Parasyte is a science fiction, horror, action-thriller manga. I don’t know if I left anything out. Oh yeah. It also carries a plot for world domination by a foreign species. I can’t exactly say alien species because one of the characters makes some remarks suggesting that they are not all that dissimilar to humans. Imagine all of those things combined into an atmosphere of constant terror and struggle for our 17 year old hero. This story keeps you on the edge of your seat leaning sideways to look at the pages because you are afraid of what will pop up on the next page.
Mangaka Hitoshi Awaaki’s narrative revolves around survival. That’s the heart of this story. It starts when one night, mysterious caterpillar or perhaps snail like parasites quietly descend on the earth. The wording on the first pages suggests some higher being sent them as a way to protect the earth from the devastation caused by humans. Theses parasites burrow into the orifices of the head to take over the body. That primarily invade humans but one unlucky dog gets taken over as well. Luckily for our protagonist, 17 year old Shinji Izumi, he was wearing head phones which blocked the alien worm-thing from entering through his ears. Also since he was awake listening to music, he was also able to prevent the alien from crawling up through his nose. Although the alien parasite was unable to take over his brain, it was able to enter his body attaching itself to his right hand. And from there on the parasite, known as Migi (Right in Japanese) inextricably becomes a part of Shinji Izumi’s life.
No bones about it. Migi makes Shinji’s life better in that it improves his chances of survival. If Shinji had remained a regular boy, totally unaware of the alien invasion he would eventually have been eaten. Yes, the parasites eat people as well. This places the combined personage of Shinji and Migi in danger as the other parasites who have fully taken over their hosts and try to hide their presence from humans at large, see Shinji and Migi as a threat to their survival in a still human dominated world. But beyond that, the interesting thing is the development of the two characters separately and simultaneously together. Migi and the other alien parasites are emotionless. They think over of their own personal survival. Yet over time Migi and two other parasites show a progression toward at least trying to comprehend human emotions. Migi shows the farthest development in comparison to the others. However, he can still be brutally cold. Shinji, on the other hand goes through various stages of dealing with his survival and his privileged position as basically the only human who is capable of fighting directly against the parasites. For a time, he is also the only person who is aware of the invasion.
Survival is what places Shinji and Migi at odds. Its a really interesting dynamic. Migi needs Shinji to live in order to survive. This is true especially at first when both of them know so little about their imperfect merger. Shinji can likewise not survive without Migi. Not because if he separated him from his right hand he would physically die but because Migi is his only protection against the other parasites. Migi provides Shinji the means to protect himself from other parasites by being able to sense them and also being able to match them in combat. The problem for poor Migi however is the good natured conscience of a 17 year old human. Shinji basically develops a bit of a hero complex feeling that he needs to protect people as best he can against the invasion. This places him in danger. Migi only cares about survival and since if there is no Shinji then no Migi, Migi has to fight other parasites to protect his host. That’s really how it starts out but as Migi evolves his motives seem to change a little. The arguments and debates that develop through this dynamic are often hilarious and at times truly insightful.
One cool thing about the story is that it starts you out with a number of unexpected deaths and parasite body snatchings that create tension going forward in the plot. After some key people die you get that sense that no one is safe. The mangaka will literally take anyone out if he would be willing to take this and that person out. That’s really the best way to do good horror and good thrillers. The author has to make the reader feel as though no one is safe. Hitoshi Iwaaki does an incredible job with this. And that sets up this tension throughout the entirety of the story. I swear you feel like there is this grim ambiance surrounding you as you read the story. The pictures aren’t drawn dark on the page but as I remember them, they are dark in my mind. Hitoshi Iwaaki created a space and an atmosphere for his characters that is palpable.
And one of the reasons that it is so palpable is the faces. The style in which he drew the faces of the characters thoroughly conveys the mindset of the characters and clearly distinguishes the parasites living as humans and actual humans. If you notice as you read Shinji’s face will exhibit tendencies similar to the parasites. Similar you will notice a very opposite array of human expressions displayed on the face of one or two prominent parasites. The faces of the parasites who live as humans tend to be very flat, and drawn with distinct, almost angular lines given to showing little to no expression. Dark shading makes their either blank or intense staring eyes especially dramatic. The only expressions most of them ever really display are for basic emotions like fear, confusion and anger. I say anger but I guess perhaps you could think of it less as anger and more like blood lust, or a passion to survive and conquer.
There are some serious philosophical currents running through this narrative as well. This manga touches on the right to live; the will to survive; questions of conscience and thoughts on what it means to be human. On an overarching scope it ponders the inherent superiority living creatures feel in their right to survive even to the detriment of all life around them.
Give Parasyte the manga a read regardless of whether you have seen the movies or the recent anime. It’s an amazing narrative that has everything you want in good sci-fi, horror, thriller or action. I can only speak for the manga but others say the anime is really good as well. If you want a review of the anime I suggest you try Mia M. She gives a good review of Parasyte the Maxim (2014).
Here is a link to her review if you’d like. Parasyte the Maxim (2014) Reveiw