寄生獣 セイの格率 第1話 「変身」
Parasyte -the maxim- #01. 「Metamorphosis」
Source Material: Manga series by Iwaaki Hitoshi (岩明 均)
Director(s): Shimizu Kenichi (清水健一)
Series Composition: Shouji Yonemura (米村 正二)
Character Design: Hiramatsu Tadashi (平松 禎史)
Parasyte is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Iwaaki Hitoshi and published in Kodansha‘s Afternoon magazine from 1990 to 1995. In 1993, the series won the Kodansha Manga Award in the general manga category, and it also won the Seiun Award in 1996 for the best manga of the year. The broadcast of the 2014 anime adaptation is supported by two live-action films scheduled for a 2014 and 2015 Japan release.
High school student Izumi Shinichi wakes up one morning with an uncanny feeling of supranormality in his right hand. Throughout the day, it proves to be more than just an off-feeling, as his hand seems to act of its own accord when it gropes his female classmate, Murano Satomi; turns Shinichi’s cell-phone on while he’s sleeping during class to look-up information about human anatomy and physiology; and most surprising of all, stops a speeding car dead in its tracks before it can hit Shinichi. After the incident with the car collision, Shinichi runs home to confront whatever has taken over control of his hand in the privacy of his own room, but the parasitic creature says that it needs to rest and returns to a dormant state before Shinichi can divulge any information from it. When Shinichi wakes up in the morning and finds the parasite reading books and searching the internet for more research information, they finally engage in a conversation about the nature of its existence, and more specifically, the nature of its existence in Shinichi’s hand. It explains that it failed to take full control of Shinichi’s body by infiltrating his brain and now acts as the biological substitute for his right hand, which it consumed. On the way to school, the parasite forces Shinichi to approach another parasite-infected creature it senses, so that both of them may learn more about the nature of the parasites. A parasite that has taken control of a wild dog, who initially sympathizes with the fact that Shinichi’s parasite also failed to take control of a full human body, attacks the two. It is easily defeated however by Shinichi’s parasite, who claims the truth of its victory being that it was not negligent to research all variables of its circumstance and adapt to the situation. Shinichi is unsettled by the entity that now occupies his right hand, which he compares to “an insect that doesn’t have a shred of empathy”. Meanwhile, the number of grotesque murders occurring in the local area strictly increase.
I’m just saying, but if it was me with a hand that could distort its fingers to the length of a garden hose, I’d be more than willing to stir up a public uproar if it meant being able to consult professional medical help. Parasyte wastes absolutely no time conveying the narrative subject matter at (horrifically mutated) hand, as a pre-opening sequence spanning less than twenty-five seconds depicts a helpless housewife having her noggin chomped (messily, not clean) off by the mutated head of her parasite-infected husband. If that isn’t enough of a fair warning for those faint of heart, I don’t know what is. I’m having a bit of trouble settling on a basis to review Parasyte, a series that had its original run more than twenty years ago; wherein I usually retreat to referencing the current climate of the anime industry, now I wouldn’t feel justified in doing so unless I was specifically studying how the studio staff at Madhouse are choosing to re-tell this story to a new audience (which I do have some comments about later on). People may say that age is just a number, but Parasyte is really vouching for the manga series of an older time by effortlessly representing much more cultivated themes you’ll get from most new series today. Sure, it’s still got its share of boob-groping; but fortunately, the capstone moments of this episode were sturdily positioned in the narrative’s main matters at hand: the accession of this alarming parasitic creature that is not only threatening protagonist Shinichi’s peaceful high school life, but also the entire human race it seems. With the velocity of the parasite’s intellectual growth and its outright callous sentience, Shinichi is undoubtedly facing more than he can handle (okay, I’ll stop with the hand puns now). The fight-for-survival against a parasitic dog with bat-like wings in this episode acts as a precursor to something much more grand, effectively foreshadowed by the state of disarray the city is being thrown into. Shinichi’s mother was completely justified in telling her husband to stop talking about news of the gruesome murder and mutilation of a mother and her daughter at the dinner-table; I hope to God that that doesn’t have any kind of future story implications. Indeed, while there is that moment when we hear the word “fight” (or “戦う” to be linguistically exact) from the parasite’s mouth (or whatever the hell kind of bodily structure it uses to communicate) and we instinctively shift into action-shounen mode in anticipation of an electrifying face-off of supernatural powers; more importantly in this premiere are the deeper themes at play, with the parasite’s post-battle words taking the cake of profundity this week. “As I guessed, it was living off the dog’s organs and digestive system. Its core was only the head, which controls the rest of the body by taking over the nervous system. Since the core itself morphed into wings, its focus on defense decreased. A dog, huh? Although it was partially due to its growth environment, it was negligent with its studies. That’s why I was victorious.” In that case, I can’t say that the ceaseless studying in class and at home while its host was sleeping didn’t turn out well for our little guy. The word “maxim” may just be the most erudite word I have ever seen in the title of anime series; but it’s not just for show (okay, technically it is for the show). Parasyte sets a pretty serious tone to its story while averting having to give up more entertaining story-elements. In its production, Madhouse enlists the musical styles of Japanese screamo/digital hardcore band Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas, having utilized their sound before for the first Hunter x Hunter (2011) ending, 「Just Awake」, which was a much more questionable match-up of artistic styles than it is here, where it fits the bill of Parasyte‘s macabre epidemic story pretty well. The band even got what looks to be the most stylized credit in an opening sequence for the musical theme’s artist I have ever seen in anime (yeah, this series is definitely racking up a lot of firsts for one that had its original publication so long ago). On the visual side of the production, we’ve got an impressive presentation of consistent art and animation quality. I’m not too jazzed by any particularly well-drawn scenes or anything and am even a bit doleful that one of my newly beloved studio has to employ the usage of 3D animation for the less important transitional shots of students walking to school and such; but overall, there are no complaints. One thing that is particularly noteworthy is character designer Tadashi Hiramatsu’s measure of creative control taken. The original slicked-back hairstyle of Shinichi now turned into a more run-of-the-mill fringe suited for more innocent teenage boys isn’t a change that I would generally write off as bad – it’s a do that works perfectly well on a lot of relatively mature series protagonist - but for Parasyte, I feel that it does take away from adult-toned experiences that our lead figure goes through. In the end, my impression of the show as it is now is that there may be a lot to enjoy, and maybe even learn, from a series that is even older than I am, and oh (boy/man), is it a timely premiere because, damn, have I been going through a pre-middle-age, young adult crisis as of late.
*Sometimes it’s the oddest things that compel us the most, and since finding out that Parasyte‘s main antagonist bears striking similarities to Hunter x Hunter‘s own Menthuthuyoupi (or vice versa), I’ve been eager to delve into this series.
*It’s not too uncommon for a shounen protagonist’s altruistic nature to be portrayed in the form of saving a little girl from oncoming traffic, but let’s go ahead and count that as another check off the “Similarities between Parasyte and Togashi Yoshihiro Manga Series” list.