Hitoshi Iwaaki – Del Rey – 2009 – 8 volumes
Wow. Just… wow. That was certainly the best ending I’ve read all year, or maybe the past several years. I’m pretty happy with fairly superficial endings sometimes, but this one exists and is powerful because it literally draws on everything established throughout the series, states its final thoughts and what it had been getting at all this time, and commits a few final shocking acts that left me tearing through the volume to find out what happens.
I especially appreciated the moralizing, oddly enough. Normally I hate when a manga sets out to deliver an Important Message, because frequently the message is convoluted and lost in the story or is repeated so many times that you feel insulted for reading it. Not so with Parasyte. It is certainly heavy-handed throughout. There are several points where you can see the message is that humans are just as savage as any creature, and morals are somewhat arbitrary when it comes to the greater circle of life. The speech from the mayor a volume or so ago sums all this up best, and I liked that speech. It did blatantly hand you everything that was going on with the series, but it was in a moment where the themes were illustrated best, and it really did have to be said in order to end things there.
With that in the past, I wasn’t really expecting a reiteration in the ending. It was there anyway, in conversations between Migi and Shinichi that, again, had to happen before the story could finish. I couldn’t believe how eloquently the messages were put into words, and then illustrated and carried out through the actions of the characters. There are three major incidents that end the series, and each one is equally amazing. Each also has something different to say.
And the messages are worthwhile in the end, too. It’s hard to deny the power in the absolutely maddening scene where Migi and Shinichi debate over whether it’s right to kill a parasyte. The conversation, and its ultimate conclusion, would have been my favorite moment of all in the series, had the first chapter not happened. Something somewhat less thematically important, but more emotionally powerful happens right away in the book. It was also completely unexpected, and I was reading in a complete state of shock right up to the other scene I described, which was a good 2/3rds of the book. The final scene is, of course, the expected reunion with Uragami, which was all sorts of insane.
Absolutely nothing finished up even remotely how I had imagined it. I enjoyed being preached to, and I loved that the message of the book was that mourning the loss of life is really a waste since life is lost every day, but on the other hand, that’s what makes humans wonderful.
I can’t adequately describe just how moved I was by the series as a whole. It runs a gamut of ambitious moral questions that take a great deal of subtlety and storytelling finesse to pull off properly, and it achieves everything it set out to do. I will be thinking about Parasyte for a long time, and I will re-read it many times in the years to come. What was an excellent series has been propelled into one of my favorites of all time by a spectacular ending.
If you were thinking of reading this series, by all means, please do. Just know that when you start, the slicing and dicing weirdness really does have a story to tell in the end. A fantastic story that is very much worth reading.
I should also point out that the back of the volume contains several more letters columns and an essay or two on Hitoshi Iwaaki. All of it is worth reading. The man is a genius.
It’s clear in this volume that the series is coming to a climax and will be winding down immediately after the business at hand is taken care of.
The biggest event to take place here is the roundup of parasites that work for that mayor. The government orchestrates an elaborate scenario in order to separate civilians and single each of the the parasites out. The parasites realize immediately what is going on, and things degenerate into a bloody mess towards the end of the volume. Though the army does make it clear that civilians will not be harmed, they pretty much shoot anything that moves and indiscriminately kill humans that are suspicious, try to flee the scene, or just defy orders.
This is shown in contrast to a speech given on how the parasites are just like any other creature on Earth that keeps the food chain in check, and that humans aren’t so special that they can avoid the fate of every other creature on the planet… and then an insinuation that it would only be a handful of years more before humans destroyed the food chain on Earth for good and that perhaps humans are, in fact, the parasites. It’s powerful stuff, and given the outcome of the person that gives the speech… well, it’s even more powerful after that. It sums up most of the basic themes in just a few pages. It’s even more interesting if you remember that Iwaaki has explicitly stated that it’s possible that the parasites aren’t extraterrestrial in nature.
There’s also an interesting plot thread involving a serial killer the army brings into the investigation. His motives are explained in depth, but basically, because he can sense the inhuman killing urges in the parasites, he becomes the only person other than Shinichi that can immediately spot a parasite… the theory being that they are just like him, a serial killer. He’s a pretty healthy wildcard to add to the equation so late in the game.
