This is review number four hundred and thirty four. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup and it’s called Parasyte the Maxim or Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu. It’s a twenty four episode anime about gore and a bunch of background characters dying. It’s good stuff. Let’s read on.
There is an epidemic happening on Earth. A lot of people are dying, and the horrifying truth is that someone has claimed the top of the food chain above us. Yes, we are their food. Creatures of unknown origin one day appear and decide to eat humans. But instead of being threats, what if they simply want to co-exist? After all, don’t we raise the animals we consume as well? Stock of lives, right?
Taking the Pants Off
What a gawd damn beautiful anime. I have always been a big supporter of the “anime must respect the adaptation” idea, because there is a reason why a lot of readers respond to the original source. There wouldn’t be an anime without the source and the following it garnered, so staying true to the original is something I stand by with. I initially didn’t want to watch this anime because I heard it was gory. I wasn’t really in the mood for gore, so I put off watching this anime until now. As I watch the first episode though, there was a very familiar feeling to it. The way it presents scenes, introduce characters and the way the episode flows feels like it’s celebrating the original source. It’s kinda weird how I can sense that, but I was immediately intrigued by the anime. I soon loved the anime because of this scene:
The way it’s composed. The way the image just tells so much. I can tell this was a manga panel. This was a similar scene from the original source and the anime is excitingly telling the audience it’s going to faithfully adapt the manga. I don’t really know why, since the setup just feels like another Tokyo Ghoul to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized the manga came out in the 80s. The entire eight volumes are adapted in 2014. It isn’t just a simple beat by beat adaptation though. I checked the manga after I saw the anime, and I can honestly say the anime is better. The show felt like someone truly understood the meaning and the intention of the manga, and it seeks out to make the manga better. I can only imagine the writer or the director truly loved the series, and the adaptation is a love letter to Hitoshi Iwaaki himself. A sort of “thank you for making such a special manga, and I hope I can make you proud”. It is incredible how faithful the anime is to the original source. I feel like I’ll be gushing nonstop about this. I just love near perfect adaptations like this. I think the last one I saw was “Your Lie in April” and that came out the same time this anime did. I am a big Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure fan. I know the feeling of celebrating along with the adaptation, and fans of the manga must’ve had an amazing time watching Parasyte.
It’s not Tokyo Ghoul
My first impression of this anime is really Tokyo Ghoul. The whole “eating people, but I still have my humanity” angle is kinda already explored by the other show. I think Tokyo Ghoul had a good grasp of how to handle that story, so I didn’t really expect much from Parasyte. As expected, a man eating monster is sharing the body of a human and it causes the dude to panic as he realizes he is slowly becoming less human. Unexpectedly though, this is where the similarities end. Tokyo Ghoul is action oriented, and it mostly focuses on badass non humans fighting in our established world. While Parasyte does have action, the story isn’t about that. This anime tells a more intimate story about survival and human nature. It doesn’t demonize the aliens for eating humans, but instead tries to defend them. How are they different from humans? No, how alike are the two exactly? In fact, what are humans even? Aren’t they, in a broader sense, parasites themselves? This anime is a gigantic existential crisis contained in twenty four episodes, and I assure you, every ounce of emotion pouring out the anime is so damn beautiful.
The wonderful thing about Parasyte is that it doesn’t really judge. It also doesn’t have the answer to its very question. As you keep watching the show, you soon realize the question isn’t really that simple. It’s as complicated as humans are complicated. But it’s fine. Doubt it. Question it. Mock it. The show welcomes all your emotions. After all, we’re only humans ourselves.
The big thing about the anime is that it did altered a lot about the manga, but it didn’t really change anything big per se. It’s the small details where the two entities differ. For example, the 80s had phone booths and it plays up the big bodied bully picking on a frail boy. In the anime, we now have cellphones to keep in touch and the bully is now a handsome emo. It’s kinda funny like that. The main reason for these changes is because the manga served as a time capsule of its era. The original source is sadly a victim of its time. If you’ve read the manga, the illustration is really weird. It’s kinda like City Hunter. Some panels have weird facial reactions that don’t really make sense in the story. They look too comedic for its purpose. The illustrations themselves are just lacking overall. I love the alien aesthetic and how the gore is featured, but it isn’t really well emphasized in the manga. The pacing is often too fast and the storytelling is too clunky to really sink into a scene. There are four big moments in the anime and it just kinda happened in the manga. Sure, it shook the narrative but it often just served its intended purpose. If you marathon the eight volumes, the story doesn’t really breathe. It’s presented as clearly and as a matter-of-fact as possible, and I honestly think that’s just how manga is done in the 80s. Or maybe that’s just how serialized manga feel when the chapters are bound together. Either way, the experience just feels different.
