Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 23

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That was certainly a thoughtful, thought-provoking turn of events.

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.

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25 comments

  1. T

    I really like how Migi sat out the entire debate on killing Gotou leaving it to Shinichi to choose finally overcoming the desire he had the whole show to survive no matter what it does morallly to Shinichi. Best of all this sets up what I think will ultimately be the better philosophical debate. Which one of them will kill Urugami if it comes to that? Will Migi return the favor so Shinichi doesn't have to commit murder? Does Shinichi take into his own hands stating that if he will kill a parasyte for his family he should be able to kill his own kind for his family. I think this episodes moral story really is just the appetizer for what happens human versus Migichi once the whole backstory of thr parasytes is revealed.

  2. Well, if Shinichi and Migi are each becoming more like the other, I would expect Shinichi to kill Uragami (if indeed he's killed at all). Migi has been basically amoral for the entire series, and now he declines to kill one of his own species on moral grounds. So Shinichi should make the ultimate practical "Migi" decision and do what's necessary.

  3. The lack of discussion about this series is both among the most surprising and the most discouraging things I've seen as a blogger. It's clearly well-received based on the numbers at places like Anime Planet and MAL. It asks interesting and probing questions of the audience. Yet here, silence. 1 comment last week, zero this week until I tweeted about the lack of comments.

    Not sure what to make of it, really. None of the answers are especially appealing.

  4. S

    On the flipside, series like Akatsuki no Yona are getting a lot of attention here, for better or worse, which is really interesting. It's quite a different audience you have here I think

  5. J

    To be fair, at least 40% of the comments on any given AnY episode are spoiler related, although there may be a tenuous connection there…

  6. M

    Can't speak for others, but I have not felt the urge to participate in discussion of this series outside of inner social circles.

    The questions it probes are profound and warrant meaningful contemplation, whereas the prospect of online discussion boasts a low rate of enriching feedback, as most online discussions are driven by hype, anger, or whims.

    I want to feel tangible results echo back from sharing meaningful thoughts, and that is best done amongst friends, if at all.

    Hope that helps.

  7. T

    I read all of your posts for shows we are both watching but I generally am not good at articulating my opinion in a way that garners discussion so I tend to just not say anything at all.

    I didn't see your tweet but I finally decided to say something because there were no comments. And to also further my point above it doesnt help when someone finally does post and you spend 5 times as many lines commenting on how it is the only post and barely acknowledging what was said.

  8. H

    I burnt out on Parasyte during the end of first cour. I haven't watched it all season, but will probably catch up later in the year when I've recovered.

  9. A

    I read all your reviews for this show as well and because of alot of the issues the show brings out, one can't make a quick summary of their points (at least for me). Talking about the themes in this show is gonna have you writing something more akin to a term paper….

    Especially, that entire dialogue they had before Shinichi killed Gotou.

  10. S

    I'm a little disappointed actually that gotou was such a one note villain. Philosophically, I think the episode nailed it, but this pales in comparison to chimera ant imo

  11. J

    Sounds fair, and makes sense. Chimera Ant had a lot more time to spin the question and break it down, and through Migi and Tamura we're told that Gotou really is no more than a parasite's answer to the question of how many humans one being can kill.

  12. i

    I'm more of a reader than a commenter. Whatever I add doesn't really give any new perspective or insight on the ep.

  13. It just baffles me, because if any show seemingly begs for discussion it's this one (and probably Death Parade). Yet both get very little of it, especially this one. Why, I wonder? Is it the show, or is it the forum?

  14. J

    I'm kind of sorry to say it, but it's much easier to talk about who, what and where then it is to talk about how, and (especially) why. I'm as guilty of this as anybody else.

    Although I'm not so sure that the lack of comments is sufficient reason to drive you into the such depths that quoting Jeremy Clarkson is appropriate. Maybe it looks particularly bad now that we're on the wrong side of the LN-boom but if this adaptation came a decade earlier it would probably still be lost in the throes of the popular series of the time.

