Parasyte Ep. 2: When the mind is willing but the body is reluctant

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“The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” — Bentham

Shinichi doesn’t want to stand idly by and watch people get murdered by these alien parasites, but Migi brings up a good point: why is it okay for humans to eat all sorts of animals, but it’s wrong for his kind to simply eat humans? At the end of the day, we’re all just feeding ourselves, aren’t we? Honestly, I think this is a difficult question to answer. If we simply argue that it’s natural to eat meat, then we can’t help but agree with Migi. It’s only natural that his kind eat humans. They survive on cannibalism. What else can they do? If you really want to justify saving other people from the alien parasites, ethics must get involved somehow. To put it another way, it must somehow be immoral to hunt and kill humans. The only problem is, of course, those same arguments would apply to animals as well, i.e. the same animals that we raise and kill for meat. Simply asserting that animals are animals and humans are humans is circular.

For some people, then, intelligence matters. For instance, we wouldn’t eat a dolphin. Still, that’s a dangerous line of reasoning. Where do we draw the line? And would it be okay to eat a human who has lost his or mental capacities? In saying all of this, I am, of course, a hypocrite. I understand the ethical reasons against eating meat, but I eat meat anyway. Of course, should technology ever advance to a point where we can create artificial meat cheaply — and don’t you worry, this will happen — there will be no good moral reason to go back to eating natural meat. Of course, I’m not saying that some poor farmer in some impoverished country should start giving up meat. Hell, if I’m not doing it, why should he? My point is, as much as I understand Shinichi’s feelings for wanting to save humanity, he won’t win any ethical debate against Migi unless he’s a staunch vegan or something.

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In any case, Migi tries to keep it simple. It doesn’t try to worry about the morals or the ethics behind any of his actions. It simply looks out for itself… that’s the theory, anyway. When given the opportunity to join up with another parasite, however, Migi makes the quick decision to defend Shinichi. Migi claims that it just wasn’t sure if switching over to the other body was possible, and to an extent, Migi has been a straightforward character. There isn’t much evidence to suggest that our parasitic friend is a deceiver. At the same time, however, it quickly went to sleep shortly after the fight as if it needed to think things over. This seems to suggest that while Migi does primarily look out for itself, it is very much interested in Shinichi’s point of view. Our parasitic friend basically has an intellectual curiosity. It wants to stick around Shinichi and observe his mindset some more.

And if we’ve already seen signs of Shinichi’s personality undergoing a change, then we’re seeing the same with Migi. This intellectual curiosity doesn’t really help Migi survive. If ensuring its own well-being was the only thing it cared about, Migi would’ve done everything its power to assume as much control of Shinichi as possible. And sure, it has threaten to take Shinichi’s eyes out from time to time, but that’s only because Shinichi suggested that he tell the authorities all about Migi. Otherwise, Migi lets Shinichi does his own thing. Migi even lets Shinichi involve himself in fights that could endanger the both of them. My point is, even if Migi might never  agree with Shinichi’s brand of selflessness and justice, it’s at least curious about it. And that sort of curiosity already sets Migi apart from the other alien parasites. One can argue that the alien parasites are all intelligent, but Migi’s the only one that seems to want to understand.

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But at the end of the day, Parasyte‘s story hasn’t changed. It’s still a tale about a kid undergoing puberty and the bizarre out-of-body feelings that comes with this rather turbulent period in any kid’s life. It’s even quite blatant about it. All of a sudden, Shinichi isn’t a pushover anymore. A rival for Satomi’s affections tries to beat our hero up, but he doesn’t hold back, because he’s too scared to fight. He’s only scared that he might kill the guy. But when the guy pushed Shinichi too far, our hero’s anger overwhelms him. Yes, Migi was the one who sent the asshole flying, but was it also Migi and Migi alone who made Shinichi look this mad? Probably not, huh? This aggression is mostly — if not all — Shinichi’s. Not only that, this aggression is what one might find in a typical adolescent suddenly getting a huge influx of hormones into his bloodstream everyday.

