Kiseijuu is great again this week, for the record, though that should come as no surprise to anyone. There’s no question that it and Akatsuki no Yona are the class of the new series this season by a mile, but it’s quite weird to have the best shows of the season fall on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Wednesday especially is unusual – in fact the norm has been for that day to have no series whatsoever that I blog. Throw in Yowapeda S2 (a sequel, admittedly) and it’s one show a day from Monday through Wednesday that top my chart, along of course with Mushishi on Saturday nights. I wish I had better series to cover, but it isn’t so bad not having Fridays and Sundays be absolutely crazy as they usually are in a good season.
It’s interesting watching Akatsuki and Kiseijuu follow their respective course, each of them having more or less come to the end of their prequel arc after seven episodes. The Kiseijuu manga having long-since concluded makes a big difference, obviously, as this show is following a set course towards a certain endgame (though I haven’t read the entire thing, so what happens from here on out will be a surprise to me). But both series are taking a similar, and I would say similarly admirable approach to pacing and exposition. In effect, both are treating the story as a puzzle, and trusting the audience (an increasingly rare trait in anime) to be patient enough to put it together one piece at a time.
This episode was new material for me, and I confess I was surprised at the turn of events at the beginning – and pleasantly so. Of course it was obvious that the parasite Shinichi was chasing wasn’t “Mom”, but to have it be another hybrid – and a rousingly entertaining one at that – was a great twist. This is an important point in the story, because it’s the first time Shinichi has been given a reason to believe he’s not alone in the world. On an existential level this is a huge moment for him – though once again he can’t cry, as Uda Mamoru (Suzuki Tamura – anyone who’s been in both Cross Game and H x H 2011 is OK in my book) has no such problem. His parasite, imaginatively named “Parasite” (Murase Ayumu) has like Migi been foiled in his attempt to take the brain, forced to take over Uda’s lower jaw when he falls from the same cliff Kazuyuki fell from and is on the verge of drowning.
There’s another very crucial detail slipped in here – we see Parasite emerge from some sort of pod before he attacks Uda (this certainly implies extra-terrestrial to me, though not definitively). Definitely an important puzzle piece, though the interaction between Shinichi-Migi and Uda-Parasite is what really stands out. Their conversation outside the hospital was one of the most hilarious I can remember, and I adore the contrast between the book-educated Migi and the TV-educated Parasite (Iwaaki, you sly dog). There’s more evidence here that the act of co-existing subtly changes the parasites’ way of thinking, too.
As for Uda himself, he’s a crybaby sad sack who tried to kill himself after his wife left him but couldn’t go through with it, but he seems a good confidante for Shinichi – a genuinely decent guy who shows some steel when Nobuko attacks him. He first pledges to stall her long enough to give Shinichi a chance to arrive, then spares him from having to deal the killing blow to what was once his mother. Parasite shows some real cleverness here, outsmarting the Nobuko parasite which has him badly outgunned (not only is Uda still in command of his brain, but his body is badly out of shape) by deducing that she always aims for the heart, and shifting Uda’s heart out of the way of her likely attack (OK, I’m not sure how that would work).
It’s the ability to balance its disparate elements that really sets Parasyte apart for me, and that’s fully on-display in this episode. Uda and Parasite are very funny, there’s intense suspense and very strong action sequences once the fighting begins, and the ending of Nobuko’s story is genuinely sad. In fact Shinichi hesitates in killing her (which I think is a very good sign) when he sees the burn on her hand, but the fact is that even with Migi asleep and only one blade left behind, Shinichi is still able to best Nobuko in a fight. Nevertheless, he still has to say goodbye to his mother – and when he and Kazuyuki return to the scene later, it’s very clear both of them understand that what the father saw actually did happen. A father unambiguously declaring that he loves his teenage son – in anime? I can count the number of times I remember that happening on one hand (and not a Migi-hand, either).
This is clearly a transitional moment for Kiseijuu. We have Uda and Parasite firmly established as one part of the story, Ryouko and her unborn baby another. Kana can clearly sense Shinichi even more easily now, and realizes that something isn’t right here. The nature of how all this started is still a mystery but clues are starting to trickle in. Perhaps most interesting, though, is Shinichi himself. Migi tells him (while re-enacting “One Singular Sensation”) that some 30% of himself is left behind inside Shinichi, “dispersed” and now impossible for Migi to communicate with. Does that dispersal include the brain? Migi doesn’t know – but Shinichi is fully aware that his inability to cry is just as much a consequence of Migi’s actions than his newfound superhuman physical abilities. Where does Migi end and Shinichi begin, and vice-versa – and how much does the presence of each impact the feelings of the other? We’re in tip-of-the-iceberg territory here, and I can’t wait to take a deeper dive.