Rarely does an anime exceed my expectations, especially when the genre is so predictable and commonplace that I can practically foresee all the major story beats akin to a fortune-teller. I speak regarding 'Shonen', the Japanese term for a standard action-packed journey where the Hero grows progressively stronger over the tale's duration and faces increasingly tougher enemies, garnering a standard cast of reliable allies along the way until facing off against the main antagonist, emerging triumphant usually thanks to friendship, love, a lucky and contrived loophole; etcetera. While such media is easy to consume in large doses as entertaining 'couch-potato' fuel, the truly great pieces of anime and media in general stand out because of their unique premise and defiance of standard tropes, while still remaining homely and fun to watch for the whole family. Parasyte, I'm happy to say, is one such anime. When alien lifeforms arrive onto Earth, they quickly possess the human inhabitants and biologically mutate them to their wicked convenience, soon feeding on mankind to sate their appetites and survive. What begins as your run-of-the-mill cosmic invasion plotline soon evolves into a wider thematic discussion regarding humanity's treatment of our natural world and whether we are truly worthy to call ourselves an 'evolved species'.
As I've stressed in prior posts, a story is simply hollow without memorable characters to shoulder the narrative. Parasyte mostly succeeds in this task, with the main protagonist Izumi Shinichi being an enjoyable fellow to watch from start to finish. His literal evolution from the meekness of a Highschool nerd into an alien killing machine is played off as the genuinely stressful, disorientating, and confusing experience that such an event would be. Shinichi's transformation is procured by Migi, the alien 'Parasite' that seeks to control his brain like all his kindred unto their human hosts. Shinichi prevents his takeover, thus relegating Migi onto his right hand, where he's still capable of inflicting fatal damage onto both ally and opponent if prompted. The dynamic between Shinichi and Migi moves from a confusing suspicion to a strong animosity from Shinichi regarding Migi's utter callousness to human life. Over time however, this animosity fades away in favor of a slow understanding regarding Migi and his species' nature and survivalist instinct, ultimately ending in loyal friendship between both of them. There also exist a plethora of side characters to become invested with, such as Shinichi's girlfriend Murano, the telekinetic Kana, the mysterious Parasite Tamura Reiko who grows to value human sentimentality through her naturally-conceived child, the monstrous serial killer Uragami who challenges the very notion of humanity at the very last episode, Uda who exists in a similar position to Shinichi by having a Parasite within him but not fully controlling of his body, the private investigator Kuramori, and much more!
Most interestingly of all I personally found however, were the Parasytes themselves. At first, they are presented as little more than ravenous beasts whose need to survival overrides our own.
But as the story progresses and the Parasytes become more organized in their shadow war against homosapiens, we see them enter the realm of politics. Albeit disguised, the Parasyte group depicted here strongly campaigns for a more environmentally friendly society that works tirelessly to preserve the beauty of nature. We find out near the story's climax that this group was never headed by a Parasite, but rather a human being named Hirokawa, who felt such disassociation with mankind after their continual sins against nature's beauty that he aligned with the Parasites, valuing them as excellent predators that kept human numbers in check. A very Thanos-esque lens of examining the world, made no less valid by Shinchi's own semi-approval of such an ideology upon the story's end. Despite Hirokawa's importance as the technical overarching antagonist and organizer of the story's events, Gotou exists as the main Parasitical enemy of Shinichi, a sort of superbeing able to contain several Parasites into one body and connect them as a hivemind, able to direct his powers and provide Shinichi a genuine challenge. Unlike most animes that would use Gotou as a stepping-stone obstacle to display Izumi and Migi's combative brilliance, his role as instead the primary villain works to display that despite Shinichi and his right-hand's capabilities, they are still novices in the grander world of alien Parasites.
Ultimately, Parasyte's greatest strength lies as its ability to make its protagonist feel vulnerable and grant him a truly potent motivation to battle against these incomprehensible alien threats. Shinichi's mother perishes due to such a creature early on, setting a dark tone for much of the progressing story. Should you be adverse to copious amounts of gore and emotional trauma, perhaps steer clear of Parasyte, as it contains content that could make your stomach churn if so. However, if you are less inclined to hold a sensitivity to such topics and want to enjoy a truly good and compact story that does not feel too short, yet never overstays its welcome too long, I welcome you to watch Parasyte in full and share in the amazing experience of this anime! And remember, your right hand may never appear as what it seems...