Review/discussion about: Parasyte — The Maxim
What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the word “animal?” Is it a lion roaming the plains of Africa? Perhaps it’s a shark swimming menacingly throughout the deep, dark ocean? Or maybe it’s even a cardinal resting on a tree branch, contrasting starkly with a snow-laden field? Whatever the answer may be, something people often forget is that they, too, are an animal. And not just in the definition of the word; our actions can sometimes be rather animalistic in nature. Which leads to an even better question: are we really so different from the species around us? This is the philosophical inquiry Parasyte — The Maxim brings forth. But sadly, it falters quite tremendously.
Parasyte (what it will be called from here on out) focuses on Shinichi Izumi, a normal high-school boy. One day, a parasite of unknown origin enters his body, creating quite the unorthodox, symbiotic relationship.
Starting off with what Parasyte does right, the first third or so of the anime focuses on Shinichi and him getting accustomed with Migi — the name of the parasite that now hosts his right hand — and building the world’s components. This includes a multitude of things: introducing important cast members (for future events and developments), demonstrating Shinichi’s mentality (his complete refusal of the parasites), and showcasing the aliens’ habits (how they eat, blend in with the environment, etc.). There’s nothing really wrong with this section of the show; it sets itself up nicely for tackling whatever events it will inevitably generate. And it all culminates in Shinichi’s near death at the hands of his “parent.”
But that is where it begins to crumble.
Like Shinichi’s mommy, the show dies, with its figurative head being separated from the rest of its body. It’s at this point that the anime begins to become this weird amalgamation of plot contrivances, aggressive violence, and weak writing that prevent the show from keeping everything connected. Beginning at the top of the list, many of the happenings within the anime are quite nonsensical and are borderline unfair within such a “realistic” world. Some easy examples include: Yuuko’s awkward encounter with the student parasite, Reiko allowing the private investigator to walk away, how Gotou was created, allowing Uragami the known serial killer be without handcuffs, watching Goutou literally leaving after his first showing of power, Shinichi miraculously being fast enough to get even remotely close enough to stab Gotou, Migi breaking the genetic barrier, and the Darwinian evolution of the parasites over the course of a year. There are many “convenient” situations that hold no justification for what ultimately occurs, deterring from the overall experience.
Say someone were to ignore a good chunk of these; that’s a plausibility, and may even be warranted for the show to get to the “meat” of what it is attempting to convey. However, moving down the list, the show continues to trip up. Blood and gore is a staple of this show, without a doubt. People are regularly cut up, severed, or otherwise stabbed, with no part of the body being left unscathed. But while the first third used such atrocities as more of a plot point — such as with “A” or with Shinichi’s “heart attack” — the rest of the show tends to use them more for entertainment as opposed to using them for a singular purpose. The fights become more grotesque and involved the further along the series progresses, wanting to impress the audience rather than having them be the least bit meaningful.
This is because the actual writing within the anime gravitates towards vagueness. Once again, barring any mention of the quite egregious and amazingly annoying “Are you really Shinichi?” spouted by Murano (even right up until the very end), the show tries extremely hard to be intelligent. It throws around many ideas about life and the way people live it, but never truly expounds upon them. Such topics include: over-population, the application of altruism, and the necessity for various species to coexist. Very biological, and quite the interesting themes at play. Yet Parasyte never delves into any of them seriously. There might be a smart-sounding lecture or a few sentences of insight here and there, but it refuses to take what it says beyond a precursory glance. That is, it constantly flits back and forth between each of the subjects it raises in an attempt to be more resounding. Instead, the whole package comes off as too ostentatious.
The art style for Parasyte tends to stick to its aforementioned, “realistic” roots. The show mostly contains houses, cities, and forests for the backdrops, relying more on keeping things simple as opposed to making them snazzy. They serve their purpose of providing the characters with a setting to play in but are largely unimpressive to look at.
The character designs, likewise, maintain the already-established sense of realism that permeates the show. Shinichi undergoes a nice range of appearances and outfits and Reiko treads the fine line between human and parasite perfectly. The rest of the parasites, be it Goutou or some random, expendable character, are also given a good amount of detail while in their “monster” forms, giving them a good sense of not only looking alien, but feeling alien, too. And in Goutou’s case, very intimidating.
The actual animation for the show is usually above average in whatever it sets out to do. Some examples include detailed facial expressions or Migi’s “normal” actions. And from parasite fights to Shinichi running and jumping in a literal, inhuman way, the anime consistently demonstrates its capability to keep up movement at all times.
There are really only four characters of importance to focus on: Murano, Migi, Reiko, and Shinichi.
Starting with possibly one of the worst characters to have graced this medium, is Murano. As the love interest and purportedly the person who understands Shinichi the most, she somehow cannot. While watching the show, her grating behavior around him became increasingly agitating, to the point that the show seemed to pretty much ignore her in order to prevent her from negatively impacting it further. But when she did manage to sneak back in, she received one of two treatments: the exact same confusion or some of the most inane interactions. Sometimes, it even combined both tactics to form a behemoth of stupidity. The park scene first comes to mind, where she stumbles oddly into the scenario without contributing anything (not before being visited by the naked ghost of Kana); she discusses Shinichi’s involvement with the police chief in this weirdly passionate plea; the sex scene she has with Shinichi holds no value since her relationship with him has been grossly neglected; and her final speech about how “human” some people can be is merely a vain attempt to make her seem thematically relevant. The level of attention she receives and her overall involvement is too much to be tossed aside. She is a laughably terrible character, with her inclusion in the anime being nothing more than a detriment.
