Parasyte -the maxim-
Episode 21

by Nick Creamer,

Whew! Alright, we're back on track. While this episode was still somewhat hampered by this arc's tendency to over-tell to the point of absurdity, and was reflective of other problems of execution and earlier narrative issues besides, it was still a far cry from last week's fiasco. We started off with Hirakawa's last stand, before jumping to Gotou, who ended the stakeout arc by promising to kill Shinichi. From there, the episode's last third slowed things down by returning the focus to Shinichi's personal feelings. Things could still go wrong, but I have a feeling the worst is now behind us - with the police arc concluded, it's looking like Parasyte will finish by focusing on a newly driven Shinichi facing an uncertain world.

The Hirakawa sequence that opened this episode was, like all the major segments of this episode, reflective of both Parasyte's strengths and weaknesses. The base narrative material here was excellent - Hirakawa chastising his human attackers for the hypocrisy of their perspective was well-deserved and reflective of all the things Migi has been telling Shinichi all show long. Hirakawa's reframing of the show's opening line, “life should be protected,” as a condemnation of humanity's negligence as caretakers was a well-earned turn, as was his declaration that it should be humanity's benevolence that makes them a “superior species,” not their ability to assert power. The final twist of this scene, that Hirakawa was in fact human after all, was the perfect capstone of this arc, and lent a real sense of underlying tragedy to everything that's taken place. Shinichi was always just a side project for Tamiya - Hirakawa was her attempt to bridge the gap, and he failed due to humanity's near-sightedness.

At least, that was the intended takeaway. Unfortunately, the way this whole arc has framed the parasites and Hirakawa himself as cartoon villains somewhat detracted from the sense of tragedy here - I didn't feel sorry for the guy, because even though he was right, the show's dramatic framing just hasn't evoked cause for sympathy. The disconnect between intended takeaway and the show's actual emotional effect just really demonstrate the importance of both framing and foreshadowing - the show has certainly led to this point on an intellectual level, but all of the human empathy for the parasite perspective lay in Tamiya Ryoko's character, and thus only her specter lends this scene any emotional gravity. I ultimately felt relatively impressed by this thematic knot-tying while not really feeling emotionally moved by it.

My mixed feelings continued into the next sequence, but this time my issues fell in the opposite direction. The fight between Gotou and Yamagishi was actually very compelling on an aesthetic level - the show's use of the building's corners and lighting created tension well, the blood splatter and angled shots made for dynamic compositions, and the animation was limited but well-used. Unlike last week's artificially drawn-out confrontations, the quick bursts of violence here reminded me of the Shinichi schoolyard brawls from the show's first half. The fights between parasites often devolve into boring blade-spam, but the physical fights can have a real sense of weight and energy to them, and that was carried over here. I would have liked this sequence more if the characters had just Stopped Talking - hearing Yamagishi think to himself, “how ironic that Gotou has made his lair in a building created by humans” or Gotou dutifully explain how he was able to dodge bullets did very little to contribute to the desired tension of this sequence. Win some, lose some.

After Gotou relieved Yamagishi of his head and issued his threat to Shinichi, the last sequence of this episode brought the focus back to our hero, as he struggled with the fear of Gotou and ultimately sought peace in Murano's arms. Shinichi's panic over the threat of Gotou felt both rushed and overplayed (Parasyte's clumsy musical scoring came back to haunt it here), but I actually liked the final Murano scene. Though Murano has been far too underused as a character for this to feel like a cathartic emotional moment, the scene was executed well, and I particularly liked how Shinichi's “I've called Migi cold-blooded, but I don't have any right to say that. In the end, I'm trampling on those around me in order to live” reflected back on Hirakawa's earlier accusations about human nature.

Overall, this wasn't a great episode, but it had some individually great elements, and at this point I've learned to accept the good with the bad with Parasyte. The execution is sometimes clumsy and not all the pieces work, but there's enough of a spark in it that when one excellent idea reflects off another, the show can still engage just fine. You're almost to the end, Parasyte. You can make it.

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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