What is the metaphorical significance behind Parasyte‘s brand of body horror? It’s obviously the loss of control, isn’t it? It’s the fear that we’ll no longer have any control over our bodies and actions. The only difference between Shinichi and the rest of the human victims is that Shinichi hasn’t lost complete control of his own body just yet. But although our protagonist was lucky enough to avoid such a fate — Migi merely managed to invade his right arm and not his brain — we tap into yet another latent anxiety about our bodies: the problem of aging. Cronenberg is most famous for his remake of The Fly, a movie about a scientist’s descent into madness as he slowly morphs into a monstrous human-fly hybrid. What’s significant about the scientist’s change of character, however, is the way his hair falls out, his skin turns, and most importantly, he becomes both a burden and a threat to the people around him. Essentially, the fear of old age haunts us. For Shinichi, he’s still in high school, so he doesn’t quite have to worry about old age just yet. But if the first episode is anything to go by, he still harbors some anxieties about the realities of growing up.
By himself, Shinichi is your classic shounen wimp. He’s rather nerdy, he speaks with little confidence, he’s afraid of bugs, and he’s prone to running away from danger. That’s not to say he shouldn’t run from certain dangerous situations, especially when that monstrous flying dog was chasing him and Migi near the end of the first episode, but suffice it to say, our protagonist is not the sort who would stand his ground and fight. Migi has to do all of that for him. With Migi, Shinichi now has a convenient excuse to be aggressive. I haven’t changed; I’m still me! It’s all the alien’s fault! There are other signs of Shinichi’s reluctant maturation. Early on in the episode, he inadvertently grabs one of his best friend’s breasts with his right hand. It would seem that it is Migi who grabs one of Satomi’s breasts, but why would an alien parasite care about human breasts? Even if it was curious about the human body, there are plenty of places it could’ve grabbed instead. I would suggest it isn’t as though Shinichi has lost complete control of his right hand. I would say he had some latent urge to grope Satomi deep inside him, and Migi took care of the rest.
In most shows, a scene like this is often nothing more than a throwaway gag. We see this all the time in anime; the hero always “accidentally” gropes one or all of his love interests at one point or another. So what makes this particular scene so special? Because, again, it ties into the idea that Shinichi’s body now has new urges — urges that he mentally hasn’t accepted or comprehended. It is not uncommon for young people to feel disconnected with their own bodies and urges as they grow up. The fear here is that these urges and inclinations will become stronger than what Shinichi should really desire. This becomes particularly problematic in a shame-based culture that prides itself on self-restraint and control. Of course, the partnership between Shinichi and Migi isn’t all bad. In most cases, our hero would just feel immense guilt over his transgressions. That’s where Migi comes in. In a way, the alien acts as a buffer. Migi helps to absolve Shinichi of some of his guilt. If anything bad ever happens. he can attribute it to his alien friend and not himself. Then of course, when he saves little girls like he did midway through this episode, he can reap all the benefits of being the hero.
As the story unfolds, I suspect our two heroes will eventually meet somewhere in the middle. Shinichi can’t help but notice that Migi seemingly lacks empathy for anyone, and this includes own kind. I expect Migi to become more human as he spends time with Shinichi. I doubt Migi cared whatsoever for that little girl, but because Shinichi recklessly threw himself in front of a car, the alien parasite had no choice but to protect the both of them. Over time, however, he’ll come to understand Shinichi’s selflessness. Meanwhile, the opposite is likely to happen to our hero. As Shinichi undergoes his many trials, he will eventually grow up and realize that he has to be more like Migi to survive, especially in this world where anyone could really be a dangerous parasite in disguise. In this particular way, Parasyte reminds me of Tokyo Ghoul. Not only must our hero grapple with the duality within him, but there’s the fact that the enemy walks amongst us in broad daylight. Like the ghouls in the aforementioned anime series, the parasites here are good at blending in with the rest of human society. Shinichi will need to pick some of those tricks up for himself as well if he intends to keep Migi’s existence a secret.
In any case, you could argue that the change within Shinichi is already occurring: in the latter half of the episode, our hero is no longer afraid of bugs like a child. Overcoming a few of bugs may seem like a relatively minor thing to most of us, but it’s relatively huge for someone with a crippling phobia. And of course, as Shinichi and Migi meet somewhere in the middle, our hero will come to see the latter as being a part of him and not just a parasite. He just has to hope he doesn’t lose all sense of himself in the process.
Stray notes & observations:
— Apparently, Migi also gives our hero increased speed and reflexes as he was able to quickly jump in front of that car to shield the little girl from danger.
— I wonder how such a small parasite can have such a huge capacity for learning. It’s not just that Migi is smart, but it learns so quickly too. It also seems somewhat brighter than others of its own kind, but maybe that’s just how it looks at the moment.
— I hate the soundtrack, especially during the fight scenes.
— I don’t know yet how much I like the show. It’s too early to tell. The first episode is interesting, at least.
— How awkward will it be when our hero feels the urge to masturbate? Well, considering Migi’s voracious appetite for knowledge, I bet it has already read all about the subject in some online article.