Anime Talk & Review : Kiseijuu - Sei No Kakuritsu / Parasyte - the maxim - / 寄生獣 セイの格率 (17+)
If Tokyo Ghoul is fast food then Parasyte is fine dining. Stories that adhere to the "invasion of humanity" gimmick is nothing groundbreaking in any way. It's been done many times on the silver screen, usually in the sci-fi genre, from large scale takeovers like 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers to more up close and personal ones like 2003's Dreamcatcher. The fear of an unknown sentient entity that can challenge us both intellectually and physically is something that has always peeked the interest of the viewing populace for decades. While not always intentional, they tend to it bring up themes like the human condition, human ethics and Darwinism. This is often what draws the line between a decent popcorn flick and an entertaining social commentary. Being both thought provoking and entertaining is a hard feat to pull off but Parasyte does just that. It draws you in with the uncanny imagery and insane violence while still visually presenting themes that can often make the viewer question their perspective on the topic at hand. Of course like any show it had it's fair share of issues as well but the overall product was still satisfactory. Today I'll discuss it's highlights and missteps.
To avoid regurgitating the info you can simply read in the synopsis I'll get to the point.
While the implications of the story is universal the approach it takes is a more personal one. Following the life of our protagonist Shinichi we see the conflict unfold through his eyes and the effects it had on his personal life. With this personal approach we get to understand the individual impact a shift in society's norm can undergo. All of a sudden something other than humans had authoritarian control over Earth. It's a power struggle that's made that much more potent given the fact that even the most savage of beasts could never match our intellectual prowess. Parasyte shows that the only thing separating us from being on the the rear end of the hierarchical food chain is simply our ability to think beyond standard means of self preservation. While we do get a macro overview of the effects and how it's disrupting society the story always kept it's main focus on Shinichi's conflict. The pacing really helped to sell the story and conflict as well. Key events that shape our protagonist both internally and mentally was given enough time to let the moment sink in but it never dwell on them too long to cause it to lose effect. This kept everything at a brisk pace while giving itself enough breathing room to let the impact of traumatic events to unfold. Of course there was some issues, some events felt too left field at times and often led to a temporary disconnect of immersion, most of which involved the earlier school shenanigans or certain side characters acting unrealistic but thankfully it was something that never impeded on the show too long to sour final impressions.
Another issue that some might notice is the plausibility of some events, which again ties back to some of the issues found in the earlier school episodes. Since the source material was made in the late 80s but they try to implement it for modern standards it led to some questionable plot points, like how the parasites manage to stay hidden for so long with surveillance cameras, people with cell phones, the internet and other tech that makes easy information gathering virtually impossible to avoid these days. In other words the story isn't as plausible as it could of been if they had it kept it set in the time period it was written for. This isn't to discredit it as most won't even be bothered by it, but it's something that need to be brought to light.
The common comparisons between Tokyo Ghoul and Parayste is one that's warranted since they both made their anime debut around the same time and both approach similar constructed setups. But unlike Tokyo Ghoul, Parayste explores the societal implications of dealing with a foreign body. The parasites were used as allegorical proxies to many of the show's themes and not simply just a reason to show bishounen cock fights. Like I pointed out in my opening statement, this is what separates the two and makes a clear divide between entertainment with substance and one that barely tried. One provided proper social commentary while the other simply had it as an idea for flavoring.
The final episode perfectly encapsulates all the themes the show presented to those who were keen to them, making it an ending that came full circle and had a solid resolution. Of course some would argue that it could of done more but for what we got it was pretty solid and tied everything up nicely.
Because Parasyte was thematically rich while still being action packed it can be a satisfactory experience for those that watch shows solely for enjoyment and viewers that like to analyze their content. It's a rare blend of mindless fun and conceptual coherence. It's this balance that makes it easy to appeal to both casual fans and veterans. Of course this isn't to say Parasyte reaches the pinnacle of what it had to offer and it could of done more with the material it had but it's certainly a breath of fresh air in comparison to the pseudo-intellectual bait and mass produced school rom coms that we get every year. It's not a "2deep4you" title but it certainly placed more effort in having coherency with it's concepts than most action shows bother with.
