Parasyte has consistently been one of the best anime airing since it first began back in October of last year. However, it achieved new heights this week with what is arguably one of the greatest and most powerful episodes in anime I have ever seen.
*spoilers for episode 21 of Parasyte - the Maxim*
The confrontation last week's episode left us on between the mayor Hirokawa and the special task force was a serious cliffhanger, and one that I was prepared to see finished with an epic battle. I was half right, because 'epic' fits the moment perfectly. Hirokawa does not attack the soldiers. He lectures them, giving a speech that is one of the greatest 'villain' reason for being 'evil', both because of the context within the show it is presented in and the ringing truth it has in real life. The greatest predators, he argues, are human beings. Instead of using our technology to help the earth, we instead use our knowledge to damage it. The parasites have been referred to as parasites because they take over human bodies, but isn't that what we are doing to the earth? In truth, parasites are the 'good' side, because by being predators to humans they are helping the biosphere be kept in order and safe from rampant human abuse.
This theory drives fear into the hearts of all listening, because despite what they want to think, it is true. Completely true. When the soldiers do fire on the defenseless mayor, the one that checks the body is shaking, on the verge of panic after hearing this speech. Upon inspecting the body, the most horrible truth of all is revealed: this man, who spoke with such conviction on the evil of the human race and who led the parasites in their rise to power... is a human. He. Is. A human. Of course a parasite could be argued to be saying those things out of fear of death, but for a human to make those claims? That drives the nail home. Hard.
This intense moment is aided by the leader of the police squad's actions from both this and the last episode. He not only is hunting these creatures with a vengeance simply because of their nature, but also is killing anyone- parasite or human - that gets in his way. He is even using a serial killer to help hunt down the parasites. This hypocrisy effectively highlights the mayor's claim, and more so than ever both I and Shinichi are posed the tough, perhaps unanswerable question: who is right? What IS the 'good' side? In truth, there isn't one, and this has now been made painfully obvious. Although I have previously called this examination of the two sides a strong part of Parasyte, nothing the show had done before even remotely compares to the strength of this plot element when it is utilized here.
What really makes this week's Parasyte great, however, is how it manages to be absolutely fantastic even beyond its moral questioning. I was absolutely enthralled the entire time by the action scenes, and watching the captain of the soldiers die was both sobering (considering the ridiculously swift death of so many soldiers) and satisfying, because frankly the captain was more of a bad guy by this point than any other character in the show. The amazing movements of Gotou were chillingly wonderfully animated, and even moments when there is no fighting, such as Gotou's confrontation with Shinichi, are eerily gut-wrenching.
On the topic of Shinichi's confrontation, the setup for the final battle has been clearly established, and while I wait in great anticipation, it is Shinichi that really makes this setup satisfying. His sheer terror at the thought of Gotou is incredibly relatable and really pushed my own fear both of Gotou and for Shinichi's well-being to an absolute climax. It is because of this terror, however, that great character development is pushed through, and not just for Shinichi. One of my biggest complaints in my earlier impressions article was the relatively frozen state of Shinichi's relationship with Murano.
I was worried that she would just be a romantic interest, and while that in and of itself isn't bad, I think a story is by far better when it actually fleshes the other character out and moves from a romantic interest to just romantic. Shinichi and Murano have progressed recently, and this episode sealed the deal emotionally (and physically) and made me, at long last, actually care about Murano as a character. Shinichi's bond with her has continued to grow, and even though she doesn't fully understand his other life, it would be fair to say that apart from Migi she is the only other person to fully understand him. Their affection for each other is what finally gives Shinichi a concrete reason to fight: he realizes fully now that he doesn't want to die, that he CAN'T die.
All of these moments are aided by an element Parasyte has that only a few anime a season (at best) utilize: the soundtrack. Throughout the episode, everything from powerful dark moments to the romantic interactions are strengthened substantially by an ever present set of background music that is absolutely wonderful. After I finished the episode, I was so taken aback that I have not been able to listen to any other song besides "Here With You" all night (and knowing me, that's saying something).
Over all, Parasyte's 21st episode is, at least for me, a hallmark performance in pretty much every way possible and not only has given me great anticipation for the next episode but has secured a place for Parasyte on my list of absolutely amazing anime.
Parasyte: the Maxim is currently available for free and legal streaming on Crunchyroll, with a new episode every Wednesday.
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