Through the Looking Glass

Ghost in the Shell, Transhumanism, and Transcendence through the Virtual


  • Danielle Shalet University of Kent



Ghost in the Shell, science fiction, transhumanism, mythology, anime, film science and religion, singularity


Masamune Shirow's manga, Ghost in the Shell, is a ‘cyberpunk' classic of the 1990's. It focuses on a fictional counter-cyberterrorist organisation led by Major Motoko Kusanagi known as Section-9. This classic manga was made into an anime by Mamoru Oshii and became a cult hit in the mid-90s. Its popularity fuelled the production of a number of feature length animated films as well as two anime series. It regained popularity in 2015 following the news that Scarlett Johansson signed to play the lead in a live-action version of the anime that was released in 2017. What is interesting about Ghost in the Shell is not only its ‘cyberpunk' motifs but the very transhumanist themes it conveys. Though considered a ‘cultural/intellectual' movement transhumanism has some interesting ‘religious' elements associated with it, albeit ones that may not fit the usual conventional understanding of ‘religion'. This is especially the case if ‘religion' is seen as the sui generis concept that it is popularly known as, rather than a cultural activity. One of the fundamental beliefs of this movement is that humans will advance physically, intellectually, and psychologically, not through the will of a divine creator, but through human ingenuity and technology. Another popular belief held by some transhumanists is one that suggests that in the 'not-so-distant future' humans will transcend their physical and mental imperfections by uploading themselves into a supercomputer. With transhumanist themes in mind this paper will focus on two main points. The first is that Japanese traditions can be used to strengthen the ‘transhumanism as religion' argument as proposed by Robert Geraci. The second will examine how-through the adoption of Japanese mythology and its articulation in Ghost in the Shell­-cyborg technology can be used to enhance spirituality, thus introducing a new method for understanding the traditional science v religion debate.

Author Biography

Danielle Shalet, University of Kent

Danielle Shalet, SECL Assistant Lecturer in Religious Studies (with a focus on religion and popular culture, and science and religion), University of Kent, UK.


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How to Cite

Shalet, D. (2019). Through the Looking Glass: Ghost in the Shell, Transhumanism, and Transcendence through the Virtual. Implicit Religion, 21(4), 413–432.