Anime review: Parasyte: The Maxim

I’ve been away a while now, so I should explain what happened. Last month we changed internet service providers, and due to a number of paperwork and technical problems, we were without internet service for a little over three weeks. We got back online two weeks back, but I didn’t really have anything to review. I’m reading a couple manga series that I have backlogged and can’t do a proper review on them just yet, and the games I’m playing were already reviewed some time back. And so, to give y’all something new to read, I present to you my first anime review.

Parasyte: The Maxim is an adaptation of a manga I’d read a long, long time ago, but I’d only read the first six or seven issues before becoming unemployed and thus incapable of buying the rest. I remembered those first issues quite fondly, so I thought, “Hey, maybe the anime is just as good.” But it’s not just as good. No, it’s actually much better. Being confined to a single season of 24 episodes, Parasyte: The Maxim benefits from compression and trimming of the side stories that were shown in the manga. This story is more tightly focused around Shinichi Izumi and his struggles against the parasite invaders who have taken over human bodies and consume other humans to survive. Shinichi is put in this position when a parasite attacks him, but fails to take over his brain, fusing with his right hand instead. The parasite takes on the name Migi, or “Righty” in the English manga translations.

Because of Migi, the other parasites can sense Shinichi as unique, and given that he knows their secret, they regard him as a threat and attack him. Migi, being an emotionless entity, does not want to kill his own kind, but recognizes that he will die if Shinichi does. So he helps Shinichi fight new threats as they emerge. That’s the starting premise, which blossoms into something far more complex as the series advances. There’s the introduction of a parasite who is more selective in her kills because she desires to blend in with humans better to remain safe, even experimenting with eating human food to reduce the number of humans she needs to feed upon. For this change in perspective, she too is soon regarded as a threat to her kin and is attacked by other parasites. Her story is woven tightly into Shinichi’s, but represents one of the few side stories that is more fully explored, and I have to say, I really appreciated being given glimpses into her development as a character.

The other surprise, at least for me, was how often a show so gruesome and gory could also be so funny. A lot of this humor comes from Migi’s misunderstanding of human culture and in particular their sexuality, but later episodes still manage to find a few places for a quick joke that would make me laugh until I was coughing.

Despite the flashes of humor, though, this is a fairly sad story. Shinichi loses many friends and loved ones over the course of the series, and one loss in particular leads to him being gravely wounded. Migi has to do something desperate to rescue him, which leads to changes in both Migi and Shinichi. Shinichi becomes faster and stronger, with enhanced senses, while Migi is weakened and must hibernate for four hours at a time, leaving Shinichi without a way of sensing his enemies for brief periods. The changes help create a tension in the later episodes, but they also change the relationship between Migi and Shinichi. They are no longer two entities sharing space in the same body, more than mere allies by circumstance. They could even be called friends, and seeing this change take place slowly is in my opinion some great writing.

If I have any complaints, they’re very minor quibbles about the animation. The show uses CGI for many of the vehicles, and it’s obvious now matter how hard the animators tried to match the vehicles’ colors to the backgrounds. There’s also some occasional “wonk eye” and weirdly drawn hands, but I’m going to cut the show some slack for that since hands are the hardest part of a person to draw. (Seriously, just try to draw your own hand. It’s freakin’ hard.)

The big finale leads to a fight between the government an a coalition of parasites who have created a supposed safe haven to gather in, but while the government’s plan to eliminate the parasite menace seems to be working initially, it quickly devolves into a massacre for both sides, leading to a final battle between Shinichi and a truly monstrous “boss.” With one episode left, the series winds down with Migi bidding Shinichi farewell, and with Shinichi trying to settle back into as close to a normal life as he can manage.

When I started up the first episode, I said to myself, “I’ll just watch one to see what I think.” And then, like a bag of really good potato chips, I kept going, “Okay,” just one more,” until it was 5 AM and I had to debate going to sleep or watching the last six episodes. I chose sleep, but only because my head was starting to sway and bob from fatigue. I haven’t binged on a show this hard since Kill La Kill, and the number of times I could predict what was going to happen were far outweighed by the number of times I was blindsided by a twist. This is the total package. It has good writing, good visuals, and a great soundtrack.

So I give Parasyte: The Maxim 5 stars and recommend it to fans of horror looking to get into the darker side of anime. Parasyte can be found on Crunchyroll, and if you don’t mind watching ads, you can see the whole series for free. I highly recommend it and I think I might come back to watch it again in a few months. It’s just that damn good.