Monday, 30 May 2016

Mini Monday: Parasyte -The Maxim-

Parasyte the maxim poster

Japanese anime/manga likes to ask big questions. Death Note ponders how good intentions can, with the introduction of almost limitless power, be warped into monstrous acts. Barakamon explores art and how our creativity is intrinsically linked with the people around us. Dragon Ball Z attempts to create a cohesive story around hair gel and the age-old playground battle of wits that is "I'm better times a million...PLUS ONE". The anime that I just finished watching a matter of days ago, Parasyte -the maxim-, tackles equally as lofty subject matter, inquisitively poking the concepts of humanity and mankind's destructive relationship with nature; something which, for the most part, it does very well.

Parasyte the maxim reiko tamura head split screenshot
Helped along with a healthy dose of unpleasant body horror.
This show is super heavy on the plot, so I'll give you the beginner's version: weird parasites of unknown origin (maybe space, they never say) appear on Earth and infect humans by crawling into their brains and taking over their heads (see above); these monsters then survive by feeding on other human beings to keep their host body alive. Our hero, Shinichi Izumi, is infected by one of these parasites but manages to stop it from reaching his brain, instead it burrows into his right arm and takes that over instead. So Shinichi now has a sentient, shape-shifting right arm called Migi (Japanese for "right") and the pair work together to survive as they come to blows with other parasites and try to keep their existence secret; obviously this doesn't go particularly well.

Parasyte the maxim shinichi migi fight Mr A school gif
Seen above: Not being very inconspicuous.
The animation is fabulously grotesque, particularly when it comes to the strikingly regular eviscerations/decapitations, and it helps make the action, although blindingly fast, feel heavy and consequential; you're never sure how things might end up playing out. And boy does the show play off that as best it can! If you thought Game of Thrones was trigger happy with doing unspeakable things to its characters, you're in for one hell of a treat; no-one gets out of Parasyte unscathed. There's multiple massacres, usually in schools, and the majority of the principal cast ends up killed, infected or both, usually in a most unexpected and brutal fashion; although there's a few spots of nice humour thrown in there to keep you calm. It's a heart pounding experience that, with a meaty yet brief 24 episode run, maintains a firm narrative rhythm and knows exactly for how long it should stick around.
Parasyte the maxim shinichi migi reading morph change gif
Migi is adorable. A cold, ruthless killer, but still adorable.
There are always downsides, however, and Parasyte has a few. The plot runs thick and fast throughout the show, but often each character's internal monologue and contemplations with one another become repetitive and extremely protracted; there's only so many times someone can say "You're not like you used to be" before it loses any meaning. This gets particularly bad in the closing episodes, where you're regularly treated to over-bearing 5-minute long speeches about how mankind is the real evil due to its destruction of the natural world, or how Shinichi has realised the true meaning of being human yada yada bleh bleh. Luckily the writing and translation is good and the points relevant enough to the show's overarching themes to still be engaging, but you can't shake that icky forced environmentalism schtick. Also, it felt like the final epic confrontation was sort of shoehorned in at the end, sticking out like a compound fracture compared to the rest of the show; it may have worked better to introduce the unkillable nemesis earlier in order to establish him as a constant threat, ie Alien or Resident Evil: Nemesis. On a whole, though, if you're looking for some great body horror with satisfying action, fascinating characters and a healthy dose of cod-liver-musings, then, yeah, this one'll do you. Also, you have super specific tastes.

Parasyte the maxim shinichi school massacre gore screenshot

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