It’s not a coincidence either that Shinichi is now good at sports. Yes, yes, it’s Migi, but again, our alien buddy is just a metaphor. From another point of view, our hero’s simply growing into his body. Plus, you can’t tell me that this isn’t a boner joke. Yes, he’s trying to hid Migi, but does he really need to stand like that? Shinichi had just successfully smoothed things over with Satomi, and she’s even indirectly asked him on a date. Who’s to say that alone isn’t enough for a young, excited adolescent to get a hard-on? Then what do we see later? Migi suddenly wants to give Shinichi an erection. And of course, the biggest change comes in his attitude. Would the old Shinichi have saved the cat at the playground from the three bullies? Probably not. Satomi knows him… or at least she thinks she does. And she initially suggested that they just leave the scene. Would she have made the same suggestion if she knew that Shinichi could be this brave?

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Still, Satomi can’t help but wonder if Shinichi’s still Shinichi. Simply put, Migi isn’t as good a simulacrum of Shinichi’s hand as it might think. For whatever reason, Satomi can just tell that Shinichi’s right hand doesn’t feel right, so she awkwardly shuffles to his left to hold the other hand. I would’ve liked this scene to be a little more subtle. I find it odd that Shinichi wouldn’t at least ask her why she felt the need to switch hands. But in any case, let’s look at this in another way. Basically, she’s known him all her life as the simpler, more child-like Shinichi. It’s only natural that as he’s going through puberty, his personality also undergoes a few changes. And as such, she finds it hard to recognize the old Shinichi in the new one. The old Shinichi probably wouldn’t have saved that kitten. This new Shinichi is more confident, but also a little scarier. The question is whether or not our hero can find the delicate balance between the two.

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17 thoughts on “Parasyte Ep. 2: When the mind is willing but the body is reluctant

  1. Roghek

    I was very surprised by the amount of development the MC got in just 2 episodes, which fits with the coming-of-age theme this series has.
    The argument against the ethics of eating animals and preventing the parasites from eating humans is the same as Migi self preservation priority.
    I like this show for trying to raise such questions and I am not sure if they will attempt to answer them, but Shinichi’s wanting to protect humanity could be interpreted as self preservation, if he sees humanity as part of himself, what is wrong with that?

    Of course he must get down the high horse and not claim it as something selfless and heroic.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      hinichi’s wanting to protect humanity could be interpreted as self preservation, if he sees humanity as part of himself, what is wrong with that?

      No one’s saying it’s wrong. It’s just that Migi’s species are trying to do the same thing.

      Reply
  2. Pia

    Satomi must be hiding something as well, but it’s to soon to spill the beans.
    I think Shinichi must accept that Migi is right and care about himself and maybe his acquaintances, but I highly doubt that’s gonna happen, since roses are red, the sky is blue and our hero must be a hero, of course we don’t know if these parasite aliens are planning to do something worst than cannibalism something like world domination.

    Reply
    1. BoyTitan

      I think each parasite will be different. I humans can be different so can they. Hell they already have differences. One just wanted to kill Migi for being a failure. The other simply wanted Migi to join forces with him and was a glutton. He wasn’t lying he simply wanted to survive for as long as he could. I wonder if the host personality plays a part in the parasyte. Or if the author simply drew the hosts to match the parasyte personality.

      Reply
      1. Pia

        That’s probably how things gonna be at least at the beginning then they will turn more complex until they inevitably face the big baddie of the story and his minions.
        I don’t think the host personality plays a big part in the parasyte mentality, at best some habits are inherited from the host since in the first episode we see a wife being eaten by her husband/parasyte without any remorse.

        Reply
    2. E Minor Post author

      something like world domination.

      I don’t think they have that capacity at the moment. They have intelligence to the extent that they can quickly adapt to their surroundings, but they’re missing that certain je ne sais quoi. For example, Migi doesn’t even care to have a name. It takes the simplest approach to most problems, i.e. “I just want to survive.” The only reason Migi seems different from the others is because it has Shinichi to learn from. More importantly, Shinichi can oppose Migi even if only a bit. The others instantly take over their hosts’ brains, so they remain unopposed. And since they’re so much stronger than humans, they just feed. They don’t have to think about anything else but feeding. They don’t ever have to build complex thought processes like ambition, which is what you would need to take over the world. Why even bother with such a lofty ambition when it’s enjoying itself right now just feeding? It’s like a pleasure thought example. Why be a miserable human when you can be a blissful pig? Right now the parasites can fulfill its urges uninhibited. The parasites don’t need to concern with anything more complex than eating, and their behaviors reflect that.

      Reply
      1. Pia

        Yes, I agree, right now they’re just trying to survive, even the one they fought this week just wanted to extend his life span with Migi’s help, maybe that could change when they get a better grasp about the world, or when their descendants grow up and see the world in a different way since the ending of this episode suggest that they discovered how to procreate, but right now they’re just learning how to survive without being noticed.

