Kiseijū: Sei no Kakuritsu

Title:Kiseijū: Sei no Kakuritsu
Parasyte -the maxim-
寄生獣 セイの格率
Keywords: , , , , , , , ,
Notables: Animation - Madhouse
Original Concept - Kodansha Manga Award Winner
R1 License - Sentai Filmworks (ADV)
Shinichi Izumi is a normal high school boy whose right hand has become infected with an alien parasite that names itself "Migi" ("right"). Migi is the first parasite to develop a symbiotic relationship with its host, as he and Shinichi slowly develop a grudging friendship. Migi isn't the only Parasite on earth, however, and as cases of Parasites killing humans begin to emerge, humans seek to kill off Parasites. Shinichi and Migi find themselves caught in between these two sides of the struggle over planet earth.
(Summary Courtesy of Anime News Network)

24-episode TV anime that premiered on October 8, 2014.
Animated by Madhouse.
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Buy 9 8 8 7 8 9 Ggultra2764 [series:2970#1552]
Parasyte is a bit of an oddity for a recent anime title in that it is adapted from a manga series made a couple decades earlier whereas the majority of anime adapted from manga are based on ongoing and recent manga titles. In this sci-fi thriller, high school student Shinichi finds himself having to coexist with an alien parasite named Migi that assimilates itself with his hand and the two must now work together at slaying other parasites who are successful at killing their human hosts and taking complete control over their bodies. As Migi and Shinichi learn to understand one another, they come to discover that other alien parasites are integrating themselves into human society and trying to understand the morals and norms of human behavior while slaying and feeding on other humans for the sake of self-preservation. Before I go further into this review, I will warn folks that this baby won't be for the young and squeamish as there are a number of violent and gory deaths that occur in conflicts between parasites and humans. If you aren't the type who can tolerate such content, I would advise you to move on. Otherwise, on with the review.

Parasyte offers up a nice balance of elements of sci-fi, horror, and psychological drama in its exploration of the dynamics between humans and parasites. The first several episodes of the series start off fairly light in spite of the messy ways that parasites and humans get killed onscreen as the series milks some humor off the awkward interactions between Migi and Shinichi as the former tries understanding humans and the latter tries concealing his rather unique predicament. However in a rather shocking plot twist which I won't spoil here, events escalate toward more darker and serious fare when Shinichi becomes more willing to seriously engage the alien parasite threat and learn more about their presence on Earth.

From that point, Parasyte mixes around focus between exploring more about alien parasites and getting into some existential themes regarding the worth and relevance of humanity as a whole. More is revealed about the motives of parasites like Reiko Tamura who have varying perspectives on how to coexist with humanity and an apparent alliance made between a number of them that gradually become curious or threatened by Shinichi and Migi's unique co-existence. The events also drive Shinichi to come to terms with comprehending humanity's worth in the world as he tries to understand the varying perspectives that parasites like Migi have regarding human concepts like emotions, procreation and desire to bond with other humans. Both elements mostly carry gray morality to them as the worth of a living being's existence is one that is not an easy question to comprehend and Shinichi finds himself coming to struggle with trying to understand what he has become with his coexistence with Migi.

In terms of style, the series also creates some rather convincing suspense out of Migi and Shinichi's fights with random parasites. The two find themselves often having to strategize and create plans on the fly to exploit the environment and openings against enemy parasites to get an upper hand or fatal blow delivered on them. Many of these instances are risky for the pair of them and they usually have to deal with minimizing human casualties during more hostile situations, which raises the stakes and tension during battles. Outside of creating genuine thrill out of whether or not the two will prevail in their fights, it also helps to further develop the relationship between the rather unique pairing.

All isn't perfect with Parasyte though. The romantic relationship that the series attempts to push with Shinichi and Murano is not quite all that convincing as Murano has little involvement with Shinichi's struggles throughout the series and she does not get much in the way of focus throughout the show beyond being concerned about the outward changes with Shinichi's character. The finale also suffers somewhat with a couple villains introduced in the final episodes of the series who are rather shallow with their motives and lack much in the way of dimension, even with the genuine suspense created with the danger they offer up to Shinichi and those close to him.

Overall, Parasyte offers some engaging suspense and psychological drama with the relations and hostilities between parasites and humans seen through Shinichi and Migi's eyes. In spite of some of its flaws, the series is still worth checking out if you're a sci-fi and/or horror anime fan.

