I’m not sure of the reason for the double dose of Kiseijuu this week, though promoting the upcoming live-action film seems like as good a guess as any. In any event, given how consistently excellent this show is it’s a reason to be happy, though double-episodes are always a bit of a tough call on the blogging front. Do I watch the first and write about it before seeing the second colors my perception of it, or do I wait and cover them as a single entity?
My usual preference in cases like this is to watch the first episode and set my thoughts down before watching the second – which is what I’m doing now – largely because it seems to me that these episodes are designed to be viewed and judged on their own terms. And you can’t really do that once you know what’s coming. So my observationss on Episode 8 are my observations specifically about that episode – and my observation is that it was a cracker. Really tense, ominous and beautifully paced.
The dominant feeling here is that we’re watching things really start to go to hell in a handbasket, which is in marked contrast with the ending of Episode 7. Shinichi’s dad – so likeable and sensible – has turned to the bottle in the wake of Nobuko’s death (and the circumstances behind it). Satomi and Shinichi are on the skids, and everything he does is making it worse. Mitsuo is raising death flags left and right. Kana is showing disturbing sides of her personality, and seeming to start down a deeply dangerous path. And there’s a new threat in town, one who’s clearly using deception to try and serve a nefarious larger goal.
At the heart of a lot of the trouble here is the change in Shinichi, which everyone can sense in their own way. Kazuyuki sees it as his son being cold about the death of his mother (“Are you made of steel?”). Satomi simply sees the boy she loved – the one whose nervousness “made her feel safe” – becoming stronger and more distant. The exacerbating event is the death of a puppy hit by a car – which Shinichi rescues from the road so that at least it won’t die alone, but then calmly dumps into the trash and tells Satomi “It’s just a dog-shaped piece of meat now.” For Kana, she’s concocted an idea in her head that she can sense Shinichi because they’re “soulmates” (this causes a lot of trouble later) and shows a strong indication she’s willing to do anything to steal him from Satomi.
Of course, the truth of the matter is that Shinichi himself is disturbed by this change in him. “That sounds like something I might say” is Migi’s analysis of the “meat” comment, and it’s the most telling line of the episode. Clearly, what’s happening here is that Migi is becoming more like Shinichi and Shinichi more like Migi. That’s fascinating in and of itself, no doubt, as a character arc. But if you take the view that Iwaaki-sensei intends Kiseijuu as a metaphor for adolescence and becoming an adult (which I do) there’s clearly a deeper meaning here. Without a doubt, Shinichi is a stronger person now – literally and figuratively. He’s physically much more formidable. He’s calmer under pressure, more decisive. But has he lost something in the process? Clearly – and don’t all of us lose something precious when we leave childhood behind and become adults?
I’m not going to go so far as to say Migi’s species is a perfect analog for adulthood, but it’s an interesting angle from which to view Kiseijuu. And all the more so when Shimada Hideo (Ishida Akira) enters the picture. He’s a parasite posing as the teenager he’s possessed, and Ryouko (now very much showing) sends him to keep an eye on (but not kill) Shinichi, who she says is a “valuable asset in determining the future of our species”. He enters the school, but Shimada is clearly much less skilled than Ryouko at hiding his true nature. Migi assesses him as “one that can be reasoned with”, but is desperate to keep his weakness (sleep) hidden from Hideo. And when Hideo tells them that he’s interested in looking for potential ways to “coexist” with humanity, it’s hard to lend it even the slightest credence – especially as he’s lying about not having consumed any humans of late.
Unfortunately, Kana later mistakes Hideo for Shinichi – which, as they look nothing alike, immediately tips off Hideo that there’s something very odd about her. Shinichi saves her for the moment – in the process further alienating Satomi – but there’s clearly big trouble brewing here (especially as the encounter tips off Hideo that something is odd about Migi). But there’s big trouble everywhere, that’s clear. The situation with Kazuyuki is deeply worrying, as he seems to be descending into an alcohol-fueled darkness that’s only going to widen the growing chasm between he and his son. It’s easy to imagine how a Kazuyuki in this state might react upon learning the truth about Shinichi.