Anything’s better than Murano within Parasyte. So what better than to jump to an intellectual, rational, and foreign life form? Migi is Shinichi’s literal right-hand man…or at least, right-hand friend. While he is viewed mostly as Shinichi’s guardian angel (having descended “from the heavens”), he serves a greater role within the anime. And that is both contrasting and synchronizing with his host in a fluctuating manner. In the beginning, Shinichi’s stance on Migi’s kind causes Migi to appear cold where he is being logical. Halfway through, he starts to become more “friendly” due to their similar structure. And by the end, he sits somewhere in between, wanting both to better himself and give his best buddy the kind of life — the human life — that he deserves. Migi doesn’t particularly grow as a character, despite his ever changing forms, until the near-conclusion; in which another plot contrivance gives him the potential for it. As such, while he acts as Shinichi’s barometer, he fails to do anything more than hold his best friend’s hand from start to finish.
Speaking of the hero, Shinichi shows the first signs of life among the cast. It’s almost impossible to describe him, because he sees such large swings in his personality and demeanor throughout the entire anime. He begins quite timid and fearful of the monsters that now surround him, wanting nothing more than to eradicate their evil existence. But upon gaining a mixed mindset, he becomes almost indifferent, remaining unnervingly calm during nearly every situation he tackles. This cannot be overstated enough: he makes a complete about-face from his previous, impulsive-based self. And this side of him is no better either, for where he alienated the parasites before, he now begins alienating the humans he’s always defended. Thus, the remainder of his character’s focus is in striking a balance, in finding that sweet spot between humans and parasites. For the most part, he does reach it; through Reiko’s compassion, Goutou’s anger, and Migi’s understanding — each of whom are purposefully the most important of the invaders — Shinichi learns to accept those around him, from the smallest ant to the largest elephant, while simultaneously knowing that humans are not the most infallible creatures on the planet.
The most intriguing character from Parasyte, and coincidentally the strongest, is Reiko. She’s the most interesting not so much by how she is able to survive so naturally within the world of the humans, but why she is able to do so. And that’s because, despite her instinctual habits, she tries to comprehend the world around her. She takes the time to investigate DNA transfer, social cues, and relevant information. She isn’t afraid to be a mother in every sense of the word. And most of all, she respects both sides of the ecosystem, placing neither the humans nor the parasites above one another, seeing the value in a purely platonic relationship.
This brings about what the characters were attempting to portray. Despite how poor many of them are, they are connected by a “string of fate:” the different “aspects” to being human. Murano is afraid of the unknown; Migi is merely tolerant of those around him; Shinichi is trying to cope with his place on Earth; and Reiko loves life for what it is. And this can be applied to many of the other characters still — Goutou demonstrates anger, Uragami symbolizes depravity, etc. — to give the nicely executed message: humanity isn’t just some simple creature. We’re a complex system of feelings, emotions, and ideas that is almost impossible to capture in a solitary way. We do mess up but we also perform feats of extraordinary proportion. And while we may be intricate, funny, weird, amazing, or downright deplorable at times, there is no mistaking that humans, people, are an ever-growing, never-boring species of unbelievable value.
The OP’s not only wicked, but fun to listen to. It’s a catchy piece, with the auto-tuned singer working well with the tapping drags, throat singing, and rocking guitar. The track is metal, mixed with “higher” singing at times, but ends as hardcore as it can get. It captures the feeling of the show nicely, and is a good song overall.
Whether the ED is better than its OP counterpart is a tough call. It contrasts with the opening as heavily as it can, especially when listened to one after the other. The slow singing and beautiful piano work in harmony, calming the senses and bringing about a good sense of hope. By the halfway point, the background chorus joins in and the piece heads towards the end with rather catchy lyrics. It concludes on a happy-yet-sad note, the same kind of feeling one has after listening to it.
The soundtrack is a mixed bag of good and experimental tracks. It can fit the mood when utilizing the somewhat singsong, ambient instruments, but can be wholly distracting when some out-of-place dubstep kicks in. The tracks are more suited to being listened to solely within the anime and not outside of it, unlike the OP and ED that surrounds it.
Finally, voice-acting sees above-average work for most of the cast. Special shout-outs to Nobunaga Shimizaki as Shinichi with his various range of emotions and Aya Mirano as the voice of Migi, alongside Rinka as the beat-boxing sound effects for him, with their combined efforts providing a unique set sounds that only an alien could make.
While watching this one, I never really liked any of the fighting or the drama that was taking place. It could be cool at times, but it was never much of a contest — for either the humans or parasites — unless Shinichi was involved in the ordeal. And my emotions never left anywhere past leveled: I wasn’t laughing, distressed, or moved by anything that this show was serving.
I would have enjoyed it more had it not devolved into mindless violence and instead stuck with what the first third or so built so nicely. The only section of the show I particularly found more “enthralling” was Kana’s arc, if only because it was rather hysterical in the absurdity and silliness of it all. Otherwise, I wasn’t looking forward to what the anime had to offer on a weekly basis and was along just to see how it’d all turn out.
And on that note, Parasyte — The Maxim ends in a rather unfortunate way. With a strong start but a lackluster majority, the nice music tracks are not enough to save the weak narrative and hodgepodge cast. And while the anime implores us to have a loving relationship with the world around us, the same can’t be said for this one.
Story: Bad, good first third, but the rest is mired in contrivances, coarse violence, and unfocused themes
Animation: Good, okay art style, good character designs, above-average actual animation
Characters: Fine, Murano is awful, Migi is okay, Shinichi and Reiko are good, with everyone connected by humanity
Sound: Good, good OP, good ED, okay soundtrack, above-average VA work
Enjoyment: Fine, okay fight scenes here and there, not very emotional, sometimes silly
Final Score: 5/10
Thanks for taking the time to read my review. If you want, take part in the discussion below! :3