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Helen McCarthy on Major Kusanagi – fashion icon

Ever since her debut, the heroine of Masamune Shirow’s manga-turned-global-franchise Ghost In The Shell has been a high-end product. She’s a cyborg combat specialist modified to look like a cross between a top fashion model and a porn star, in a world where most of the women we see are as objectified as in our own reality. Kusanagi won a legion of fans for her dark and complex inner self, but her ability to take out a whole crew of security guys while falling naked off the top of a skyscraper didn’t hurt.

The franchise has played verbally and visually with her appearance ever since her manga debut in 1989. She’s appeared on hundreds of t-shirts and accessories, many unlicensed: the Abbyshot line is one of many promoting a self-created product with references to Kusanagi’s exploits. But licensing and fashion has become an important part of the promotion plan for all new GITS product.

In 2011, the cinema debut of GITS Stand Alone Complex Solid State Society 3D was promoted with a Premium Shop in Shibuya’s upscale PARCO Part 1 store. The store’s tie-in fashion brand, plot, stuck to t-shirts and hoodies except for a rather nifty replica of the trenchcoat Kusanagi wears in the film. Created “in collaboration with” the movie’s director Kenji Kamiyama, who also licensed his own line of jewellery for DR. MONROE, the clothes came in male and female sizes. Fans of both sexes would like to be the Major at least as much as they’d like to be with her. In November 2013, they could even have their body parts painted to resemble cyborgs in Shinjuku Station on production of a cinema ticket for GITS: Arise – border 2: Ghost Whispers.

In December 2013 Kusanagi linked up with singer-songwriter, record producer and self-certified nerd Pharell Williams for his Ice Cream clothing line. Production I.G. provided the artwork. The irony of a mass-produced shirt with the slogan “Nonconformist should act like a nonconformist until the end” turning the iconic Tachikoma tank from GITS: Stand Alone Complex into an Ice Cream sundae design is a bonus. That month also saw director Kamiyama supervise and endorse a line of streetwear from fashion DISCOVERED: shirts, shorts, tees, parkas, all modelled by men.

This year there are Kinetics x Columbia Pliny Peak cold weather jackets where the branding is almost invisible – a discreet GITS: SAC label inside the Technicolor shell. Kamiyama also links up with designer Jun Hashimoto, who designed the M65 jackets for his Eden of the East, to produce more M65 jackets and stoles emblazoned with GITS: SAC imagery. The artwork shows the Major wearing the gear, but the model for the fashion shoot is a high school boy in geek glasses.

You may not be a cyborg Amazon, guys, but at least you can dress like one.

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