There haven’t been many anime episodes in recent memory that have left me as deeply mired in contemplation as this episode of Kiseijuu did. I certainly wasn’t expecting a neat and tidy conclusion from a moral standpoint (and indeed, this story isn’t over yet), but Iwaaki-sensei really laid it out there in the last few minutes of this episode. In a story like this, that isn’t interested in giving the audience easy answers, sometimes the only one on offer is “figure it out for yourself”.
I’ve commented before on the similarities between Kiseijuu and “Chimera Ant”, and they’ve only become more obvious with the passage of time. There are the obvious ones – I mean, Goutou looks like what would happen if Razor and Menthuthuyoupi had a love child (as unpleasant as that is to consider). But it goes much deeper than that, and we see that in Goutou’s final demise. Does it ring eerily familiar – the most powerful of the predatory species being brought down in ignominious fashion by human poison, and sheer will to survive? It certainly does. And I think Iwaaki and Togashi were going for a broadly similar kind of symbolism there.
The fact is, compared to humans both parasites and chimera ants are mere babes in the woods at finding ways to destroy, and at developing a ruthless hunger to preserve their own existence. And in the end, that’s the difference between living and dying – and if another species wants to survive in a world ruled by humans, they have to do it on human terms. Yet there are profound differences in these stories, and I see what Togashi has done as putting his own spin on what Iwaaki did. Iwaaki, I think, focuses on the biology of the situation – his version of the story is more naturalistic. Togashi has turned it into something much more spiritual, much more consumed with the existential meaning of human existence and what it means to be forced to co-exist with another sentient species – effectively, he expanded Kiseijuu as a Buddhist parable. Given the luxury of so much more time to work with, Togashi spun a more complex and ambitious tale – yet I think there can be no question that he took inspiration from Iwaaki.
This theme of the imperative to survive has definitely taken center stage in Parasyte, both on the personal and global level. We see in Shinichi the struggle between altruism and self-preservation – he’s “tired” of the fighting, of the running, and of the death. He knows if he chooses to run again, he dooms other humans to die at Goutou’s hand. Yet he also wants to live – to protect his family, to have sex, maybe to procreate and ensure his genes survive. We saw Shinichi affirm this impulse in sharing Satomi’s bed, and it was the thrust of what Mitsuyo told him in last week’s ep – that his life wasn’t something to be trifled with, but to be zealously defended. But in the end, he knows it’s his duty to face Goutou – and to accept whatever the “powers that be” have in store for him.
When Shinichi finds Goutou in the forest – now in full Royal Guard form – he realizes that Migi’s death has given him the small advantage of being able to approach the sleeping parasite undetected. And he does try and take advantage of it, though too slowly. Clearly Migi’s latent presence still gives Shinchi a robustness that’s more than human, because the damage he takes from Goutou certainly would have killed him otherwise. But he fights the good fight – he tries to jump from a tree and jam a stick down Goutou’s digestive tract (!) and when that fails, he finds himself on the heap of garbage outside the village, too weak to run any further. But rather than accept death, he remembers the words of Mitusyo and Satomi, and desperately searches his mind for any workable option – finally settling on the fact that he’d seen Goutou bleeding from the side after the city hall massacre. He jams a metal rod from the trash pile into Goutou’s side, correctly guessing it might he a weak spot, and buys himself a chance to flee.
Again, I see a lot of the “Miniature Rose” aftermath in this (or rather, vice-versa). If indeed it was the human compulsion to poison the planet that somehow caused the parasites to be created, how ironic it is then that Goutou – greatest of their number – should be laid low by industrial waste (in this instance hydrogen cyanide). Even so he’s about ready to kill Shinichi – who seems at peace with it, having legitimately done his best and actually landed a blow – when we get our shocker. Is this a “Deux ex Parasite” here? Perhaps – but it always seemed probable that Migi’s consciousness lived on. You certainly have to give him points for an entrance – a simple “Hey” in true badass style. Migi apparently didn’t find his time inside Goutou’s consciousness so bad, and he doesn’t outwardly match Shinichi’s emotional reaction to their reunion. This episode asks many questions, but one of them is certainly what Migi might have done had Shinichi not managed to start a coup d’etat inside Goutou’s body.
The most fascinating, conundrum, though, comes after Goutou’s “death”. Migi realizes that Goutou is trying to recall the missing pieces of himself to reassemble, and gives it a 50-50% chance of succeeding. And he declines to kill the helpless Goutou, declaring that it would be murder “in human terms”, before telling Shinichi “you do it”. Shinichi wavers here, initially prepared to commit the act but then deciding against it. He frames the entire debate in this moment, no less than the right of a species to survive and to impose its will on others – and the planet. Shinichi decides to let those powers that be decide whether Goutou will survive – and indeed, that from the perspective of Earth, it might be the humans who are the parasites that must be culled.
What follows is truly remarkable. As Chopin’s Nocturne Op.9 No.2 – the ethereally beautiful piece that Goutou played in a likewise remarkable scene a few weeks ago – plays, Migi asks Shinichi if he believes Earth is beautiful. “I despise humans who say they’re doing something “for Earth”. After all, Earth has no emotion”. Shinichi ponders this, and after a dissolve we see him standing over Goutou’s slowly re-compiling body. “I’m just one human being. All I can do is protect my own small family.” And with those words, he commits the most human act of all.
I see that moment as very much analogous to the one where Netero’s heart stopped beating, setting off his final trap – with the caveat that Netero was a very old man with “a mind like a plant”, and Shinichi is still a seedling. Netero was “bullying” Meruem, in the same sense that Shinichi is bullying Goutou. In the end, for all our pretensions, we are but hostages to our “selfish genes” – and they’ve made us more dangerous and terrible than any other species that’s graced the Earth. I think in both Iwaaki and Togashi-sensei’s eyes, it goes beyond a question of right or wrong – it’s simply a matter of “is”. There are still major questions to be addressed in the final episode, about the creation of the parasites and about Shinichi’s choice for his own future, and I think Uragami is still to be heard from – the true face of humanity’s darkest and cruelest impulses. But it feels to me as if that final scene in the woods, as Chopin softly hung in the air, was the true climax of Kiseijuu – that was the moment Iwaaki wanted us to take with us long after the series was over.