Last updated Wednesday, March 25 2015. Created Wednesday, March 25 2015.
Unevaluated Stretch [series:2970#628]
(22 episodes watched):

Here's a show which got off to a very good start, with weird s--- is happening, rather than yet another generic mecha/magic/fanservice/school romance/whatever series. Main character Shinichi develops a halfway decent personality as he struggles to deal with the strange parasite that has attached itself to him, and better yet, the parasite itself has a personality, too ('Migi'). Initially it can talk, but doesn't know what it is or where it came from, and wants to find out. I got the feeling that this might be an example of how a really good show comes about when, in devising a premise, the writer has reached a point at which most artists would conclude that it was 'good enough', but he/she goes a step farther and adds yet another strange twist. I like the character designs; they sort of remind me of Birdy the Mighty, with not everyone being handsome/beautiful. The sequence in which events happened early on, with a number of flashbacks, was kind of confusing, and I bet the scene where for some mysterious reason Shinichi's hand just has to grope a girl's breast wasn't in the original manga/novel. But this definitely seemed to be going somewhere, as a (for the most part) original story seemed to be coming together, and it looked good.

...which is why the slow but steady descent of the show into mediocrity is all the more inexplicable and frustrating. The basic problem, I think, is that Parasyte turned out to be largely a fight-of-the-week show. Once the basic premise is established, the story just seems to go in circles: a new, tough Parasyte comes after Shinichi and Migi, and surely they are doomed, but somehow they come up with a trick which defeats the new opponent. And, start the cycle over. These fights could be fairly interesting for awhile, but in general I found myself getting tired of them and wishing they would hurry up and be over, in hopes that maybe we would get a few tidbits about the main plot afterwards. In general, watching Parasyte became unrewarding and tiresome; this show, which started off with such a novel and intriguing premise, came to seem like Bleach or some other neverending fight-of-the-week series.

Perhaps one major reason Parasyte becomes tiresome is because the characters are largely uninteresting. After being given an okay initial personality, Shinichi doesn't seem to develop much more. For awhile he worries that he may be becoming dehumanized by his bizarre experience, but that fear largely fizzles out without much coming of it. After he deals with a crisis involving his parents, He seems to undergo a change of personality and be enjoying refreshed confidence as a result. He has found himself with some rather awesome fighting skills all of a sudden, but exactly why that happened isn't clear. Now and then we are reminded that Shinichi's girlfriend (I forget her name) still exists, but their relationship never goes anywhere. Nor do Shinichi and Migi learn to know each other much better after the first half dozen or so episodes; they just react to threats. I can't think of much to say about anyone but these three. Almost nothing saps my interest in an anime faster than the characters being uninteresting.

Almost right from the start, as soon as Shinichi adjusted to the presence of 'Migi', and we learned about the uneasy peace between them, the question that came to my mind was, how serious a threat do these parasites pose to the human race as a whole? Is it liable to become extinct, or will the Parasites be satisfied to pick off a person here and there, and keep a stable supply of potential prey intact? But we never really get an answer. I was somewhat surprised in episode nine to learn that the Parasytes worry about being stamped out by humans. It had seemed to me that they held all the cards and were steadily devouring humans without anyone but Shinichi doing any harm to them. I couldn't help feeling that an overall plot to the struggle between humans and Parasytes was largely missing. What I really wanted was for Shinichi to figure out what's really going on and then go for the throat and try to put an end to this alien infestation once and for all. Unless. that is, the aliens develop personalities of their own (like Migi) which makes them something more than parasites, but again that didn't really happen. Migi is unwilling to do harm to his fellow Parasytes except in self-defense, so it's hard to see what Shinichi will ever accomplish other than protecting himself and a few friends. The big problem (for me, at least) is that if he and Migi just pick off one alien every now and then, then earth and humanity can only be losing this secret and deadly serious battle. This is nothing but a holding action. Since the fight-of-the-week arcs weren't all that interesting, the show needed more of a longterm plot, but lacked one.

I finally decided that I had had it with Parasyte. The laborious battle at Tokyo city hall was gratuitously violent but goes nowhere. How are things any different afterwards than they were before? Just more humans and Parasytes dead, but the balance of power hasn't tipped one way or the other. The war with Parasytes is just a grueling battle of attrition; the violence is more patronizing than disturbing. The corny speech given by one suspect about the true nature of relations between the two species almost made me roll my eyes. I could no longer believe that this series would ever reach a climax and conclude in a rewarding manner. No, since it hasn't managed to be particularly rewarding at any point thus far (except the opening episode), it will just sputter out sooner or later. Not many shows manage to persuade me to quit when there are only two episodes to go. This show seems to be running on a treadmill, always moving forward yet never getting anywhere. Little things happen, but nothing big does. Maybe we'll be expected to watch a sequel series, but I had had enough already. Perhaps other than the strange premise, the effect of which had largely worn off before long, this show just didn't have much to offer.

Last updated Tuesday, March 31 2015. Created Tuesday, October 14 2014.

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