Disclaimer time: I absolutely hadn’t watched a frame of this episode when I wrote that stuff about Shinichi being “a stronger person now – literally and figuratively. He’s physically much more formidable. He’s calmer under pressure, more decisive.” So yes, I did LOL a bit when Migi repeated it almost word for word in his assessment of the new Shinichi. And there can be no question that from Migi’s perspective, this Shinichi has definitely “improved”. But wouldn’t it be just as true to say that from Shinichi’s perspective, this Migi is much improved from the Migi of the first few episodes?
This was one of those episodes (Shin Sekai Yori especially specialized in them) that strikes disbelief in me when the end credits start to roll – it was hard to believe that was 22 minutes. What a live wire it was, carrying on the tension the previous ep had sewed and really amping it up where Yuuko is concerned. Her nascent crush on Hideo(us) was certainly ominous, but the shit hit the fan pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s better to just not see how the sausage is being made. Especially if it’s made of people.
We continue to get hints about the origin of the parasites, and this time is comes from a previously unseen one that’s speaking with Ryouko. He describes them as a “neutralizer” that was necessary because “humans have become toxic to Earth”. While the latter part is certainly undeniable, it’s hard to know just what to make of that – really, it could mean just about anything in terms of an origin. For now that part of Kiseijuu is a work in progress, and we’re in about the same shoes as the authorities on this. They have in fact noticed the existence of these monsters, but don’t know what they are – aliens, mutants, bio-weapons. The authorities come to Kazuyuki for information, but order him not to reveal what he knows – though he does later reveal the truth to his son.
As it turns out, Yuuko’s brother is a police sketch artist working on the mystery, and Yuuko shares some of his artistic ability. An offhand (or not) comment from a friend about Hideo’s face being “fake” and a stolen glimpse of her brother’s sketchbook sets Yuuko’s mind to wandering in dangerous directions. A chance encounter with a baseball should have been enough to tip her off that things were very, very wrong with Hide-kun – the subsequent talk with her brother and surveillance of Hideo changing faces the absolute final nail in the coffin. But Yuuko makes the worst possible decision – rather than tell her brother she decides to isolate herself with Hideo and give him a chance to explain himself.
It would be easy to grow frustrated with the utter stupidity of this line of thinking (I know I did). But the flipside is, Iwaaki is quite skillfully interweaving the worlds of supernatural horror and realistic adolescent drama here. And one of the most compelling aspects is watching what happens when normal teen stupidity – crushes, bullying, et al – interacts with a terrifying sci-fi scenario. We’ve seen it over and over, and we’re seeing it now – not just through Yuuko but Kana too, and her crush on Shinichi. And in Mitsuo’s penis-envy posturing causing him to constantly pick fights, this time one with Hideo that’s about to get him and his posse killed before Shinichi intervenes. And of course, in the growing split between Shinichi and Satomi – though that’s a considerably more nuanced and complex situation. Is this a metaphor, too, for what happens when childish decision-making crashes headlong into the young adult world?
There’s so much interesting stuff going on here that it would be almost impossible to touch on all of it – Iwaaki is weaving a deliciously tangled web, and Madhouse and director Shimizu Kenichi are artfully translating it to the screen. I find it quite interesting, for example, that Migi is now telling Shinichi information that not only has no tangible benefit for him, but might in fact put his host body at risk. He warns him about the “massacre” that’s about to befall Mitsuo and his pals, and about what’s about to happen to Yuuko in the art room – why? Seemingly, because Migi knows Shinichi would want to stop these events if he could – which implies that Migi is acting out of concern for Shinichi’s emotions and not just his body (which is the gist of the conversation I referenced at the beginning of the episode post).
The immediate drama is Yuuko’s fate. Her idiotic actions have produced the expected result – Hideo now sees her as a threat that must be eliminated, which trumps his orders to remain undetected. Will Shinichi get there in time? I’m going to guess yes – or that something else will intervene to save her. But the madness hardly stops there. Mitsuo is still harboring a death wish, Kana is still obsessing over Shinichi, Hideo is sussing out the truth about Migi’s narcolepsy, the authorities are finally on the move, Kazuyuki and Shinichi are in a seemingly intractable family situation that survives only because the son hasn’t been as honest as the father, Ryouko is close to giving birth, and there’s evidence that the parasites are starting to think strategically about the long-term. And of course, with every breath and every action this new Shinichi is watching the gulf between he and Satomi widen. What an amazingly complicated scenario we have here, with so much dramatic potential – Parasyte just keeps getting better and better.