Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex takes place in a future where humanity and technology have begun to blend. So much, in fact, that it's become pretty common for people to have cybernetic enhancements. Now, cyber-terrorism has replaced bombs as the chosen weapon of villainous idealists. It explores a whole list of philosophic themes dealing with humanity and the definition of existence.
.hack//Sign mainly takes place in a popular massive online multiplayer role playing game, also known as, The World. The series follows Tsukasa as he tries to discover the reason why he is unable to log out of the game. What follows dives deep into the hidden secrets of The World and emphasizes the darker side of humanity such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Helba is a secondary character inside the .hack universe, but that doesn't stop her from being significantly powerful. Although her origins are steeped in mystery, Helba is widely known as a legendary hacker. Sure, her status as a hacker might put her in on the grey end of the morality spectrum, but she generally acts in the interest of the greater good.
Major Motoko Kusanagi is one of the most effective members of Public Security Section 9, an anti-terrorism unit. Along with being a kickass cyborg, she also possesses a hyper intelligence that helps her easily outthink her opponents and in the universe of Ghost in the Shell, that often means manipulating technology. Just like Helba, Motoko is an extremely talented hacker with only a select few in the world able to match her skills.
The big question remains, could Helba be the in-game avatar of Motoko Kusanagi? The obvious connection here, is that both characters are extremely competent hackers. No doubt the hacker connection is a fairly significant factor, but there are a few other details that make room for speculation.
It's no secret that Ghost in the Shell features some awesome technological advancements. But with all the weapons, tanks, and cyborgs running around it's easy to forget that those advancements cover software too. Why does that matter? Well let's take a closer look at .hack//Sign. The avatars within The World, like Tsukasa or Helba, are given quite a bit of freedom. In other words, they don't have preset animations or moves like you'd see in a modern day MMORPG. The players seem able to manipulate every part of their avatar all the way down to their fingers and eyes. If that weren't enough, players use visors and controllers to play the game. The visors have a similar build to ones used by the Major. Now keep that in mind. It'll be important later.
The Voice and Character
In the English dub for both Ghost in the Shell SAC and .hack//Sign, both characters in question are voiced by Mary Elizabeth Mcglynn. Some might see this as reaching a bit, but wait, there's more. Most of the time, Motoko Kusanagi is a serious no nonsense bad-ass. Almost emotionally drained like someone from a Shyamalan movie. Part of what makes her character so great is Motoko shows a touch of humanity ever now and then. Not even the typical tragedy or sadness part of humanity. Motoko often shows off her playful side and a flirty side. Helba acts similar to Motoko, but more relaxed and less serious than usual. But why would an anti-terrorist cyborg like Major Kusanagi spend time on an MMORPG?
Morganna Mode Gone
The driving conflict of .hack//Sign is the character Tsukasa's inability to log out. It's revealed that the cause is a program gone rogue named Morganna Mode Gone. Morganna has the power to steal the consciousness of players like Tsukasa and trap with permanently within The World. This is significant for a number of reasons
First, what happened to Tsukasa's player is a common problem faced by Section 9. His consciousness is trapped within the game and his memories are altered. In the world of Ghost in the Shell, people are used and hacked every day, from their eyes to entire identities.
Second, the reason why a computer program like Morganna is able to manipulate a flesh and blood human being is never really explored. Wouldn't that plot hole be vanish if Tsukasa's player was cybernetically modified like most of the people in Ghost in the Shell?
Third, from an outsider's perspective, The World has been linked to several serious medical incidents a part from Tsukasa's case. For example, during the series, the player for the character Silver Knight is hospitalized after encountering Tsukasa's guardian which was provided by Morganna. Seeing a mysterious program with this much malicious capability just hanging around in an online RPG would probably cause quite a buzz around the Section 9 water cooler. It would be like finding the Y2K bug vacationing inside World of Warcraft or something.
Fourth, Major Kusanagi has actually done things like this during the Ghost in the Shell series. In the ninth episode of Stand Alone Complex, she enters an internet chat room to check out the local discussion on an infamous criminal. Her avatar looked different, but retained her original voice. Time wouldn't be much of a factor either. At the end of the same episode it's revealed that Motoko had been driving a car the whole time she was interacting with the chat room.
Finally, the avatars in the chat room shared the same programming used in The World. Just like the characters in .hack//sign, the chat room avatars could move freely and could interact with the environment around them. If such intricate technology exists for an online game, it could makes sense for the same programming to exist for an online chat room.
So could Helba and Motoko Kusanagi be the same person? The vague setting of the real world throughout the .hack/Sign series, allows the possibility to exist in the future of Ghost in the Shell. Morganna's rebellion could be a result of corporate espionage or full blown cyber terrorism. In the end, there's certainly a lot of room for interpretation, but doesn't it make the world a little more fun to think that behind the scenes of .hack//Sign, Motoko Kusanagi is conducting an in depth investigation as the legendary hacker Helba?