One could run an entire website about GameFan’s idiosyncrasies, but it gave me an excellent introduction to anime. The magazine’s Anime Fan section was initially written by one Casey “Takuhi” Loe, who was both articulate and reasonably critical about things. Most anime reviewers of the day were either burned-out husks from the previous decade or apologists who loved anything up to and including Violence Jack, but Casey knew enough to describe anime thoughtfully while upbraiding the terrible releases (which came fairly often) and recognizing the guilty pleasures.
It was through Anime Fan that I first learned of Ghost in the Shell. In the March 1996 issue of GameFan, Casey ran the above image alongside a list of the U.S. theaters carrying the movie. That’s where the mystery arises. I’ve seen Ghost in the Shell many times over the years, and this shot of heroine Motoko Kusanagi, naked and underwater, appears nowhere in the film itself. Motoko is shown submerged in two scenes: one in which her bare android frame is assembled, and another in which she’s wearing a full diving outfit. Neither has her regarding a glowing, unseen object in her clutches.
The easiest explanation would classify this shot as promotional artwork cooked up by Production I.G before the film’s completion. Still, the imagery is strange for a simple promo shot; the overlapping bubbles and unclear background make it rather messy, and Motoko’s proportions look like something captured from a quickly glimpsed frame of animation. What’s more, every other piece of Ghost in the Shell promo art was either a direct grab from the film or some obvious illustration.
I doubt the image comes from a deleted scene. Animation is more expensive to finish than basic live-action footage, and studios usually don’t color and complete animated scenes that aren’t guaranteed to make it into the final product (the exceptions being rare and high-budget cases like Disney’s The Black Cauldron or Don Bluth’s The Land Before Time). Even if it were from an earlier cut of the film, a yanked clip would likely be included as an extra on the DVD or re-inserted in the new 2.0 version of Ghost in the Shell.
In conclusion, I have no real answer, and I have only Casey Loe’s old Anime Fan column to thank. Years distant, it’s still making me care too much about Japanese cartoons.