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The Fall 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Parasyte -the maxim-

Bamboo Dong

Rating: 4.5

I have a fairly short list of phobias. But amongst that is the thought of a squirming, wriggling worm burrowing into my skin and tunneling through my flesh. Few things in life gross me out as much as this, except maybe spiders, and actually, Parasyte has both. Though, by the end of the episode, we're led to actually kind of like the parasite, with its weird, full-lipped mouth; bulging eyeball, squeaky voice, and rubbery appendages. If all parasites were like it, maybe they wouldn't be so bad.

The episode makes sure to point out, however, that not all parasites are like our strange hero Migi. Even in the show, it seems to be an anomaly, in the sense that it seems relatively good-natured and charming, considering it ate the main character's hand and is now a sentient, constantly-transforming appendage. The other parasites, not so much. From what we've seen in the first episode, other parasites have latched onto other body parts and even different species, with one man engulfing his wife's head, and another one stuck inside the body of a dog. We're not quite sure exactly what they're doing on Earth yet, but it seems they're here to stay. And while our friendly hand-critter doesn't seem to be doing too much harm, aside from just being disturbing (but in a cute way), others of its kind are wreaking havoc around the country, murdering people and draping their skin on their laundry lines.

For those who like creepy, slightly gory shows, Parasyte definitely ticks off those boxes. There's not too much excessive blood, but some of the imagery will stick with you. The opening scene itself will have you bolting upright in your chair, with a head-eating scene that's very hard to forget. With wiggling tendrils, sharp teeth, cavernous mouths, skin-splitting transformations, and staring eyeballs, it combines a few of the most terrifying things you'd typically see in a horror movie monster, and smashes into one human host. Despite its many uncomfortable scenes, though, Parasyte is still humorous—just in a very dark way. There are laughs to be had watching Migi writhe across a table, typing with tiny hands, and staring at itself with extra eyes. Even in one episode, it's clear that it will probably end up being one of the best characters out of all the shows this season, with its affable attitude and wry humor. That it's strangely endearing also helps, which goes a long way in dulling some of its creepier characteristics.

And yet, the accolades go on. In addition to being both disturbing, amusing, and charming, Parasyte is also beautifully animated. It's no surprise when you see its pedigree—it's produced by the talented folks at Madhouse Studios, who have experience animating just about every idea under the sun. And while this series is director Kenichi Shimizu's first time behind the wheel, he's spent his fair share of time as a key animator and animation director, and it shows. The shots are wonderfully composed, and Migi is blessedly given every ounce of attention it deserves, both visually and in the voice acting. Just watching it slink around is reason enough to enjoy the series, and every scene that it's in becomes the next best scene.

Parasyte is one of the must-see titles of this season. If the rest of the series is anything like this first episode, it may even be one of the must-see titles of the year.

Parasyte -the maxim- is available streaming at Crunchyroll.

Hope Chapman

Rating: 5

The reviews beneath this one would like to inform you that you should stop reading these reviews and just go watch Parasyte. Because my review has now been posted above them, I would also like you to just stop reading it and go watch Parasyte. Come back and read this afterward. We greatly appreciate you reading our blather, but some things speak for themselves, be they anime series, or the possessed right hands of people in those anime series.

Anyway. An alien parasite has landed on earth and consumed everyman Shinichi's right hand, replacing it with an amorphous blob of any-matter that the poor host can sometimes control and disguise as his own hand, and sometimes not, dependent on the whims of his body's new guest. The parasite doesn't know anything about itself except that it was programmed to eat Shinichi's brain and only got his hand, so they might as well be friends, right? It's not the only parasite in town by a long shot, however, and while the creature is eager to reconnect with his own species, Shinichi's not sure what to think yet. When they finally find another parasite in town, the encounter quickly turns hostile and Shinichi's hand-buddy shows no remorse in taking out one of his own kind. Meanwhile, Shinichi can only wonder at the creature's potential for empathy or lack thereof, and muse on the sanctity of life despite his new horrific situation. So he's taking this pretty well, all things considered!

That's the basic story, and while it has real potential to go places, (and probably will, if fervent fan-love for the manga is any indication,) the real star of this show is its stellar animation and direction courtesy of Studio Madhouse and Kenichi Shimizu. This is body horror (and body horror-comedy) on a whole new level for television animation, with weighty and structured biology playing alongside disgusting and fantastical impossibility in the morphing, warping nastiness of the parasites and their victims. The more down-to-earth character animation is also excellent. We don't know very much about unlucky lead Shinichi yet, but he's instantly likable thanks to the nuance and tenderness in his flexible expressions, both facial and physical. He seems like a smart, gentle guy we want to root for, when we're not gaping at the otherworldly horror onscreen.

I don't know what it says about me that the "frightening" dog-parasite hybrid that acts as the star visual attraction in an already stellar visual production made me laugh really hard for about a minute straight, but I sure did! I understand the show's biggest barrier of entry is that it's really gross, and if you don't like gross things, maybe avoid it, but if not, there's no reason you shouldn't be watching this right now. I eat this goopy transmogrifying monster stuff up, I love it, and if you have a taste for it too, this is a four-course gourmet event. I'm a greedy little parasite myself, and I already want more.

Parasyte -the maxim- is available streaming at Crunchyroll.

Nick Creamer

Rating: 5

Parasyte is great and you should watch it. Are you not watching it right now? What are you doing instead, reading some dumb review? That's silly, you should be watching Parasyte.

Alright, fine, I'll tell you why you should watch it. If you insist!

