Parasyte -the maxim-
Episode 17

by Nick Creamer,

Hoo boy was I relieved to see this episode. It'd become a legitimate struggle these past few weeks, trying to find silver linings in a show that had just fallen so far from its first season highs. From the beginning of Kana's prominence onward, Parasyte has been basically treading water, repeating character shifts and moving narrative threads slowly, slowly, ever so slowly forward. But this episode pulled together several threads at once, offering immediate excitement, bringing multiple character journeys to their conclusion, and even playing off themes the show had seemingly abandoned half a season ago. I wish this episode had actually come half a season ago, but I'm still happy to see it arrive.

We began with the Tamiya confrontation baited last week, which ended up consuming the first third of the episode. In contrast to the somewhat flat articulation of last week's battle, Tamiya versus her three parasite assassins actually featured some evocative cinematography - both the night lighting and the construction site staging allowed for a variety of engaging framing devices. Characters were shot from sharp angles and behind corners to increase the tension and suspense, and the use of the beams and bars of the site as foreground framing aided in creating a feeling of claustrophobia, depth, and just a sense of beauty in the frame. And the fight itself was solid, too - the show once again avoided Parasyte's over-reliance on blade-spam by having Tamiya defeat her opponents through some real body horror grossness, and her brief headless journey outside also employed some nice horror movie tricks. Her over-explanation of the key to her victory was a bit of a disappointment, but this was overall one of the show's better fights so far.

From there, the episode built slowly towards a five-way confrontation at Hikari Park 1, gathering basically every relevant or semi-relevant player for the conclusion to Kuramori and Tamiya's arcs. This started off with Kuramori stealing Tamiya's baby, which was followed by Tamiya breaking into Shinichi's house, looking over his baby photos, and inviting him to join her at the park. This strange scene of Tamiya browsing through baby pictures brought to the fore a thematic thread that hasn't been seriously relevant since the first season - the strong connection between human nature and motherhood.

Tamiya's idle “humanity is one organism composed of many parts” from last episode gained clear relevance this week, both in her actual pride at seeing the parasites evolve into a diverse species and in her concern for both her own child and Shinichi's circumstances. Though the story has been building towards the shift in Tamiya's nature due to her child for a long time now, this tying it back into Shinichi's own narrative added a graceful element of unity to the story overall. And in light of that scene of her almost judging whether she could trust Shinichi with her child (the Tamiya death flags were heavy and constant this episode - it seems very likely that her journey will be ending here), the following scene of her actually reassuring Murano of Shinichi's safety felt endearing and earned. This show has stretched its pieces thin, but watching them fall into place in such assured sequence is still a very satisfying experience.

The last act of this episode featured the first half of the confrontation at Hikari Park, as Kuramori challenged Tamiya while Shinichi, Murano, and Kuramori's police associates all approached. The conclusion here was the obvious one, but obvious isn't bad - Kuramori's story was always destined to end in tragedy, Tamiya was always destined to be Shinichi's parasite-to-human mirror through her connection with her child. The important thing is the execution, and this scene landed well. The drama wasn't heightened, and the reveals weren't overstated - Migi expressed surprise at Tamiya's maternal emotions, Kuramori died a hero while defending Shinichi's humanity to the end, and the first half of this solemn climax came to an end. It was nice to see the show finally complicating the definition of “humanity” here, after so many episodes of Shinichi trying to cling to his own arbitrary definition. Pretty much everything in this episode felt like a reward for our trials, in fact - Parasyte's been a messy show for a while now, but this episode was well-structured, internally rewarding, and a satisfying play on everything that's come before.

Rating: A

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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