This is where the anime feels really special. Think back to 1988, you’re eagerly waiting for the next chapter to come out. You read it, and it was the chapter where Shinichi’s family is broken apart. The emotion you have while reading it must’ve shaken you. In fact, you re-read it once more and you study every scene leading up to it. You romanticize it until the next chapter comes out. Now flash forward to a time where eating Tide pods is a f*cking thing. You excitedly wait for the next episode to come out, and it’s the one where Shinchi’s family is broken apart. The emotion you have while watching it must’ve shaken you, and I bet you shared the same experience someone from 1988 had. The anime lovingly told the manga’s narrative in such an effective way that the reader and the watcher shares one. The anime compensated for the manga’s weaknesses, and it made sure the reader’s experience is carried over. It’s brilliant stuff.
Of course, I’m detailing things as someone that saw the anime first. My experience with the manga is tainted by the adaptation, so there is bias in my view. Either way, I’m sure I won’t really enjoy the manga if the anime didn’t tell me its intentions first.
Now, the anime doesn’t just stop at updating technology and character stereotypes to fit the era though. It also updated the manga itself. I mentioned a panel in the anime that I really love. The way the shot is composed just looks really masterful. It’s brimming with details and you can almost see it in its black and white print. Well, here’s a comparison of the two:
Yeah, the anime had a more impressive panel. There were a lot of important scenes in the manga lovingly retold in the anime. The best part is that it still pays homage to the 1988 manga, but it updates the panel as if it was written in 2014. It’s a pretty insane level of detail, since you really could’ve just copied the original source itself. I’m sure purists that enjoyed the original source would’ve appreciated the panels themselves coming to life. I think back to Jojo and how even the manga sound effects and the jarring 80s look of the characters are kept intact. This anime thought different. This anime said we can do it better, and we can make the manga readers smile while also keeping the anime watchers tuned in. It’s pretty incredible, since this kind of dedication is really rare. I honestly haven’t seen it before, and I want to check my older reviews to see if I missed one.
No Longer Human
Ok, so what exactly is the anime about? It’s kinda hard to describe, because the show operates on an internal plot and an external one. These two sides often clash and make the narrative too complex for its own good. I guess a good place to start is really with the Tokyo Ghoul angle. A kid wakes up realizing he’s no longer human. Tokyo Ghoul had the beautiful vomiting scene while Parasyte had a smiling face attached to a guy’s right hand. At that instance, the two plots are established. Externally, it’s about the aliens invading humans and eating them. They are unwelcomed threats that seek to be on top of the food chain. It’s simple enough.
Internally though, this show is about human nature and human existence. Yeah, it goes that deep. Is it philosophical? No, it’s not. It doesn’t really have a message to share. It simply just throws ideas, often shallow and often though provoking. The point isn’t to take one side of the argument and present facts. The story simply wants to make the audience think and to react to things that they might never consider. Is the show dark though? No, it’s also not dark. While, yeah, it has gore and merciless killings, you can also argue that it’s just part of life. It’s a matter of fact. It doesn’t revel on human agony or misery. Suffering isn’t the point. The gore is basically just the food chain in motion. Well, ok, it sounded dark but it’s complicated like that.
Either way, this anime operates on two levels. The world is experiencing the alien epidemic while the boy is understanding the aliens and learning to co-exist with one. The problem with the show is realizing where the external ends and the internal begins. I’d say both plot eventually merges, but the story is too spread out to really know for sure.
Throughout the series, the anime displays qualities of how exactly it is to act human. This is easily to recognize considering you have a group of non-humans to compare it too. While the anime internally follows one boy, it externally follows a boatload of people and the experiences they have as well. The old TPA B would’ve basically laid out the anime in chapters at this point. There are four chapters in this anime, and each one focuses on a certain character to an extent. Moreover, the chapters focus on a big change about the individuals. Human Nature comes into the picture, because there are certain actions that these individuals take that are understandably human. How they handle grief, how they handle attachments, how they handle decent morality and how they fall in love are basically clichéd human behavior. The anime doesn’t really have an end goal with this. Most of the individuals just display how it is to be human, in the most human way possible. I guess the ultimate focus is the feelings behind the action. To be human is to be controlled by your emotions, whether you’re rational or not. Now, witness these characters experience something that makes their emotions go haywire. It is human nature at its most simplest and most beautiful. I don’t really need to sell this point, because the big moment at episode 5 kinda speaks for itself. It still haunts me, to be honest.