In the middle of the night, as Shinichi is sleeping, a strange, worm-like creature emerges in his room. After first attempting to enter his earbud-protected ear, the creature wakes Shinichi, who throws the monster from himself. As he tries to defend himself, the creature buries itself in his arm, remaining dormant until he wakes. After first thinking the attack might have been a dream, Shinichi soon realizes his arm has been taken over - eaten and replaced, in fact - by a strange, morphing alien creature. Though he wants to inform the authorities, the quickly evolving creature urges him to reconsider, advising him that their relationship should be mutually beneficial. After all, Shinichi isn't the only one who's been infected.

Parasyte was my top prospect entering this season, and this first episode was everything I'd hoped for and more. Based on a classic manga and produced by the regularly brilliant Madhouse, this first episode is deftly written and composed, smartly directed, and brimming with gorgeous animation. This story is part thriller, part body horror, and the shot framing greatly supports that - there's no censorship here, only lingering shots that just barely avoid revealing horrible truths. The morphing of Shinichi's new partner and its fellow parasites is fluid and grotesque. The intensity of moments like when Shinichi attempts to attack his own arm are palpable. And the brilliant voice work by Aya Hirano lends great personality to the creature.

There's honestly nothing I can complain about in this first episode. Maybe some slightly wonky character CG in one distance shot? Outside of that one moment, this episode is continuously overachieving. The animation is equally great at portraying the alien fluidity of the parasites and the human energy of Shinichi's panicking. The writing never over-tells, and the overall composition of the episode builds to tense reveal after tense reveal while also laying seeds of future conflicts. The character designs are a fantastic reworking of the originals, possessing a great expressiveness and dynamic yet grounded facial structures. There is an awful flying dog-monster that will probably give you nightmares.

You should go watch Parasyte. Parasyte is good.

Parasyte -the maxim- is available streaming at Crunchyroll.

Theron Martin

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Review: Within the first 30 seconds an old man's head has turned grotesquely alien (see the screenshot) and bitten off his wife's head whole.

Whatever else one might say about the series, that's one hell of a first impression to make.

That first impression merely sets the stage for what looks to be one of the creepiest and freakiest anime series to come along in awhile – and that is meant as a compliment. Ever since Akira and the OVA heyday of the mid-to-late ‘80s anime has had a penchant for featuring grotesque, flesh-twisting transformation, so much so that doing something entirely different in that realm is very difficult. This, however, is entirely different. Parasyte is an absolute triumph of creature design and transformation, whether it be the bizarre forms that the lead character's right hand takes, the old man depicted in the screen shot, or the dog that appears towards the end of the episode and ultimately takes on three different forms, with the third one being the most spectacularly horrid. Madhouse is on their game with the animation support, too, allowing viewers to fully appreciate the bizarre wonder that is being wrought here. A live-action version of the source manga is apparently also being planned, but I cannot imagine how it could possibly even come close to visually capturing what this first episode does. This is the kind of fare than animation for mature audiences was meant for.

The basic premise is that buglike alien parasites are coming to Earth and taking taking up residence in human heads – or at least attempting to, anyway. When they do, they eat the host's brain and take over, allowing them to freely morph their host's physical traits, and then feed on other humans, resulting in a string of grisly murders. Shinichi Izumi is lucky, though, as the fact that he fell asleep with ear buds prevented his parasite from getting into his head. Instead it takes up residence in his right hand and becomes its own entity, which has its own mind when awake and acts like a normal right hand when asleep. Since the hand now can't live without Shinichi, it seeks to strike up a mutually beneficial relationship with him, and it is indeed powerful, even quite “handy” when the pair run into a one of the hand's own kind, a parasite-controlled dog that proves to be hostile.

Even beyond the visuals, they dynamic between the alien hand and Shinichi is already showing signs of potential – and yes, that is Aya Hirano voicing the hand – and the content is well-pace and well-managed. The content can be tremendously graphic and is surprisingly uncensored, so be aware of what you're getting into, but if you're looking for a new title this season with plenty of potential zing, this one is it.

Parasyte – maxim - is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Zac Bertschy

Rating: 5

Something is seriously wrong with Shinichi's right hand.

Asleep one night while listening to music, Shinichi's right arm was invaded by a strange little alien-looking bug thing that burrowed into his skin and tried to go straight for his brain. Thankfully, Shinichi was able to stop the invader's progress, but now it just hangs out in his right arm, and things are getting weird: turns out the little bug was a living parasite, one that's taken complete control of his hand and can mutate and flex wildly into all manner of crazy tentacles and blob-like structures. It's sentient, too; the alien forms a weird mouth and eyes to communicate with Shinichi, letting him know that they're symbiotic now and any attempt to remove the creature will result in the loss of his hand, so they'd better learn to work together. Their first chance at doing so comes when the parasite detects another of his own kind, one that's taken over the body of a dog who suddenly attacks, turning the dog's head into a winged monstrosity. Shinichi's parasite manages to yank out and burst the dog's heart before any real damage can be done, but one thing is clear: things are only going to get worse.

Parasyte is a beloved manga from the late 80s that managed to hook a sizable American audience thanks to Tokyopop's original release many many years ago, and people have been waiting a long time for an animated adaptation; it's nice to see one that totally knocks it out of the park. It's hard to overstate how well-done this is; it's bright, shiny, and beautifully animated by Madhouse. The studio is firing on all cylinders (on a TV budget, no less); the pacing is great, the characterization of Shinichi is great, and his interplay with Migi (voiced by Aya Hirano, doing her best deadpan) is a joy to watch. This show is grotesque to an extreme, and it'll only get bloodier as it goes along, so if you have a weak stomach for the flagrant display of bursting skinbags and mutated flesh it may not be for you. For fans of the manga - and really anyone interested in a well-executed horror show with a darkly comic tone - this is the good stuff, and the incredible production values, tight scripting and storytelling flow elevate it to the most promising start of this season so far. Stop reading this and go watch it.

Parasyte -the maxim- is available streaming at Crunchyroll.

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