Togusa: A Regular Guy in A Cyber World

Having just finished the second season of Stand Alone Complex as well as the Solid State Society movie, I’ve been thinking about and discussing the dynamics of the Section 9 team at length. When you start considering it, Togusa comes off as quite an anomaly as he actively resists the over-cyberization of the current world of Ghost in the Shell. A series that looks at the relationship between technology and humanity and how close those lines have blurred has Togusa to lead us back.

In the modern age anyone who does not regularly carry around at least one piece of electronics on their person at all times  is quite the oddity. In the Ghost in the Shell universe this has been taken one step beyond with cybernetic technology making it so the average citizen has electronics integrated into their body. In this world it is not uncommon for people to replace parts of their bodies with cybernetics not only for medical necessity but also for augmenting their natural ability. The members of the secret counter terrorism group Section 9 are some of the most heavily modified people around with even the hacker Ishikawa having replaced pieces of himself with machinery. This makes Togusa so unusual as he is the one member of the organization that is considered a “natural” with only the minor about of cyberization you would see of a normal person off the street. So why is this completely mundane police officer part of an elite cyborg unit? What does he bring to the story of Ghost in the Shell?  I can’t see Section 9 having to be an equal opportunity employer.

Togusa is a softie, at least in contrast to his comrades. But that doesn’t prevent him from being a competent cop, in fact it is probably what allows him to get so good and be relatable. He is the guy that people have a tendency to trust because he it is in his nature to help and protect. And he keeps technology at arm’s length whenever possible. He is just plain a good guy. However, that is also what make him a liability between being injured or hacked in a world full of cyber implants. And excluding the relationships between characters in Section 9, Togusa is the only one with anything to lose in the real world.

At the heart of the matter Togusa’s role is to be the everyman. Unlike everyone else he is not a hardened solider or plucked from the underbelly of organized crime. He is a classically trained  police officer skilled in the art of investigation. All the other field agents know how to do missions but Togusa knows the life of a flat foot and is has the strongest background in normal cases and evidence gathering. He is also a good public front for the organization. He has a presentable background, a family, and most of all an actual legitimate identity. Most of the members of Section 9 are people who exist outside the system. Any ID they have is forged and any detailed background check will either turn up an extremely shady to outright scary history. Having one man who is clean and presentable is sometimes a useful asset.

In a lot of ways, Togusa’s role is more of a necessity of the plot and themes than actually integrated seamlessly into the world of Section 9. We know the skills of the group, and Togusa is certainly capable, but it is clear that everyone has his skills in spades. Even though he is being groomed by Aramaki to take over as the head in Solid State Society, we hear that Aramaki originally offered it to Batou. Of course, that is unimaginable to both Battou and the viewer. But Togusa has the uncanny ability to disarm people, and not in the literal sense.

So what does he do that someone else in Section 9 can’t? The generally referenced reason he was brought on board was he was he had an impeccably clean track record as a uncorruptable police officer and someone who has a fresh perspective as compared to the rest of Section 9. He is clearly not adding much to the combat capability of the team. Batou and the Major could run circles around him in their sleep. Also most of the team members have shown a good amount of undercover detective work despite not having formal training. We see Batou and the Major do high and low-level detective work many times throughout the series. Neither of them seems anything less than professional in their results. Also despite being zeroed none of the members of Section 9 have any problems traveling, working with other government and police organizations, or doing anything casually outside of work. It would seem like if anything they are freer than Togusa to do what they want. He is also a great big old bulls eye for anyone gunning for them. Since he has a normal life he also has something to lose. It almost seems he is more a liability than an asset.

It would be a mistake to say that the other members of Section 9 aren’t human, they all have amazing moments. However, Togusa’s interactions with them allow him to see their humanity and remind himself in a lot of ways that cyberization doesn’t have to rob you of it. But Togusa also reminds us of our own humanity. He shows the options in world so far and yet so close to our own that we might ponder who we would be in that future.

I think despite all the analysis we just did Tougasa’s actual role is very critical. The problem is that it is more thematic than practical. If you sit down and think about it there is a certain amount of fridge logic to his placement on the team. But what he does provide is a human contrast to seemingly unstoppable members of the team. When he accomplishes something it is a greater accomplishment precisely because of who he is. He is also a good contrast to the other members of the team who have given up certain degrees of their humanity. With Tougasa as a baseline it is easier to see how different the other members of the team have become. And he is someone the audience can empathize with. The Major is practically a super hero with mostly the flaws and concerns a superhero would deal with. Tougasa has the same worries and obligations a work a day stiff like most of us can understand. He is trying to make the world a better place by protecting people but he is still just a man like you or me. That alone makes him an invaluable addition to the cast.


5 thoughts on “Togusa: A Regular Guy in A Cyber World

  1. wintermuted says:

    So glad this discussion came up as I have had peers ask me regarding Togusa’s role in Section 9, as well as within the Kidotai universe, and all the best seem to be covered here. I love that he is given more to do than the average audience surrogate, which he is initially. To be able to place him, and his family life amidst the events of the TV series, we are given something of a wholly human face to what it at times a series rife with mechanized shades of grey. He also becomes something of a reflection of the many others that get no coverage in the series, the many without the augmentation, or clearance to know anything happening behind the scenes; the everyperson in this particular world. It helps ground the show in ways that would have floated off otherwise.

    • reversethieves says:

      Excellently put. We need someone who is not a super hero to fully realize how amazing someone like the major is. Thankfully Togusa can hold his own and does not feel like a milquetoast “normal guy” as well. Togusa pulls his own weight while making major contributions throughout the show. Can Borma make the same claim? ;)

      – Hisui

  2. Maur says:

    Hmmm, that’s interesting. Honestly I never even gave Togusa much thought while I was watching this show. It was really all about the Major and Batou, everyone else were just supporting cast. Beyond that I was just trying to keep up with the show and what tangled plot or message it was stringing along. I like the idea of a (mostly) human, and incorruptible, replacement to keep the organization honest but not sure how much this was developed in the show (been a while since I’ve watched it). I think I personally enjoyed the show more for the ideas present in it than the characters themselves.

    • reversethieves says:

      I think Togusa was a solid third lead after the Major and Batou. He certainly gets more screen time then the rest of the minor member of section 9.

      I myself like the fact that SAC is a good mixture of characters and concepts. If you go too far down the concept rabbit hole you become Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (aka sleepy time for Narutaki) and that is no good in my opinion. Some wonderful ideas are explored in a meaty fashion without overlooking the human drama as well.

      – Hisui

      • Maur says:

        Yeah, I don’t disagree with you, which is why I found this interesting, just stating that unlike some (most?) people I have a penchant for the ponderous. I liked Innocence and Matrix 2 and Waking Life but I find most people find them to be too talky and/or pretentious. I think SACs success is as you say, a good balance of things, although I get the impression that a lot of people still find SAC a little sleep inducing. Yes?

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