It’s easy to watch a huge chunk of Parasyte and think of it as being nearly perfect. The characters tend to behave in human (rather than cartoon) fashion, the plot is interesting and quick, and the zero-filler approach means that everything laid on the table has a purpose.
Parasyte was never going to be the perfect ten a lot of fans were throwing out. If nothing else, the soundtrack was worth a solid point deduction by itself. The series likes to drop the same intrusive dubstep line in tense moments and it just doesn’t fit. The score ranges from ill-placed wub-wub to the pretentious juxtaposition of classic piano and a long explanation of the plot we’re supposed to be too dense to have figured out on our own. As much as we liked the weird combination of metal and autotune sported by the theme song, it just wasn’t a great fit for the series. You could try to explicate it as the dichotomy between parasite and human emotion or some kind of nonsense in that vein, but the reality is just that the soundtrack was bad.
The reason we have to open the list of what went wrong by nitpicking about the music is because there wasn’t a whole lot else to complain about. We aren’t given a lot of backstory behind what the parasites are or why they appeared on earth, but once one becomes symbiotic with Shinichi, we know as much as he does. We learn about the parasites and their goals and personalities as Shinichi learns. Much of the time, he behaves and reacts how we would expect a 17 year-old to behave. Likewise, the students surrounding him are not inexplicably mature for their age. Adults react to situations with insight and developed emotion. Parasites react like, well…sentient, predatory bugs.
Parasyte is highly filler-free, but that doesn’t mean the plot hits the ground running. The runway time isn’t terrible and the series does well to throw Shinichi right into his strange new world as a parasite-human Clark Kent. The plot is fairly consistent despite the weirdness happening every third frame. Classmates are inquisitive when Shinichi doesn’t show up at school. His (incredibly boring) girlfriend follows him when he ditches her because she’s an insecure high schooler. His father shuts down and resorts to alcoholism to wash away his problems because he’s a man and the alcohol burns away things like emotion and the will to live.
There are some pretty horrible plot points that bear noting, however. We can forgive it when Shinichi, as a confused teenager, makes stupid decisions (and that’s not counting latching onto Satomi instead of wifing Kana). It’s something different to see timid SWAT members acquiescing to civilians, being led around by obviously alien entities, and hesitating to open fire after watching their pals get brutally murdered. Most noticeable is the lack of an answer to where the hell is Shinichi’s father the last quarter of the series? While most of the main characters are consistent, some of the nameless horde just react in ways that make no sense for the purpose of helping the plot along.
The plot could have done a great deal with giving a little mystery concerning who was a parasite and who was an ordinary human, but that aspect was never even attempted. It’s as if Parasyte didn’t trust us to be able to understand anything, despite being very much for an adult audience. It was a solid 8.5-9.0 range series (again, that music) up until a few episodes from the end. It was easy to overlook what was often lackluster animation because the story was just so good at pulling you in. However, once it’s time to wrap things up, we’re quite literally given speeches explaining what the series meant and what we’re supposed to take away from it — as it turns out, it’s an environmentalist message on par with a Captain Planet moral. The plot is explained away in the most pretentious way possible while Chopin plays in the background and we’re given a terribly shallow, uninsightful take on what it means to be human.
Exploring the dual-nature of sentience and the obligation it creates to be stewards of our surroundings is a great exercise. It’s fantastic to check in on our perceptions of ourselves as humans and the value judgments we use to assess other lifeforms and our ecosystems. But these are questions of which most adults are keenly aware — and for which most of us have already formulated answers. The ending is therefore very heavy-handed and droll, if not a tad insulting to your intelligence. While the now-19-ish main character might be having his mind blown by the revelations, the audience certainly could have done without being bludgeoned by a soap box.
All that aside, there were no reservations with recommending Parasyte as one of the best series of the season. It’s dark, it’s unafraid and unashamed, and when loss happens it feels very real. We often find the protagonist incapable of doing anything but running for dear life in the face of a foe that outclasses him in every way. Almost everything makes sense and flows well. If it weren’t for a little bit of a deus-ex-wrapitup and the Al Gore spiel in the home stretch, Parasyte would have been keeping a throne warm for quite some time. It’s still very rewarding to watch, but it might be worth pausing and reflecting over your own impressions before you head into Episode 20 and beyond.
Original Source: Manga
Source Writer: Hitoshi Iwaaki
Source Publisher: Kodansha
Director: Kenichi Shimizu
Writer: Shoji Yonemura
Music: Ken Arai
Run Start: 10/2014
Review Date: 03/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01-24