What I expected:
What I got:
Disclaimer: I’m experimenting with a more personal/subjective/humorous style in this post, so bear with me.
Also Disclaimer: Lots of spoilers (but it’s best that you know them, before it’s too late for you too).
My viewing experience of Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu (or Parasyte) was layered and involved, but for all the wrong reasons. Having heard about Parasyte and seen some images from it online, I was strapped in for some creative and diverse body horror. For those of you who don’t know, Parasyte is about a high-school kid whose arm is infested with a Parasyte (monster) that he is forced to spend all his waking moments with.
Not far into Parasyte, I quickly realized that my hopes for the show, despite being fed by an interesting first episode, were clearly not going to be paid off. Instead, they were replaced with new hopes that the intriguing themes of cross-species psychology and human nature hinted at early on would be explored in greater detail as the show developed. Knowing this, I waved goodbye to the body horror I had initially hoped for and prayed for the best.
This is my story.
Having just entangled myself in a convoluted watch order for Haruhi and with my first viewing of Evangelion still eating away at my soul, I thought it would be refreshing to watch something a little more straightforward. So, when my friend suggested this show, I responded, “What the hell is Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu?”, but then he explained that everyone just called it Parasyte. Upon finding out it was about monsters that infest humans and transform their bodies into horrific and deadly monsters I was immediately on board. In fact, the monsters I remembered seeing from the show on the internet had me bursting with excitement.
At this point, I was rocking manically in my seat and praying for the show to be good by whispering latin backwards at double-time speed under my breath. My friend flashed me a look of concern, but I urged him that it was just the air-conditioner turning on. I desperately wanted this show to be good.
I’ll go into the first episode here, because it’s where many of my expectations were set.
And good it was (at first). The very first Parasyte is a terrifying husbando Parasyte that takes a gruesome bite out of both his wife and child. Damn, that’s brutal, I thought, grinning like a toddler. Exposition happens and the standard anime protagonist, Shinichi Izumi, gets his arm burrowed in by a snakelike creature, but he tourniquets his arm with earbuds to keep it from infesting his body. Something something, he accidentally grabs his friend, Murano’s breast and goes home early from school. Typical anime stuff.
On the way home, he ends up saving a girl who is chasing a ball into the street from a speeding car by stopping it with his right hand. Sure, this kind of thing comes off as a cliché, but it intrigued me, because, I was thinking, either this Shinji Ikari-looking kid would be in control of this Parasyte, which would incite some interesting character development, or there would be some battle for control between the Parasyte and him. Either way, I was interested in seeing where this was going. Sure enough, when he goes to sleep that night and wakes up the next day, we see that Migi, the Parasyte that has infiltrated and taken control of his arm, has detached from him and has started reading everything it can. I immediately loved the Migi character concept as Izumi’s disembodied arm and the fact that they form an alliance not to kill each other (or rather, the understanding that if Izumi tried to remove his arm, Migi would kill him out of self-interest).
It’s also emphasized very clearly that Migi is motivated purely by self-interest, which is an important detail. We also see our first fully developed enemy Parasyte attack in this episode. It’s an animal Parasyte, and when they come across it, it starts flying after them. Fucking flying! Further in, we got some weird, cryptic hints at the reason for the existence of Parasytes, and I immediately realized that humans are viewed as a plague by Parasytes for their effect on the environment. Now that’s what I’m talking about! So far, the first episode had done a great job of both satisfying my initial expectations and giving me a bit more to chew on in the form of potential themes.
As my viewing continued, I was becoming worried that there wouldn’t be many cool Parasyte monsters in the show, but I figured they just needed to make room for exposition, right?
Wrong. This entire episode was a cruel bait. That flying dog creature? It goes down in history as by far the coolest Parasyte in the entire show. We don’t even see a single other animal Parasyte for the rest of the show! In other words, my most hoped-for aspect of the show only went downhill from the first episode, as basically every Parasyte after that was some variation of this creature.
RIP lovecraftian baddies.
Along with this, the horror aspect of the show was hardly present. So much for my first anime-horror experience. Although, I will admit that Murano (Izumi’s love interest) being traumatized by watching all her classmates be horribly murdered was pretty intense, but besides that and a few edge cases, this can hardly be called a horror show.
So, although my hopes of being horrified into a good experience were dashed, I was still interested in the cool themes on human nature and the interplay between Migi and Izumi, so I still had relatively high ho-
**AIRHORNS**, it’s time for a love triangle!
These two girls were the worst thing to happen to this show by a significant margin. I’ll admit that Kana was alright as a character. She had the special ability to notice Parasytes, which she mistook for being drawn to specifically Izumi. Murano, on the other hand, was simply the cute childhood friend of Izumi, and that’s it.
I don’t support the addition of a love triangle in the first place, but between the two, Kana is easily best girl number one. Not even close. This was purely because her ability made her interesting, while Murano was a basic bitch in every sense of the word.
Guess what happens to Kana though?
She fucking dies.
WOOHOOO! It’s not like I was that attached to Kana in the first place, but the fact that she was brought into the show just to be killed off not 5 episodes later just made her arc feel like a contrived waste of time. It’s as if her only purpose was to either get the audience hooked on a love triangle long enough to notice the show wasn’t going anywhere or to force Izumi through something traumatic. Her presence in the show is just flawed. She should have been killed in the writing room before we ever saw her.
All better I suppose, at least there is no love triangle n- wait. That means were left here with Murano, for the rest of the show… Kill me please.
