Kiseijuu continues to be a marvel of gripping storytelling, a master class in how to develop a plot and a cast of characters without ever seeming rushed or dragging its feet. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it makes a great case for adapting manga that are completed, and ones that fit the length of the schedule for adaptation. In a perfect world we’d see those kinds of things make a lot more difference to production committees, but anime fans certainly don’t live in a perfect world.
Of course, none of that would matter if Iwaaki-sensei wasn’t such a gifted writer. He has a tremendous gift for pacing, and Madhouse for not screwing it up. Parasyte has been a one-way street in terms of intensity, but this episode was probably the pinnacle to-date. Shit was hitting fans on every front, the action was epic, and the physical and philosophical stakes were raised in both the personal and global storylines. It was, in short, just about a perfect episode.
We have to start with Kuramori-san, because that’s where the episode started – and ended. To say his story took a dark turn is an understatement: his wife and child were killed by the parasites hunting for him, having decided he knew too much to be allowed to live. That Iwaaki has no sacred cows is pretty obvious by now – major characters, children and animals are all fair game, which makes one feel pretty unsettled about what might be coming down the line.
Kuramori has been a character with the whiff of tragedy to him from the very beginning, but what was a slow descent seems to have become a runaway train. It seems pretty obvious from his interactions with the police that he’s slipped into madness or something close to it, but not just that – his grief has channeled itself into rage and the quest to avenge his family – something the police are only too willing to play on if it means they might get some valuable information from him. This means a collision course with Ryouko, perhaps culminating in an attempt to kill her baby in a suicide mission.
Meanwhile, the showdown between Miki and Shinichi continues, in the process yielding a treasure trove of previously unknown information about what Miki is, if not about what it implies for his species as a whole. The action sequences are excellent on their own terms, and thought-provoking. It’s Shinichi who comes up with the initial plan on how to defeat the enemy – aim for the legs – but the plan fails because Migi has been unable to determine the nature of the enemy he faces. Eventually Migi has analyzed Miki well enough to craft what seems like a winning plan – lure Miki into the forest and take advantage of his inefficiency in controlling his appendages. But though this results in Miki being beheaded, this plan too fails and a shocking truth is revealed – these are not three parasites in one body, but five – and it’s Gotou who’s the true brains of the operation.
Exactly how all this happened and what it means I’m not yet prepared to guess, but it’s a great twist and a game-changer when it comes to the parasites. This gestalt creature is quite unlike any we’ve seen before, infinitely more capable, and it’s only through sheer good luck and a moment of genius by Migi that he and Shinichi are able to escape to fight another day. It’s also interesting to see that Migi has had the foresight to steal some Yen from the driver of the truck on which they’ve hitched a ride, and to hear the argument he makes in justifying it – his and Shinichi’s relationship needs to be based on mutual respect, but he’s entitled to ensure his own survival however he sees fit to do so. And money for new clothes and a mean is a vital component to survival at this moment.
There’s some other very interesting stuff going on involving the ever-evolving relationship between Migi and Shinichi, including the revelation that Migi has injected himself into Shinichi’s dreams 18 times (which strikes me as a bit of a breach pf trust between them, though I’m not sure Iwaaki intended it that way). There’s also the matter of Shinichi’s father, who Shinichi has logically realised is under dire threat after seeing what’s happened to Kuramori’s family on the news. This relationship has taken a back-seat more than I expected it to, and I wonder if it’s due for a resurgent role in the story.
But the really gripping developments happening as the episode winds down surround Ryouko, which seems to happen an awful lot. Kuramori has outed her to the police of course, which means her situation is sure to change. But now she has Kuramori targeting her for his vengeance, and the rest of Hirokawa’s party because they no longer deem her “one of them”. Why? Because she’s spoken of the surprising power and resilience of humans, and how they should actually be viewed rather than as individuals as parts of one giant organism, thinking with a single giant brain – rather like bees or ants. And that once that giant brain begins to assert itself, the parasites will lose the war. Ryouko always seems to exist on the moral fringe of the story, but never more so than now – with her son under threat, and her own perspective almost certainly being influenced by his existence. For the moment at least, it seems that she and Kuramori are destined to be at the center of events, the explosive convergence of fates that will likely see the wannabe-Sherlock Holmes meet his own fate and the rest of Kiseijuu profoundly changed.