Seeing the nearly dead and lifeless Shinichi on the floor, Migi concludes, “My only option is to merge myself with his heart.” In other words, even though Shinichi’s body had recently undergone some very important changes, he still tried his best to hold onto his boyish heart. His innocence. His adolescence. Call it whatever you want. It thus takes a facsimile of his own mother to literally pierce through Shinichi’s heart for him to finally accept that he needs to grow up and change. To survive, he’ll have to be more like Migi, so naturally, Migi merges with his heart. Some people express doubt at the idea that Shinichi needs to commit some form of matricide in order to grow up. I think the metaphor is staring at us quite plainly in the face. Shinichi had been distant with his parents for quite some time now. He’s no longer the little boy who runs to his mother anymore whenever he’s lonely or in need of help. To some degree, that must have hurt her feelings quite a bit. Every mother feels it. Every father too, but with most moms playing a bigger role in childrearing in Asian cultures, Parasyte is suitably focused on Shinichi’s mom and her reactions to him growing up. So what sealed the deal? What made her finally decide to cut the proverbial cord? It wasn’t just when he accepted the idea of his parents going on a vacation. It’s how he accepted it. He can just invite a friend over if he’s lonely. He doesn’t need his parents anymore. Sure, they’ll always be there for him, but he’s going to find love, start his own family, so on and so forth. More importantly, he doesn’t need his mother anymore. And what do we do when we are hurt? We lash back; Nobuko stabs him through the heart.
But it’s not his mother anymore! A parasyte has taken over her brain.
Yes, of course. This is what happens on the surface. We’re looking beyond the plot events, though. Look, horror is metaphorical. Horror allows us to explore our human fears in indirect ways. We replace our pain with fantasy. A scary fantasy, sure, but a fantasy nonetheless. Sometimes, the fantasy is goofy. I mean, what’s goofy about a sad, rejected mother who feels hurt by her son’s recent behavior? Nothing. That’s fucking depressing. What about a monotone facsimile of a mother whose head can suddenly uncoil into flesh ribbons? That’s goofy as fuck. People have expressed disappointment at the fact that Parasyte isn’t body horror enough. In fact, it’s kind of goofy. But at the same time, this silliness is part of what makes Shinchi’s latent fears something that he can easily confront. What was Alien about? The fear of sex. What was The Fly about? The fear of growing old. So what is Parasyte about? The fear of growing up, and part of growing up is extricating yourself from your parents. So instead of having a big, emotional meltdown between Shinichi and his mother, where they both sob and hold each other — and in the end, Shinichi walks away from his mother a little bit more grown up, a bit older, a bit wiser — we cut right to the chase. His mother is cold to him now. His mother stabs him right in the heart. His own mother rejects him. As such, his boyish heart is dead.
On multiple interpretations
When Shinichi finally regains consciousness, like Peter Parker, he suddenly no longer needs to wear his glasses. Thanks to Migi’s shenanigans, our hero now has perfect vision. Hell, maybe even better than perfect vision. We later see that he has also gained enhanced hearing and super speed, so it’s probably safe to assume that Shinichi’s gained a bunch of other cool abilities. So yeah, you could interpret this story as a superhero origin story. But here’s the problem I have with multiple interpretations. The problem is that I don’t have any issue with them. You can read these stories in any way that you wish… with some caveats, of course. Part of experiencing a story isn’t just figuring out what the author is trying to say. I mean, that’s a large part of literary analysis, but it’s not the only part. After all, if this was actually the case, then why even bother watching or reading these stories at all? We may as well just go directly to the author and ask what he or she meant to say. Instead, when we analyze any work of art, we bring into it our own experiences and subjectivity. But don’t get me wrong. Death of the author doesn’t mean, “Fuck the author! I don’t care what he or she thinks!” It means that the reader plays a crucial part in the authorship of the story. But again, don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean anything flies. That doesn’t mean someone gets to say, “Well, to me, Parasyte is really about 1960’s Chilean politics.” Not without support evidence, of course.
At the end of the day, you still have to back your analysis up. I’ve done my best to argue for my interpretation of Parasyte. To me, the latest events are about matricide. And naturally, I’ve given my evidence for my reading of the story. If you ultimately don’t agree with me, fine, but you can’t say I’m just making shit up. And likewise, if you think Parasyte is a superhero origin story, then fine. Go with that. So long as you can back it up. But just because one interpretation emerges, it doesn’t mean another one necessarily has to disappear. Stories can mean different things to different people. And what makes literary analysis useful is that it can also serve as a tool to help people with differing viewpoints connect with each other. Oh, you saw it that way? Well, I saw it this way, but after reading your thoughts, I understand where you’re coming from! Therefore, I find it a little sad when people feel the need to shout each other down in order to stump for their favorite interpretation of any given story. These posts should be a collaboration and sharing of ideas and experiences, not a “Well, you have to be wrong, because I think x, y, and z.” One would think that this is an apparent truth, but I guess not. People seem to think that if we interpret a story one way, we cannot interpret the story in any other way. And that’s my problem with the theory that this is a superhero origin story. It has nothing to do with the interpretation itself. It’s this dogmatic belief that stories can only be read one way, and oftentimes, that one way is exactly what we think the author had intended.
