Thursday January 27, 2005

Technorati Laughing Man

I noticed the other day that Technorati, the indespensible site for finding out who's talking about you behind your back on the web, has a new icon that's strangely familiar.  There's a feature on Technorati that allows owners of blogs to create accounts and add personal information about themselves, including a picture.  If you don't upload one, there's a default picture that looks like this:

Recognize it?

It's a slightly modified version of the symbol of The Laughing Man, a character in the Japanese animated TV show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.  Here's a larger version (found on this site):

The Laughing Man is a mysterious figure, possibly a terrorist, possibly a super-hacker, possibly an artificial intelligence living in the 'net (I haven't seen the whole series, so I couldn't spoil the mystery even if I wanted to).  He has been involved in several high-profile attacks in front of television cameras, during which he hacks into the brains of other people and uses them as proxies.  Whenever he does so, the face of the proxy is obscured in any TV signals or photographs by a cute cartoon logo, presumably because he's somehow hacked into the cameras.  In fact, since most people in the show's future have some amount of implanted brain-enhancing computer hardware, even people who are physically present at The Laughing Man's attacks see the logo instead of his face, except for a few completely unmodified (usually homeless) people.  You can see what I mean in this picture of an anime fan wearing a Laughing Man costume.  (You may have noticed that the Technorati version is slightly simplified.  The show's version of the logo also includes a rotating ring of text, a quotation from J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye: "I thought what'd I'd do was I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes.")

In the show this logo is used to replace the faces of people to make them anonymous.  Technorati, therefore, has appropriated this icon for a very similar purpose: to stand in for the faces of people who wish to remain anonymous (by not uploading pictures).  Clever!  We're all the Laughing Man now, by default.

[Capsule review of the show: it's got a good science fiction feel, explores interesting ideas, and has cool action and hardware, but it's sometimes slow, talky, and needlessly obscure, and the seriousness of the subject and tone are totally undermined by that bizarre thong costume that Kusanagi wears.  Nice uniform, soldier.]

[Now playing: "Inner Universe" by Yoko Kanno and Origa]

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Oh, thanks for the information. It does sound like a pretty clever move. My only reaction to the new face was "...huh. Looks kinda silly."

The Salinger quote in the context of a Japanese TV show puzzles me qute a bit, though...

Posted by: Andrea at Jan 27, 2005 3:51:12 PM

My initial reaction was: "Oh my gosh, it's a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle!".

Despite being a fan of Adult Swim, I couldn't get into Stand Alone Complex, so I never would've come up with your answer. But that is pretty funny.

Posted by: Semantic Compositions at Jan 27, 2005 8:21:18 PM


Perhaps this link will shed some light on why The Laughing Man in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex uses the J. D. Salinger quote in his logo. Apparently, he's got a real interest in the more obscure corners of Salinger's work.

Posted by: Illustrious niteshad at Feb 3, 2005 10:55:17 PM

The laughing man from what I can gather can do his hacking without problem. The latest epesiode, the laughing man shows himself to one of section 9 dudes. Without making any movement, no wires or anything like that, he hacked section 9 eyes making him completly invisable to him

Posted by: ein1017 at Apr 5, 2005 12:32:41 PM

I went to thelink that Semantic Compositions posted, and it was in a different language and mede no sense at all.

Posted by: ... at Apr 14, 2005 6:41:06 PM

You mean this link posted by Illustrious niteshad? Well, (a) it's a .hu site, so it's a good bet it's in Hungarian, and (b) it makes perfect sense to me, even though I don't know Hungarian, because it's a 404 page. Ah, error messages—the universal language.

Posted by: The Tensor at Apr 14, 2005 6:52:24 PM

uh... yeah, sorry about that.

Posted by: ... at Apr 17, 2005 12:31:25 AM

Just to let everyone know...
The Laughing Man by Salinger can be found at the following url:

And the series is amazing. By far the best anime I've ever seen thoough I'm looking forward to seeing Appleseed soon. GitS:SAC both 1st and 2nd GIG replaced Witch Hunter Robin as my favorite anime series.

If you have any questions or comments please go ahead and post them here. I will check this "thread" again soon.

Posted by: Lithium Flower at Apr 25, 2005 6:55:22 AM

u should put a picture of the true laughing man cause i no who it is it was kinda obvious from the episode when togusa went to the deaf mute institute and meet the hot kid owie or chief wat ever his name is but we all no it was him so u should put pictures of him on the website not nasty mogusa or wat ever that girls name is

Posted by: erika at May 8, 2005 11:40:30 AM

i think owie the laughing man is hot and i love that show all my friends at high school love stand alone complex good show *claps* for the instuctor of it it was a real good anime like inuyasha hot guys action wat could be better and a stupid girl who gets in the way and takes my hot guy *gr* oh well but i love that logo to the one with the guy laughing ya but show more owie AKA laughing man AKA chief the deaf mute AKA true laughing man hot genuis teen ager ciedborge

Posted by: laughingmansgirlfriend at May 8, 2005 11:45:57 AM

It's amazing how names get completely screwed when translating anime from Japanese to English. The Laughing Man's name is Aoi, and he is called leader, not chief.

