Uwah – that was certainly a mother of an episode. It pretty much ran the gamut of the human experience both primal and philosophical, took a stylistic turn around the track and threw in beheadings and a massive and massively unexpected (to me, anyway) plot twist for good measure. While there’s no denying the narrative has been a runaway express train these last few weeks, that isn’t bothering me here as it usually would – presumably because both the original story and the execution are so ingeniously executed. There’s a lot happening, but it all makes sense based on what we’ve been shown so far.
I think it only makes sense to start with Hirokawa, who was the biggest unknown going into the episode. If you guessed he was a human, good for you because I sure didn’t – though in hindsight, the clues were certainly there (if subtly). Based on his speech before Yamagichi’s men fill him with holes one might go so far as to speculate that Hirokawa is insane, but that’s a judgment call – what isn’t is that he entered into an alliance with the parasites by choice, disgusted by the selfishness of the human race. Even their theoretically noble environmental initiatives, Hirokawa rages, are all geared towards saving humanity and not the planet itself.
Hirokawa’s bombshell certainly solves the mystery of his identity, but not the larger riddle of the parasites themselves and how they came to be. Clearly (Goutou tells us so) it was Ryouko’s interest in Hirokawa as an experiment that led to this alliance, and he saw the idea of a species to “cull” human population as a noble development. But again we get cryptic talk of “Someone on Earth had a thought: life must be protected” without an explanation of what it means. We’ve seen nothing to establish that as a basis for speciation, so clearly there’s either a sci-fi or mystical element here that hasn’t seen the light of day yet.
Once Hirokawa has been eliminated, Goutou steps in to finish the hostilities in his inimitable style. But Uragami takes advantage of the chaos to kill his keeper and make his own escape, which is surely going to be a major plot element going forward. Goutou seems to have little regard for Hirokawa one way or the other, seeing him as another of Ryouko’s overly complicated schemes, but the elimination of Hirokawa seems to signal to him that it’s time to simply kill everyone that isn’t dead already. That includes Yamagichi, who was in no way prepared for someone as overpowered as Goutou. I won’t miss him – if humanity’s future rests in the hands of people like that we’re thoroughly fucked anyway – but his demise was certainly an unceremonious one.
Who’s scarier, Goutou or Uragami? I suppose it’s a microcosm of the larger question Kiseijuu is asking of us. Uragami is a true sadist, a sociopath of the highest order, but Goutou fancies himself quite a simple being. He exists to fight – to kill humans, and the babble of those like Ryouko and Hirokawa is of little interest to him (though he does like Chopin, interestingly). It would be untrue to say he seems to take what one would call pleasure from killing humans, but there does seem to be a certain… perhaps satisfaction is the right word – in his efficiency in doing so.
Yet as Migi points out, in the end humans will always win – if heavy-gauge shotgun shells won’t work they’ll use napalm, then grenades, then bombs. There will always be a more destructive weapon, and a human willing to use it on his enemy. Parasites – like Chimera Ants – may be very good at killing humans individually, but when it comes to genocide they’re mere babes when compared to humans. If one wasn’t already struck by the fact that this series was a huge inspiration for Togashi with “Chimera Ant” (and really, how could you not be?) it’s even more unavoidable after watching this episode.
Unfortunately for Shinichi, he now has both these terrifying freaks on the loose and with an unhealthy interest in him. Goutou doesn’t kill Shinichi on the spot when he notices him after wiping out Yamagichi and his men, citing “tiredness”, but he does make it clear in Hirama’s mind that Shinichi is indeed harboring major secrets. But Shinichi has bigger problems than Hirama – he knows Goutou can kill him in a hundred different ways and he’d have no chance against him in a fight, and that it’s only a question of when Goutou chooses to make his kill. Everything Migi suggests – calling Uda for help, getting the military involved – Shinichi rejects on the grounds of all those who would die in the cause of defending him. “I couldn’t care less.” Migi responds, and he’s nothing if not totally honest – he’s thinking of self-preservation. And Shinichi understands that for all that he casts judgment on Migi for being “cold-hearted”, the two of them have really not been all that different in their actions.
What happens next is certainly surprising at first, but actually quite a classic thematic turn. Shinichi is resigned to his own death, terrified of Goutou but realistic about the difference in their strengths. His only idea is to run – to gamble that Goutou doesn’t so badly want “closure” that he’ll chase Shinichi around the whole of Japan for it. But in the face of death, he clings to life – and the most primal lust for life, of course is lust. I think what happens between Shinichi and Murano has actually been building for a long time, for all the bumps in the road, and it’s the shared sense of urgency that drives them to finally act rather than think.
All that’s left for Shinichi now, then, is to fight for his own life. What that means exactly is still unclear, but in embracing self-preservation he’s actually moved closer to Migi’s mindset in a subtle and very important way. Now more than ever Shinichi is the one being who can come closest to saying he truly understands what both humans and parasites think and feel. It feels to me as if Shinichi must eventually strive to learn the truth of the parasites’ existence himself, as the only possible path out of the dark place he finds himself in. But even if he does I imagine he’s going to be powerless to stop the inevitable – the ending that this larger struggle is surely headed towards and has been all along.