24 episodes clocking in at 22 minutes a piece.
What does it mean to be human? As Agent Smith once said in The Matrix: “Humans do not form a natural equilibrium. Instead they multiply and multiply until every resource is consumed.” In that respect, humanity bears more in common with a virus or a parasite than we do the other species on our planet. So what then would happen if an alien parasite began using us as its hosts? Step forward Parasyte: The Maxim.
Adapted from the popular manga of the same name, Parasyte gained a lot of acclaim when it dropped on the small screen back in 2014 and it’s easy to see why. The animation is gorgeously rendered, the hand-drawn scenes beautifully detailed and the hybrid blend of rock and dubstep actually works quite well to give this a slightly unique feel. It helps too that a lot of the scenes and elements of this anime are drawn directly from the manga, with many scenes playing out nearly identical.
As one may have gathered, Parasyte’s problems stem from an alien entity touching down on Earth and using human beings as hosts. A simple but effective prologue works perfectly as a hook to draw you into this series.
A couple stare longingly into each other’s eyes under the beautiful moonlit sky. Alone in their room, one of them suddenly sprouts a monstrous head and sinks its teeth into the other. Blood spews across the floor and as the dead crumples into a sickening heap, this acts as the catalyst that begins a string of grisly deaths known to the media as the “Mincemeat Murders.”
With word of this spreading across Japan, stuck in the middle of all this happens to be 17 year old student called Shinichi Izumi. Scared of bugs and incredibly awkward in front of girls, his world is turned upside down when he encounters one of these parasites himself. However, this being only manages to take control of his right hand, prompting an unlikely kinship between the two.
What begins as a cold and distant clashing of ideals soon becomes much more intimate as Migi (the name given to this parasite) and Shinichi work to try and learn more about what’s happening to them. Unfortunately this hits a serious snag when a new teacher rocks up at school called Ryouko Tamiya. It’s immediately clear that her power level far exceeds Migi’s but strangely, she happens to be pregnant with a human child.
For the first 18 episodes, these two characters juxtapose one another in a beautiful series of changing fortunes. As Migi continues to help Shinichi, across the season he starts to lose what made him such a timid and weak character at the beginning until he’s almost unrecognizable.
His friend Murano starts to notice this too, calling him out for the changes to his persona. He’s almost like a different character and this only becomes more apparent the longer the season progresses, so much so that Shinichi himself starts to realize he’s losing the one thing that made him truly human.
By comparison, Tamiya begins the season as a cold blooded killer. As a parasite, she’s determined to kill and become the dominant species on Earth, helping her fellow parasitic brethren to take over. Thanks to the growing human being inside her, she soon starts to exhibit more human-like tendencies, becoming curious about the world before unwittingly displaying some of the most human emotions seen from any character in this series.
While the supporting characters are a little disappointing – especially the other females in this anime – Tamiya’s growth is arguably the stand-out jewel here. I won’t divulge spoilers but suffice to say the final 6 episodes really struggle to capitalize on this and produce an antagonist or anti-hero matching her credentials. It’s a shame too because the last couple of episodes have some suitably emotional moments between Shinichi and Migi but beyond that, struggle to really hit the highs it could have done.
Aesthetically, this anime looks great and although the parasite forms all look pretty similar, they’re at least faithful to the manga which is great to see. The colours are consistent and vibrant, with some of the hand-drawn backgrounds absolutely gorgeous to look at. That’s before mentioning the voice acting which is really great all round.
While I’d always recommend watching this in its native tongue, the dubbing in this one actually isn’t that bad, with both Migi and Shinichi standing out with some great lines that differ to that of its native Japanese tongue.
The fighting itself is pretty good too but most of the skirmishes here rely on the same hook of two characters rooted to the spot and fighting with super-quick tentacles. While this looks quite impressive, it also loses some of its initial shock and awe toward the latter stages of the show. To be fair, there are a couple of exceptions here, including a bloodbath inside a yakuza base and a tense scene involving the Town Hall, but beyond that there isn’t a lot of variety with these segments.
Instead, Parasyte relies heavily on its hook about quite what it means to be human. This is one of the most consistent aspects of this anime, working well to stitch everything together with a more meaningful theme than one may expect from a show like this.
Across the 24 episodes, the story evolves and changes our understanding of what these parasites are and how humans deal with their threat which makes for a really engaging and intriguing watch.
If you can look past some of the lacklustre characterization and take to the story, Parasyte is a decent anime and certainly highly acclaimed for a reason. Is it overrated? Perhaps a little but if you can go into this one blind, Parasyte offers enough originality to make it worth your time.
Verdict - 8/10