WARNING: THERE ARE PARASYTE SPOILERS AHEAD!

I know the title of this article seems heavy, but bear with me! In a single season, the makers behind PARASYTE –THE MAXIM— push you to think about creation, power, and what it means to be “human.”

Let that sink in for a moment: Only 24 episodes and you can think about your entire existence as a human being. Of course, you can’t have an existential crisis without aliens falling to Earth. (Notice how I didn’t say that they are invading? Yeah, I’ll get to that in a moment…)

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, PARASYTE is an anime series that follows the story of high school student Shinichi Izumi after parasitic worms land in Japan (and other parts of the world). These worms must quickly enter the bodies of the nearest living organism and take over the brain to survive; failing to find one results in death.

Once inside the body, they devour the head and morph their appearance to look like their victim, actually blending into society. Think John Carpenter’s THE THING, but less snow.

Parasyte
He’s quite the looker, isn’t he?

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Shinichi, the Parasyte

Shinichi is almost a victim of this gruesome fate, but with some quick thinking and fast reflexes, he manages to keep the worm in his right hand. Migi, the Japanese term for “right,” soon becomes conscious, even commenting on how “unfortunate” it was that he couldn’t take over his host’s brain.

Shinichi and Migi are quickly forced to coexist side-by-side—or is it side-by-inside? Outside-by-inside? I don’t know what to call it— and it is their symbiotic relationship that becomes the foundation on which they ponder the nature of the other’s species.

How the Parasytes Function

Before we dive into it, let me explain what the parasytes are and how they function.

They first hatch from a fuzzy green egg, and their original form is that of a transparent, green alien worm. Like with any parasitic creature, the parasytes ultimate goal is to survive and to do so, the parasytes have to find a host. Due to the time constraint in which they can take over a body, they have to find the closest living thing.

I mentioned before that they had the ability to morph their physical appearance to blend in as the head of their host. Well, unfortunately for them, they have little capability of feeling emotion so they’re forced to fake it. Sometimes they don’t do this very well, which runs the risk of exposing them.

They kill and eat the species of their host for sustenance, making them a cannibalistic species. For example, if a parasyte takes over the body of a dog, it will only eat other dogs. So you can imagine how gruesome it gets when most of them use humans as hosts.

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Invasion of the Parasytes?

And if they try to switch bodies, they have to maintain the same gender as the original host. This detail is not really explained in the anime, but there is a moment in one of the episodes where a parasyte has difficulty after switching from a woman to a man. It’s assumed that the differences in biology are the root cause, that once they learn one system, they can’t really learn another. As a result, the parasyte eventually takes over Shinichi’s mother and can once again become a killing machine.

Now, this information all seems pretty straightforward, right?

Well, not exactly…

Character Development in Parasytes

Like with any TV series, there has to be character development to move the plot ahead. And the parasytes play just as a big a role in this as the humans. It’s called PARASYTE for crying out loud! But for your sake, I want to focus on two of the most important parasytes: Migi and Reiko.

The series is incredibly tense throughout each episode, and these two characters don’t make things any easier. They talk about humanity as a whole, making their conversations with Shinichi feel direct, almost like they are breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the viewer. Their status as outsiders offers a different perspective into how humans interact with other species, as well as what happens when our position as top predators is threatened.

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Migi

Migi is the main driving force behind Shinichi’s existential crisis…as well as your own as a viewer. He initially only cares about his survival, which in turn means keeping his conscious host alive. He takes action when he feels that his existence is at risk, even killing other parasytes, and often threatens Shinichi not to expose them since it would mean death. Unlike the rest of his kind, he learns that he does not need to eat humans to live; he is able to survive on the nutrients of what Shinichi eats. He demonstrates a high level of curiosity, spending his time reading books and surfing the web whenever Shinichi is sleeping. Migi’s research and observations propel him to constantly ask Shinichi about the logic behind human action.

Parasyte
“If you have the right to live, so do we.” – Migi

After the two of them learn that there are more parasytes on the planet committing “mincemeat murders,” as dubbed by reporters, Shinichi is horrified. Migi does not understand his emotional state, explaining that his kind is merely eating to survive, just like humans do. He, like the rest of the parasytes, only cares about his own life. He pays no attention or thought to anyone else.

Migi even explains that humans are the ones who are a lot closer to demons (after researching the subject) since they consume multiple life forms and ultimately affect their natural world in a bigger way, whereas parasytes remain cannibalistic and therefore only eat one life form at a time.

