Parasyte Part 2 (Cert 15)
1 Disc (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running Time: 118 minutes approx.
This two-part live action adaptation of the popular anime and manga continues, picking up from where the first film ended following a very brief recap to set the scene for those of us with short memories.
We rejoin the story with the introduction of serial killer Uragami (Hirofumi Arai) who can apparently detect humans infected by the parasites by smell, faltering a little when main protagonist Shinichi Izumi (Shota Sometani) and his parasite Migi (voiced by Sadao Abe) are part of the line-up. Meanwhile the other parasites have taken over the Town Hall with newly elected mayor Hirokawa (Kazuki Kitamura) as their front man.
Still pulling all the strings is Ryoko Tamiya (Eri Fukatsu), the infected teacher who has given birth to a human baby, which she views as an experiment but seems to be gradually displaying signs of concern for the child. With the police now aware of the parasites, Ryoko has hired journalist Kuramori (Nao Omori) to spy on Shinichi, unaware of her true identity despite Shinichi’s warnings.
As with the first film, a number of liberties have been taken with the story which will no doubt irritate fans of the manga and anime, leading them to declare this two-part adaptation an abomination. To be fair it isn’t difficult to see why people would be upset to see the many changes, but on the whole the material has been treated fairly well considering the time constraints two 120-minute films have against twenty-six anime episodes or eight manga volumes.
With the first film dedicated to building the characters, plot and central premise this second half is the straight up conclusion which starts as it means to go on. The changes are not immediately noticeable but the pacing of their execution will expose the haste at which these points are covered, which does dilute their impact on the plot for newcomers to the franchise.
Naturally this entails the excising of some smaller subplots which becomes more evident as the film progresses. At the risk of spoiling anything the ending of the major arc involving the dangerous Goto (Tadanobu Asano), who made a chilling last minute debut at the end of the first film, is totally different to the source material. This may be viewed as “bad different” by many returning fans, but at least it is a well-executed “different” climatic fight.
Shinichi plays a larger part in this film than he did in the first now that the story has been established, slipping into the role of uncomfortable hero while trying to keep his alien companion hidden. With the parasites now common knowledge to the authorities it is remarkable that Shinichi has manage to stay under the radar, but the actions of Ryoko in particular seek to expose him to the public.
The script takes a slightly philosophical and preachy journey into a discussion of what it means to be human, with the intrusive aliens having their own opinions and explanation while Shinichi has his girlfriend Satomi (Ai Hashimoto) lamenting his change of personality, wondering where his “humanity” has suddenly gone. Ironically, Satomi was portrayed as tomboy in the first film but here she undergoes her own personality transplant into the milquetoast female distraction in the anime.
This particular idea, detailed mostly through Ryoko’s burgeoning attachment to her human child, has merit but the application feels forced into the plot, largely due to the pacing issues. However this results in a padded out final act which surely someone could have seen in hindsight could have been trimmed and the central story receiving the attention it deserved.
Putting the changes and omissions aside, the film is very well made, from the acting to the superb effects and the general ominous atmosphere created through a permeating eerie silence and unbridled gore. The colour palette is deliberated muted to heighten this sensation, making the bloodshed and violence more efficacious and shocking. The swift and vicious decapitations remain in full force in all their unfettered glory, as do the gruesome transformations of the infected humans.
With the same cast still onboard (both films were shot together) the performances remain a strong point of this project, even more so with the added emotional and dramatic developments here. Shota Sometani as Shinichi has the greater changes to adopt and does so with his usual aplomb, all the while creating a convincing relationship with the CGI Migi. Unfortunately this feels more genuine than his coupling with Ai Hashimoto is too hard faced to be the sympathetic Satomi of the anime.
Eri Fukatsu manages to be even creepier as the stoic Ryoko, her slow shift towards humanity making her less human, a trait echoed by Tadanobu Asano as Goto, a relentless killing machine of a man infected by five parasites. Sadly his presence is sporadic and the character underdeveloped but having someone of Asano’s calibre on board can still be considered a real coup.
Live action adaptations of an existing source will always face the uphill battle of being forced to serve two masters – the established fans and the new ones discovering it for the first time via this medium. Naturally the former are going to be the most critical and unforgiving while the latter won’t know any different, making a satisfying middle ground not necessarily an impossibility but quite often undiscovered for a number of reasons.
Parasyte 2 – in fact both films – is indicative of this battle, one it might have won had it been allowed more time to cover the entire source material. Then again had this been given the Peter Jackson treatment, accusations of extorting money from the fans would have been the primary reaction.
The best way to approach both films is with an open mind. Accept that changes are inevitable in lieu of the format, and you’ll find this brooding and ambitious live action adaptation sits nicely as an adjunct to the anime and manga, capturing the spirit and essence of the Parasyte franchise.
Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Rating – *** ½
Man In Black