Japanese fans are reacting to the live-action adaptation of the country's iconic manga/anime franchise Ghost in the Shell in a much more positive way than the film is being received by fans in the U.S. The Rupert Sanders-helmed production starring Scarlett Johansson has been plagued in the West by a whitewashing controversy and underwhelming reviews, culminating in a weak $18.6 million in its box office debut last weekend.
And despite an additional $40 million take in foreign territories in its opening weekend, some pundits are estimating that the film could lose up to $60 million when it ends its theatrical run. At least one industry publication is reporting that the film may have cost $180 million to produce – a far cry from the reported budget of $110 million. In the midst of all the grim news Ghost in the Shell appears to be getting some praise in the least likely of places.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film has thus far scored favorable attention on Yahoo! Japan Movies, with 3.5 star rating. Broken down, Japanese fans have given the film 3 stars for its story and 4 for its visuals. The trade publication got a pair of fans' thoughts after seeing the film, and while both said the story seem short on substance, neither seemed affected by Johansson casting as Major. One of the fans, Tomoki Hirano, says:
"She was very cool. I loved her in The Avengers and I wanted to see this because she was in it. If they had done a Japanese live-action version they would have probably cast some silly idol [girl-band member]."
Another fan, named Yuki, admitted to not reading the manga, but still says Johansson was "probably the best choice" for the role:
"I heard people in the U.S. wanted an Asian actress to play her. Would that be OK if she was Asian or Asian-American? Honestly, that would be worse: someone from another Asian country pretending to be Japanese. Better just to make the character white."
This response perhaps shouldn't be the most surprising. THR reported last November that the trailer for the film exceeded Japanese fans' expectations, and so far that goodwill has apparently carried over to its theatrical release.
However, in interviews THR conducted with four Japanese actresses earlier this week, Ghost in the Shell was universally dismissed for many reasons, including the misrepresentation of the Japanese culture and most prominently, Johansson's casting. One of the actresses, Atsuko Okatsuka, said "It's not even about seeing me on the screen as a performer. It's a bigger concern. It's 2017 and I don't know why these representation issues are still happening. It's overwhelming. This means so much to our community but is so on the side, still, for a lot of people."
Of course, the success of Ghost in the Shell in Japan will ultimately be determined by its final box office take. And, at this point, Paramount, which admitted this week that the whitewashing controversy affected the box office in the U.S., needs to take all the positive news it can get.
- Ghost in the Shell (2017) release date: Mar 31, 2017