A fear that is common amongst humanity is the thought of losing said humanity; to feel your soul disappear and your body taken over by an empty organism with no emotion and one directive – to kill and survive. What’s more, it’s not even like you went down in a blaze of glory in a zombie attack; a virus gets you while you sleep. Or more accurately, a parasite. That’s what the famous manga series Parasyte presents before us, now having been given an anime after twenty years. This classic manga will hopefully become a classic anime.
The above image sums up the dynamic that the main characters, Shinichi and Migi, share. Shinichi is the host and Migi is the parasite. Migi’s name means right in Japanese; an allusion to the fact that Migi has infected Shinichi’s right hand. This symbiosis was not meant to happen though as the virus known now as Migi was, like the rest of his kind, meant to control the brain of their host; not just their limbs. It was down to some quick thinking on Shinichi’s part that managed to save his consciousness, at the cost of his right hand. Alone time will never be the same. Together they keep each other alive through a mutual understanding (Migi, as a virus or more commonly known as a Parasyte, doesn’t understand emotions) that being alive is a lot better than being dead. Migi quickly learns about human history and culture and the pair begin to deal with the task of destroying other Parasytes. The reasoning shifts from ensuring the survival of humanity and self-preservation; it depends on the situation. Either way, the show sets itself up as a rather unorthodox buddy series.
Let’s make one thing clear here. This show is pretty gruesome; no, REALLY gruesome. Soulless devouring of human flesh and gory transformations are left untouched by the censors [You hear that, Terraformars?] and offered up in glorious high definition. It all adds to the shock factor that Parasyte provides to the viewer. If you are squeamish then this show is not for you; there are no black bars to hide behind here. I think what draws me to this show is its emotive power. There are moments in the show where the usually emotionless Parasites begin to explore the realms of human feelings and their powerful influence. It all contributes to the incredibly strong character roster. All the characters here are fleshed out really well and they feel like real people; even the infected hosts! You comprehend the scenarios at play entirely and have little confusion left over, allowing you to watch the anime with little distraction.
Migi’s development is most interesting. At first you think he is going to find some kind of way to kill Shinichi, but eventually he realises through logic that the best way to survive is to work together and feed off his blood and nutrients. Along the way, the virus learns about humanity and soon begins to speak fluent Japanese and communicate effectively. At first both he and Shinichi are pure virus and pure human respectively; however, as time goes by, the pair slowly become ‘impure’ as Ryoko [one of the main villains of the story] describes them. They are of no use to her, but perhaps she should fear such a team. Shinichi shows flickers of callousness and Migi is more susceptible to reasoning and quickly understands how human emotions work; that doesn’t mean he has gained emotions, only that he knows what they are. All this character analysis and layering complement the raw action in that the viewer is more emotionally invested and therefore amplifies the ultimate reaction. Speaking of the violence…
The violence is more than just blood spattering about. We are talking about heads being split open like mouths, throats slit in an instant, multiple stabbings and all sorts of gory and supernatural bloodbaths. None of this is left to our imagination. Hitoshi Iwaaki’s original work is presented to us, warts and all. It’s unsettling to see a human being, or what you think is one, opening itself apart like an orange peel to reveal super-sharp blades that could cut you up before you know it. Not only that, but the killer has no remorse or satisfaction from it; you are a piece of meat whose sole purpose is to be eaten. How scary is that? Your fear is carried through Shinichi in the early episodes as he watches Migi fight enemies off who sense Shinichi’s humanity as an oddity. So it’s not like they can hide; the pair HAVE to fight. Another scary side effect is that Shinichi is slowly losing his humanity and I don’t think he realises he is. That’s unsettling. I’D like to know if I was becoming less human. Parasyte is perfect nightmare fuel for most people. If you are familiar with horror you might be less impacted by the visuals, but you will still be impressed by the level of gory content.
The timing of this review was deliberate. My previous review was of the heavily censored Terraformars and now we have the wholly UNCENSORED Parasyte. The former was ruined and the latter shows its confidence in itself and how it doesn’t need to rely behind a black curtain to promote future Bluray sales. It gives you the whole package and I thank the Parasyte team immensely. Iwaaki and Madhouse have presented a late eighties manga and seamlessly modernised it for today’s audience. The package is mostly perfect; a right balance of horror, intelligent plot devices, emotional capacity and even a little bit of comedy here and there. My only concern is the placement of music; it may not be bad all the time but some scenes were spoilt when tracks were mismatched with what was going on on-screen. That’s my only fault with this show. This is definitely going in my top three anime list.
Parayste is available to stream on Crunchyroll.
RATING: CONTINUE [A great blend of violence and narrative development. Never a dull moment.]
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