Cannibalism versus Non-Cannibalism

As a result, there is a constant struggle between the two, as Migi often points out that humans act the same way as the parasytes, and sometimes even worse. This conflicts with Shinichi’s argument of human life being precious, since he knows that Migi speaks the truth, but he often tries to ignore the logic. He simply debases the parasytes to mere monsters by imposing human standards upon them in order to understand them. It is easier for him to defend humanity when he witnesses the violence that the parasytes commit. He sees the blood, the gore, and the bodies pile up, so it’s hard for him to see things from Migi’s perspective.

Migi, however, is not driven by human emotions or any human logic. His mind is not clouded so he is able to objectively look at the facts and compare his species with humans. And obviously, humans have done more damage to themselves and to the planet, therefore he pushes Shinichi to re-evaluate his own remarks about life being “precious.”

I won’t say that Migi argues, since he doesn’t feel any emotion, but he is very quick to remind Shinichi about the similarities between humans and parasytes, basically between humans and any organism. Every living thing just wants to survive; there is no good or bad in the natural world, only life and death.

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Death by Parasyte Mother

When Shinichi is killed by his parasyte mother, Migi fuses himself with Shinichi’s heart in order to survive, but this action only further complicates how they interact with each other. They soon adopt the other’s logic, or at least are more willing to listen, with Migi becoming more attached to Shinichi as a friend and Shinichi thinking more logically than emotionally.

The defining moment  we see their mentalities change is in the penultimate episode. During their battle with the primary antagonist, Gotou, who shares his host body with other parasytes to make himself more powerful.

Gotou has hunted Shinichi and Migi down, but he does not attack them logically because he is so blinded by rage. This gives Shinichi the chance to cut him with a cleaver, and Gotou explodes in the forest after absorbing toxic residue from the blade. Shinichi and Migi realize, however, that Gotou is attempting to regenerate by calling out to the other parasytes.

Migi states that letting Gotou regenerate would just continue the bloodshed. Nonetheless, Migi decides that he does not want to be the one to kill their enemy, since that would make him a murderer according to human logic. Migi leaves the decision to Shinichi, who asks why the parasytes exist in the first place.

Answers?

One answer he considers is that they are “cleaning up” the population. Humans are the only animals to send countless species into extinction and pollute the planet. The proof is in the fact that Gotou is easily brought down from the toxins that humans have produced. He even considers the idea that humans are the poison of the planet and the parasytes are the cure!

But he continues to ask himself who can decide such a thing. Who has the power to decide what another species is or what they deserve? Who decides the value of life, human or not?

Parasyte
“He’s not human. I don’t want to impose human values on him” – Shinichi

The entire scene is tense; you can only hold your breath as you watch and consider Shinichi’s logic. He continues to think about why an organism shouldn’t have the right to live just because it’s harmful, and why he needs to be the one to make the choice. He then starts to walk away from Gotou, explaining that while the parasytes’ existence is not beneficial to humans, it is to the planet.

Until Migi mentions that the Earth does not have emotions.

This comment alone once again reminds Shinichi, and the viewer, about not imposing human logic onto the world. He realizes this and goes back to kill Gotou. The only decision that he feels he has the right to make is to protect his family.

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Reiko Tamura

PHEW! I know that seemed like a lot of information, but Reiko is just as interesting and refreshing as Migi, I promise!

Like Migi, Reiko is an extremely logical and reasonable parasyte. She has a strong desire to learn, but she is more driven to understand the biology and purpose of her existence, as well as how parasytes relate to humans. At one point, she has sex with another parasyte as a way to study how their kind might reproduce, but only ends up pregnant with a human child (after all, they are using human hosts).

Parasyte
Reiko, in her second and final host body.

Reiko is a highly intelligent parasyte. She is more capable of blending in with society in comparison to others of her kind. Again, like Migi, she quickly learns that she does not need to resort to cannibalism to feed herself; she can survive exactly on what we eat.

Parasytes Get So Emotional, Baby

Her desire to learn more also allows her to easily mimic emotions, but threatens her relationship with other parasytes. When a group of other parasytes (ironically hiding as politicians) wishes to hunt and kill Shinichi, Reiko disagrees. She instead views him and Migi as potential subjects of study.

Remember how I avoided the term “invaded” back in the beginning of this article? This is because the parasytes simply fall to Earth, with no intention of overtaking the planet for personal gain. We also have no idea where they came from…and neither do they.

