Parasyte (寄生獣 セイの格率) is a 24-episode horror, action, psychological, seinen, drama, and sci-fi anime series based on the 寄生獣 (Parasyte) manga written and illustrated by 岩明 均 (Hitoshi Iwaaki) and published by Kodansha in Monthly Afternoon. The manga won the 講談社漫画賞 (Kodansha Manga Award) for general manga in 1993 and the 星雲賞 (Seiun Award) for the best manga of the year in 1996. As of yet, I have not read the manga (but I am planning to), so as usual, I’ll talk about the anime.
Music and animation
The soundtrack for the series was composed by アライケン (Ken Arai), and in my opinion he did a pretty good job. During the battles for example, you get that sort of fast, energetic music – see how in some anime you get classical or some sort of very slow and peaceful music? That works wonders, too, it especially emphasises the…rather negative events going on. However, what Arai did worked wonders for this series, as well. Although it was a little repetitive (especially one piano song, which I really loved, actually), I definitely enjoyed the soundtrack; repetitive is not bad, at least not in case of this series – if anything, the series’ atmosphere would be nothing of what it was, had it not been for this soundtrack. The opening theme is “Let Me Hear”, performed by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas and the ending theme is “IT’S THE RIGHT TIME”, performed by 三浦 大知 (Daichi Miura). I loved the discrepancy, the contrast between the style of the OP (which is very energetic and sort of reminded me a little of certain themes from Durarara!!, Death Note, Psycho-Pass, Blue Exorcist, and even Future Diary, to an extent – you know that sort of awesome-deranged-insane-brilliant sort of OP) versus that of the ED theme, which was rather slow and peaceful.
What I couldn’t help but notice right from the start of the first episode (and this usually doesn’t happen to me, as I don’t pay attention to anything but the music and names during the OP credits) is that you get lots – and I mean it when I say lots – of spoilers simply from that short OP video – I figured out what would happen throughout the series up until its end after watching the OP just once…I liked this and didn’t, at the same time. I mean I’m not sure if it wasn’t rather counter-intuitive to make that OP using those scenes, but hey – I liked it nonetheless.
The series was animated by Madhouse and VAP (mainly), Sentai Filmworks, and Nippon Television Network Corporation. I really loved the animation. It seemed to be rather flowing and the fighting scenes were also extremely well executed. I was positively surprised and most definitely pleased with the visuals of this series (it also gets bonus points for not having been censored – that would have truly ruined it, at least for me).
Plot, story, and themes
Parasytes (some sort of creepy alien worms) have come to the Earth and enter people’s ears or noses in order to take over their brains, and thus make them their own host. Shin’ichi is a 17-year-old boy, who is infected by such a parasyte; however, by a lucky accident, the parasyte cannot reach Shin’ichi’s brain and takes over his right hand. The story follows Shin’ichi and shows how he comes to terms with and copes with his recent changes, how he deals with other humans-parasytes and well…thankfully, what happens to his romantic life, too.
The atmosphere of the anime reminded me a lot of the one found in Future Diary (another one of my favourites). The series poses a central question: what is the purpose of the parasytes’ existence? However, this is such a human-characteristic thought, isn’t it? It’s usually humans who wonder what the purpose, what the meaning of their life, of their existence truly is.
Rights are one of the concepts (i.e., themes) explored in the series. Migī affirms that “’rights’ are a concept specific to the human species”; it argues that humans use arbitrary metrics in order to judge and decide what is right and what is wrong, who is at fault and who is innocent. And this is pretty true. I mean, one can’t always even understand themselves – how many times did you actually understand your own pain?! – yet they tell others they understand their pain, or how they feel; yet they use their own principles, beliefs, and subjective experiences in order to make sense of the reality they experience, and also of someone else’s reality; and when this doesn’t coincide with their own conclusions, they snap and accuse, instead of trying to understand or see what could have possibly caused such a discrepancy between two beings of the same species. What really stuck with me was how well the series illustrated the idea that humans are pretty hypocrite: they say that all lifeforms should be able to co-exist, but when they’re threatened they are the first to judge and condemn, exclude and even go as far as eliminate what they feel is a threat to their existence. Whatever is different to us in such a way that is too puzzling to understand and to accept, must be eliminated, because it’s wrong and its existence is unacceptable – very, very well illustrated in the series, I was so pleasantly surprised!
Speaking of humans’ way to decide that something is different to themselves, there are multiple episodes in the series which show that parasytes are organisms just like humans: each wants their own survival. It’s incomprehensible to Migī, for example, how humans can do something counter-productive and which could also lead to their own death, for the sake of another; it calls altruism a characteristic of humans. Tied with the idea of one’s own survival, there’s one episode which explains very well the concept of “the selfish gene”: the body of an animal is merely its DNA’s “puppet”; what matters is itself – not its species – and its own offspring who will inherit its DNA. And from an evolutionary point of view, it obviously makes perfect sense.
