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