What makes this so bad is that Murano gets no development. For about 10 episodes in a row, she notices that Izumi has been acting strange, but doesn’t get to learn what is happening with him, because Migi won’t let Izumi tell her. Using this tension isn’t criminal, but they milk it, and milk it, and milk it while their relationship goes nowhere and takes up screen time. I swear to fuck, she says some variation of this sentence 10 times in a row:
“You’ve been acting strange… you just don’t seem like Shinichi Izumi anymore.”
We get it! The main character is developing, yay! Maybe they should have developed this relationship instead. It stalls out like this for the entire time that Izumi is growing as a character.
The problem is, Izumi begins to change so much that he begins to lose his emotions entirely, and begins to act in a detached way. In the funniest scene in the show, he gives a dead puppy in the street a proper burial by tossing it in a trash can, much to Murano’s horror. It’s heavily implied that the reason for this is in fact that he is becoming too Parasyte-like and losing some of his humanity.
It turns out though, that he’s just sad because his mom died! When the Parasyte that killed his mom is killed by police, and doesn’t kill the human offspring that she ended up raising for reasons of happenstance, Izumi cries (something he hadn’t been able to do) and realizes that it was not accepting the death of his mother that had closed him off from his feelings, not being a Parasyte.
This is so contrived that it angered me when it happened. It was a great emotional moment, don’t get me wrong. The dying Parasyte woman leaving the human baby alive in the same scene as Izumi rediscovering his humanity was powerful, and with this song playing, I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I also couldn’t help but feel that I had been tricked into thinking that it was teased that there was more to the human-Parasyte dynamic within Izumi, just so nobody would expect this moment. I suppose that’s a fair twist, but it was extremely disappointing given that was one of my primary reasons for continuing to watch the “You just don’t seem like Shinchi Izumi anymore” show.
That said, it is here that the best themes of Parasyte are finally explored. An exploration of what human beings are and the arbitrariness of our morality. Humans and Parasytes act the same; they just want to survive. It just so happens that the Parasytes’ method of survival involves the death of humans.
It’s also interesting that what the Parasytes do (killing humans) is a huge net-benefit for most species. Humans constantly encroach on the habitats and lives of other species, yet ironically consider it a huge injustice when their numbers are threatened in relatively small amounts. I really enjoyed being forced to sympathize with the enemy.
By this point in my viewing, I was more than three quarters of the way through the show, and could reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of the disappointment that is Parasyte. Nothing from then to the end of the show changed my opinion much, and I still feel the same way today.
A great aspect of Parasyte is the combat strategy that Migi and Izumi use to defeat some of the enemy Parasytes. I know I already said that the enemies were boring, but some of them had subtle differences, such as different weaknesses based on what parts of the body were being manipulated by Parasytes, that made them slightly more interesting opponents. The moments in which Migi held off the opponent off by engaging them in a clusterfuck blade battle while Izumi would surprise them with an attack in their vulnerable spot (nnaa~) were very tense and allowed us to see Izumi’s growth both physically and emotionally.
Parasyte’s visuals ended up being pretty drab overall. While it’s cool to see monsters transform from people’s heads, it gets old after the about the 10th time. And with little visual variety, it left me with a big feeling of meh. Background art was lackluster as well, and some of the filler characters in the background had a strange look.
The directing in this show was very uninspired. As far as the camera angles and shot composition go, there was very little variation and it felt like very similar from shot to shot. I think good directing could have done a lot for this show to make it more interesting.
The soundtrack just felt totally off at points. The OP song is subpar, and I ended up skipping through it almost every time. There are several points in the show, especially action sequences, when dubstep is playing and it just doesn’t quite fit. Being the boldest choice in the show, it’s a shame it didn’t work.
But the saddest thing about Parasyte for me is this. Although I quickly realized Parasyte wouldn’t give me what I wanted with the horror and monster elements, it constantly teased me with the promise to deliver on its interesting themes and ideas. I always had the feeling that at any moment, we would find out all about the psychology between Migi and Izumi, and how their biological relationship really worked, but it feels like their dynamic was just used to fudge out whatever circumstance would be useful at that point in the narrative. Toward the end I was clinging to the vain hope that we would learn all about Parasytes and where they came from, just to have something interesting to leave the show with. Although the end did at least focus on the themes of human vs. Parasyte nature, forcing the viewer to examine their own nature further, it was hardly a footnote in the grand scheme of things.
Before I end this sadness rant I have to talk about the ending. It seemingly came out of nowhere that the serial killer guy from earlier in the show would get free and kidnap Murano. He holds her hostage on the roof of a building and is about to brutally slice her open in front of Izumi, but after engaging in a solid bit of “villain” monologue, he throws her off the roof of a building instead, allowing Izumi to come to her rescue and save her from dying.
This was a huge disappointment. To see Murano, the character that caused me so much pain and the most uninteresting character in the show to die, would have brought me so much joy and redemption that it may have bumped it up a whole point in my rating (I currently have it at a 4/10). Alas, this did not happen.
Overall, Parasyte is tragically average in my book. It seems like it never wanted to take any risks or be confident, and its areas of potential suffered immensely for it. What this show really needed was to dive deeper into something. The horror, the themes, anything, and go all the way, but it simply didn’t and that’s a damn shame. It’s a personal tragedy for me as well, as I came in expecting fun, was denied my fun and then told I might get something else worthwhile, and in the end got lukewarm lameness. Good riddance Parasyte, you could have at least killed Murano.