  15. F

    This series is so good, i remember reading the manga in no more than 1 Week. Watching this episode i couldnt avoid comparing, Meruem and Gotou, quite alike, invincible in their own right, doomed by the same fate(Poison), I have no doubt in my mind, that Togashi inspiration for Chimera Arc, was from Iwakii Sensei.
    The thought-provoking question, Parasyte is imposing to the viewer, can be resume in the following if there something bad in killing, if you're trying to survive?.
    We are bound by our genes, and the only thing it matters to our genetic code, is this little word, SURVIVE. Moral, ethics, are human values only. To other species they mean nothing, that is why Migi was so Amoral. So in the end who is wrong, who is right?. I guess we have to decide for ourselves after the series is finished.

  16. Z

    To be frank,maybe it has something to do with the demography of your blog's reader, since I am sure a good number of them were also RC's reader (cmiiw). Then, since it has a much more lively comment sectiom people may prefer to simply comment there.

    As for myself, I always check both for shows which I watch. However, most of the time your post were already well written and thorough enough so I can't write anything meaningful enough (besides "I agree" or "I see, that's an intetesting point"). If there's button equivalent to " like" button, I'll simply click that.

  17. M

    It's the same with me. And yes, a "like" button equivalent would be useful here.

  18. Um… There is a "like" button. And my thanks to those who use it.

    I appreciate your point, Zero, but to a certain extent my question was as to why Kiseijuu, specifically, seemed to struggle to draw comments after an episode like that one. I mean, Yona got 30 comments this week.

  19. Z

    Umm sorry Enzo, but I didn't see anything here except for G+ share button. Or probably it has something to do with browsing in mobile?

    As for Yona, it's simple, really. It's not covered in RC, so it actually strengthen my theory: People rarely commenting in DP or Kiseijuu since both are covered in RC, while Yona is not so people who want to discuss that will flock here . I don't think any other aniblogspot has bigger influence sphere and you're also a RC writer, so influence from decision in RC is unavoidable.

    Btw, do you have something to say about Shirobako, Enzo? I especially liking the second cour a lot, and I find it's a shame that it's rarely covered by blogs although overall internet reaction that I saw are very positive.

  20. M

    I don't use FB/G+/Twitter so the available social sharing buttons are irrelevant to me.

  21. E

    Only the G+ button appears on mobile, but you can click 'view web version' or change the last number of the url to 0 to see the rest of the buttons.

  22. m

    The number of comments replying to your remark on the lack of comments is more than the actual comments on this show.

    For me, this show always leaves me this rather empty feeling; it feels as if I'm purging the worldly troubles and feelings and there is just a "ahh, that's how it is." emotion left in me.

    Like you said, it was climatic in its quietest moments, though the constant references to environmental pollution confuses me… I know there probably wouldn't be any resolution to it, but to say that the parasytes are borne to eliminate humankind… Is that really just it? All in all, humankind always finds a way to survive… so I'm not quite sure what Iwaaki-sensei is really trying to drive home. Then again, that's what's amazing about Parasyte – I never seem to get a complete picture, but it still makes me keep on watching

  23. S

    You're getting good replies here. Listen to them!

    I completely agree with TigerxDragon. But it's also about the forum like Zeroyuki92 says later. Do I even want to read a comment with 10 lines and no paragraphs or formatting(!) that didn't even get a reply from you yourself? well, maybe if it had a lot of upvotes. If it had a lot of downvotes then I might read it just to understand why people disagree about it. Right now it's more of a "meh", whatever. And because of that, why should I bother commentating since nobody is going to reply anyway.

    Do I want to publish everything I do here on facebook or G+? heck no. Scrap the whole like concept it's not needed. Make it an anonymous upvote/downvote thing like RC. Who cares if somebody logs in with 20 computers just to upvote or downvote something, the point is that you see that it is actually thought engaging. And you get too see if anyone is actually interested or like what you write.

    And lastly, Parasyte hardly does anything wrong, so there's nothing to disagree about, which is generally what gets a discussion going.

  24. S

    ….and there's no edit button! commenting* I really dislike this blogger wordpress or whatever it is format

  25. e

    Haha, some kind of "Deus ex Parasyte", indeed. They left Migi's demise quite vague, allowing them some leeway on what actually happened to Migi (so I guess he was "consumed" by Gotou, and then Migi transferred himself to Shinichi when the toxins kicked in).

    Not that this episode wasn't good, but I actually think that if I read the manga instead of watching the anime, the scene of Migi and Shinichi discussing Gotou's fate and Shinichi's ultimate decision would have a more powerful impact to me.

    Damn it'll be hard to say goodbye to this series.

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