Parasyte, Volume 1

Creator: Hitoshi Iwaaki
U.S. publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 9780345496249
Released: May 2007
Original release: 1990
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award, Seiun Award

I first learned about Hitoshi Iwaaki’s manga series Parasyte at a library conference last year. Kate Dacey of The Manga Critic mentioned it during the “Best Manga You’re Not Reading” panel which focused on great manga that relatively few libraries seemed to have on their shelves. Parasyte was originally published in Japan between 1990 and 1995, winning the Kodansha Manga Award in 1993. The series was initially published in English by Tokyopop in twelve volumes. In fact, Parasyte was one of the first series that they ever published. Beginning in 2007, Parastye was released in English by Del Rey Manga, following the original eight volumes of the Japanese edition. I’ve never read Tokyopop’s version of Parasyte, but I have read the entire series as published by Del Rey. They have done a fantastic job with the printing and adaptation of the series. I completely agree that Parasyte belongs on the list of best manga you’re not reading. That is, if you haven’t already read it.

They fell from the sky. Small, intelligent, parasitic creatures that after entering the host’s body, completely take over its brain and begin eating potential hosts of the same species. The parasites favored group? Humans. And most of them don’t even know the parasites exist. But high school student Shinichi Izumi does. He’s been infected by a parasite that failed to take over his brain and now resides in his right arm. Neither of them are particularly happy with this situation, but it’s currently beneficial for them to cooperate with each other. Without Shinichi, Migi, the parasite, would die. Understandably, it’s very protective of Shinichi’s body. It soon becomes clear that Shinichi’s survival depends on Migi, as well. And even if it didn’t, without the parasite he would be down an arm. So, for the time being at least, they’ll work together, hoping to keep their existence a secret from both the parasites and the humans.

The relationship between Shinichi and Migi is extremely important in Parasyte. Shinichi does seem to move rather quickly from absolute terror to a lazy acceptance of the situation, but he doesn’t really have much of a choice. He gets more and more used to having Migi around, but every once in a while the parasite will do or say something to bring Shinichi crashing back to reality. I like Shinichi a lot. He has a good-natured, easygoing personality. Migi, too, is fairly likeable even considering what it is. However, the longer they stay together the more they change and adapt. And the changes don’t go unnoticed—both Shinichi’s (unofficial) girlfriend Murano and his mother sense something is different. As a reader, it’s fascinating to watch Shinichi and Migi’s relationship develop. Initially, Migi is only concerned about its own, and by extension Shinichi’s, survival. In turn, this slowly makes Shinichi more ruthless and selfish in his own thinking.

I really like Parasyte. The first volume easily pulls the reader in. Not only is the series entertaining and engaging, it also considers pretty serious questions about the nature of humanity. Parasyte has some fantastic moments of humor, mostly caused by Migi not quite understanding the subtleties of human interaction yet, which keeps the series from getting too heavy. Granted, this does make the darker aspects of the story stand out even more in contrast. Another source of amusement is Shinichi’s parents. They’re wonderfully down-to-earth people, especially his father, and they have a great relationship with their son. Iwaaki also incorporates some excellent visual gags, including one of my favorite unexpected moments out of all the manga I’ve read so far. (I won’t say more, because I don’t want to spoil it.) I’ll just end by saying you should give Parasyte a try if you haven’t already; it’s a great series.

My Week in Manga: November 1-November 7, 2010

My News and Reviews

I had a very busy week and wasn’t home much which means I didn’t get much manga reading in, either. However, I did manage to clean my room and completely reorganize my bookcases, getting all the manga that’s been accumulating in boxes onto actual shelves. (Except for Ranma 1/2—I’ve a box it fits in perfectly and being the longest series I own it takes up too much space otherwise.) Granted, they’re all stacked at least two deep but at least now they’re alphabetized and I know where everything is.

This past week featured October’s Bookshelf Overload, which I now know at least one other person enjoys, as well as a book review for Nahoko Uehashi fantasy novel Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. I really enjoyed the book, so I hope more people will check it and its sequel out. Maybe then Arthur A. Levine Books will publish the rest of the series!

I hit a bit of a technical snag while updating the Resources page and lost a bunch of links and my backup was a bit outdated. Fortunately, I think I’ve managed to recover most if not all of them. And now, like I’ve been promising, there’s a section for podcasts! I’ve only got eight so far—if you know of any others, specifically those manga related, please let me know. My post on podcasts will probably appear sometime next week. That’s the goal anyway.

Completely unrelated to manga, but I’m still excited about it—I was able to attend Jake Shimabukuro’s concert on Thursday night! It was a fantastic performance. Jake is an amazing musician and has a wonderful stage presence, too.

Quick Takes

Black-Winged Love by Tomoko Yamashita. I am in love with this collection. I had previously read Yamashita’s Dining Bar Akira and enjoyed it, but Black-Winged Love is even better. The manga collects seven boys’ love stories plus some fun bonus material. The stories are mostly serious in tone, but each also exhibit a quirky sense of humor. While there’s very little actual sex, the manga is still sexy and smart (I mean, we’ve got references to Yukio Mishima and others in here). I keep changing my mind about which story is my favorite; I liked them all and reread the book several times. I’m setting this manga aside to do a more in-depth review in the future.

Parasyte, Volumes 1-8 by Hitoshi Iwaaki. I spent most of my Saturday reading through this entire series, it’s that good and addicting of a story. It’s fascinating to not only see Izumi change and grow as a person through the series, but to see the Parasites develop and evolve as well. And his relationship with Migi—the Parasite that took over his right arm after failing to take over his brain—is simply great. The two of them must learn to work together and coexist in the same body, but they are definitely both individuals. There’s a lot in the manga that explores human nature, and sometimes it’s the Parasites with their straightforward logic that appear to be the more humane creatures.

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, Episodes 1-12 directed by Kenji Kamiyama. As I mentioned above, I recently read and adored the novel this anime series was based on, so I was very excited to watch it. The first few episodes follow the book very closely, but the middle section has been greatly expanded while still holding to the spirit of the original story. The attention to detail in the animation is wonderful, not only for the characters (the eyes in particular are gorgeous and expressive) and beautiful backgrounds, but even the clothing and weaponry. Occasionally though the CG used does feel a bit out of place. I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

Princess Mononoke written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Although I have enjoyed just about every Miyazaki film that I’ve seen, I think that Princess Mononoke is probably my favorite. And at over two hours, it is also one of the longest animated films ever made. I think the thing I love most about this anime is the complexity of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. There’s man versus nature, and man versus man, and it’s not always easy to pick a side and say who is right. With lovely animation and accompanying soundtrack, it is is a wonderful movie and has been adapted well for English speaking audiences.