Ghost in the Shell manga publisher reacts to the Scarlett Johansson casting controversy

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Apr 20, 2016, 4:07 PM EDT

When it was announced Scarlett Johansson had nabbed the role of cyborg operative Major Motoko Kusanagi in Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks' live-action adaptation of the iconic Japanese anime and manga series Ghost in the Shell, many fans were upset that a non-Japanese actress had been cast, and accusations of whitewashing of Asian characters took the Internet by storm.

This was further exacerbated when, of all the main characters, only one Japanese actor -- Beat Takeshi Kitano -- was cast. Some people were so upset, they even started a petition.

But what do Japanese people actually think of Scarlett Johansson playing Section 9 leader Motoko Kusanagi? Actually, most of them were taken by surprise by the whole controversy thing because they never expected the role to go to a Japanese actress in the first place.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sam Yoshiba, director of the international business division at Kodnasha (the company that publishes the manga in Japan), opened up about Johansson’s casting:

“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well cast. She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place. This is a chance for a Japanese property to be seen around the world.”

Yoshiba, who's recently returned from a visit to the cyberpunk movie’s New Zealand set, also revealed that he was “impressed by the respect being shown for the source material.” 

Based on the anime and manga series created by Masamune Shirow in 1989, the upcoming Ghost in the Shell movie will be helmed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman) with a screenplay by Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton). Here’s the official synopsis:

Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.

The movie also stars Pilou Asbæk (Game of Thrones) as Motoko Kusanagi’s right-hand man, Batou, Beat Takeshi Kitano (Zatoichi) as Lt. Col. Daisuke Aramaki and Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) as the movie’s villain, The Laughing Man.

(via THR)