Posted by: Oz at May 26, 2005 8:46:38 AM

Doesnt one of the kids refer to him as 'Cheif' when he comes in near the end and states that he has to 'leave'?

Just a thought?

On the other hand, i love this series, and the film. Im a keen English student and im very interested in the quotes from the books.

Posted by: Chris at Jun 2, 2005 6:56:17 AM

Finaly! I have been looking all over for someone who has seen Aoi as the Laughing Man! I had made my mother watch the last GITS1st season showing and she admited Aoi was 'adorable' . I have made a website for the boy but it is under hitaus at the moment if you would like when it is finished soon i can get your e-mail and give it as a link perhaps the hole 'sister site thing' ? From what i seem are you japanese? I live in the U.S and can give you quotes from Cather In The Rye as I have read it in my English class. If you would like any of this or to just talk please e-mail me back
Have a nice day! Emily

Posted by: Emily at Jun 28, 2005 8:34:28 PM

Aoi is adorable. I wish I could find more pictures of him online since I can't make screen shots on my computer. If anyone has pictures oh him please share! ^_^

~Rin (

Posted by: Rin at Oct 23, 2005 5:26:32 AM

Hi, i chanced upon this blog looking for information on the Laughing Man from the Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex series.

I've just finished reading "The Laughing Man" by Salinger (quite a moving story) and looked up some information on him.

He had a short story titled "A Perfect Day for Bananafish". It got me thinking.

"Go Fish Pictures" is the name of the guys behind Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence

Even more bizarely, in one of the GitS:SAC episodes (Ep. 12: Escape From) there is a poster in it at one point with "Go Sea Bannafish" written on it

SO i'm guessing the guys behind GitS use Salinger alot in their films/series?

I know this blog is probably dead now, but any views would be good

Posted by: Nick at Nov 16, 2005 2:23:21 AM

Hey, just wanted to say thanks to Semantic for posting the link to The Laughing Man by JD Salinger. I am literarily-challenged and thought the quote LM has on his logo was the only JD Salinger ref in the series.

Also thanks to Tenser for posting this at all as I'd have never known about the Salinger piece without it.

Sorry it's over a year after you posted that I finally notice it!

Posted by: ThePete at Feb 9, 2006 1:29:26 PM

I'm aware this is getting a little old, but there is another relation to the Laughing Man that I ought to mention. The GitS comic creator, known by the pseudonym Shirow Masamune, has also been said to be a reclusive type - rarely if ever giving time to the media, or making prominent public appearances. JD Salinger was known for the same behavior. In fact, he worked very hard at keeping quiet and made a point of refusing his fame, even by legal powers. (A book was released by his daughter Margaret, details on the book here.

Also, Shirow Masamune's GitS series has an underlying plotline describing how, as technology advances, we forfeit our humanity in favor of efficiency. The theme of innocence lost runs strong between "A Catcher in the Rye" and "Ghost in the Shell". Seems pretty clear that Mr. Masamune is very fond of Salinger's literary example.

Posted by: arc_legion at Mar 11, 2006 3:26:12 PM

I just finished reading the catcher in the rye it very ironic how he cant stand phonies but he him self is one

Posted by: Jerome at May 6, 2006 7:03:12 AM

Holden Caulfield wasn't a phoney, the Catcher in the Rye is about loss of innocence, keep that in mind. I think Aoi must feel alot like Holden at times judging by his logo and actions....

Posted by: Rin at Jul 10, 2006 11:51:31 PM

Motoko's outfit I agree is a bit well....ya, but at the same time, I read and agreed that perhaps it is her personal way of reminding herself that she is female and has a few issues relating to her existance as a cyborg. She shows her own sign of symbology of it when she on one episode, clenches and opens her fist to see how 'real' she really is. I might be a bit off, but this is how I think about it. Aoi himself I would say isn't completely innocent due to his crimes, although I guess you can say, justice and such do not always come so have to break rules. He is just a misunderstood person trying to fix something.

(I have a good picture or two of Aoi, however I refuse to give it to obbesive girls who lustily drool over anime men:get a life...seriously)

Posted by: Aoikita at Aug 20, 2006 2:04:09 PM

Here's a quartz composer version, which on a mac can be installed as a screensaver in ~/Library/ScreenSavers or something like that

Just made this yesterday, after looking around for one and not finding it. I found someone's awesome SVG version of the logo and chopped it up. Since so many different sites have people asking / mentioning the logo, I figured I'd give back to them, since their interest and effort helped me find links to various versions of the logo on the net


Posted by: Gammah at Sep 28, 2006 9:09:47 AM

Myspace Layouts

come see us we love Laughing Man

Posted by: inktrebuchet at Oct 28, 2007 10:37:29 AM