Parasyte Ep. 1: When your right hand becomes your best friend

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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.

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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.

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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.

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29 thoughts on “Parasyte Ep. 1: When your right hand becomes your best friend”

  1. The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw the boob grab was “Oh, not this shit again please”. After at least two other shows starting the same way I believe I can’t put up with that shit anymore.
    Although it’s was clear that it wasn’t something that Shinichi decided (at least not consciously), I didn’t see the logic of Migi grabbing the boobs: If it’s for study purposes why not the face/hands/legs/feets? It was just for a gag? But after reading your comment I think it makes more sense now: If Shinichi has an urge that can distort the functionality of him and/or Migi, the latter adapts and acts to get that out of the way so Shinichi can move on.
    And, as you said, him grabbing the spider also proves the point. Lust and fear can equally mess with your thinking.

    I’m ok with dubstep in general, but here it doesn’t feel aproppiate at all. I liked the animation but the cgi was shitty (Kill me please http://goo.gl/jQ1T9j).

    I haven’t read the manga so I hope it’s not just a story about beating other parasites and getting power ups; I would really like if it starts exploring the implications of a symbiotic relationship.

    1. I can’t believe that I will write about this, but for the boob grabbing scene, I wonder if it’s a mix between Shinichi urges and Migi’s curiosity about noticeable physical difference between his host and that classmate. I just hope there will no more scene like this.

      Funnily(?), I recently watched a documentary who talked about a guy with a Body integrity identity disorder and he felt like one of his own limb shouldn’t be there. While searching for the exact name, I also stumbled on an article on Wikipedia about the neurogical disorder Alien hand syndrome.

      1. To be honest it still annoys me, but the difference is that now I don’t find it entirely gratuitous. It has a relevant purpose that’s different from creating a quirky situation or making the audience laugh… But it’s still a boob grab.

        It’s like fanservice in the Monogatari franchise: it might say something about the characters and their relationships, but that doesn’t change the fact that’s still fanservice.

  2. I’ve actually read the manga for this up to a certain point. I remember dropping it because I was just bored, not with the story but because I had expected something else. With the way things start so slowly in the manga I thought that the story might be akin to Andromeda Strain or the Hot Zone, a narrative about combating a mutated or alien virus terrorizing mankind. When I saw there was shounen-type action I decided against it.

    It’s not such a bad story, actually, and it gets very rough to sit through if you want to get emotionally invested. The part I dropped it on was on a particularly horrible dramatic moment that, while handled extremely well in my opinion, just wasn’t my thing. Really punched my gut.
    Well written, though.

    You should like this one, E Minor. If you enjoyed the better parts of Tokyo Ghoul and since you’re into character analysis, this seems like something that will give you plenty to soak in.

  3. I could not stop laughing at how bad the music in this show was. Funny how my Twitter feed didn’t mention *that* fact when they were praising the rest of its aesthetics.

    1. I liked the music. Also I don’t think this series is going to be predictable as Tokyo ghoul. Pretty sure the parasites just came to earth and are just vastly above humans in intellect and ability.

  4. I liked the episode well enough minus the boob grab and the brokeNCYDE-esque OP, and I think I’ll be able to handle the soundtrack. I’m really digging the visuals of the parasites, though. I hope the animation doesn’t crash and burn too hard.

  5. That slap after the boob grab redeemed the scene. That was a actual you did something extremely wrong slap. Which is something you do not see much in anime.

    1. And after usually follows the slap is the grope-recipient somehow getting closer to the grope-giver. Because that’s naturally the way to go. Totally not being reported and charged with gross misconduct at its worst and permanent immense dislike and distance at its most mild.

    2. The problem is that “woman unreasonably getting mad after being assaulted / having privacy invaded (because it wasn’t really the protag’s fault)” is an overhacked and dangerous comedic trope. (Like – I fell on your breast, I wasn’t *really* staring at your panties, you just happened to be naked, w/e.) There’s so much wailing, screaming, infuriated blushing, attacking – it paints the anger of the women as unjustified and silly, sometimes even “cute”. And at the same time it trivializes violence against men. Man there’s so much wrong with all of that scene.

  6. “– 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 always think of this as humans greatest weakness we expect things to work by our logic. It is a alien parasite it would be weird for it not be extremely smarter than humans and more capable.Going of topic but I feel if we find other life it will be indescribably different from us. Migi did not know 100% why the dog parasite was less intelligent than him. He suggested it was due to environment and hosts. Which makes sense Migi was able to learn threw several books,interacting with his host,Trial and error and the internet While the dog had less than half the options for learning.

    1. I always think of this as humans greatest weakness we expect things to work by our logic.

      I was just wondering out loud, not criticizing the story for not conforming to human logic. Christ.

        1. Well maybe it is, but I saw it more as him saying sometimes people think things will be this one way but maybe they’ll be this other way, with “great human weakness” just as a little writing flourish. Anyway I don’t wanna try to talk for this guy any more than I have so I’ll cut it off there.

  7. I liked this first episode. Yeah, the music sucks, but that never really bothers me. I think I read about halfway into the manga a while ago. It was published from ’88 – ’95, so they had to change some details to keep it in a modern context. I just hope it doesn’t try to stay as faithful to the source material as possible.

    If only I had an alien right hand that could molest a girl into liking me.

    1. Now that I think about it, the adaptation did change a few key things from the manga. That’s a good start to an adaptation, in any case. Among other things, Shinichi was named Shinji and he didn’t even have glasses and his hairstyle was different. That probably only serves to further accentuate his transformation from a wimp to the confident dude we see later on. But I don’t think that “long time friend” girl with the glasses even existed!

  8. There’re many manga readers have seen the whole story as a metaphor for puberty – in the same way as Spider Man. It’s one of the interpretation I prefer, too. There’s just something very familar in the moment a boy wake up one morning and found his body already changed by some reason he could not understand, and become something he himself feel so weird, it’s almost alien.

    I hope it would be a nice adaption. It’s a pretty old manga, so I think some parts of it might not age well. The part I enjoy the most about the manga is the dynamic between Migi and Shinichi, and the personal growth of both, and hope the anime would keep its focus on that topic, rather than shounen battles.

  9. So far, this is the most interesting anime for me. I’m interesting in Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji too (a guilty pleasure), but this one really has my attention.
    I don’t see any other shows I’m really interested in other than those two atm.

    This also made me think of Tokyo Ghoul!

    I hope Parasyte can stay interesting tho.

  10. The flying dog part was hilarious, I kinda like the atmosphere in this anime, it’s dark, but at the same time there’s some comedy/irony to it.

  11. So is responding to puberty as weird a Japanese thing. Because in 6th grade I thought it was the best thing to ever happen to me at the time.

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