First Impressions – Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu

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Time for the season’s first sigh of relief…

OP: “Let Me Hear” by Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Kiseijuu is awesome, and all’s right with the world.  It’s always a bit euphoric when you see your first truly great premiere of the season, but there’s a healthy dollop of relief too when it’s a show you expected to be great.  And when a season looks as weak overall on paper as this Fall season does, that feeling is magnified – you just can’t afford to lose any of the shows you expect to be in the top tier.  And that most certainly applies to this one.

I’ve been down this road enough times to keep my giddiness in-check – terrific premieres don’t always equal terrific series.  But when you factor in that we’re working with a completed manga and a two-cour schedule that should be enough to more-or-less adequately adapt it, the risk factor seems lower – especially considering that Iwasaki Hitoshi’s manga is almost universally regarded as a classic and this is Madhouse we’re talking about.  My only concern going in was that director Shimizu Kenichi is effectively new in that role, but based on the first episode that doesn’t seem as if it’s going to be a problem.

I’m mostly though not entirely new to the material, and I’m sure some manga readers will find stuff to complain about in the premiere.  But for me, it was pretty much spotless.  The backgrounds, the character designs, the music, the casting – it all worked seamlessly for me.  I also liked the way Madhouse introduced the material in much the same way Iwasaki-sensei did, without excessive preamble or explanation – it dumped us right into the story and trusted us to get our feet under us and figure out what we needed to know.  I know I sound like a broken record on this point, but why can’t more series do the same?

For a protagonist we have Izumi Shinichi (Nobunaga Shimzaki, who’s something like Kaji Yuuki with range and talent), a rather timid 17 year-old who doesn’t eat much and is terrified of bugs.  His parents (Aizawa Masaki, Sasai Chieko) seem alternately bemused and concerned about their son’s peculiarities, and perhaps that’s why they don’t seem as alarmed as you’d expect when he wakes up screaming about a snake that’s burrowed into his arm.  That snake turns out to be Migi (Hirano Aya) a parasitic being that attempted to burrow into Shinichi’s brain and failed (because of the earbud Shinichi is wearing).  And with that rather outlandish scenario in-hand (pun intended) Kiseijuu takes flight.

If I were to try and encapsulate what makes Iwasaki’s series so effective, it would be the way the horror and humor are so artfully intertwined – and the adaptation manages to communicate that as well as I’d hoped it would.  Make no mistake, this manga is revered for a reason – it’s beautifully written, a true classic that doesn’t feel remotely dated despite being almost a quarter-century old.  There are hints in the premiere about what might be really going on here – “Someone above was thinking…” and the like – but for the most part the focus is on the strange events themselves and the atmosphere they create.  There are some truly horrifying images here and Madhouse spares us none of them (after the way they adapted Hunter X Hunter even when it was airing on Sunday mornings, I don’t know why anyone would expect otherwise, but some did) but there’s a sense of gleeful black humor that cuts through everything.  And that humor, in my view, is the spine of Parastye, supporting the entire structure from top to bottom.

At the core of the story, of course, is the odd relationship between Shinichi and Migi.  There’s an obvious wink at the audience here by Iwasaki in crafting a story about an adolescent boy who can’t control his right hand, and we’ve seen variations on this sort of possession theme many times over the last few decades.  But this is unique and singular, and Hirano and Nobunaga have just the right chemistry.  Migi is practical and a little snarky, Shinichi always on the verge of panic – not that he doesn’t have good reason, but that was his natural state anyway, which is what makes this such a perfect setup.  The fact that Migi itself has no idea where it comes from is an important factor in making this work, too – effectively, Migi is like a force of nature trying to come to grips with consciousness.  Shinichi notes that their conversation is “like talking to an insect”, and I think that’s exactly what Iwasaki was trying to convey.

No doubt, this is good stuff – very, very good indeed.  A great studio coming off arguably the greatest straight-up adaptation in anime history, a great manga, and a season desperately in need of a series with depth and brilliance driving it.  Yes, somehow it could still all go wrong and experience forces me to worry about that possibility right up until the very end – but it would be hard to make a strong case for why one should expect that.  For one week at least, Kiseijuu is every bit as superb as I hoped and expected it would be.

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ED: “IT’S THE RIGHT TIME” by Daichi Miura

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  1. s

    well…time to wear earbuds to sleep every night. I can already tell im gonna dig this series. Nitpicks aside, this was a great premiere.

  2. m

    I loved it. I read the manga ages ago, and didn't even realize how protective I was of it until I was cringing in the first five minutes, thinking, "Did they just skip over the part where Migi burrows his way into Shinichi's hand? Man, I hope they don't screw this up."

    I was never gladder to be proven wrong.

    I'm also trying to be tentatively optimistic, but already I'm seeing things in this adaptation that make me giddy. Love how they modernized the setting, like the dad watching news from a tablet, and Migi spending class on a smartphone. And I'm really digging the more human touches. I have a better feel for Shinichi's parents in the anime than the manga (again, little details, like the dad's teddy bear slippers), and I know how fans complained about Shinichi's wimpy look, but looking at the OP, I suspect the impact of his transformation will be that much greater.

    Best of all, NO CENSORSHIP. Imagine how that would have gone down.

