Scarlett Johansson to star in live action Ghost in the Shell film

The Avengers actress will play Motoko Kusanagi in a remake of the acclaimed Japanese anime

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One of the greatest animes ever has got a new star, with Scarlett Johansson signing on for a big-screen, live-action remake of Ghost in the Shell.

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The sci-fi series follows a specialist unit of the Japanese police force dedicated to technological crimes: hackers, viruses, robots, that kind of thing. Sony would have called them in after their recent troubles. Johansson will play Major Motoko Kusanagi (although it’s not known if she’ll keep the name), a cyborg who has been upgraded to the point that only her brain remains human.

Based on a 1989 manga (comic book) by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell was adapted into a successful animated movie in 1995. Along with the Akira, it is considered to have introduced anime and manga to a mainstream western audience, and was a direct influence on movies including The Matrix.

Combining action, a fully realised near-future world and endless discussions of philosophy and the nature of identity (expect these to be removed in the remake) it has remained popular since its first release, inspiring numerous spin-offs and sequels.

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The news will likely lead to accusations of Hollywood ‘whitewashing’ Asian roles – a similar charge was levelled at the woeful western Dragonball Z adaptation, and a failed attempt to remake Akira with Keanu Reeves – but it’s hard to argue with Johansson’s action credentials. Her recent sci-fi vehicle Lucy was a blockbuster, and she will next appear as kick-ass assassin Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron, due for release later this year.