I never read the Parasyte or Kiseijuu manga first published in the late 80’s, but I’m aware of its pedigree thanks to the announcement of this adaption. And if this first episode is any real indication, then the Parasyte property is the real deal.
The basic premise is rather simple. Shinichi Izumi is a normal student, but when asleep one night, he has a run in with a ‘Snake’ the tries to burrow into his brain. The usual ear passageway is blocked by his headphones, and he sneezes the thing out when it tries to head up the nose. It burrows into his right hand instead, causing Shinichi to feel odd for the duration of the following day. He soon discovers that his hand has pretty much been replaced by the titular parasite, a nameless alien who becomes known as ‘Migi’. (‘Righty’)
This all plays out very naturally thanks to good writing and good directing. The first thing we see before the opening is a parasite eating his host’s wife, introducing us to the concept of parasites with literally no exposition- they eat people. Done. Before the actual inciting incident, we also get to see Shinichi’s following day at school, as he discusses the incident with his parents like he had simply had a bad dream, and how his numb hand and sickly disposition effect him throughout the day, usually leading to some admittedly sub-par gags. The atmosphere or the inherent horror of the situation never oversell themselves. If something is normal, its normal. If it’s a sentient alien creature attached to your arm morphing itself into various grotesque biological shapes, the show knows that that is inherently an inherently terrifying concept, and never tries to aim for melodrama. The animation on Migi and the other parasites showcase some of the most fluid and creepy imagery I’ve ever seen, and somehow I don’t believe any other medium other than animation could have truly captured their form- Migi seems as integrated into Shinichi’s body as any of his other body parts, and using props or CGI in a live action setting would likely have only further reminded us that Migi isn’t really there. But hey, if I ever get around to seeing the upcoming live action adaption, I may be proved wrong. Regardless, watching Migi is as much a treat as it is a horror.
Besides just good story telling, Parasyte is effectively setting up its themes very well. It answers lots of questions before they’re raised, and at no point does any of it feel like exposition. It raises a lot of questions, too, though in a good way. For example, while the central relationship between Shinichi and Migi seems poisoned right off the bat, as Migi did initially try to eat his brain, through conversations with Migi we quickly pick up that the parasites arriving on Earth may not be part of some invasion. According to Migi, trying to enter Shinichi’s brain was merely instinctual, and more than that, it was his earliest memory. Because he matured inside his hand instead, he can’t consume Shinichi’s brain anymore. Like a baby, Migi also needs regular sleeps, although unlike a human child, it appears Migi’s species matures very rapidly. As a result, it raises the question of weather or not we’re dealing with an invasion. It’s entirely possible that the parasites simply move from planet to planet and live out their lives in hosts with no real leader or grand plan. Their intelligence may suggest otherwise, but for the most part, they seem to be highly driven by instinct. I would say that this means they don’t have a natural hatred towards humanity, but a parasite that had taken over a dog describes his ‘failure’ at not being able to get a human host. It is entirely possible that they have invasion plans hard wired into them from birth, even if they’re not cconsciouslyaware of what they’re doing. It is also interesting that a parasite’s first instinct is to turn towards eating species identical to that of their host, basically pseudo-cannibalism. Migi doesn’t appear to hunger for human flesh (in fact he actively appears to want to protect humans, judging by how he protects a young girl who is about to get run over without a second thought, though that could have been Shinichi’s influence) and appears to be able to live off of Shinichi’s regular diet, but the human parasites seem to want to eat other humans, and the one dog parasite is seen eating another dog. It would make sense if they were eating whatever is closest to them with no real thought, but I find it interesting that the show only ever chooses to show us acts of cannibalism. If I were to place my bets, I’d say this is a show that is aiming to promote peace and getting along- it’s not a stretch to imagine that Shinici and Migi’s relationship and ultimate symbiosis will be a microcosm for that of humanity and the parasites.
I also want to sing some praises for Shinichi himself. He’s closer to a Ken or a Shinji than a Kirito or a Tatsyua, but they really nail his character. He’s not the bravest out there, he is just a normal teenager after all. Everything happening to him is random coincidence rather than some predetermined plan, destiny, or privilege. Nonetheless, he is not stupid. He survives his brain getting eaten because of his quick thinking. As Migi tries to crawl up his arm towards the head, he stops the creature by wrapping his headphone wires tightly around his arm to block the creature’s access, which is what forces Migi to rest in the hand, allowing Shinichi to retain his consciousness. Shinichi quickly realises what is going on, and his first instinct is to literally hack the thing off, and he is only stopped by Migi’s pleas and reasoning. He also thinks of going to the police or the hospital, but once again Migi reasons with him, inviting him to a symbiotic relationship. What I’m trying to say is, is that Shinichi may not be a ‘badass’ but he is not stupid, and his ‘refusal of the call’ as it were seems to have been largely brushed aside by this episode. He’s already shaping up to be a highly entertaining protagonist, inherently sympathetic thanks to his position. Could the symbiosis of human and alien also reflect the synchronization of body and mind? Shinichi is in the age of puberty, after all.
So yeah. Parasyte is pretty great.