I would say that, on the whole, this episode of Kiseijuu made a pretty big impact. But I think it’s worth pointing out that when the story was originally published, the world was a very different place. Specifically, the Columbine tragedy would not happen for several years – and while there had been other school-based violent incidents before (most famously Charles Joseph Whitman, just recently in the news almost 50 years after he killed 16 people at the University of Texas) it was Columbine that began the process of desensitizing the world to shocking violence at high schools. As horrifying as the events in this episode were, I would think they were all the more so when they appeared in the manga.
That came to mind because in watching the way this event played out, apart from the parasite-related details it struck me very much as if I was watching reports of a school shooting on the news. There’s a ton of irony in this episode, starting with the fact that it was Yuuko’s decision to confront Hideo rather than trust her own eyes that led to this tragedy and she got off basically scot-free. Her bottle of paint thinner certainly did its job – apparently parasites are weak against solvents, which was an extraordinarily lucky guess by Yuuko. But in compromising his ability to morph back into human form, it pushed the cornered monster into a killing spree that ended up claiming 17 lives (I don’t know if that includes the police or not). Meanwhile Yuuko leapt out a window and broke her fall (and apparently nothing else) with a tree. Talk about the devil’s luck.
In this sense, the ep certainly didn’t go as I expected. Yuuko’s role was over in the first moments, and the attention turned to what was basically a massacre, with the wounded Hideo striking out against everyone who saw his true form. Murano’s class, naturally, was the one that was cornered and unable to evacuate the building, leaving it up to Shinichi to be the hero. In doing so he certainly seems to have repaired his relationship with her to some extent, though she was obviously taken aback by his superhuman leaping ability. I figured he’d use the “mother lifts car off child” adrenaline excuse, and that’s what Shinichi did (no word yet on how he explains himself in the showers after gym) – whether Murano believed him or not I don’t know, but even if she knows something has changed about him she at least seems to believe he’s still the same person underneath.
It’s the ever-shifting relationship between Shinichi and Migi, however, that continues to be the spine of Parasyte. Migi continues to display more and more human behaviors as time passes, calming the panicked Shinichi in the midst of crisis and seeming the express shock as his classmates were cut down. But Migi also seems to be growing to accept that Shinichi is every bit as alien to him as Migi is to Shinichi – he’s a creature of emotions. He makes decisions that don’t appear to be logical, based on his feelings at the moment.
It’s this peculiarly human side of Shinichi that prods him to take responsibility for taking Hideo out, on the grounds that by not doing so earlier, he and Migi have allowed this bloodbath to occur. All through this ep I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, that shoe being Shinichi exposed as what he is – but it never happened. It’s Shinichi, in fact, who comes up with the strategy to take out Hideo from a distance safe from discovery by either the alien or the police – a hit-by-pitch that even Herb Score or Giancarlo Stanton would blanch at.
It’s interesting that in the moment of crisis, Shinichi doesn’t seem to be angry so much at Hideo as at himself, and the circumstances – in fact, he speaks as if he sees Hideo as almost a victim himself. But what’s undeniable is that Hideo’s speech about finding ways to coexist was a ploy, and in the aftermath the limits of the bond between Shinichi and Migi are made clear when the latter (while reading Dostoyevsky) refuses to be part of any cooperation with the authorities in wiping out his species. The most revealing moment, I think, comes as Migi denies that emotions influence him but in the same breath, asks Shinichi how he’d feel if their situations were reversed. To me, that doesn’t sound like the sort of question a creature without emotions would ask.
We’re obviously edging closer to a moment of confrontation for Shinichi. The authorities haven’t yet caved on warning the public of the danger they know is out there, but one of their scientists, Dr. Yui (Umezu Hideyuki) has basically figured out how the parasites work – he describes them as “sentient muscle”. And due to their peculiar nature (which Migi’s repairs on Shinichi have hinted at) Yui has a foolproof test to determine if someone is a parasite – if you yank one of their hairs out, it will writhe and struggle for a few seconds before dying. Therefore if you want to test someone, just pull out one of their hairs (the horror on the face of this poor chap is hilarious, if a bit mean-spirited), which leads to a new “fad” way of greeting (I’d be curious to know what the authorities said to cause that to happen). All this leads to the inescapable conclusion that the double-life Shinichi (though in theory, this test won’t work on him) is leading is on borrowed time, and the story is certainly going to be transformed when that time runs out.