One night Shinichi Izumi has a nightmare that something is inside his arm and trying to attack him. In his dream he defends himself by wrapping a cable around his arm. When he wakes up, he realises it wasn’t a dream. A parasyte has eaten his arm and replaced it with itself. And that parasyte isn’t alone. There are others and they are taking over the bodies of humans by eating their heads and replacing them. Shinichi is now confronted with how to live in this new world that he has found himself in.
Parasyte the Maxim, a title which makes us wonder if we’ve just been misspelling parasite our whole lives while simultaneously wonder what on earth ‘the Maxim’ might be. Don’t get me wrong, I actually am a fan of this series but I’ve never quite figured out the title and unlike Bleach I just don’t feel the need to let this go. The words here look like they should make sense and convey something and yet they don’t really and it is all just a bit bizarre.
Despite being a fan of the series, and really enjoying the viewing experience, I have a few issues with it. Because of that, I’m going to do a plus/minus review format. There are some spoilers.
The characterisation of Shinichi and Migi (the name Shinichi gives to the parasyte attached to his right arm – migi meaning right) is solid as is the relationship that develops between the two as they search for a way to co-exist. The blending of their personality traits as they literally become more interconnected is portrayed well and feels very realistic as are the reactions of those who know Shinichi and see the changes but can’t identify the cause. Plus, some of Migi’s descriptions of human behaviour are fantastic. They make you laugh but they make you think.
This anime treats every character other Shinichi as either an antagonist or canon fodder (okay that may be a slight exaggeration but only slightly). Quite literally every decent person in Shinichi’s life is either killed by Parasytes, nearly killed by Parastyes, or endangered by Parasytes that are trying to kill Shinichi. And while I get that in the beginning Shinichi is trying to keep his head down and stay out of conflict and one or two deaths are needed to really get him moving in the direction of the plot, some of the deaths are quite clearly the result of someone saying “Right, it’s been three episodes since we graphically slaughtered someone the audience can identify, who is our next victim?” Ultimately, what it means is we stop caring about the deaths, and even the impact on Shinichi begins to lose meaning. While there are one or two other characters that play genuine characters, the vast majority of the cast are victim or killer.
While many characters throughout discuss where the Parasytes came from or what their purpose is (several of the Parasytes also become curious about their origin and purpose beyond eat people), no definitive answer is given. Even though it is all but outright stated through some really unsubtle narration toward the end that the existence of the Parasytes is benefiting the planet through reducing the human population and making it more sustainable, we still don’t know who, what, how or why this took place. I quite liked that they didn’t try and pin it on some experiment gone wrong or aliens but they allowed our characters to continue their wondering about what the meaning of their existence might be (assuming it had any).
I’ll probably annoy some people with this one, but I’m putting the entire last episode and a good half of the second last episode as a minus. I loved this series, even with its shallow portrayal of characters and some plot issues, and then the end happened. Between pompous speeches, bad narration, and the need to really show us that the Parasytes weren’t actually the worst villain out there, the last two episodes are a mess of shifting tones and they talk down to the audience while adding a totally unnecessary conflict. That and it really seems unlikely that just when Shinichi and Migi come to some sort of understanding and manage to defeat the thing trying to kill them that all the other Parasytes would just decide they don’t actually need to be homicidal killers anymore. Plot convenience much?
The fights. Okay, if you are super critical of animation or logic, the fights probably won’t do much for you but I found them interesting to watch. The way each Parasyte employed it’s blades and the way the human hosts for the most part were all but stationary, leaving them vulnerable to attack was pretty interesting. And while this might have seemed odd, it makes sense that the Parasyte couldn’t control all those arms and blades and the human host simultaneously, and it was also necessary if Shinichi was ever going to get any kind of edge in a fight because he could control his body while Migi protected him from attack. Whichever way, I found the combat visually interesting and it fit with the story the way it was set up.
Why is Shinichi the only useful human? You have scientists and government organisations who are working on the problem and realistically they should have come up with something better than the plans they made. It just feels like these guys are made to be useless so that Shinichi still has a reason to exist in the plot because realistically he should have just laid low after taking out the first Parasyte that sensed him.
All and all, this is a decent action anime that poses some interesting questions about human nature and the nature of life (even if none of them are particularly unique). I don’t like the way the end is handled but the series does conclude all the necessary plot points. Ultimately, if you enjoy the interactions between Shinichi and Migi you will have a lot of fun watching this anime. If you find these characters disengaging, you may well be better off passing. It is violent and gory, excessively so at times, and you really shouldn’t get too attached to many of the characters.
What is your opinion on Parasyte the Maxim?