Parasyte: The Maxim

The manga series Parasyte (Hitoshi Awaaki) was launched in 1988 and concluded in 1995. Twenty years after finishing its run in afternoon magazine Parasyte was finally awarded its own anime adaptation by studio Madhouse with Shimizu Kenichi as director.

Modern-day Tokyo has been hit with an epidemic. Strange creatures known as parasites have invaded and have taken over human bodies. No one knows what’s happened or what they are, no one but Shinichi Izumi, a young man whose right hand gets taken over by a parasite. Now the two must try to survive the never-ending nightmare of the parasite invasion.

Parasyte is massively important to the manga and anime industry. Not only did it break new ground by showing that dark and mature stories sold big numbers, but it was also one of the original “part man – part monster” manga that has recently become one of the most popular themes in recent years (see Tokyo Ghoul & Attack on Titan).

Looking at Parasyte from the outside, the series appears to be an edgy action show with hard-hitting fights emphasized by out-of-place dubstep. However once the hype settles from the first few episodes and more characters enter the fray, Parasyte changes from being all about the gruesome action to a strangely philosophical series about the worth of mankind in the universe and the importance of human emotion.

Shinichi and his parasitic hand Migi are the stars of the show, and are the main catalyst through which the audience sees this world. Shinichi starts off as a weak and terrified young man who would cry if he saw a spider. And Migi is a cold-hearted and calculated parasite that sees no fear in slicing off a human’s head. The conversations between these two, and the ways they perceive the importance of human life, make for some of the most interesting and thought-provoking moments in recent anime history. But it’s not just these two that are great; the entire cast of strange characters leave an impression.

No character is simplistic in Parasyte. Everyone has conflicting thoughts and their own perception of the world, every character believes that their own ideologies are correct and all others are false. Watching each of these complicated characters converse and attempt to reason with each other with what they define as “fact” is what keeps Parasyte intense all the way through its entire 25-episode run.

If there is one major gripe with the show, it would be the miscommunication the show has at the beginning. At the start of the show, it seems like it’s going to be an action anime with the main character slowly becoming the strongest around by defeating countless foes, discovering the truth behind parasites and saving the world. But as the show hits the midpoint, it evolves, revealing that Parasyte isn’t about that at all, but is instead a personal journey for Shinichi. But it’s also this change that helps make the show stand out as something special.

While this leads to a fantastic and highly rewarding series, it’s hard to get over the apparent bait-and-switch of having an action series turn into a psychological drama.

If there is one anime from the winter 2014 season you should check out, it has to be Parasyte. If the worst thing that can be said about a show is that it changes from normality to become something special, you know you’ve got a fantastic show on your hands. While some may be put off by the creepy parasite designs, I implore you to find a way to delve into this wonderful series. I promise you won’t regret it.

9 / 10