Review: Parasyte – The Maxim

title

Anime: Parasyte – The Maxim

Studio: Madhouse

Episodes: 24

Original Run: Oct 9, 2014 to Mar 26, 2015

Genres: Action, Horror, Science Fiction

(As always, very spoilery.)

 

Synopsis:

Parasitic beings who take over human brains descend on earth out of the blue, their small, worm-like bodies allowing them to burrow into humans unobtrusively. These parasites are outwardly indistinguishable from human beings and easily blend into the population, attacking and eating humans to satiate their hunger.

Izumi Shinichi, a high-school boy, is the victim of one such attack but quick thinking saves his brain from being taken over. Instead, he wakes up to find his right arm replaced by a parasite that later comes to be known as Migi (Japanese for ‘right). The two enter into an uneasy alliance for the sake of mutual survival. But surviving isn’t that easy when there are other parasites out there that can sense Shinichi’s odd predicament and are none too happy about it.

 

Story:                                                                                                            

story-1

I’ve seen this show pop up all over the place ever since I got back into anime. Finally, I caved in and gave it a go. It’s got its pros and cons but on the whole, Parasyte is a worthy watch with a likeable protagonist, his absolutely priceless alien right hand (literally) and a host of minor characters, some of whom manage to be interesting.

Parasyte explores some interesting themes. The most thought-provoking of these is the very existence of the parasites, creatures who feed on humans and are thus above them on the food chain. The primary response to their existence, both in-universe and out, would be to call for their eradication but then comes the question of how the parasites’ predation of humans is any different than human beings’ predation and exploitation of pretty much every other species out there. These new apex predators are being driven by their innate instinct, and at least one human character in the show takes it as the indication that it should be natural order of things. The whole matter is a bemusing mess with no clear cut answer. What’s commendable is Parasyte’s treatment of it; rather than get preachy about its ecological message, the show opts to go for the more honest path and illustrate how humans are basically selfish and guided by self-preservation. They’ll protect the environment because it’s essential for our own survival. And they’ll kick the ass of the invading parasites because they’re a threat to humanity.

story-2

The story is engaging on the surface level as well. Shinichi and Migi make an entertaining duo and are the main strength of the show. The former’s humanity and the latter’s lack of it as well the eventual, inevitable blurring of those lines is a constant undercurrent in the narrative, developing and evolving in a way that’s fluid and unforced. That said, the story does feel redundant at times with the way it stresses the matter of Shinichi’s dwindling humanity (You can make a drinking game out of Satomi’s “You are Izumi Shinichi-kun, right?”).

Parasyte’s most notable flaw is its bland female characters, with the exception of Ryoko/Reiko who’s technically a sexless parasite which makes their gender rather debatable. Every single woman who has some impact on the story is either dull as fuck or actively annoying. Of Shinichi’s two love interests, one lacks a personality outside of the aforementioned line and the other wouldn’t know what sense is if it hit her in the face. Then we have his two-dimensional mother who only serves as angst-fuel (good angst-fuel but still) and the classmate who thinks it’s a brilliant idea to confront a murderous alien because of a crush. With characters like these, Parasyte is severely lacking in the female department.

 

Characters:

char-1

Shinichi and Migi are the main attractions of Parasyte, with more focus on the former. A running thread through the whole narrative is how his partnership with Migi and the resultant experiences change him. He starts out as a normal, nerdy high school boy who’s not particularly interesting. A parasite taking over his arm naturally causes him some problems and exposes him to violence but he truly begins to change after his mother is killed by a parasite and he himself is almost killed by said parasite. Severe emotional trauma and an unorthodox treatment later, Shinichi literally begins to lose his humanity as his ability to feel becomes dulled and his physical abilities are enhanced. It’s interesting to watch him try to cope with the changes in himself while simultaneously dealing with the other parasites whose attentions are on him.

Then we have Migi who is primarily concerned only with his (its?) own survival. Even his attempts to help Shinichi are initially prompted by Migi’s dependency on his human host. But just as Shinichi loses his human characteristics during the course of the story, Migi gains them. An exceptionally intelligent and rational parasite from the get go, it doesn’t take Migi long to develop emotions and an attachment to Shinichi. This reaches its zenith when Migi sacrifices himself so that Shinichi can live. In a way, Migi is the most fascinating character in the whole story. He’s funny, smart and downright endearing at times.

char-2

The only other character that stands out is Tamiya Ryoko/Tamura Reiko, a parasite who possesses Shinichi’s teacher and later switches identities. Reiko is the most intellectual and observant parasite (questionable child rearing methods aside) in the show. From the beginning itself, Reiko’s curious about her(?) kind’s existence and willing to assuage that curiosity through experimentation. Like Migi, she too becomes a little more human as the story progresses and even comes to care for her human child much to her own surprise. Her dignified manner and rational but ruthless approach to matters not only sets her apart from most others of her kind but also stands for the legitimacy of the parasites’ existence.

Other characters of note include Shinichi’s perpetually out of the loop girlfriend Satomi, the rapist/slash serial killer Uragami, uber strong parasite Gotou and a misanthropic mayor Hirokawa. Some are interesting, others not so much. Satomi in particular can be quite dull and often outright irritating in her interactions with Shinichi, a feature made worse by how there seems to be little substance to her outside of this relationship.

 

Art and Music:

Parasyte has good art. It’s generic when it comes to character designs but the titular parasites are certainly memorable. With a few exceptions, the action sequences don’t involve anything more than two parasites standing around while their weaponized body parts clash and collide. The show doesn’t really shy away from blood and gore so those who can’t stomach that should probably give this a pass.

arts

I’m among what seems to be the minority when it comes to Parasyte’s music because I really liked it. I’m a fan of the OP, Let Me Hear by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas, even though my attempts to screamsing along to the English version only served to traumatize those in my immediate vicinity. The ED adopts a gentler tone and isn’t to my taste. I enjoyed the OST, dubstep and all.