The human nature angle is taken a step deeper though, because the show keeps on asking “what is it to be human?” What qualifies being a human? What makes us different from the aliens? Is human nature an alien concept to them? Is it really just us controlled by our emotions? The individuals in this anime kinda took a wild ride with the concept. As changes keep happening, their emotions forcing them to react, you soon realize the line isn’t really that well drawn to begin with. I’m trying to be vague, but it kinda had the Shiki message. Vampires hunt to survive while humans can be as merciless as vampires. Vampires can still be human though, and humans can be so much worse than vampires.
Now, I’ll be direct. The show is messy. There are a lot of themes and the genre clashes. It’s a sci fi horror, but it’s also a thought provoking drama. It has this stuck up lecture about the environment and it also has a love story. I think there’s a coming of age story, but I’m not really sure. That’s why I stick with the internal and external plots. As long as you focus on that, then the clutter can simply be explained as humans experiencing a lot of stuff. If there’s one clear theme the anime presents though, then it’d be a wonderful case of existential crisis. What am I? What is my purpose in this world? Is it really enough for me to just exist? Is this really all I’m meant for? Existential crisis hits this anime hard, and it’s really fun to watch. If you’ve never experienced it yourself, then consider yourself lucky. This crisis really sucks, and it’s easy to relate to. The feeling of being vulnerable, lost and confused is something the anime nailed. As the characters display human nature, the existential crisis theme keeps bubbling over the surface. I think this also contributes to the messy theme and genre of the show. The show itself is in existential crisis, but in a good way. The show seek its purpose, but it also often ends up lost and confused unsure of where it wants to end up in.
I think existential crisis is really all about answering questions that keeps you awake at night. It eats you up inside as you’re unable to find the answers. The anime doesn’t really provide answers as well. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I think it’s pretty succinct, since the show never really intended to answer anything in the first place. It just goes through the process and it invites the audience to look at how the characters deal with it.
One of the major weaknesses of the manga is that the characters aren’t really well developed. Even Shinichi just reacts to situations and there’s no real development to his character. Even his transformation seems clunky in the original. It’s not just him though. There are a lot of throw away characters here that should’ve meant a lot more in the overall story. I think this is one of the biggest update of the anime. It really made the one dimensional characters become more meaningful and complex. Characters that are mere plot devices are given a stronger presence in the show, and they really serve to emphasize the intended theme and message of the story. I think the biggest element that made the one dimensional characters work is the inclusion of empathy to the story. You will empathize with the characters, and it’s a big addition that made them well-rounded. You don’t just engage with them and understand their motivation, but you also feel pity for them. The way they deliver their dialogue, the way they act, and the way they face the crisis makes you want to empathize with them. There is a more meaningful connection established with the characters, and it really adds a lot to the overall experience.
Empathy is also a big reason why a lot of the moments in the anime really pack a punch. I think this is really the big element in the show that cancels out any dark element attached to the narrative. It’s the big thing that strips the anime bare and makes it vulnerable. Sometimes, you don’t even need to understand why the characters act the way they do because you already empathize with them. Even the big fight that ends the anime ultimately concludes with empathy still playing a part in the story. I guess, in an idealistic sense, it’s a big indicator of just how human we truly are if we can empathize with others.
Shimizu, Yonemura and Madhouse
The last Madhouse anime I saw was Hanayamata, and I think No Game No Life before that and maybe Mahouka beyond that. Madhouse has a reputation of producing stellar work, and I do believe this anime ranks up there. Props and love goes to the writer and director though, who lovingly crafted the adaptation with so much care and detail. This is Kenichi Shimizu’s directorial debut, and it is practically flawless. He had a long career as a key animator and animating director, and he really put the skill to good use. Reimagining the manga takes balls and a good grasp of what you’re doing. I only know a handful of directors as vividly talented to make the adaptation better than the original. Most directors won’t even bother, since the manga is good enough to thrive on its own. The extra care and attention really warms my heart. I hope his future works are as lovingly crafted as this one. The visuals are nicely paired with the writing though, and the series composition is as impressive as the reimagined panels. Shoji Yonemura didn’t just faithfully adapt the manga, but he also paced it in a way that would better be experienced. He also edited scenes out, transitioned them smartly, foreshadowed characters and events, and he basically changed a lot without changing anything. Madhouse certainly had a bunch of geniuses working on this anime because the show really went beyond what it’s expected of it. I freaking love it.