  3. S

    Haha! Yeah the tablet and smartphone really seemed like a wink to the one's, who knew the manga from way back.

  4. S

    If I had to make one complaint it would be that they unfortunately did not adapt all the great jokes in the first two chapters of the manga. (Instead they went for the boob grab; it's like every second series in this season had such a scene in their first episode) But I can imagine that it could be misleading if the comedy elements go overboard in the first episode considering this quite dark setting.

  5. u

    I thought it was okay, nothing too outstanding and definitely not what I would call the best premiere but I see potential. Didn't really care for the dub step, though.

  6. S

    Hello! Galekseijuu, here.

  7. t

    it was really a wonderful premiere.
    I do have to complain a little, because it seems madhouse did some other irrelvant things. for example, the hero, Shinchi (or Shinji) doesn't have glasses and that important. not to mention that the car scene (when Shinji stops the car barehanded) didn't even occur (that was one hell of disappointment… because although the series have supernatural elements, their exposure is done little by little in the manga, and here they just…crushed that feeling. I mean…seriously…who can stop car like this barehanded). and of course the exaggeration in fanservice boob scene (they went far with that. it wasn't even with that character, Murano).
    other than that, madhouse did kept what parasyte should be like.
    parasyte is a wonderful material. it has the feeling of really good old-school material (well that is to be expected from 90s manga). I hope madhouse can continue with that level and bring up the right feeling. they have done well for 1st episode. I enjoyed it very much.

  8. s

    Along with Mushishi, this was probably the anime I was looking forward to the most – and boy, it didn't disappoint. It was funny reading the discussions among the fanbase yesterday, though – they were rather torn about the opening, dubstep in the OST as well as some minor changes in order. Having read the manga, I actually don't mind them at all – and I'm definitely glad that after such a long time, it not only gets an anime after all, but also one done by a good studio.
    Hope you'll enjoy the ride.

    My only complaint so far – why do I have to wait 6 more days until it continues?

  9. H

    I'm sensing that this is a slightly tamer rendition of the manga with, what I suspect, most of the crudity removed (dickhand when?) and aesthetically it looks too clean, but it was a solid start. Really not keen on some of the musical choices made.

  10. e

    It's been a while since I red the manga but not sure about the tamer. That scene at the end among the garbage… *shudder* .
    That said dickhand need to happen X,D

    About the episode itself I quite liked it. Migi's voice is quite close to how I heard it in my head while reading.
    Shinichi is a bit cutiefied and I miss Murano's manga looks but I think the former at least was for dramatic 'before' and 'after' screen purposes. The guy has already started packing in on proteins :,D
    The story on paper its both viscerally gripping and good brain food *ahem* hopefully they'll retain that in following episodes. Plus Migi is one cool partner… if all goes well adaptation-wise we'll grow quite fond of the creature :D.

  11. H

    I think I'll be pretty cheesed off if I don't see a dick hand. I MEAN PLZ.

  12. e

    Well I went to re-read the first chapters and this episode was mostly a remix of scenes from chapter #1 through #3 with some details changed or missing – I'm rooting for all the toilet bits to appear in the anime sooner or later btw -. I could have done without the boob grab in the anime honestly… especially if that ends up as UST shortcut instead of dick hand. Inconceivable!
    On the other hand the necro killer/rapist ending scene with unnecessary boob jiggle might make sense as foreshadowing/intro for later volumes and related you know what. But here I stop because spoiler city. I'm just glad they didn't pull a Psycho-Pass s1e1 while they were at it @_@.

    Going back to the anime per se I'm quite ok with the music btw. Might not be super atmospheric but it's not jarring either imho.

  13. H

    I didn't mind the music for the most part (the Korg-esk keyboard and choral pieces were well integrated with the whole alien vibe), but when that dubstep crept in my ears were sweating!

  14. o

    It wouldn't be much good of an episode anyway, since no character behaves like a real person and the direction is completely uninspired and derivative, but it's impressive how sexist this is even for anime standards.

    When the main character grabs the girl's breast and sexually harasses her, the camera zooms to that area (see screencap above) and the inbetweening is as high quality as found anywhere else on the episode. So the harassment becomes 100% sexualized.

    In the final scene, we see a woman being violently killed, and of course we are in full view of her half-naked breasts (I guess an off-screen rape is the implication?). Violent murder becomes sexualized.

    And then you think back to the first scene, where a woman dies horribly. Her daughter is killed shortly after that. Obviously.

  15. S

    Err, THIS is sexist? I mean, this season alone we had a premiére which sexualized a girl getting an anal probing… this was tame and played for horror/discomfort, not titillation.

  16. z

    It's like a grittier Level E. Cool.

    Some bad backgrounds and distorted faces though. I expected better from Madhouse, hopefully that will improve.

  17. R

    This is it…this is the show that easily jumps above all others premiered so far…even when I have such a high expectation coming in. Kiseijuu tops my list till Mushi-shi's premier in a few days, I guess, and I'm still anticipating Sanzoku no Musume Ronja. These 3 shows are my top 3, and I have hopes for them.

  18. f

    I wouldn't say Nobunaga Shimazaki sounds like Kaji Yuuki with talent, to be honest… I think Hanae Natsuki sounds more like him. Just IMHO of course.

  19. U

    what an interesting and fascinating premiere

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