‘Parasyte’ is now in its third volume. This volume covers Shinichi’s exploits with regards to who he is attached to by the red string of love but also this volume is an attempt by author Hitoshi Iwaaki to create a device by which he can juxtapose Shinichi’s humanity against that of a real Parasyte. The introduction of Shimada as this device allows Iwaaki the ability to take the series’ central trope, that of defining what exactly is humanity, and the addition of Shinichi’s two love-interests and his reaction to Shimada’s killings later on allows this central trope to be adequately developed in this volume.
The first and second volume was crafted with, what I called, “sustained drama”. Unfortunately this volume does have its highs and lows here in terms of what it consirders to be climatic.The principle spectacle in this volume is Shimada’s attack on Shinichi’s school. Shimada is in league with Tamiya Ryoko, returning from the first volume as the female parasyte who was conspiring with the male A-san. Unfortunately, the low points to this drama is found everywhere else. The tension that was driving the story forward in the first two volumes is beginning to wane. For example the first half of the book is frightfully dull. This is unfortunate and the catalyst for this slide is the fact that Murano and Kana are exposed in this volume as being mere devices by which Iwaaki can use them to explore the extent to which Shinichi can love and empathise.
This is seen when Shinichi rescues a dying dog from the middle of a road. The fact that he rescues the dog with Murano in tow and then tries to throw it in the bin is just a moment of sheer irritation. Mainly because it precipitates a series of events where their relationship is tested again and again. The problem is that it seems so shallow. It lacks any kind of love because Murano is being selfish. She craves for a person who has disappeared. Shinichi post his mother dying is a changed Shinichi from the one at the beginning of the series. Their relationship seems so shallow and eked out in order to allow Iwaaki his juxtaposition. Their relationship seems to act merely a dramatic device in order to allow the reader to compare Shinichi with Shimada and allow Shinichi to continue to worry about his own humanity. The continuation of this relationship is like buying petrol for a non-existent car and then showing that can of petrol to your mum in the hope she will buy you a car. The relationship merely accentuates something that is shallow and, essentially like the can of petrol is, useless.
This leads on to another point of contention within this volume: Shimada. Shimada is the next companion of Tamiya Ryoko but is a young student this time compared to A-san. Shimada is an extremely unlikeable character. This is probably part of his make-up however because again he serves as a device by which Iwaaki can juxtapose Shimada with Shinichi. Shimada is the opposite of Shinichi in every way because of his selfish streak. He is seen as using his superhuman powers in a physical eduction lesson. He is the opposite of Shinichi essentially. However Iwaaki is still used as another source of juxtaposition for Shinichi’s dilemma over his humanity. The problem is that Shinichi can not be compared to Shimada nor use him as a guide post to his own humanity. This is because Shimada is selfish and heartless but no less intent on surviving. Surely these are human qualities which if fashioned within a human frame would precipitate a horrible human being.
Unfortunately Iwaaki’s polarisation leads to the two most important supporting characters being, merely, the flip sides of the same coin. Essentially Shimada wants Shinichi dead, as he is a threat to using humanity as a feast, but also Murano wants the current Shinichi dead. She wants the old Shinichi back: the one she loved. It is clear throughout that Shinichi loves her because when he talks to her he does so in a special way and actually uses her name. The same cannot be said for Kana (her name is not mentioned once in this volume!). The polarisation is a poor one, unless Iwaaki is trying to emulate Mamoru Oshii and creating characters who no one really cares about and openly used as a mere plot devices to move the story forward. e.g. Motoko Kusanagi and Batou.
The other problem is that for most of this volume the story is eked out to its fullest extent. The fact is that the characters lack the likeableness in order to make the plot interesting. ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (1995) was a different case where the story is good enough to make dull protagonists watchable. However ‘Parasyte’ is a different matter. The protagonists are dull which contribute to most of the story being dull also. The only bit which was really up to Iwaaki’s usual high standards were the parts which involved the most blood, guts and gore. This third volume is not that bad in relative terms but it is also not that good. The problem is that Iwaaki takes his foot off the accelerator and onto the brakes. I was expecting more from Iwaaki after his brilliant second volume. I hope Iwaaki can fashion a better fourth volume.