Towards the end, there is… a sex scene. Given Iwaaki’s art, it’s somehow ugly, but also powerful in context. Shinichi wrestles with himself and his nature before, during, and after.
Then the final battle with the 5-in-1 parasite happens. But that’s for next volume. July won’t come fast enough.
I’ve fallen behind on this series, which is truly unfortunate. Volume 8, the conclusion, comes out in July, and I’m just now getting to 6.
I always forget how great this series is between the volumes. I was really blown away by the story here, and I’m not going to be able to adequately describe how truly spectacular it was. Just… read this series. It really does keep getting better and better, and the issues it raises are surprisingly deep given the fact that the story could get away with simply being about human parasites that hack each other apart.
The book starts with the parasites going after Kuramori. They are meant to kill him, but when he isn’t home, the assassins misunderstand and kill his wife and daughter instead. Surprisingly, Tamura Reiko chastises the assassins for this and accuses them of knowing nothing about humans, saying that it was unnecessary to kill the family and that would simply provoke Kuramori into taking more aggressive action against them. She then goes on to describe the fact that, while the humans are individually weaker than the parasites, they are formidable when they work together and sympathize with one another. It’s an interesting observation, and one that lands her in a lot of trouble with the other parasites in the organization.
There’s an amazing phone call between Shinichi and his father. There was a shocking amount of emotional content in the phone call, and everything from the choice of words to the occasional pause for consideration on both sides of the conversation was absolutely perfect. When Shinichi hears about Kuramori’s family, he calls his dad and tells him to get out and away from their house. Shinichi gives a bogus explanation, and his dad calls him on it and begs him for details on what is going on in his life, but Shinichi just tells him that he’s always been a good kid, and that his dad should absolutely trust him now more than ever. It’s probably one of the more touching and intense conversations I’ve seen in a manga, actually.
Later, Tamura Reiko gets into a truly remarkable fight with other parasites. This one was fun not just because it’s awesome to see the parasites fighting, but because Tamura Reiko employs a great deal of bizarre strategy in fighting them. Later, Kuramori provokes her into a face-off, and then she winds up tangled with the police. She turns out to be… very human toward the end of the book. Watching her transformation throughout the course of the series and hearing all the commentary about the differences between parasites and humans come from her was definitely a major draw. I don’t really want to say more, but there’s all sorts of commentary packed into the scenes with her in the park.
And let me just jump directly into volume 7 from here. If you’re not reading this series, you really should be. It’s not at all what it seems to be, and offers a great deal more than it has any right to.
This series really is amazing. This volume focuses mainly on the relationship between Migi and Shinichi, specifically the way the two now work in battle, and the strategies that only they use that make them superior to most other parasytes. Shinichi is mostly no longer human at this point, and I love the way he slowly realizes he has more and more in common with the parasytes.
His girlfriend is still around, at least. He seems to still care about her, but she’s pushing away and he doesn’t seem to see this. Or he does, and figures it’s for the best since he’s sort of turning into a monster.
There’s a plot early on that carries over from the last volume about a PI following Shinichi around and gathering hard evidence about Migi. Migi wants to kill the man for reasons of self-preservation, and Shinichi can’t quite bring himself to do it. Migi and Shinichi invite the man to help them check out other parasytes with Migi’s abilities. This doesn’t go well, and involves vomiting on the man’s part. He’s pretty persistent for awhile, though.
Shinichi and Migi trigger the ire of a band of parasytes, and they decide the Migi-Shin pair has to go. They send someone fairly freaky after them, even by parasyte standards. The battle is twofold, and I was pretty pleased with it. It carries over into the next volume, and I’m wondering how the series will top it.
But yes, the action is ratcheting up, and the plot keeps getting better and better. Currently, Migi and Shinichi are on a mission to kill every other bloodthirsty parasyte, which I imagine won’t quite go as planned.
I promised I would try to do shorter reviews. There is a lot to say about this volume, but one of the events that happens is a pretty big spoiler, so I can’t say too much about it. I think it’s important to note that there is a death, but I’ll leave it at that since it could be one of many people.
