Parasyte (WideBan) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Connie Zhang
Review Date: Friday, June 08, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2007



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hitoshi Iwaaki
Translated by:Andrew Cunningham
Adapted by:Andrew Cunningham

What They Say
They arrive in silence and darkness. They descend from the skies. They have a hunger for human flesh. They are everywhere. They are parasites, alien creatures who to survive must invade " and take control of " a human host. Once they have infected their victims, they can assume any deadly form they choose " monsters with giant teeth, winged demons, creatures with blades for hands " but most have chosen to conceal their lethal purpose behind ordinary human faces. So no one knows their secret " except an ordinary high school student. Shin is battling for control of his own body against an alien parasite, but can he find a way to warn humanity of the horrors to come?

The Review
This is a heartwarming coming-of-age story...with a chilling twist. What happens when homo sapiens are no longer at the top of the food chain?

Packaging:
Foregoing the gruesome original Mixx (Tokyopop) cover was a smart decision. Juxtaposing the two books makes this new version seem much less off-putting. The blood red color scheme and the stylistic logo hit all the right notes in evoking a unsettling feeling. There's just something about a disembodied hovering hand with two eyeballs sticking out at you (originally Mixx's back cover art) that screams, "Read me!" However, Del Rey may have taken the sparseness of artwork too far in the back cover which is crammed full of text. Unlike Mixx's downright disturbing blurb ("You wake up in the morning and your family doesn't know the difference. At least, not until your head splits open into a toothy maw and rips your family apart."), this new edition is tamer by comparison and even too wordy.

The most marked difference between this and the Mixx version (which was flipped) is the right-to-left orientation, with some pretty big changes: now that it's Shinichi's right hand that's infested, Lefty is no more and "Migi" (right) is born. The page size has also been downsized from A5 to B6, but since there's no cropping of the art, those who've read Mixx's release will barely notice. Extras include translation notes and a preview of volume two. Simply put, with Del Rey's edition boasting more pages, cleaner print reproduction and unflipped artwork, it is well worth the double-dip for any fans of the older release.

Artwork:
Iwaaki's pages look like Sunday newspaper comic strips with panels strictly defined and artwork that never bleeds together. This sectioning off of each page makes Parasyte a very clean and easy-to-follow work, especially for those new to unflipped art. His art is very expressive with characters flowing freely from panel to panel and he excels are drawing faces and eyes, especially in the heat of anger or fear. His style is distinctly of an older school, especially in his realistically proportioned characters as opposed to lanky bishounen or thin, leggy girls a la The Wallflower. Likewise, no one in this story can really be considered 'drop dead gorgeous,' although, most of the characters are quietly attractive.

However, the downside of the paneling is that with each panel so small, cramming in details like backgrounds would crowd the page. Instead, Iwaaki diverts the reader's attention to his character's clothes and vivid expressions. With action abundant in this story, he painstakingly draws each battle scene so that the reader feels as if s/he were watching it live-action rather than in a book. Many manga-ka discover years later that their art has not aged well, but those fears would be unfounded in Parasyte where the universality of the artwork will keep it in circulation for many years to come.

Text/SFX:
With no spelling or grammatical errors, the dialogue is easy to follow and full of personality. Shinichi speaks like a modern teenager just as Migi's more formal speech matches his sardonic personality. Coupled with the chilling artwork, the emotional scenes become very evocative. Instead of overlaying the SFX, as was done in the Mixx edition, Del Rey chose to leave sound effects untouched with translation subtitles written unobtrusively by the side. With greater accuracy in translation (especially in getting names right), Parasyte was just a pleasure to read.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The "humans are polluting the world" treehugging extremism in the opening pages may lead you to believe that this is another 'humanity's destruction by its own hand' story with some grand statement attached (and likely populated with Japanese teens to the rescue). Arjuna, Nausicaa, Origin, anyone? But if this is what crossed your mind, then you've been misled. Parasyte is that rare series where it's perfectly plausible that a Japanese teenager may be man's last line of defense against an 'alien' invasion. And all that without a pretentious message shoved down your throat.

It begins with a hostile takeover of sixteen-year-old Shinichi's right hand by a snake-like creature complete with an organic drill for a head. Incidentally, it was aiming to eat his brain (by crawling in through the ear canal), but ended up cozying into his right arm instead. If you're reminded of the Yeerk invasion in Animorphs, then you're on the right track. Elsewhere, around the world, countless parasytes have attacked unsuspecting humans and have succeeded in eating their brains whereupon the parasyte morphs its body into a replica of its host's head and fuses with the rest of the body. After the takeover, these creatures answer to only one instinct: kill and eat the host species. Luckily for Shinichi, his parasyte never made it to his brain so it has no cannibalistic urges.

And thus begins this bizarre symbiotic relationship between boy and parasyte. But not without some humorous interludes including Migi (Shinichi's newly christened right hand) commenting on and imitating parts of Shinichi's anatomy and generally wreaking havoc on his host's (love) life. And yet, this story isn't about the funnies and mishaps; its focus is unerringly on the two's dynamic relationship: from Shinichi who must more-or-less raise his right hand to Migi who cannot comprehend of a species who is not entirely self-serving. When the parasyte murders (dubbed "Mincemeat Murders" by the media) first hit the airwaves, Migi wonders why humans are so appalled at the loss of a few to feed a predator higher on the food chain. After all, don't humans also routinely slaughter inferior animals for food?

It's this casual philosophical pandering that makes Parasyte a cerebral manga. As the parasytes gradually adapt to human life and become cleverer at disguising their true identities, Shinichi finds himself in more and more danger. His idyllic life is repeatedly interrupted by other parasytes: from infested dogs to infested teachers. And when Shinichi is attacked by a fully mature parasyte at school...how will he protect his classmates without revealing himself for the monster he may now be?

Comments
Iwaaki pulls no punches in either his drawings of mutilated corpses or his thought-provoking questions a la Migi. What's wrong with a higher species viewing humans as having no more inherent worth than cattle? It's an unnerving idea and one that Iwaaki executes almost to perfection. Shinichi's acceptance of Migi isn't plagued by pages and pages of doubt and teenage angst. In Shinichi, we see a young man who's not only instantly likable, but also able to react quickly and take things in stride, albeit hindered by the naiveté and inexperience of his age. As the antithesis of the cool Migi, Shinichi is determined to protect those around him. He doesn't have an insufferable savior complex (as plagues so many overeager male leads like Buso Renkin's Kazuki), but knows when to make a stand.

The other characters " Satomi, the potential love interest; Shinichi's parents; and the other parasites " make brief, but important appearances to highlight Shinichi's metamorphosis. Rarely does the home life of a male lead come into play outside of harem shows, but here the parents are given key roles and serve as a reminder that he's just a teenager struggling with an awfully big secret. At the end of this volume, Shinichi is not the same person he was in the opening pages and I'm just as enthralled with his story now as I was years ago when this series first came to the States. For fans of the Mixx release, don't think twice about picking this up. Whereas several problems plagued the Mixx edition (from liberties taken in translation to the flipped art), Del Rey finally does justice to this series. It is well worth the double dip.

Parasyte isn't just about a teenager saving the world. It's about a teenager at the cusp of adulthood and his cynical, mutinous right hand...saving the world. Highly recommended.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 288
ISBN: 0-345-49624-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Parasyte (WideBan)