Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is…bad writing?
And four times is really irritating bad writing.
I recently finished and reviewed Parasyte – The Maxim, a sci-fi horror anime about tiny worm like creatures that take over human beings and nom on other humans. I liked it a lot, mostly because of the two main characters and the overall story. But while watching it, there was one defect that really stood out. Parasyte doesn’t have any decently written female characters except for maybe one. I’m not saying all the male characters are excellent but even the mayor guy who only shows a personality in his death scene is more interesting that its main female characters. I mentioned this in passing in my review but couldn’t get into it in detail because, well, I gotta set some kind of word limit. So I thought I’d do a separate post to look into how and why Murano Satomi, Kimishima Kana, Tachikawa Yuko and Izumi Nobuko all bored me to tears and/or irritated the hell out of me in the course of Parasyte’s 24 episdoes.
(Careful, spoilers below)
First and foremost, we have Murano Satomi who is not only the most important character but also the worst offender of the four. Satomi is the main character Shinichi’s love interest. That’s it. That’s all she is, the love interest. We don’t know why they’re attracted to each other and even if that can be written off as pure physical attraction, the show provides no basis for why the relationship survives the extremely rocky times brought on by Shinichi’s parasite-related troubles. I can sum up her entire personality in one line: “You are Izumi Shinichi-kun, aren’t you?” This, I think, is somehow meant to imply that Satomi has good insight into her sorta-boyfriend’s mind and is familiar with him, but once again, nothing else in the show backs that up.
If you’re wondering why this section so far has been based on her relationship with Shinichi rather than her merit as an independent character, the fact is that outside of it, she doesn’t really have much of a character. She’s blander than unlined white paper. Her entire existence in the show is based around Shinichi. When she’s happy, it’s because of Shinichi. When she’s angry or sad or confused, it’s because of Shinichi. If done properly, this could have been somewhat interesting like some of the obsessive lovers whose lives revolve around the target of their fixation (Harima Mika from Durarara comes to mind) but in Satomi’s case, it just feels like the creator needed someone to fill a specific role and stuffed a character with the lines and reactions befitting of that role with no actual thought to how she should function as an actual person. Needless to say, the end result is unimpressive.
Let love rob you of your senses, namely common sense
Kimishima Kana is introduced as a delinquent girl who runs with a gang Shinichi gets into trouble with. Kana seems to have some sort of sixth sense that allows her to deduce that not all is right with Shinichi. She becomes able to sense Shinichi as well as other parasites, though Kana soon develops a singular fixation on Shinichi, interpreting her awareness of him as a sign that they’re soul-mates. What follows are disturbingly humorous dreams and the tragic death of any and all sense she possesses.
Kana is never really a likeable character but at the beginning, she’s got bite. She’s gutsy and condescending and just a little interesting. Then she gets obsessed with Shinichi – or falls in love as she puts it –and bam, characterization goes downhill fast. After that point, she’s a walking ball of besotted hormones with zero self-preservation and even less reason. She refuses to acknowledge that her sensing ability is not some magical love-radar despite plenty of evidence. Even after the existence of parasites is revealed to her, she continues to blindly believe in her ability in a vain effort to prove her love. Her eventual death is predictable and entirely too stupid to be saddening (for me at least, or maybe I’m just a cold bastard). In other words, much like Satomi, Kana gets reduced to a shallow excuse for a character whose existence revolves around Shinichi. I absolutely loathe this show’s idea of romance, in case you were wondering.
Another victim of ‘love’. She lives, others don’t.
Unlike the above two, Yuko is a fairly minor character and more or less disappears from the story after she unintentionally causes a massacre. At first, she’s a mildly annoying high school girl who seems to be friends with both Shinichi and Satomi. When a parasite, Shimada Hideo, shows up at their school under Reiko’s instructions to observe Shinichi, she develops a crush on him. That’s fine; crushing is pretty common. But then she sees his dented head reform, follows him and finds him acting rather shady. Her brother, a detective, kindly shares the theory about parasites with her and she comes to suspect that Hideo is a parasite. Smart girl, right? No, not really. Rather than share this tidbit with her brother, she decides to go confront the guy with a vial of paint thinner (or so wiki tells me) in case things go out of hand, Sure, have a one-on-one meeting with a possible murderer who you hope ain’t a murderer because you like his face. That always goes well in the movies. The meeting goes south, she throws the thinner on him and escapes, he loses control and kills a whole lot of people. A recurring thread in this show seems to be that if you fall in love/get infatuated, you forget all sense and make stupid, potentially lethal decisions.
There’s not a whole lot to Yuko except this scene. She’s shown to be an unremarkable but apparently well-meaning person. But her purpose in the story seems to be to act as a catalyst for Hideo’s slaughter of the students. The events leading up to it feels more than a little contrived since, once again, common sense or logic seems to temporarily desert the character for plot purposes.
What is it with anime and dead parents
I don’t have much criticism for Shinichi’s mother, Nobuko, nor do I have praise. She’s not actively irritating or outright stupid in her actions or behavior. But I said in the intro that parasite doesn’t have any decently written female characters (except Reiko) and Nobuko fits the bill in that regard. She’s angst fuel. Pretty good angst fuel all things considered, but still, that’s all she is. Her character exists to allow Shinchi’s to develop. That said, the arc kick-started by her death is my favorite in the story.
Other than these guys, we have Tamura Reiko who was a pretty good character. Despite my confusion owing to parasites’ lack of an evident sex, the show treats her female so I guess she counts. She was delightful in a twisted way from the beginning and the show lost some of its charm after her death. That said, I did find her sudden affection for her child and ensuing sacrifice a little too abrupt to be believable but she’s nowhere near as bad as the aforementioned four.
Also, the old lady Mitsuyo was pretty cool. Why can’t my grandma be like that?