Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
A companion piece to Neo Parasyte m, released earlier this year, Neo Parasyte f invites shoujo mangaka to take their turn playing in the universe created by Hitoshi Iwaaki in his series Parasyte. Although it isn't quite as striking as its shounen counterpart, this is still a fascinating anthology that not only creates interesting new tales in a familiar world, but also gives English-language readers a chance to experience the work of some manga creators whose larger body of work isn't available to them.
Among the familiar names in this anthology are Kaori Yuki (Alice in Murderland), Yuri Narushima (Planet Ladder), Asumiko Nakamura (Utsubora), Yuuki Obata (We Were There), and Ema Toyama (Missions of Love). That last is definitely the most surprising, given the almost aggressively sparkly nature of her works, and her story “After School Danger” stands out simply because it's so different from what we normally see. Not only has Toyama set aside her usual art style, she's also done a credible imitation of Iwaaki's, perhaps indicating that she's a far more gifted artist than I at least have given her credit for. Her story is one of the lighter ones in the volume, well-placed after Nakamura's dark piece, and deals with a high school girl with a parasitized hand teaching her parasite about the joys of being a fujoshi. It isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but it definitely elicits a few chuckles, especially towards the end. Toyama is hardly the only creator to take a humorous approach, however, and the two other standouts are MikiMaki's “Forbidden Fun,” which actually stars Migi and Shinichi (and some creepy, creepy bloomers), and Yui Kuroe's “Parasyte Love,” which envisions an otome game where you can date (or be eaten by) the handsome young parasitized man of your choice. It's just as insane as it sounds, and Kuroe's story is among the most absurd in the book.
Both Asumiko Nakamura and Kaori Yuki are no strangers to horror, psychological or otherwise, which makes both of their contributions stand out. Readers familiar with Vertical's release of Nakamura's Utsubora will remember the psychological manipulation that marks that story, and her tale “Macabre Goods” is in the same vein. It features a vendor who sells parasites out of his old-fashioned shop to those who want them for whatever dark reasons, and he perhaps doesn't try as hard as he could to dissuade them from their purchases. It's reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton's early short story “Those Who Seek Forgiveness” combined with the W. W. Jacobs classic “The Monkey's Paw,” making it the most overtly literary piece in the collection. It also requires the least familiarity with Iwaaki's original, although Kaori Yuki's “The God of Never Never” could share that distinction, as it relies more on Yuki's own particular brand of storytelling than Parasyte itself. In neither case is that a bad thing, and in terms of the more horror-themed pieces in the anthology both are very strong contenders for the best, possibly because the creators themselves are so comfortable telling dark and grim tales.
If we're to move away from strictly adhering to the original manga's genre, the stand-out piece is Hajime Shindo's “Secret Library.” This is also the most “shoujo” of the stories in terms of its sensibility, and perhaps that's what makes it work so well – newcomer Shindo simply takes the setting, a world where parasytes exist, and tells a story within it. The piece follows high school girl Hinako who discovers that the handsome new transfer student (who has just been orphaned) has a parasite named Sally living in his back. As the story unfolds, we learn that Sally is not necessarily the one in control, but that “she” did, in fact, save her host's life, resulting in a fairly symbiotic relationship. “Secret Library” is a warm story that uses many of the themes of shoujo romance to its advantage, making them fit with Iwaaki's darker world in a way that really works. The same can be said of Hikaru Suruga (Attack on Titan: No Regrets)'s “The Taste of Palm,” although that story is much more overtly in the horror genre.
Neo Parasyte f is a good short story collection on its own, as its predecessor Neo Parasyte m is. While familiarity with the original series is recommended for several of the specific stories, others can be enjoyed on their own, because the basic concept of Iwaaki's world isn't difficult to understand. With its variety of art styles and storytelling techniques, to say nothing of the chance to get to sample some creators we haven't previously seen in English, this is a book well worth reading, even if it's been a while since you last read or watched Parasyte.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Good variety of styles and stories with a few real stand-outs, minimal familiarity with the original needed for most stories
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