As the series (Parasyte the maxim, if it’s not obvious from the title) is ending, here are some thoughts:
First of all, having read some of the manga, I’d say the anime does a pretty good job on the character and costume designs.
Honestly the manga’s a gold mine.
Murano, while symbolising purity and Shinichi’s reason to live, is a rather bland character. All the characters have a place on the “parasite<—->human” scale, defined by, essentially, different degrees of empathy. Murano is on the extreme right and doesn’t ever seem to waver. That’s fine. What’s not fine is her weirdly persistent questioning that’s not only shallow as a plot device but also very unnatural in the narrative.
Play the game!
You’re in the Parasyte universe. Your probably-girlfriend-person keeps asking you this question:
You’re pretty sick of it. How do you reply?
Choice A: Murano is even more confused and just keeps asking you the same question. You suck.
Choice B: Murano is intrigued by potential incest. Your relationship goes to the next level.
Choice C: Murano reveals that she is a lesbian. You hook up way before episode 21 or whatever it was. You win at life.
The thing is, Shinichi fails at answering the question every time it comes up, which actually justifies her annoying behaviour. Well done, Shinichi, you guys belong to each other.
——–Anime and manga spoilers (though the manga is what, 20 years old)————
The anime raises some valid questions and fails to provide solutions. Two of those questions would be 1. what it means to be human and 2. humankind’s relationship to the environment. The anime suggests that the parasites act as humans’ natural predators. They reduce the number of humans on Earth, which is a beneficial act since it would consequently reduce the pollution. Fair enough. The problem is, the plot doesn’t seem to extend beyond this premise.
Shinichi takes his sweet time contemplating question 1, but does he mean from a biological perspective or a philosophical one? Are the parasites biologically human? Certainly not. Just because a shrimp is taken over by parasitical growth doesn’t mean the parasites have become the shrimp, does it. Are they emotionally human? Tamura and Migi both display some form of empathy after a period of time, but the average dog displays more empathy than both of them combined at any given moment. Most mammals do. That doesn’t make them human. Is it their intelligence, then? Parasites in the series pride themselves on being superior in every way, but they weren’t born more intelligent. Migi read every single book he could find and browsed the internet with the intensity of a motivated redditor, and he still asked Shinichi about human culture from time to time (At the beginning, anyway.) They learn fast, but their starting point is everything humans have done, ever. If they were left with the dinosaurs and had to figure out how to make a fire on their own it wouldn’t have been the same.
The more interesting question is “what’s the point?” Tamura said something like “why were we ever born?” Good question. Never answered. No one seemed to care. Apparently the parasites were man-made, but… what? And why? Again, no one seemed to care. Instead of finding out their origin so the humans can have a chance at getting rid of them once and for all and the parasites can find the meaning of life, they just kill each other. Or someone’s investigating and we’re not shown any of it.
Onto the environment question. Humans polluting the environment is a legitimate concern, but here it’s presented as something a 14-year-old might think. Humans bad to nature! –> humans must stop. No shit. It’s justice to kill them in the most grotesque and unnecessary way and eat them! It’s a natural food chain! Well, not so much. Mayor dude, during his spectacular death speech, went on about it for quite a while.
“Crime of pollution is far greater than the crime of manslaughter”, “Your guns should be put to a greater use…. in other words, culling”, “…you will come to protect us (the parasites)”, “These predators fit perfectly into the hierarchy of nature”, “They fit right above humans”, “They (parasites) will restore the balance at last”
These statements intend to raise the question of who the real parasite is; the crazy little worm things that take control of human brains and generate impossible amounts of muscle mass and make shiny blades out of flesh, or the oh-so-despicable human beings that reduce mother nature to her current state?
It’s a fairly edgy question, and one that should be buried deep in metaphors instead of stated right out loud. Hirokawa’s words are also quite naive. He thinks indiscriminate killing is a positive thing for the benefit of Earth, and that humans should accept it and “protect” the parasites. Does this guy even understand the basic concept of being human–no, being a life form? Plants and animals want to exist for as long as possible; this is the main reason why things are as they are. Even if we assume that genocide is good for everything, why does he think humans would just give in without putting up a fight? And where does it stop? Culling is “great” in the name of environmental protection, then was it fine for Hitler too? Why does Hirokawa have to dress it up as a moral issue that people should agree with? The parasites are killing people in great numbers for their own survival; they have no concern for the environment.
“They fit right above humans.” Not if they can kill you with shotguns. If unarmed, a person can be killed by lots of animals, but those animals don’t fit right above humans because humans have developed tools to counter them. And shotguns counter parasites.
One last short point. Shinichi versus Gotou. Shinichi hesitated at killing Gotou when the latter became a pile of mush. Migi didn’t want to get his hands dirty so Shinichi got the pleasure of chopping a piece of shit to true death with a machete. What a dream. But no, he had doubts. He couldn’t judge Gotou, because Gotou wasn’t the same species as him. Gotou was trying to survive so hard that he should have been given a chance. First of all, Gotou was a killer. He killed like 100 or more people just because he could. He wasn’t even eating them or anything. He was created to kill and he was aware of that. Migi even said if he regenerated he’d just go on to kill more people. Shinichi didn’t want to kill him because Gotou wasn’t his kind? But Shinichi’s diet consists of entirely animals/plants that aren’t his kind, and he still eats them. What right does he have to judge them? It is all for the purpose of survival. And of course everything one does has some form of consequence (you eat cow–cow dies; you don’t eat–you die). Can Shinichi be so sheltered that he can’t bear the thought of handling any consequences? He eats to survive, so reason should follow that he can kill Gotou to survive. Letting Gotou live achieves nothing but the satisfaction of Shinichi’s conscience in some bizarre way. (He did end up killing Gotou, but the hesitation that precedes it was unnecessary and melodramatic)
There are other inconsistent, or just pure wtf things about this anime. It’s not the worst TV series/anime I’ve seen (coughSAOcough), but it’s strangely insistent in the way that it sticks to a certain blandness in the plot. There is a lack of “reason” behind the drive of the narrative and the characters’ motives; things seemingly happen without direction, events aren’t foreshadowed and the characters’ actions are often out of the blue. If you want to watch something that discusses the meaning of life in a meaningful way, Death Parade is something recent and decent.