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Prof. Livia Monnet: Anatomy of Permutational Desire: Perversion, Modernity, and the Animated Image in Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence


Prof. Livia Monnet
Université de Montréal, Canada


"Anatomy of Permutational Desire: Perversion, Modernity,
and the Animated Image in Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence"


19. Mai 2009


Oshii Mamoru’s beautiful post-cyberpunk anime, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Inosensu, 2004) traces Public Security Section 9 agents, Batou and Togusa’s investigation of a series of murders committed by the Hadaly 2052 gynoids — sophisticated robot dolls produced by the Locus Solus company. The two detectives eventually uncover the motive for these serial killings, and for the dolls’ subsequent self-destruction: a Locus Solus commission inspector named Volkerson had modified the gynoids’ inbuilt ethics code (i.e. the Three Laws of Robotics forbidding all robots to harm humans, to disobey the latter’s commands, and to do violence to themselves), thus provoking their murderous behavior. The instigator of Volkerson’s intervention was a young girl who, along with scores of other girls had been brainwashed by a local yakuza gang and handed over to Locus Solus for the purpose of “ghost dubbing” – the copying of a human being’s mind or consciousness, and its transfer onto the gynoids’ hard disk drive. By means of the gynoids’ serial murders, the surviving captive girl hoped to attract attention to Locus Solus’ crime, and to the fate awaiting her and her companions: a miserable demise as a result of brain death.

This presentation argues that Inosensu is structured by three interrelated discourses: a theory of perversion; a theory of the human(oid) machine; and finally a theory of animation and the animated image. Conceived as both visual and conceptual practices, these interchangeable discourses constitute the movie’s database narrative, which is itself a translation of the anagrammar (or theory and aesthetic) of perversion in the work of German-French surrealist artist Hans Bellmer (1902-1975).

Since Inosensu posits perversion as the techno-ontological dynamics, conceptual apparatus, materiality, and process of creation of the animated image, it redefines animation (or anime’s practice of full limited animation) as a perverse metalanguage or metamedium.

Inosensu’s conception of perversion is considerably more sweeping and radical, as well as less psychoanalytically oriented than Bellmer’s, or than that of other theorists such as Sartre, Lacan, Guy Rosolato, Joan Copjec, and Deleuze. I will show that the movie’s permutational database (or datanagrammar) of perversion manifests itself mainly as three paradigms : hysterical feminine perversion; the meta-perversion, or in-between “perverse” posture of the Deleuzian political thinker; and the perverse structure of modernity. The latter paradigm (which may be regarded as the framing paradigm of the whole movie) expresses itself in its turn as the disappearance, or non-existence of the modern subject; as the (ab)use of the (doll-)woman as the foundation, body or substance, and symptom of modernity, and as her concomitant exclusion from the latter’s progress and benefits; and as the persistence of perversion as primary structure of animation (and by extension, of all modern moving-image media).

Other characteristics of Inosensu’s meta-discourse on perversion are as striking as the latter’s insistence on the perverse structure of modernity: the weighty, plural role assigned to the Hadaly 2052 gynoids; the highlighting of the tragi-comic aspect of perversion; the latter’s critical, “redemptive” potential. Thus, while the gynoid doll is posited simultaneously as Deleuzian conceptual persona (or “powers of concepts”) and aesthetic figure (or “powers of affects and percepts”); as guardian angel and femme fatale; as time-image soulful-body that is produced by the inability of the anime character to coordinate movement across images as a result of flat compositing, or the flattening of layers in the superplanar image (according to Thomas Lamarre’s theory of the anime machine), it also points to the tragic dimension of all artificial and technologically enhanced humans in Inosensu. The movie thus implies that these characters are tragic because they cannot own their own body, mind, language, or image; and because they are compelled to act as desubjectivated others (or, in Deleuze’s terms, as bodies-victims, accomplices-others, or accomplices-elements) in an alien world that is dreamed up by the Other’s perversion. At the same time, Inosensu’s conceptualization of the Hadaly 2052 gynoids (as well as of the other characters that are posited as the gynoids’ doubles) suggests that the movie’s database of the perverse, or abstract machine of perversion may also be read as a parody of the fascination with perversion in twentieth-century avant-garde art, psychoanalysis, and philosophy, as well as in anime and manga cultures; and that this reflexive database imagination (in Lamarre’s terms, the distributive field produced by the animetic machine) paradoxically allows for perverse emancipatory readings of the potential of the Artificial Woman by means of the movie’s most conservative, masculinist fantasies.

(With film clips)


Zur Person:

Livia Monnet unterrichtet japanische und vergleichende Literatur, sowie Film und Medienstudien an der Université de Montréal in Kanada. Sie hat ebenfalls an der University of Minnesota und an der Universität Heidelberg unterrichtet. Ihre zahlreiche Publikationen beschäftigen sich mit Literatur, Film und Kunst des 20.und 21. Jahrhunderts in Japan, Europa, Latein Amerika, und in den Vereinigten Staaten, sowie mit Theorien und Philosophien der Moderne, des Films, und der digitalen Medien.