Ignore the new version. The 1995 anime Ghost in the Shell is the real thing.

See this extended sequence of wonderful drawing and colour, included for no obvious reason other than to show wonderful drawing and colour:

The ‘star’ is Major Kusanagi of Section 9, a special police unit. Kusanagi is a cybernetic ‘full-body prosthesis’ cyborg (ie physically all machine but with a human consciousness – her ‘ghost’).

The twisty story has all sorts of philosophical points to make about where humans end and machines start, gender identities, and so on. Plus lots of explosions, and shooting. And Major Kusanagi leaps into battle wearing a thermo-optic camouflage outfit that makes it look as if she’s (is she a she?) wearing nothing at all. What’s not to like?

The film also has several interesting diplomacy issues.

Right at the start, Kusanagi is in action against a foreign diplomat who is secretly trying to woo a defector:

The police storm in. Here is the key dialogue taken from a handy transcript of the movie version I have:

Get your hands up!

I’m entitled to diplomatic immunity. I want to talk to the person in charge here.

Taking classified programmers out of the country compromises national security. We can also have you brought up on kidnapping charges. You have no choice. Let him go.

Not possible. Mr. Daita wants political asylum from us, and we have his signed affidavit.


I don’t have to explain. My country has the right, in accordance with international law, to offer anyone protection and safe passage. The affidavit is at the embassy. I’ll send you a copy in a couple of days.

Daita, you’ll be killed if you return.

I’m warning you to watch your comments. Our country is a peace-loving democracy …

Kusanagi smashes through the window and blasts the ‘diplomat’, whose innards reveal him to be a machine of some sort.

It appears from this that the so-called diplomat is asserting that ‘under international law’ his country has the right to grant Mr Daita political asylum and escort him safely away.

This is (on the face of it) not correct. It appears to be a misreading of the principle of ‘diplomatic asylum‘ – the idea that a citizen of country X can ask an Embassy of country Y in country X for asylum, and that that Embassy may then grant it and take that citizen out of country X against country X’s wishes.

Why would any country accept such a principle? It amounts to country X accepting that country Y decides what legal status a citizen of country X can have while s/he is still in country X! A slap in the face for country X’s sovereignty! Trivially objectionable and provocative.

This, by the way, explains why Julian Assange can not walk out of the Ecuador embassy and head to the airport to leave the UK, armed with an Ecuador asylum document that stops the UK police from arresting him.

But surely Ecuador can make Assange an Ecuador diplomat and then he walks free? No. We’ll simply not recognise his supposed diplomatic status and arrest him.

Or they can try to smuggle him out in a diplomatic bag? Nope. That fails too.

There are (of course) some exceptions. Some Latin American states have agreed among themselves that a right of diplomatic asylum exists for their citizens and their embassies. A handy way of allowing a leader to flee enraged citizens – quickly hop into a friendly Embassy then get escorted safely out of the country.

In short, even if the diplomat concerned in this movie were a person and not a machine (no doubt a new global treaty will be needed as and when robots/cyborgs can work as diplomats), he could not give Mr Daita any sort of substantive legal assurances that Daita could leave the country safely. His ‘affidavit’ is worthless.

Note too that the host state here (Japan) is within its rights to consider prosecuting the diplomat for kidnapping. But in this case the Embassy of the diplomat might be able to assert his diplomatic immunity, and no further action could be taken, by law at least.

Can the government that sent the diplomat-robot who gets blasted by Kusanagi claim against Japan? On the face of it, yes: disproportionate force was used when the situation was already under control. But if that country has not told Japan that the diplomat is a robot/cyborg of some sort, any claim is unlikely to get far.

* * * * *

It then turns out that Japan is having secret talks with the Gavel Republic:

So, what business brings the chief of Section 9 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

I need to ask you about the secret talks scheduled with the Gavel Republic tomorrow.

Procedure, of course. Well, the regime that took over Gavel after the revolution demands financial aid, supposedly for redevelopment. They boast democracy, but they’re no better than the last lot. Now they feel entitled to funds because of our past exploitation. No gratitude.

What’s the Ministry going to do?

Well, there’s a problem. The leader of the former junta that controlled their country is here seeking political asylum.

You mean Colonel Malles, correct?

Yes, and that means we either deny Gavel the funds and treat Malles as a political refugee, or help them, and kick him out. Personally, I’m inclined to deport him, forcibly, if necessary, but I’d have to come up with a politically acceptable reason for it.

By the way, I want to thank you for your help with that other political asylum situation. Nakamura from Section 6 wasn’t so grateful. But you realize that we in the diplomat business must avoid messy situations.

What’s going on here?

The Gavel Republic is demanding that Japan compensate Gavel for previous ‘exploitation’. But Japan is hosting the former Gavel junta leader who is wanted in Gavel, so they have a handy bargaining chip.

In this case the former leader Malles CAN seek political asylum. He is not in Gavel but in Japan.

What is not clear is why the options are posed in the way they are. It is open to Japan BOTH to give Malles political asylum AND not give Gavel any financial aid.

Thus negotiation theory. What is being traded here as between Japan and Gavel?

Even if Gavel has a weak hand, maybe its new leadership is threatening to cause Japan embarrassment of some sort, so the secret talks are all about how much Japan will pay Gavel (either in the form of Malles or cash or a combination of both) to avoid any problems.

* * * * *


An amazing battle-scene in which Kusanagi rips off her own arms to try to open a walking spider-tank. Watch out for the tank shooting its way up a wall featuring the Tree of Evolution. Probably something meaningful in that.

Major Kusanagi finally merges with the Puppet Master, in a metaphor obviously aimed at glorifying a deeper completely federal European Union that does away once and for all with the puny concerns of sovereign nations:

I want us to merge.

Huh? Merge?

A unification. A complete commingling and fusion of our separate beings to create a new and unique entity. We will both undergo change, but there is nothing for either of us to lose.

You’re talking about redefining my identity. I want a guarantee that I can still be myself.

There isn’t one. Why would you wish to? All things change in a dynamic environment. Your effort to remain what you are is what limits you. …

To humans, it is like staring at the sun, a blinding brightness that conceals a source of great power. We have been subordinate to our limitations until now.

The time has come to cast aside these bonds and to elevate our consciousness to a higher plane. It is time to become a part of all things …

Diplomacy. Shells and ghosts.