Stray notes & observations:
— I only wish Migi didn’t feel the need to narrate his actions, and thus spelling it out to the audience. He’s basically telling us the many steps he’s taking to save Shinichi’s life. Yes, without his narration, we wouldn’t know exactly what Migi’s doing, but that’s the point. Our confusion would add to the bizarreness of the scene. What is this strange thing that’s happening? Why is Migi plunging into our hero’s chest? What’s going on? Unfortunately, the mystery is dispelled because the story’s afraid to leave the audience in the dark. C’mon, be like Nobuko. Cut the damn cord and let the audience walk on their own two feet.
— Shinichi’s face is more gaunt when he wakes up. On the surface, it means he hasn’t had much to eat. He’s been on a strict sugar diet because that’s all Migi can dig up. On a metaphorical level, Shinichi’s face is more adult. It’s like he’s lost his baby fat.
— In reference to his patched-up wound, Shinichi says, “The hole’s been sealed.” Of course, we can interpret this piece of dialogue in a multitude of ways. I’ll just leave it at that, however, since a lot of you guys feel that the show is heavy-handed enough as it is. As heavy-handed as Psycho-Pass, even. I just want to draw a quick comparison between Shinichi’s scar and the scar on his mother’s arm. Shinichi has always owed a great debt of gratitude to his mother, because she saved him from being scalded horribly by a pot of oil. But now, in a way, they’re even. That doesn’t mean he’ll stop remembering his mother fondly or anything. This is, however, just another step in the process of extricating oneself from one’s parents. He will forever be in debt to his parents in some form or fashion just like we are to ours. After all, we can’t just forget the fact that they’ve raised and nurture us for nearly two or more decades of our lives. Nevertheless, Shinichi has one less thing to feel guilty about.
— Why does Shinichi run to his father? To protect him, of course. On another level, it is perhaps the idea that as boys grow up, they need their mothers less, and in turn, they start to relate to their fathers more and more. When dad’s not around, you just know he’s working, but you don’t really understand why he has to work on an emotional level. Now, we’re just talking about Asian families, where the father often works long hours and the mother runs the home by herself. I’m not implying, of course, that a mother never works or that a father is always absent. But Parasyte was originally written in the late 80s to early 90s, so these traditional family dynamics were probably more prominent then than they are now.
— I don’t think a real doctor would make such a quick conclusion of Shinichi’s father’s mental state.
— It’s always hard to accept that your spouse might be abusive. We make excuses for them. We convince ourselves that we’re seeing things. No, the real Nobuko wasn’t abusive. Again, it’s all metaphorical. Shinichi’s frustration at the moment, however, comes from being caught between two sides. He wants his father to believe him, to validate what his mother had done to him, etc. This is just like how a lost child would feel when they confess to the other parent about the abuse they’ve suffered. Nothing makes you feel more lost than when the other parent dismisses your feelings and concerns. At the same time, he knows his father doesn’t want to think or say a single negative thing about the woman he had married, loved, and shared decades with. When someone enables their spouse’s horrible actions, it’s infuriating… but sad at the same time. These emotions play out on Shinichi’s face in the span of just a couple minutes.
— This sort of dissociation is what we do all the time to cope with the harsh realities of our situation. No, it wasn’t my mother who hit me. It was a monster. My mother would never do that. We compartmentalize in order to deal with our problems. Parasyte simply takes this literally, and as a result, we have a horror story of sorts. At its core, however, these recent events regale us with a tale of domestic woes. But again, that’s my reading, and you’re free to have yours.
— Shinichi also can’t rely on Migi as much anymore. Migi is more human-like than ever, which means he can’t easily wake up from his sleep anymore. As such, Shinichi’s on his own whenever his alien buddy needs his four hours of beauty sleep. Our hero’s body has developed in many ways — better vision, super hearing, etc. — but at the same time, the training wheels are off, so to speak.
— Shinichi says he doesn’t see Migi as an enemy anymore, but they’re not exactly close friends. This can thus be read as a sort of self-loathing. He has to kill his mother, but it’s not like he really wants to. It’s not like he really wanted to push her away. Somewhere deep down inside him, our hero blames himself for all that has happened.
— We can argue that Migi only saved Shinichi in order to save himself. The former might have acted just for himself and thus selfishly, but that doesn’t entail that altruism is a lie. All we know is that the jury’s still out on our alien buddy.
— Shinichi only ever seems to befriend girls, and Makiko can join his long list of female admirers. He’s gotta make a male friend one day, right? A male friend that isn’t a parasyte, right?
— Yeah, I don’t think that’s your mother, buddy.