        In the end, normally it would take dozens of years for them to even think in world domination and I don’t think this anime would do such time skip.

        Reply
  3. rebiawatkins

    I actually find the “what’s so wrong with X species wanting to survive”? argument to be a bit overplayed and dumb. Maybe I’ve just happened to watch more shows like this, but it seems that this is a pretty common theme/argument in anime and it’s never really addressed properly.

    People just keep repeating the same thing over and over throwing around the argument “How’s this so different from humans eating cows and pigs?” Like Roghek said, one reason is self preservation. So what if Migi’s species is just trying to survive? If it’s going to endanger humanity and you as well, why would you not try to stop it? Anyways it always makes me flinch a little when that argument comes up, because most shows only explore it superficially and aren’t successful at making me feel sympathy for killer species X.

    Of course I don’t know how the narrative will handle this topic because I haven’t read the manga, but from what I’ve heard about the source material and seen so far, I think the writers will do a good job and maybe delve deeper into this topic than most other shows do.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      I feel that you guys are overly simplifying the problem by ignoring the moral implications at the center of the show. No one’s telling you to feel sorry for anything that’s trying to kill you. No one’s saying either that you can’t protect your own species. You’re reducing it down to “This is just for the sake of humanity’s survival,” which is clearly not what the show is going for at all. We’re talking about what is morally right and what is morally wrong. We’re talking about whether or not human life is inherently precious, something which Shinichi directly asks Migi. Shinichi feels a strong moral imperative to save people, not just ensure humanity’s survival for his own biological sake. Shinichi then calls Migi a demon, implying that Migi is immoral. In reality, Migi is really just amoral. At no point does Shinichi even say anything about humanity’s survival. He merely thinks it’s wrong that there will be victims, so Migi is questioning why the lives of other humans are morally important to Shinichi — more morally important than the lives of his own kind. If you want Migi’s help, you have to convince it that saving people is worth doing. Simply saying “Well, I’m ensuring the survival of my species!” doesn’t mean anything to Migi. It’s not even Shinichi’s stance. If anything, that’s more in line with Migi’s sort of thinking, i.e. the survival of my race ensures my own survival. On the other hand, Shinichi is trying to take a moral position, and the point is that the survival of the human species over that of the parasites has no moral basis. You can fight for your own survival if you want — and again, no one’s arguing against this — but you can’t claim you have a right to life and deny that same right to other living species.

      Reply
      1. Anon

        What about species who doesn’t contribute anything to the world and just destroys? We haven’t seen what these parasites are really trying to do, or what they’re here for (or maybe I’d missed this part), but so far they haven’t provided anything useful to the world either.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Are you prepared to kill the mentally handicapped because they’re a drain on our resources and contribute nothing useful to the world? Yo, you can say it’s just practical, but you can’t say it’s moral.

  4. Thenais

    Don’t forget that parasytes have 0 reproduction capacities, so they are not really a threat to mankind as a whole.

    Reply
  5. Jovian Dreamer

    Would Shinichi feel okay with eating meat if he saw the horrible living conditions and the systematic, impersonal slaughter cattle and other animals go through as if they weren’t living beings? Probably not, most humans don’t have such a level of empathy for other animals, especially when they taste so damn good. Exploit the land and the beasts that roam it, we have the power and capacity for evil to do so. It’s an acceptable evil that’s taken for granted because we have a disconnect from things that can’t talk to us or function as we do. We can train ourselves to have some sort of emotional response to the suffering of animals, but would you value the life of a dog over that of a human? Aside from being the same kind of creature as you, the possibilities for the kind of life a human could live are just so much more varied and valuable compared to any other animal, especially since we really only care about the progress of the human civilization, not the canine one. Then again, humans are (usually) the only evil animal. While we can choose to do good or do nothing, too often we choose to do evil.

    I feel numb.

    Anyway, this is basically the Japanese cartoon version of Spider-Man, except without the visual flamboyance of superheroes. Which means that there’s more gore and body horror, and that’s always great. I also like that they didn’t censor it when Migi morphed into a giant dick. They didn’t show it for too long or too explicitly either, but I’ll take what I can get. I think this will definitely end as one of the better shows of the entire year.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      While we can choose to do good or do nothing, too often we choose to do evil.

      I don’t know about often. If the majority of our actions were evil, I doubt society would function.

      Reply

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