Parasyte -the maxim-
Episode 15

by Nick Creamer,

A fairly slow episode this week, and one that largely reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the show at the moment. We started off with the end of the private investigator's arc, as he resolved to wash his hands of the parasite business after witnessing a deadly battle between Shinichi and another parasite. That battle ended up prompting some long-brewing countermeasures from the established group of local parasites, and so we ended with Shinichi on the run, finally facing the consequences of living halfway between the parasite and human worlds.

Parasyte started off as a show that was seemingly focused on horror, action, Shinichi's character journey, and the overarching theme of what defines human nature. Though the horror elements have somewhat dwindled through repetition and the show's generally neutral direction, the other three elements have stayed pillars of the series - but over the last half dozen episodes or so, both Shinichi's changes and the thematic exploration have progressed at a very sluggish pace. Shinichi's gone back and forth over his humanity many times with no significant shifts, and though elements like Tamiya and the private investigator's speech have added some color to the show's thematic aspirations, there have been few bold strokes like in the earlier material. When it comes to the characters and ideas, Parasyte has turned out to be a game of inches.

In light of this, the strength of individual episodes tends to rest heavily on their immediate attractions - how exciting the base narrative is, specific dramatic highlights that contribute unique dynamics, and the little bits of characterization that still add seasoning to the story. This week's episode began by riding on dynamics and characterization, as Shinichi's first fight offered both a compelling action sequence and some great lines from Migi. With Shinichi's conflict having fallen into something of a repetitive pattern at this point, Migi stepped up to offer lines that contained a surprising amount of personality, from “there's one coming. It's brought lunch” through “I think I'll win by having the better mount” and even weirdly casual lines like “don't be stupid.” Migi seemed to display both human exasperation and even a sense of humor this week, changes that were fortunately never highlighted by the narrative itself.

The episode's middle act was definitely its weakest, as we returned to scenes of Shinichi fretting over his humanity. Given his journey is the heart of the story, it's obviously unreasonable to expect the show not to focus on his dilemma, but we're reaching the point where more exploration of his self-image just feels like a retread. It's not even that this material was demonstrably worse than similar scenes from earlier - we're just approaching a critical density of such scenes where new ones don't really contribute anything to the show's characters. With the private investigator out of the picture, Shinichi decided his new course will be to kill the parasites himself - a plan that was fortunately fast-tracked by the parasites themselves deciding it's time to take Shinichi out of the picture.

The last segment of the episode was easily the best, as the approach of a new parasite assassin kicked the plot into high gear. The last few scenes were essentially constant beats of tension, reveals, and even slight bits of humor, with the assassin parasite's clumsiness adding a weird human element to the chase. Parasyte has definitely lost momentum in its middle episodes, but with Shinichi finally in the monsters' crosshairs, I have plenty of hope that the last third will regain some of its initial spark.

Rating: B

Parasyte -the maxim- is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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