Parasyte: The Maxim Collection 1 (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 18)
3 Discs DVD/2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 274 minutes approx.
When Frank Sinatra famously sang “I’ve got you under my skin” I doubt he would have envisioned the true horrors such a metaphorical notion would actually have. Mangaka Hitoshi Iwaaki did and the result is this intense, nail-biting, gory sci-fi tale and one of the most hotly anticipated anime titles to hit the UK since Attack On Titan!
Parasyte takes no prisoners from the opening scene in which a man’s head opens up to reveal a grotesque tentacled like creature with razor sharp teeth and proceeds to bite his wife’s head off! Actually, this chap has been taken over by a small alien parasite, which infiltrates the brains of humans by entering through their ears or nose.
17 year-old Shinichi Izumi is a little luckier as his headphones prevent the parasite from entering the ears so it burrows a hole in his arm instead. The next morning Shinichi’s right hand sprouts an eyestalk and a mouth and starts talking to him! Since it didn’t enter the brain, the parasite educates itself with books and the internet, proving more benevolent than its fellow aliens, agreeing to help Shinichi fight against the others.
Animatsu surprisingly released the live action film adaptations of Iwaaki’s best selling story before this anime – usually it’s the other way around. This means viewers familiar with the redacted story of the films may require some patience when watching the anime as it takes the long route to the key plot developments.
Hopefully this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as Parasyte is storytelling at its best and doesn’t miss a beat, hitting the ground running and not letting up. Because it has more time to explore Iwaaki’s story this anime adaptation is more than a sci-horror yarn, incorporating a coming-of-age tale, psychological drama and of course the much favoured “what it means to be human” existentialist discussion.
The relationship between Shinichi and Migi – the Japanese for “right”, as in the hand Migi took over – is a key factor in the show’s uniqueness, in that while they bond Migi reminds Shinichi he is still a parasite and will kill him in a heartbeat if he exposes him to the world. Migi is different as he feeds from Shinichi’s blood supply while the other parasites are driving by a bloodlust as they only occupied the brain.
While this is a huge inconvenience for Shinichi, especially as Migi often controls the right hand for mischief – like fondling the breasts of shy classmate Satomi Murano – there are benefits: Migi can detect fellow parasites from 300 metres away and can transform into a dangerous weapon when necessary.
Later on when Shinichi suffers a near fatal injury, Migi absorbs himself into Shinichi’s body to save his life, resulting in a Peter Parker-esque transformation, the former geek no longer needing glasses, now possesses tremendous strength and agility, as well as suddenly turning into a chick magnet. But, there is still a war to be fought and Shinichi is burdened with emotional and psychological scars as result.
This first set contains twelve episodes and plenty occurs during that time, and if you’ve seen the two films already then you know what is in store in the second volume, with a little bit extra of course. In fact, it is the material excised from the films which is largely provides the meat of the content here, expanding on Shinichi’s personal relationships and the effect Migi’s presence has on his life.
Also explored further is the effect the parasites have on the community in general, to those who are affected and those who suffer as a result. Many secondary characters may come and go but play significant roles in shaping Shinichi’s outlook and resolve in his fight against the parasites. As with the films, schoolteacher Reiko Tamura is a central antagonist here, her scientific curiosity towards humans making her far more dangerous than regular flesh hungry parasites.
Body host sci-fi and horror tales are not new but the beauty of Iwaaki’s creations is that practically all of the key players on both sides of the battle lines undergo their own personal journey of self-discovery. This not only fleshes the characters out beyond being familiar tropes but it creates a fascinating universe where the simple good vs. evil fight is eschewed and enriched by the emotional and philosophical explorations.
Iwaaki is still able to inject some levity into his tale, with the first few episodes almost succumbing to the anime comic clichés (the aforementioned boob grab, Shinichi hiding Migi under his bed sheets, etc.), but this isn’t jarring enough to conflict with the overall horror that soon unfolds.
Animation studio Madhouse present us with a show well up their usual standard, save the very rare moment in one episode in which the artwork looks like it was completed in 30 seconds. The characters are well defined and facially expressive, while the true manifestations of the parasites are suitably hideous and unnerving – the sight of a human head unravelling to reveal these ghastly creatures is spine chilling at best.
The animation is fluid and gore fans are in for a treat courtesy of the copious amount of blood spilled and gruesome deaths awaiting the unsuspecting victims. There is plenty of action to be found here, but the rapidity of the strikes and the resultant brief nature of these clashes creates a rather bathetic showdown. This would be down to the parasites’ tentacles each having blade like tips to duel with, limiting the range of moves at their disposal.
We may be halfway through the year but it would take a brave anime fan not to nominate the arrival of Parasyte: The Maxim on UK shores as an unequivocal and bona fide highlight. For sheer unadulterated entertainment, intelligent top quality storytelling and heart stopping terror that has been missing from anime, this is the show we’ve all be waiting for.
Get it before it gets you!
English Language w/ Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired
Japanese 2.0 w/ English Subtitles
Disc 1 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – **** ½
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