Moving on, next to the similarity previously mentioned, between humans and parasytes there’s a huge difference: Migī notes that humans seem to be particularly focused on the past, and on feelings of mourning and guilt, especially relating to one’s death; however, parasytes are rather focused on evolution, therefore trying to understand what they don’t know and obviously, on their own survival. And I found that this reminded me so much of what my Buddhist friend kept telling me: stop focusing so much on the past, you’re missing the present and it’s too precious to miss…and it never comes back. I felt so nostalgic (in a very good way) while watching this series!
Another noteworthy aspect is what Reiko Tamura affirms: that although humans have an individual brain (their own), they also have a ‘collective’ one; this basically refers to the fact that humans do think for themselves, to an extent; however, most humans will live by the rules set by their society and community, and as such, when something bad happens, they become unified in order to become stronger (and strength in this context doesn’t only refer to physical strength) – and this can be extended to humanity in its entirety, not just to a community of people. And it is also at times like these that people start deciding who their ally is and who their enemy is; and this reminded me a lot of people’s attitudes in Death Note, in that it shows very well what panic makes out of people: in Parasyte, as a means to make themselves feel safe and secure, humans decide that one way to realise whether someone is a human or a parasyte, is to pull out one of their hairs; in Death Note everybody was trying to do something to conceal their name so they wouldn’t die (which, of course, wasn’t extremely feasible). And what is truly curious about these aspects – unity, cooperation, and conformity – of the human species, is that they are able to go on like this up until a certain point, when they snap – this series shows very well the limits of the human psyche, and for this reason I really liked and appreciated the way the story unfolded and it pace. Brilliant! Of course, along with these, you get human ignorance at its best: when in trouble, instead of trying to understand or accept differences, they judge and point fingers at each other – because they’re different: humans are different to parasytes, humans are different to animals – really? I mean, to me, humans are animals, too (I repeat, there’s no need to agree with me and you don’t have to read this if it disturbs you). And for once, when a new species comes and takes the top-most spot in the pyramid, humans cannot take it, obviously, so the threat must be eliminated.
There’s another anime that this series reminded me of: Migī affirms that “humans are the closest thing alive to demons” – this sort of reminded me of Kyūbey’s messages, its explanations of how humans judge crime as being wrong when committed by someone else, yet they themselves kill animals for the sake of their own survival, amongst other reasons that I don’t want to go into, as I despise those. I loved that moment when I had this revelation, it really made me appreciate this series.
There’s one last aspect that I want to mention in this section, before moving on: there’s another deep question posed by the series: what exactly counts as crime to humans? I mean, Migī can kill its own species if they threaten its own survival, but Shin’ichi takes very long to come to terms with the fact that he may have to kill parasyte-humans; he eventually does, for a while and to a certain extent, though, but only when it comes to protecting those close to him…what does this tell you, again, about the human species?!
Except for certain characters, there’s a lot of character development in this series, which counts for a lot, to me.
泉 新一 (Shin’ichi Izumi) is the main character of the series; he becomes infected with Migī and as such, has to learn to live with this. What I really loved about how he was created was that, unlike our protagonist in the first season of Tokyo Ghoul (I have not yet watched the second season, but I hope they made up for the botch that the first season was), Shin’ichi, although he takes a while to accept what happened to him, and that there is no way he can undo it, he eventually comes to terms with it and tries to understand what was going on with him and Migī; he also wants to use Migī for his own personal interests, in certain situations, which again shows a certain side of human beings – honestly, after obviously being angry and trying to deny what happened to him, he actually co-exists with his parasyte and even wants to use it if push comes to shove, so what does this tell you about Shin’ichi and about the human race??
I was also impressed by how he coped with the rather quick escalation of the conflict: his Mother is killed and her body taken over by a parasyte and furthermore, tries to kill him – her own son; these cause not only extreme internal turmoil, but also huge biological changes (more than what he’s already been through, as Migī, wanting its own survival, tries to save Shin’ichi’s life by merging even more with him). And I was impressed by how he coped with all the physiological and psychological changes. THIS is what I call character development, not wasting 10-11 out of 12 episodes showing me nothing – I mean literally nothing in the first season of Tokyo Ghoul. And from here on, Migī’s influence on Shin’ichi is blatantly obvious: the latter becomes less empathetic (think, for example, of the scene where the doggie dies, what his reaction – or rather, lack of it – is, and what he does with the now lump of meat), to the point where he’s perceived as cold and distant, and even “made of steel”.