 

Verdict:

An entertaining show with (mostly) engaging characters that tries to address environmental issues as well as basic human nature.

Rating: 8/10

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About D

Just another avid anime fan.
This entry was posted in Anime, Parasyte and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Review: Parasyte – The Maxim

  1. Karandi says:

    I think you nailed the problem with the female characters. While I enjoyed Parasyte (save for the ending) it is Shinichi and Migi who carry the cast most of the way as they really are entertaining and interesting. Of course that just highlights how dull and generic most of the rest of the cast are at times with only really one dimension to their character (particularly Satomi).
    And I didn’t really think about it before but Shinichi’s attraction to Satomi isn’t really explained either before or after he becomes a parasyte, it’s just there and they act as if that is an absolute certainty but there’s never any reason given nor is Satomi interesing enough to justify it. Thanks for making me take another look at the characters in this show.

    Liked by 3 people

    • D says:

      I really did like the show in its entirety but the romance bits as well as other parts with poorly written characters were all the more jarring for it. Agreed the Satomi is the worst offender. Their relationship rubs me the wrong way as well, for so many reasons.

      Their initial attraction to each other is justified enough but we never get to see it go beyond a shallow ‘I like him/her because plot says so!’ At no point do we see that they even understand each other. I think Satomi’s constant questioning is somehow meant to imply that she knows Shinichi well enough to be put off by his sudden change but there’s no actual evidence of that. Plus, even when he’s most distressed, Shinichi doesn’t tell her the truth or seek consolation from her (well except that out of nowhere sex scene). Even by the end, he still hasn’t told her anything that transpired.

      It’s hard to accept that they’re in love when there’s little basis for it except plot reasons.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This was my fave anime of last year. Based on this showing I wish more studios would adapt older mangas. At the very least we would get a complete story rather than cliffhangers for stuff based on ongoing books.

    Reiko’s parenting methods aren’t questionable. I wish all mothers could silence their kids so efficiently. It would make traveling on a plane a more pleasant experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      Anime does have an unfortunate tendency to screw up endings or leave them incomplete.

      I kinda hate kids, especially screaming kids, so I agree that it’s very convenient. Not what I’d call A+ parenting tho.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: In Case You Missed It | 100WordAnime

  4. Elisabeth O'Neill says:

    As intriguing as Reiko’s predicament is, I agree the female characters in this were sadly underdeveloped to say there were so many underpinning Shinichi’s story. I would have liked to see Reiko’s demi-parasitic nature explored a bit more. It seems this series suffers from having too many characters to handle outside Shinichi and Migi, to the detriment of their development.

    The themes of environmentalism and humanity becoming complacent in its dominance were some of the most powerful aspects of the show when they came into it, but another I saw was the changes we go through at puberty, personally as well as physically. And because this often pulls us away from the friends we have at that time, for me Satomi’s “You are Izumi Shinichi-kun, right?” is easy to relate to on that level too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      I would have liked to see more exploration of Reiko as well. She was one of the better characters but her death felt a little premature despite the emotional scene.

      I’ve never looked at it in terms of a coming of age story but now that you mention it, that does make sense and adds a new dimension to the show. I’m rather glad to see a positive connotation to that line because I really was tired of it by the end. Though using a character like Satomi, who’s got all the depth of a metal sheet, to deliver that line may not have been the best idea. She seems to have been designated as the love interest and developed little beyond that point. Thank you for sharing your views; now I’ve got something to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elisabeth O'Neill says:

        No problem, it’s a pleasure ^^ And yeah I agree, poor Satomi, and all her fellow female love interests who have being sweet, kind and fanciable as their sole function in a narrative.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Anjim 2.0 says:

    I love Shinichi character developement

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Adam says:

    I agree with a lot of what’s been said. I do think the female characters were underdeveloped, but in many ways I felt most of the characters primarily existed to set the stage for Shinichi and Migi to grow as characters, and explore interesting ideas.
    In many ways I feel like this story may have intentionally kept other aspects minimal, so that the focus would remain on the two protagonists, and the underlying questions and ideas being explored.
    I agree that there is a strong coming of age aspect to the story, both in the metaphorical transformation, the way that Shinichi becomes more powerful, more independent, and has to make difficult choices without the benefit of a clear “right” choice, echoing the ambiguity that often exists in an adult’s independent and imperfect life.
    At first I wondered if strengthening the weak points mentioned would dilute the story, but then I remember that there are plenty of stories where strong characters are only briefly on camera, but in those moments they establish themselves as rich and complex enough to warrant their own story.
    But there is reason to enjoy the show as well. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the show, and while I’m not surprised that the ending leaves some things unresolved, I think the underlying ideas lay the groundwork for some interesting conversations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • D says:

      You make a good point – Shinichi and Migi are the focal points of the story and all other elements fade in comparison. But just as you added, that doesn’t excuse its weaker aspects.

      Agreed that Parasyte is very enjoyable no matter what its faults. It keeps one engaged during its run while also providing ideas that warrant further discussion and interpretation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adam says:

        In some ways it almost strikes me as a sequel to the 1980s film “The Thing”. Almost a “what if that creature had gotten out into the populace?”

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Adam says:

    Watching another episode of Parasyte, i can’t help but think how thoroughly the female characters fail the bechdel test. Quite literally every scene in this episode involving two or more female characters has involved them either talking about Shinichi, or wondering if the other female in the scene is dating Shinichi.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. John says:

    Thanks for posting this. Am not the world’s biggest anime fan, however, this was advertised a lot when I got the crunchroll app on X box and I was always curious. Will need to give it a proper look.

    Liked by 1 person

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