From an anthropological point of view, monsters in every culture display many of the fears of the individuals living in said culture. While it’s true that monsters instill a cultural anxiety, they also hold alternative purpose under the surface. In many ways, they’ve teach much about ourselves in their trail of fear. In this analysis, I’ll be reviewing the monsters from a series called Parasyte: The Maxum. I’ve wholeheartedly enjoyed this series several times over and plan to do so again sometime in the future. Whether it’s for its animation, philosophy or well thoughout plot, there are plenty of reasons to give this show a try.
This series premiered in the spring of 2016. Before that it was created as a (Japanese Comic) Manga issued in 1988! The monster in this series comes from an unknown origin, presumably outer space. When the eggs float down from the sky and hatch they have one goal in mind, and that is to find a host. One article by Mick Joest on geektyrant.com states it perfectly when he compares the show to being an “Alien meets Bodysnatchers” crossover. In the series the parasites subtlety become an epidemic as more parasites take over human brains and adapt to “hide in plain sight” amongst the humans. They slowly mend into the hierarchy of human society where they become increasingly difficult to spot. Most of these parasites resort to eating humans for sustenance. The main character of the series “Shinichi Izumi,” along with a couple of other characters he meets along the way, have a special case in where their parasites didn’t reach the human brain. This due to the fact that the parasites upon hatching from their eggs only have a minute amount of time to find a host. So in the case of the main character Shinichi, the parasite had to settle with his right arm. This sets up an interesting dynamic that forces the two to work together as they both start affecting each other’s personality as the story progresses.
As many people know, many books that get adapted into films, for some reason, have a hard time keeping true to their source material. Many of the fans from this series have little to say as far as what was changed from the mediums. The most common points made in many of the online forums was that clothing and technology was modernized to fit the time the show aired.
This monster is quite unique due to the fact that rather than pertaining directly to the fears or the Japanese culture from which it came. Much of the fears are very universal. This idea is also cemented in an interview with the creator (Hitoshi Iwaaki) found on kodanshacomics.com, when he is asked how he came up with the idea for the story. He said “I used to watching a lot of documentaries about the food chains in nature as a kid. I remember wanting to write about the “egotism of the human race over this planet,” but I didn’t want to look down on humans. I just wanted to tell the story from an ordinary person’s point of view.” When he uses the word human, he’s automatically thinking more objectively than subjective, which much of this series focuses on the fact that the world is more connected than ever, its relatively easy to see the connectivity. No matter where you’re from, the idea of a parasite is not unique to one culture. Although the effects of these parasites are amplified to that of reality, it stems from the same root of fear.
This monster is not without its subjectivity. In the same interview on kodanshacomics.com, Hitoshi is also asked how he came up with the main character’s parasite “Migi.” Hitoshi stated “I don’t remember exactly how I came up with it. But in Japan, there are a lot of monsters in traditional folk tales that are just a hand with eyeballs or, like, a talking tumor.” One of the monsters he could be talking about is the Tenome of Japanese folklore. The name literally translates to “eyes on hands.” According to yokai.com, this faceless being stalks his prey in open fields and graveyards, using only the eyes on his hands to find its next victim. After reading the description from this creature, it’s easy to see why this could of inspired Hitoshi to create such a monster.
The show doesn’t just dazzle with its distinctive monster design, it also brings forth thought provoking senarios. One of the biggest questions this story is “What does it mean to be human?” One scenario that comes to mind is when Shinichi and Migi are going over the recent killings that the parasites have been committing around town. After Shinichi presens his concerns, Migi voices his confusion when he says “Your logic is a bit difficult to understand, my kind are just simply eating to stay alive and nothing more.” This moment shines an objective light on how Migi views the scenario. This is an important role the character continues to play throughout the story. Migi then contiues to say “You just find it unpleasant that it is your own kind that’s being eaten.” This statement further drilling in his total lack of empathy. Shinichi’s then unconfidently says “…of course, human life is a precious thing, isn’t it?” This controntation of ideals early in the series marks the tone of existentialism throughout the story. This is also an important metaphorical backbone to the monsters that the parasites are.
There’s a point in the series when the dynamic duo take care of the “final boss,” so to speak. They accomplish this feat only at the cost of Migi’s life. However this wouldn’t be the last of Migi. He ends up reaching out to Shinichi in his dream. And tells him of how he’s not dead but will be sleeping and not to worry about anymore parasites. The next day he finds himself in a predicament with another monster. Only this time it was another human. So rather than the parasite monsters he’s been fighting with inhuman abilities, he’s now facing one of his own kind. In a sense the monster escaped though the reflection on human kind. Not that we are all that way, just the fact that “not all monsters have tentacles.”
Stories and plots where modern humans are pinned up against the “unknown” Tend to push the boundaries of the human psyche. Whether that be a monster or supernatural event. What’s compelling about this monster, being the parasite, is that there is a forced relationship between the monster and its host, similar to Dr. Frankenstein and his creation. So in that light, the viewer is also forced into a relationship with the parasite. Many thought provoking situations and questions are brought up along their journey. Overall, the parasites from this series is such an interesting case of a monster that reflect to become one with the perceiver to question the view of one self. So if you’re in to syfy, existential crises and are looking for a great new show to watch, I highly recommend this 25 episode psychological thriller!
Jeffery Jerome Cohen (1996). Analyzing monsters and their significance. Monster Theory: Reading Culture.
Joest, Mick. “Review: PARASYTE THE MAXIM.” GeekTyrant, GeekTyrant, 25 Mar. 2015, geektyrant.com/news/review-parasyte-the-maxim-mjgt.
Kido, Misaki. “Creator Interview: Hitoshi Iwaaki on Parasyte.” Kodansha Comics, 9 Dec. 2016, kodanshacomics.com/2016/11/02/creator-interview-hitoshi-iwaaki-parasyte/.
Meyer, Matthew. “Yokai.com.” Tenome – Yokai.com, yokai.com/tenome/.