One out of two ain’t bad – or ain’t good, depending on how you look at it. If Akatsuki no Yona surprised me by deferring a tragedy I was expecting by at least an episode, Fall’s other top new series delivered the goods (or the bads, depending on how you look at it). Nobuko’s death was foreshadowed pretty heavily last week so it came as no surprise whatsoever, but a good story can shock you even when it doesn’t surprise you, and Parasyte is a very good story indeed.
Before all that, though, there was plenty going on to make one almost forget about the impending drama involving Shinichi’s parents. We continue to see Kiseijuu muse on the nature of humanity, and what constitutes a “monster” or an animal. There’s a brief scene at the beginning of the episode where one of Migi’s kind is forced to change hosts after the woman it’s taken over is fatally injured in a car accident (always buckle up for safety, kids!), necessitating that it leap to the man who was hoping to put the moves on her – a transition that proves far more difficult than the parasite expects. After that, though, we turn to man’s inhumanity to man for most of the episode.
Setting aside for the moment the potentially game-changing events at the end of the ep it’s increasingly clear that the larger story focuses heavily on Shinichi’s desire to retain his humanity in the face of what’s happened to him. He stumbles on one of his classmates, Nagai (Hamazoe Shinya) being beaten up by a gang of delinquents led by Mitsuo (Kenn). Shinichi steps in to help (though perhaps “help” is too strong a word), but doesn’t want to unleash the beast in his right hand, so as a result manages mainly to interrupt Nagai’s beating by taking one himself. But that does manage to push Mitsuo’s friend (lover?) Kana (Sawashiro Miyuki) to interfere on Shinichi’s behalf – be it out of pity or a certain grudging admiration for his puzzling refusal to butt out or flee.
There are a number of things about this encounter which are interesting, most obviously that Kana freaks out after seeing something in Shnichi’s eyes that isn’t right. That’s obviously important, but I’m fascinated by this question – would Shinichi have interfered if Migi hadn’t entered his life? That uncertainty operates on a number of levels, starting with the idea that it was Migi’s earlier commentary about how altruism was illogical – and Shinichi’s desire to prove that humans really are different from monsters or beasts, to himself if no one else – that prompted him to act. But there’s also the matter of the comment Ryouko made about his no longer being “pure”, which has prompted Migi to offer the unsettling speculation that his connection with Shinichi is causing the boy to change, either on the psychological or physiological level (or both).
My personal view is that the old Shinichi would have kept on walking (which itself begs the question of whether Shinichi might not have changed for the better). But be that as it may, in starting this fight Shinichi has unleashed something he cannot contain on his own. The tough guys at his own school feel they have a score to settle with Mitsuo’s gang for what he’s done, and Mitsuo has a score to settle with Shinichi – which he does by snatching and threatening Murano-san. It’s obvious what Mitsuo wants – for Shinichi to cower and to flee, tail between his legs. And it unnerves him that Shinichi keeps coming, despite odds that the now-awakened Migi has told him are hopeless.
Is it a struggle for Shinichi not to unleash Migi and flood that vacant lot with blood? Yet another interesting question to ponder, though the arrival of the posse from the school temporarily defers the question. Kana later apologizes, though the sense is that more than anything she’s intensely curious about Shinichi – and she freaks out yet again after shaking his hand. Migi later warns Shinichi that Kana is “very dangerous” – that her ability to sense the presence of Migi’s kind is even stronger (“another level”) from Murano’s. We haven’t heard the last about that, I’d bet the farm on that.
I’m ashamed that I didn’t immediately connect the situation with the parasite from the beginning of the episode and Shinichi’s parents – it seems laughably obvious in hindsight. But as soon as “he” reveals that controlling a man is too difficult and that it needs a woman’s body, the light bulb switched on and I knew what was coming. What a horrible thing for Kazuyuki to have to see – his wife beheaded by a hideous monster inches away from him (talking about Shinichi, right up to the end). Kazuyuki’s fate remains unclear (I’m betting on still alive) – seriously wounded, he calls Shinichi from a pay phone before passing out and isn’t heard from again this week – but of Nobuko’s there’s absolutely no doubt.
The end of the episode is no less than a psychological collapse for Shinichi. He knows in his heart what’s happened (thanks to that phone call) but even when his clearly possessed mother walks through the door the next morning, he refuses to accept it – to the point where he even threatens to cut off his own hand to shut Migi up. The stabbing through the heart almost seems like overkill after that, though it’s one hell of a cliffhanger and obviously sets up some inescapable questions about how he’s going to survive the encounter. It’s pretty brutal stuff, all of it – physically and emotionally – and if Migi wasn’t already correct about Shinichi being fundamentally changed, one suspects he certainly is now.