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Parasyte -the maxim-

Entry updated 15 November 2021. Tagged: TV.

Japanese animated tv series (2014-2015). Original title Kiseijû: Sei no kakuritsu. Based on the Manga by Hitoshi Iwaaki. Madhouse. Written by Shinzô Fujita, Hitoshi Iwaaki and Shôji Yonemura. Directed by Kenichi Shimizu. Voice cast includes Aya Hirano, Nobunaga Shimazaki, Atsuko Tanaka and Makoto Yasumura. 24 24-minute episodes. Colour.

A wormlike Alien parasite (Hirano) (see Parasitism and Symbiosis), intending to replace seventeen-year-old Shinichi Izumi's (Shimazaki) brain, botches the job and only becomes his right arm (thus calling itself Migi, the Japanese for "right"). Elsewhere, more successful aliens succeed in taking over their hosts and messily devour people. The parasites are able to contort their heads into monstrous shapes (see Shapeshifters), including blades: Migi can do the same with Shinichi's replaced arm. As Migi can defend Shinichi from other parasites they form a reluctant alliance, though the latter worries about losing his humanity.

The parasites have personalities: Migi spends his spare time studying; another, Reiko Tamura (Tanaka), has scientific curiosity about the Shinichi/Migi symbiosis and the biological nature and origins of parasites – her experiments include Sex with another hosted body and a resulting pregnancy. The father, Mr A (Yasumura), represents an opposite personality: he just wants to eat people. The parasites are selfish, but Migi gradually develops a kinship with Shinichi, whilst Reiko attends college lectures on altruism and the selfish gene and, despite poor parenting skills, develops maternal feelings for her child. Eventually she stops eating people, taking nutrition via her human body: Reiko's intelligence and growing empathy make her the most interesting character in the show.

The Government are aware of the parasites: when one seemingly becomes a mayor to create a safe haven, a military attack is launched on his offices. The parasites are killed, but innocent people are collateral damage: the ability of humans to be Monsters is a point not subtly made. The mayor himself is actually a human ally of the parasites, arguing people have "become toxic to the planet Earth". Shinichi/Migi defeat the most powerful parasite; later, reports of parasites decline and Shinichi suspects they are changing their diet and blending into society.

Influences include "Who Goes There?" (August 1938 Astounding) by John W Campbell Jr writing as Don A Stuart, The Thing (1951; remade 1982) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956; remade 1978): this Anime, however, gives the aliens more depth. Some episode titles refer to sf works: Metamorphosis (as Die Verwandlung 1915 chap; trans A L Lloyd as The Metamorphosis 1937 chap) by Franz Kafka, More Than Human (fixup 1953) by Theodore Sturgeon and What Mad Universe (September 1948 Startling; exp 1949) by Fredric Brown; another is named after The Selfish Gene (1976) by Richard Dawkins (1941-    ).

Parasyte is a fine example of Horror in SF; but though there is much grotesque body horror and gore, this does not dominate the story, which – like Reiko – concerns itself with human nature, particularly selfishness and altruism. The manga won a Seiun Award in 1996. There were also two live-action films: Parasyte: Part 1 (2014) and Parasyte: Part 2 (2015). [SP]


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