Sight and Sound
As I said before, the manga is super old. I don’t mean that in any bad way. I’m honestly just exposed to so much moe that it’s jarring not seeing any in a manga. The 80s style is more rough looking and manly, so even the girls are decent looking than cute. Proportions are pretty great though, and I love the aesthetic style of the manga. Yeah, it still looks like City Hunter but I think that’s part of the charm. The parasites’ designs stay the same though, and they are freaking amazing. The way their grotesque mouths open up, the way the head twirls to expose teeth and blade and the way it visualize gore is just amazing. The anime’s aesthetic is a lot different. Character design is completely overhauled. Some of them stayed the same, but the 80s hairdo of the manga is completely changed and accessories are added to the characters. I particularly like how the clichéd “weak type” character design is implemented to Shinichi. He looks cooler in the manga, but the anime made him meeker. They turned his female lead more interesting too, and a boatload of characters really got a good update.
I guess the only thing really missing in the anime is the gore of the manga. There may be an uncensored version out there, but I didn’t see it. The gore in the manga is really beautiful though. It’s not sickly gore. It’s more like an art made by someone with gentle hands if that makes any sense.
Animation is pretty great. The action is fast paced, the flow of the scenes is more spaced out and facial reactions are spot on. The scenes straight from the manga, like the jogger scene, are amazingly done beat by beat and the anime knows when to alter something to make the presentation better. The detail work is amazing and every panel is really given care. The re-imagined panels are a lot better though. I already shared my favorite image above, but the anime does a lot of these scenes. It stays true while also being unique and I love that small touch from the show. Shimizu’s talents really show in how he presents a scene. The way the shots linger, the way the scene flows and the angles he uses really elevates the adaptation. I also love how they use this sad piano arrangement during certain scenes and it always makes me feel sad whenever I hear it. Coupled by the intense storytelling and the colorful visuals, the music really puts the exclamation point to the amazing directing and animating at work here. The dubstep music is kinda funny know, since in a weird way, the anime is a capsule of 2014. Stupid dubstep.
The anime’s OP is “Let Me Hear” by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’m pretty sure that’s a movie. Yeah, weird band name. Also, sweet flaming Pikachu, what a song. The lyrics are mostly in English and it’s about a massive existential crisis sung in death metal. It’s insane. It had lyrics about Maslow and his hierarchy of happiness, and I think the song is a good representation of the anime and manga. Come for the weird gore, stay for the random thoughts about human existence and human purpose. I honestly hate the full version of the song, but it’s kinda quirky in its own demonic way. The OP sequence is pretty great though. I love the fast introduction of the characters and the brief summary scattered all over the montage. I think the only thing I hated is the naked scene since they hyped up the sex scene and it wasn’t as good as the OP said it would be. I dunno, that was a deal breaker for me.
The anime’s ED is “IT’S THE RIGHT TIME” by Daichi Miura. Opposite from the OP, I freaking love this song. It’s a love song but Miura really made the song special. With his moody piano arrangement and his soothing voice, the song just instantly grabs you. It’s fitting that the OP welcomes you with death growls and the ED sends you away with a love ballad. The ED sequence is something special, since it’s the front doors of various houses by the different characters in the show. It’s like the anime is asking you to keep an eye on the details and maybe some of these houses can only be found in the manga. Happy hunting.
9/10 “It’s deep yet easy to follow. It’s complex yet simple to like. A definite hit provided by clearly talented people at Madhouse.”
Aside from being a near perfect adaptation, the content is also just divine. From its action packed layer to its more thought provoking level, the anime just doesn’t let up. There’s a lot to enjoy and to indulge in as you slowly get attached to the characters and the way they go about being human. If you enjoy action with a lot more substance to it, then you’ll enjoy what Parasyte has to offer. It’s an easy one. I highly recommend it.
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