised of three different collections. The first also carries the title Mobile Armored Riot Police in its country of origin and is 11 chapters long. In it, Major investigates a baddie called the Puppet Master, who has figured out how to hack human/android hybrids to do his bidding. The paperback volume will cost you $22.32 on Amazon. You can download it instantly to your Kindle for $9.99 if you want it instantly. Or add the ComiXology app to your device of choice and access the first volume of Ghost In The Shell there for the same price.
If you have even the slightest interest in comics or manga, that app is going to be a useful addition to your home screen. I highly recommend ComiXology as a starting place. This world is an intimidating one to breach because of the sheer amount of content, but ComiXology makes it easy to figure out what you like, whether it's a new and independent series or a classic like Ghost In The Shell.
Major's story continues in Ghost In The Shell 2: Man-Machine Interface, published in English in 2005. To describe the plot of this chapter would be to spoil the movie, so I'll skip the synopsis. A physical copy is currently listed at $20.56, with the Kindle and ComiXology versions going for $9.99.
Finally, there's Ghost In The Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor. As the naming convention suggests, it falls between the events of Volume 1 and Volume 2. (Five years lapse from the end of Volume 1 to the start of Volume 2.) Its English publication is a relatively young 10 years old, and it allows the author to tease out some threads that don't contribute hugely to the prime story. A slimmer volume, this paperback is only $13.53 on Amazon. The digital copy is $8.54.
Released just this February, brand new Deluxe Editions of Ghost In The Shell volumes 1, 2, and 1.5 capitalize on the increased interest around the release of the movie. They're only available in hardcover, but original Japanese right-to-left frame alignment and bonus content make it worth the extra pennies, especially for big fans.
One clear benefit to reading the source material is that it provides some context to the whitewashing controversy stirred up by the casting of Scarlett Johansson as a Japanese character in a quintessentially Japanese story originated in a Japanese art form. And if you've decided to show support with your dollars, you can pick up the books, get the full story, and skip the movie theater entirely.