Reiko explains at one point that every creature receives some direction, like the way a bird knows how to fly and spiders know how to spin a web. She tells Shinichi that the direction she received was to “devour this species” after invading her first host body. There is no mothership, however, beaming down these instructions.

The Mentality of Another Species

They are simply another species that is born and only wants to survive, just like humans do! They only value their own life, not the lives of humans or even other parasytes. Granted, you have those politicians who appoint a leader to dole out orders (are we sure they’re not human?). However, they’re not exactly all buddy-buddy with each other.

WANT another analytic discussion about an animated series? Read Tyler’s article on SOUTH PARK!

Reiko knows that this mentality is innate for the parasytes; after all, it’s the direction they receive upon taking over a host. What she wants, however, is to understand why her species follows these directions naturally, especially since she discovers that they don’t have to.

When she gives birth to the child she conceived with another parasyte, she only encounters more questions. At first, she is very cold to the child, treating it as exactly what it is: the product of an experiment. The child is not a parasyte, since parasytes can’t even reproduce, but Reiko slowly starts to develop a maternal instinct. She recognizes that there should be no connection between her and the baby. Still, she feels an attachment to it and eventually sacrifices herself in order to protect it.

Parasyte
“The child is a normal human being.” – Reiko

Be a Human Being!

This is the moment that Reiko appears more like a human being. She has asked herself what her purpose is, where the parasytes came from, and what their relationship to humanity is. And what answer does she find? She recognizes that her species is as fragile as her child: dependent on humanity for survival.

One of her final comments to Shinichi is that parasytes and humans are “two halves of a whole.” They are now the two top predators on Earth. However, since the parasytes are a new species, and therefore like children, they have a lot to learn from humans. She tells Shinichi not to bully the parasytes since they have the ability to learn all that she discovered. They just need guidance in order to do so.

In the end, her sacrifice goes against the parasytes’ instinct of self-preservation. She defies what is believed to be the natural behavior. This further proves her species’ ability to adapt and co-exist with humans.

So, Why Should You Care?

Okay, you’re probably thinking “I get it, Bella, PARASYTE is thought-provoking…but how in the world does this apply to me?”

Migi and Reiko are outside life forms looking into the way we function as humans. Of course, Reiko is more concerned with her species. Migi wants to understand the logic behind Shinichi’s emotions. However, they nonetheless offer fresh perspectives to concepts like destiny and creation.

As viewers, we are constantly seeing both sides of the story. We have the accessibility to watch the parasytes and hear their thoughts as they navigate the human world. We’re also able to watch Shinichi closely as he develops as a character and literally evolves with parasyte DNA. His interactions with Migi, Reiko, and the other parasytes are also unique. He is able to communicate with them in a way that is unable to do with the other humans.

A Different Kind of Conflict in Parasyte

No definition of good or evil exists in the series. Migi argues there is no good or evil in the natural world. Even Gotou, who is the antagonist, becomes a sympathetic character when Migi refuses to kill him. This makes it incredibly hard, as a viewer, to cheer for a specific side.

As the series ends, we are left to consider the same questions and perspectives that Shinichi, Migi, and Reiko present to us. Eventually, the rest of the parasytes realize they don’t need to be cannibals. They are able to live side-by-side with humans. Nonetheless, they are still parasytes as they still need a host to live. Keep in mind, though, about how they take over their host’s body: I guess as long as the humans don’t see them physically kill someone, it’s okay! (Can you sense my sarcasm?)

The world may seem like a better place now that the two top species can co-exist, but there still isn’t a definitive sense of closure when you remember everything that happened in the first place. I don’t mean this in a negative way; I’m saying that that lack of closure only enhances our existential crisis because we’re still left asking questions.

And this all happens in one, single season.

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2 Comments

  1. Shalomchild

    May 1, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I actually enjoyed the series and the anime. However, the newer generation honestly ignores the fact on what it means to be human and are we so different from each other ?

    Reply

  2. Soren Sum

    December 5, 2016 at 2:01 am

    Great read! I thoroughly enjoyed the examination of what it means to be human from this series. I finished the manga ages ago (also good) and the anime is definitely justice. I still have to finish the anime and I’m quite happy that it represents the manga well minus the changed character designs for some. Reiko was definitely one of the more intriguing parasytes and I kind of fell in love with her. When I first came across this series, I immediately thought of Resident Evil 4. Anyway, this was a interesting read and can’t wait to go back and finish the anime.

    Reply

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