ミギー (Migī) is the parasyte in Shin’ichi’s body, and I have to say I found it hilarious and even adorable, not to mention that I wish I could master Japanese in one night. I loved what a brilliant job 平野綾 (Aya Hirano) did as a seiyū, I felt it completely fit Migī’s personality. Noteworthy is the fact that after a while Shin’ichi and Migī exchange features: while the former becomes calmer, more collected, distanced, and focused, the latter becomes more human-like: by the end of the series it starts thinking of his host as a friend and reminisces happily the memories they created together (which, of course, goes for our protagonist, too) and even feels what humans call loneliness. Even during the major elections, Migī was preoccupied, although one can’t be sure whether in the beginning it was because it didn’t understand the goal of its own species and this was making it feel insecure, or whether it was truly concerned about humans. Also, noteworthy is the fascinatingly hilarious fact that Migī starts to become rather manipulative – but more like a human being, than like a parasyte, though, as it manipulates by pretending it understands a human being’s emotions, I mean if this is not a fascinating parasyte, who gets to imitate so well human empathy and who gets so close to understanding the human nature and emotions, I don’t know what is.
One of the aspects that I truly loved about Migī’s influence on Shin’ichi is that as the story progresses, Shin’ichi starts to see that not just parasytes are monsters, but humans, too; I mean here comes 山岸 (Yamagishi) – from the Parasyte Extermination Squad, thus supposedly, there to protect civilians – and shoots innocent people and calls 浦上 (Uragami – the prisoner) a criminal – well, honestly, he was himself a criminal, too, in my opinion. They both killed, they’re both criminals in my book. Anyway, back to what I was saying, Shin’ichi also realises that there are parasytes who can behave kindly – this, mostly due to Reiko’s behaviour and even more so because of Migī’s act at the end of the series, when it saves Murano – I so squealed there!
村野 里美 (Satomi Murano) is the main female character and although some might think that she wouldn’t be one of my favourite characters, well…she actually is. From the very beginning she shows mental strength and maturity, she wants to understand, and to help Shin’ichi, to get close to him so she can be next to him (not only in harsh situations). She totally won my heart by behaving the way she did; I only wish more of her past had been shown in the anime, I would have loved to know more about her, because it can almost be felt that she didn’t have a very pink past (I repeat, I haven’t yet read the manga, it’s just “a whisper from my Ghost”). Speaking of this, there’s clearly romance between Shin’ichi and Murano – especially considering not just how they behave with each other throughout the whole series, but even more so considering what happens between them during the last two episodes – but not too much, not so much as to ruin the atmosphere of the whole series, in my opinion. I mean, yeah, you get the usual shyness you expect to find, but there’s no exaggeration of this, no denial which would take away precious screen time; I truly loved this aspect! Very well executed, very well incorporated, not too much, not too little – just perfect!
君嶋 加奈 (Kana Kimishima) – I’m not sure if I felt pity for her…or if she made me want to slap her. Nice appearance, but slightly annoying attitude. However, she’s not like one of those characters that the story needs in order to progress; she has her own role and she played it well, and for that, at least, I was cool with her presence.
田村 玲子 (Reiko Tamura) was an extremely-well created character – like most, if not all of them in this series, actually. I was very impressed with her evolution as a parasyte-human. She, too, comes so close to actually understanding the human nature and human emotions – and this can be seen especially at her end, how she protects her baby, even though it was a mere human. It moved me a lot – and not only that scene, but her attitude and behaviour in general. She also shows that while humans can be very skilled strategists, parasytes can be brilliant, too.
In my honest opinion, as I said, all the characters were very well created and developed in this series, even the negative ones; I mean 後藤 (Gotō) really scared the mickey out of me. But the negative characters, in very good anime series, show that depending on one’s perspective, they may not actually be the bad ones. And that, I appreciate a lot when I watch a series (as I mentioned in past critiques).
Overall, this series was brilliant, as you could probably guess I was going to say; I loved every bit of it and thoroughly enjoyed it! It made me question and ponder so many aspects…and for this, I strongly recommend watching it – if you’re into this genre.
I want to finish this post with some quotes from the series, which really left a mark on me (and which, however, may not be word-for-word as they were translated in the subbed version of the anime – I don’t ever watch dubbed anime):
“We protect other beings, because humans are alone; you can never think you understand another being, so respect them as they are, don’t judge them by your own standards.”
“[…] it’s hypocritical of us to love the Earth without loving ourselves […]”
“We try to get closer to someone else until our lives end.”
…these and… “spanking the monkey” – very nice humour, very nice translation!
Thanks for coming by and for reading my posts! I hope you enjoyed (if you got this far and are still alive and not bored).