Let’s talk about Ghost in the Shell. I’ve been watching it most of my life, I think. Remember when The Sci-Fi Channel (not Syfy) did anime marathons on Saturdays? I was there every day. I saw some weird stuff, some of which I’ve still never seen again. And I saw the original Ghost in the Shell. Honestly, as with a lot of film-length anime from that time, it’s pretty disjointed. Akira-syndrome, I guess we’d call it, where there was just too much stuff, and not enough time. Well, when I was in college Stand Alone Complex redefined GitS for me, and I finally got around to Arise this year.
I should say I got around to the first episode. I’m working on it! Anyway, our client for the evening is Motoko Kusanagi, of course. Let’s look at the cards:
(These cards are by a Godfrey Dowson, and they’re called The Hermetic Tarot. They’re meant to follow in the tradition of the Golden Dawn’s tarot lessons. These cards have names, similar to Crowley’s Thoth deck.)
XV The Devil “Lord of the Gates of Matter”
The Devil traditionally depicts a Pan-like figure with two prisoners. The traditional imagery shows the prisoners as barely confined. They could escape if they wanted to. This card contains a little of that — the Devil here is not a gatekeeper, he’s not guarding his prisoners. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like they could escape. None of us can escape “matter,” it’s what we’re made of. Kusanagi seems like she’s come close, right? She exists as a record of herself, extending endlessly forward. But the first episode of Arise teaches us that’s not true. She’s as confined to her matter as anyone else.
10 of Pentacles “Lord of Wealth”
While she’s not rich in the first episode, Kusanagi goes through the journey that eventually leads to her incredible “wealth” later on. In the original GitS: SAC we see Kusanagi in expensive high rise apartments, wanting for nothing. She’s always struggled to fill the void left by her peculiar life by living an expensive lifestyle. This card shows an abundance of things. The only drawback is that it’s done — there’s no growth shown here, only a wealth of the present.
4 of Wands “Lord of Perfected Work”
In the center of the cards we see Kusanagi coming to the job she needs. She’s perfect for it, and it’s perfect for her. She can finally be what she needs to be in Section 9. Arise shows us her journey toward that, and so this makes the “Perfected Work” her goal. Hence its position in the center.
10 of Wands “Lord of Oppression”
Wands, as always, indicate the Will, the creative impulse. As we saw a few days ago, when ethereal values (such as air or fire / swords or wands) meet the realm of the Tens, it’s a crash landing. Tens are the world, the earth, and fire goes out without somewhere to climb to. Kusanagi is “oppressed” because her Will is a mystery, it’s blocked from her by the circumstances of her material life. That doesn’t mean her riches keep her from fulfillment — her obsession with her own state of being keeps her from getting anywhere. She’s in the perfect line of work, but her Will is still bound up in understanding the state she’s in. Batou always tells her to just not worry about it. This card says that, too.
King of Wands “Prince of the Chariot of Fire”
The “face” cards are always a combination of two elements. Wands are fire, so that’s one down. The other, in this case, is air, usually represented by Swords. So the King of Wands is all about swiftness, motion, the Will running through the world. It can’t plant itself, it can’t grow anything, but it can strike like lightning (fire in the air, right?). Kusanagi needs to relent, she needs to accept herself and focus on the things she can control. Interestingly, her greatest abilities are in hacking, the literal transmission of points of electricity across distances with astonishing speed. She has a fire in her, literal (electrical) and figurative, and until she recognizes that, she’ll be stuck in the mud with the rest of us. That seems to be what Arise is showing us — her transformation into the being she could always be.