The art and animation wasn't anything to jump out of your seat for but the attention to detail and fluidity helped to engross you into it. The character designs were fairly simple and help to give an idea of the character's traits before we even hear them talk. The biggest standout was of course the fight scenes and the detailed anthropomorphic imagery that both served to creep you out and draw on that oddball fascination we all get to things unfamiliar to us. The color palette was eye catching enough on a regular basis but switched to a more acid washed texture or added more saturated colors for whenever it tried to heighten the mood of key events (school hallway anyone?). While nothing that'll win any awards anytime soon the art and animation did enough to stand on it's own and help to set the atmosphere of the show.
Now this is where alot of viewers have a divide.
Parasyte's music selection is a hit or miss depending on your personal preference in music. It's like one of the producers snuck into their teenage kid's room and copied the songs straight off their playlist. "this is what the kids are listening to these days" seem to be the shtick they went with. If anything it really helped to distinguish Parasyte from the rest of the crowd.
The soundtrack is very contemporary, largely composed of EDM (electronic dance music) tracks. The EDM tracks come in a few selection of different sub-genres that can range from techno, dubstep, drum 'n' base, hardstyle, house, trap, downtempo, trance and every variant in between. Of course that's not all it has, as there are a few new school orchestric tracks and soft electronic piano ballads thrown in for good measure. But EDM is the dominating song choice, most noticeably dubstep for those unfamiliar with the sub-genres. Needless to say if EDM is you cup of tea then you'll be in for a treat, but music is subjective and enjoyment will vary for each individual.
The opening is a heavy hitting post-hardcore synth track reminiscent to bands like Pierce The Veil, The Fall of Troy and Sleeping with Sirens, if those bands were to ever went all "T-Pain" on us that is.. It's a "teen angst x 100" kind of song that won't register with everyone and like the EDM OST it's a selective taste.
The sound effects also deserve due mention especially when parasites morph or move around. It adds to the overall creep factor the show is going for, sounding almost like a pliable substance. like playing with silly potty or deflating a balloon. It's hard to pinpoint the sound exactly but it was certainly unique.
All in all the show was unapologetic about it's sound selection and made a bold move in an industry where j-pop and j-rock is enough to get you by. It may not be up to snuff with people that don't care for the genre but it shouldn't be discredited because of that. It added variety to the monotonous OSTs that's become accustomed and expected from the anime industry.
The cast was a mixbag. On one hand a few characters were wonderfully handled, showed layered characterization to their personality, had flaws that made them relatable and easy to sympathize with but on the other we had characters that teeter on the border of 2 dimensional to straight up incompetency. You know it's bad when Migi, a unempathetic hand, showed better characterization than that of some of the side characters. But that isn't to say it bombed in this department as the few focused characters help to carry the show. Watching Shinichi slow metamorphosis and development as a person was well handled and engaging. When the death of a character happened or a traumatizing event occurred they aren't simply used for shock factor but are used to further influence and add dimension to his character. May that be a loss that triggers a lack of empathy or one that helps him rekindle it. Where some of the characters lapsed in proper portrayal it made up with their interactions among themselves, most notably that of Shinichi and Migi and also the relationship he had with the show's main love interest Satomi Murano.
Shinichi and Migi's relationship can be seen as the bridge between both species. They stand in the crossfire and both adapt and grow accustomed to each other, and because they were the focal point of the story seeing their interaction and endearing partnership was always welcomed.
The relationship between Shinichi and Satomi was very organic. No "omg a boob touched my shoulder" blush bullshit, but teenagers acting in mannerisms that anyone growing up can relate to. The back and forth between them can become tedious at times but to be fair given the circumstances they're involved in it's quite acceptable. The show's primary focus was never romance, but what we got outclass some romance titles that only get to 1st base for a finale.
Another noteworthy character was Ryouko Tamiya but I'll keep details about her involvement to a minimum. She was a parasite that helped to further explore some of the show's themes and provided better insight into the turmoil. There was a certain nuance in the way she was portrayed and definitely a memorable addition.
While some characters fell short and others could of been cut out, the cast as a whole were fine and served their purpose.
Parsyste was one of those titles that kept me hooked from beginning to end. It was action packed, had nice tension, great character dynamics and always left me wanting more. It made for great binge watching material and certainly delivered in the entertainment department.
While many anime titles have tried this type of setup before, Parasyte helped to set the benchmark for others to follow. It balanced it's themes well while still being entertaining. It's a show that had a few missteps that was easily overshadowed by everything else it had going for it. This isn't to say the title would appeal to everyone but it's certainly worth a watch.