The interesting thing about this volume was the fact that it is very obvious at this point that the main character has almost completely divorced himself from some pretty basic human feelings. The death does the most to illustrate this, as he does not grieve in ways you would expect. Others note this, but Shinichi is the one that takes the most note, and it really bothers him. There’s nothing much he finds he can do about it, either.
Interestingly, despite the fact he’s lost some more… subtle emotions, perhaps, he still worries a great deal about protecting his friends, and he is still very concerned with stopping the parasytes before they integrate themselves too seamlessly into society (some are, rather hilariously, running for public office). I wonder if later on down the line his motives for this will be questioned, and he’ll find he isn’t sure if it’s the right thing anymore. Before, he did it out of compassion, and this still may be true, even, but… he’s unable to grieve, which seems like it will lead to other things. But I wonder if protecting will eventually just turn into a duty, and then he’ll find he can’t figure out why he’s doing it anymore. That would actually be great, and it seems like a direction the series could go.
At the very end, we are again asked a question of morals. I have to admit, my reaction was the same as Mugi’s when the pair was stumbled upon. Shinichi’s reaction was different, which surprised me, but it looks like Mugi may have his way. I’m really quite fond of these moral quandries that keep coming up, and I can only imagine they keep getting more and more intense as the series goes on. I’m very much looking forward to what the more serious questions wind up being.
I had to wait SO LONG for this volume! It took seven months! What’s up with that? Apparently volume 4 will be much sooner in coming. I was worried they decided to make this 2-a-year due to bad sales. I can’t imagine it’s Del Rey’s worst selling series. Must’ve been some sort of production hiccup or something.
It’s still awesome, in case you were worried. There’s still lots of monsters and fights and lots of mouth heads. The best part is probably a fight that takes place in the school. The parasites are finally revealed to the general public through it, sorta, and the reaction is a lot more mild than I imagined. The reactions are actually sort of hilarious. “Mouth-heads” are what some eyewitness accounts describe, so there’s lots of cartoon drawings and things of what people think parasites look like in a human body. There’s also a trick people learn with a strand of hair that causes them to pull each other’s hair out to see if there’s a parasite.
I’ll leave the details of the actual fight at the school alone. It’s a great scene, though.
The second best thing this volume had going for it was the slow transformation of the main character. It’s implied that he and Migi are merging and that his feelings are becoming less and less… moral and sympathetic, I suppose, and more and more parasitic. The transformation is slow, and I appreciate the amount of subtlety and discussion that goes into it.
The third best thing was the reappearance of slit-mouth girl, last seen in volume 3 of Octopus Girl. I missed her so.
How the public will react to an actual parasite attack, or the true nature of the parasite, has yet to be revealed, as does what eventually happens to the main character’s humanity. Both of these are interesting questions, as is the Parasite’s views that they are killing off humans the same way humans kill off everything else. The girl that’s having the human baby is also still hanging around and directing certain things behind the scenes. There’s still a ton of story to go, and it’s still all pretty fresh at this point. I like it a lot.
I liked this volume a little less than the last one, but that didn’t stop this from being one of the most awesome volumes of manga I’ve read all month. I think I liked this one a little less only because they picked a topic and stuck with it instead of jumping around with a lot of really interesting battles.
For the most part, this volume deals with the main character’s mother being taken over by a Parasyte and how the main character has to deal with this. It’s surprisingly effective, and there’s a great battle where, among other things, the main character gets pierced through the heart.
We meet two other Parasytes. One is the one that takes over the mother, and we learn that, for whatever reason, the parasytes have to stick as close to the original host as possible if they need to transfer bodies. This parasyte’s originally had a female body that died, but when he tried to take over a male body, it didn’t work and he had a hard time controlling it. Among other things, he peed his pants while talking to someone else, and it was taken extremely seriously in the context of the story.
The other parasyte winds up being a friend, and the host and parasyte are in similar situations to Migi and the main character. They help in a fight near the end.
I’m so sad this series comes out at glacier speed and we won’t see another volume until May. It’s SO GOOD otherwise, and I’ll need it hard once Dragon Head ends.