Does anyone remember Midori Days? It’s an anime series about a teenager whose hand gets changed into a cute girl. Parasyte: The Maxim is just like that show, only that instead of an adorable gal the protagonist’s hand has been transformed into a hideous Cyclops from another world. Given the choice I’d rather get a hand job from the former. This twenty-four episode series is actually an anime adaptation of a late eighties manga (penned by Hitoshi Iwaaki) that finished its run back in the mid-nineties. What’s that? A show based on a completed work? Goodness, what a novel idea. Perhaps if more studios adapted finished classics, instead of ongoing comics, we wouldn’t have so many animes that conclude in unsatisfying cliffhangers.
Parasyte begins with a swarm of extra-terrestrial worms landing on Earth. The icky larvae, from outer space, are parasitic creatures that survive by infecting unsuspecting humans and taking over their host’s brain (reminds me of the nineties horror The Faculty.) Possessed victims lose their free will, turning into cannibals who can mutate back and forth from regular humans into gruesome monstrosities capable of slicing up prey. High school student Shinichi Izumi is one of the poor sods targeted by the invading maggots, but he manages to protect his cranium from capture via the creative use of a headphone cord. Unable to occupy Shinichi’s brain the parasite squirming within him instead settles inside the palm of Izumi’s hand.
An uneasy truce is thus formed between the two sentient beings that inhabit one body. Shinichi needs to keep his symbiotic relationship a secret from the public, partially to protect his loved ones from danger and partially to avoid becoming a lab rat for curious scientists. Meanwhile the parasite named Migi (Japanese for right hand) takes the role of bodyguard, protecting his dorky partner from harm. Will his alien powers be up to the task though? Unfortunately for the pair their neighbourhood is infested with peckish parasites that would love nothing more than to dine on them both. Are humans really that appetizing? A Big Mac is probably tastier, not to mention less greasy than your average teen.
Unless you are the squeamish sort who avoids gory shows, Parasyte: The Maxim is a must watch. It’s gripping plot, which blends sci-fi with horror, doesn’t feel dated in spite of its source material’s age. The visceral action sequences are captivating to watch, especially as battles hinge on how the heroes outsmart their opponents rather than being contests of who can dish out the most powerful special attack. Speaking of the show’s heroes, the relationship between Shinichi and Migi is what really drives the show. The odd couple who are tethered at the hip (um wrist) evolve thanks to their close-knit alliance. Over the course of the series Shinichi matures and overcomes his oversensitive nature – so much so that he questions if he is losing his humanity. Migi who starts out as a logical creature, solely motivated by survival instinct, slowly begins to accept human concepts such as friendship.
I think I enjoyed the series as in a warped sort of way it reminded me of Spider-Man’s origins. Essentially it’s the tale of a nerdy kid who gets super powers after getting bitten by a bug. When a family tragedy strikes the hero begins to use his newfound abilities to protect the public. The show’s later episodes also push an environmental message, which questions if parasites hunting humans for nourishment is any more heinous than mankind’s ill treatment of nature. I guess this should be expected as the manga’s original run was during a period when shows like Captain Planet were all the rage. Green haired anime characters I can stand, but ivy haired superheroes who battle Jeff Goldblum and Meg Ryan is where I draw the line. Thankfully the show’s subtle ecological theme doesn’t come across as preachy.
Parasyte’s only weakness (and I am really nit picking here) is that the female supporting cast could have been better. Both of Shinichi’s potential love interests are infuriatingly daft at times. The only lady I liked was the feminine parasite Reiko Tamura. Unlike her simple-minded brethren she is intelligent enough to explore the possibility of coexisting with humans. I am also left in awe by her efficient parenting skills. She is the only mom I know who can command a sobbing baby to cease bawling merely by telling them to shut up. Child-rearing silliness aside, Parasyte: The Maxim is an awesome show I cannot recommend highly enough. Madhouse has done a stellar job modernizing the manga for a contemporary audience. I have to “hand” it to them – they really know how to produce quality anime.
FINAL RATING: FIVE STARS