There are some endings to a movie that you simply can’t forget. Either because they were very beautiful, or because they were incredibly shocking when you first experienced them. It was rather late in the evening when I sat alone in a darkened living room watching the 1978 remake of the science fiction classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Starring the late Leonard Nimoy and Donald Sutherland, it was a movie about people being replaced with exact duplicates of themselves, albeit without emotion. While certainly a scary film, it was the ending scene that shocked me the most. I’m not going to spoil it here, in case you haven’t seen it, but suffice it to say when you first see it, it will be imprinted in your mind for quite some time. Now why am I rambling on about an old horror movie, while this is supposedly a review for an anime? Well, simply because the anime in question, Parasyte, has quite a few things in common with that film. In this case though, instead of having a shock ending, it actually has quite a visceral and horrifying opening scene that immediately draws you in. Strangely enough though, I expected this series to be a bloody, gory and scary experience. While it certainly did have enough of those elements in it, I did not expect a series with so many touching and emotional moments.
First things first though, what exactly is Parasyte about? Meet highschool student Shinichi Izumi. He’s a dime a dozen regular guy, who doesn’t really stand out in class, and is also somewhat shy. He lives a quiet life together with his loving parents, and while it might not be very exciting, there are no real complaints. However things are about to get very complicated when an alien parasitic race arrives on Earth. Appearing as small worm like creatures, they are able to completely take over a human host, entering through their ears and noses. Once there, they are able to morph their shapes in order to feed on other people. While Shinichi is sleeping one of these parasytes arrives at his room, and is about to enter his body. Just before that happens though, he wakes up preventing it from completing it’s take over. Instead it burrows into Shinichi’s right hand making a home there. As it has failed in taking over his brain, the parasyte and his host retain their own personalities. At first Shinichi and the parasyte which he calls Migi, the Japanese word for right, don’t exactly get along. Which is quite understandable, given the fact that Migi is coldhearted, and doesn’t really give a damn about the human race. Migi is also quite curious though, and turns up at unexpected moments, making life pretty difficult for the poor highschool student. But when other Parasytes begin to turn up and attack him, both host and alien have to find a way to work together, as well as get a mutual understanding going. Their own lives, and the lives of people Shinichi cares for depend on it…
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this post, this anime was a pretty big surprise for me. Never in a million years would I have thought that this series would become a pretty emotional rollercoaster. When the series first starts and Migi begins to appear as a talking right hand, that takes a bit getting used to. I mean we are talking about a hand that has a mouth, eyes and some small limbs as well, and that we are supposed to take seriously. Although honestly the series also has quite a number of funny moments too, but more on that later. Eventually though that initial weirdness wears off, and you begin to accept him as a regular character. Well, about as regular as a talking, morphing alien hand can be of course. You would be surprised when I say that Migi is maybe one of the most fun characters that I have ever seen in an anime. His dynamic with his human host is one of the main reasons why this series is so compelling. Both Migi and Shinichi go on a journey during the course of the 24 episode run, and both come out changed. In fact I don’t think you will recognise either character anymore as their personalities end up on totally different sides of the emotional spectrum as where they started with.
A lot of the series strength comes forth from all the different relationships this series has to offer. Shinichi’s bond with fellow highschool student Satomi Murano who is also his love interest is the most interesting one, but also one that is pushed to the breaking point. With Shinichi’s behavior changing daily, and having to keep Migi a secret from her, Satomi becomes increasingly more worried. I think we all had friendships in real life where people began to change, and ended up being someone totally different as the person you became friends with. Do you stop supporting them and give up a friendship? Or do you keep believing in them no matter what? It’s question like these that Satomi keeps struggling with throughout the show. For all the doom and gloom this series has, there is luckily also some very welcome and also excellent comedic relief. Migi’s bantering with Shinichi throughout various moment in the anime, offers up a couple of hilarious situations. Some of these are a bit on the naughty side, but it never goes overboard in any way. Now before you start to worry and are beginning to think that this anime is more a kind of soap opera, you can put those worries to rest.
Parasyte the Maxim is definitely a horror show. The Parasytes can turn into some truly horrific looking apparitions, and especially when they start to attack and eat people the ketchup starts flowing freely. Still it never becomes too gruesome. Shows like for instance Attack on Titan or Tokyo Ghoul are much more horrifying, and this is almost for lack of better term a “horror light anime”. Action lovers will most assuredly also get their fix, as some of the fights that Shinichi gets into are very stylish, and brutal. The Parasytes have a unique look, and can turn themselves into all kinds of weapons. You can compare them a bit to the T1000 liquid metal Terminator from Terminator 2 where the metal this time is flesh. This anime was a joy and pleasant surprise. The series ends on a high note, and while there certainly is room for a second season, the storylines are wrapped up neatly and very satisfying. The animation style looks very good and detailed, and at certain moments even quite stunning. If you are looking for a horror anime that never becomes too dark, and also has a lot of depth to it, combined with a great cast of characters you will enjoy this one. It’s always nice when a series turns out to be something totally different than what you expected, but is all the better for it. And with a show that’s basically a story about a talking hand, that’s saying something.
I give Parasyte the Maxim a 9 out of 10 score.