Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 19

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Because Franklin had the call last week, I actually never even got around to watching Kiseijuu 18 (or reading his review of it) until tonight, just before episode 19. Watching the two back-to-back revealed something to me: we’re in full serialization mode here.  18 kind of just ended, as does 19. In both cases, I was eager to watch more. But this also makes it harder to review the show on an episode-by-episode basis, since we’re dealing with pieces of a puzzle slowly coming together.

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What also struck me by watching these two episodes back-to-back, without regard to their running time, was how little seemed to have happened in roughly 44 minutes’ time. Don’t get me wrong; Ryouko dying last week and the cops finally cornering the parasite mayor this week are all big events, but I still got a “where did the time go?” vibe to both episodes, as if it was holding back, which it is, of course, because there are still five episodes to go.

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I’ll be blunt: I don’t much care about the serial killer convict, besides the fact that he developed the Kana-like ability to detect non-humans out of his own predatory nature. He’s a sociopath; wolf in a world of sheep, so it stands to reason he’d be able to detect other wolves.

But his little monologue feels like little more than padding, and it can’t distract me from the oddness of the Ryouko standoff, or the fact that in the situation where Satomi should have figured out a lot about Shinichi, she didn’t, but rather decided quite arbitrarily that he was “back” because she saw him crying while holding a baby. Tears and babies? Those are politicians’ tricks.

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Even if it’s only the latest piece of the puzzle lined with unnecessary padding and dare I say stalling; the fact of the matter is, the remaining organized parasites are starting to feel the walls closing in. They surmise that their associates tried to off Ryouko of their own accord and failed, and then Ryouko herself was killed by police.

We haven’t seen much police action until these last two episodes, but it’s clear they’ve been working diligently behind the scenes to develop not only a defense against the parasites, but a plan of attack, or rather extermination. The death of Ryouko was a blow to them, because it meant the death of someone who could be a conduit between the two peoples.

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And then there’s Satomi. Despite her not finding out about Migi or most of the other horrors Shinichi’s been through, she is content with the knowledge Shinichi is in the midst of a struggle not entirely of his own making, which is actually the truth: he didn’t ask to be infiltrated by Migi. The details don’t matter to her; all she cares about is remaining close to and supporting her man, because she knows he’s doing everything he can to protect her.

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Still, Satomi is brimming with denial. It’s one thing to be blissfully unaware of the details, but to try to keep Shinichi out of something he’s already waist-deep in is a fool’s errand. At this point it will be a miracle if she doesn’t end up another collateral victim. But standing with Shinichi, even in harm’s way, is her choice, and I appreciated and respected the loyalty and resolve she exhibited this week, despite her ignorance.

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Despite Satomi’s protestations, the police convince Shinichi to assist them (along with the convict) to help them identify parasites in an office building they storm with SWAT forces and then evacuate seven people at a time, all of whom pass through special sensors that can detect “non-human material.” Among the occupants of the building are the mayor and his aides, all parasites, whom Migi can generally sense but not yet pinpoint.

The police get their first catch of the day, and the episode ends there, just as abruptly as last week. We must be content with what we got and await the events that follow. Since some of the larger parasite personalities are in play here, it should be good. And therein lies the problem: these past three weeks this show has been merely good, despite having proven in the past it can be so much more than that.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 18

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So Tamiya Ryouko bid her farewell this week and, for all Kiseijuu Sei no Kakuritsu’s efforts to make her passing meaningful, all I could muster in response was a long, defeated sigh.

Then the plot lurched forward to introduce a psychic serial killer in police custody who, probably, has identified Shinichi as not entirely human.

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Why didn’t Ryouko’s death work? For starters, she’s been on the Police / Parasytes / Shinichi’s to-kill-list for several episodes — so we knew this was coming.

But what really bled the drama out of her death was how long it took to get there, how little has happened in the show leading up to it, and how little her legitimately interesting character actually accomplished during that time.

Simply, Ryouko’s story was dead and lifeless long before she was needlessly gunned down by the police.

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Sure, I get that having a child became her reason to be, and that reason no longer was now that she could sway Shinichi to believe her and care for her child in her stead… or convince child protective services and/or government scientists to chop it into little pieces.

Yeah that’s where her logic makes no sense at all. Shinichi has no agency nor influence over what happens to the child and she’s left him holding the baby, surrounded by armed government people. Brilliant.

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So Shinichi learns to cry again and Murano, who happens to be in the park still even after hearing endless gunshots and witnessing a woman being shot to death brutally, accepts him for ‘coming back.’ Also because Kana’s ghost told her. Probably.

Then, later, Shinichi goes to a hospital but is unknowingly part of a screening the police are doing with the help of serial killer who is either psychic or just kana-tuned to parasytes.

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What worked: Sarcasm aside, if I wasn’t completely drained of empathy for Ryouko and shruggy about her suicide, her monologue to Shinichi about Parasytes being the children of humans and feeling bullied by humans could have been interesting.

Similarly, if it had a little more build up and/or he wasn’t so gross, I could see chuckling about the serial killer. I mean, masturbating in front of a fake psychic could be a funny thing. Right?

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 17

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Parasyte continues its liesurely Winter stroll, in an episode that even to me, Princess Patience, felt sluggish and uneventful. Sure, there’s an interesting multi-vector battle between parasytes in the beginning, but it takes its time. And then the storyline shifts to the detective and things slow down even more.

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Nothing more unnerving than having a woman with half a face and a mouth that’s way too big for your body to ruin a lovely night out! But Tamiya Ryouko doesn’t have much of a choice; her former allies have turned on her, something she could probably have predicted based on her kind’s unswerving logic.

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But Ryouko is different. Not only does she have the kid, but a lot more knowledge of the parasyte body, which she uses to her advantage against her foes, making pretty quick work of them…but not until she thoroughly explains how she beat them. Franklin mentioned how while battling the parasytes are very static, and that was more evident to me here, especially when compounded with their emotionless-by-nature dialogue.

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Also, as macabre as it may sound, the fact no humans were harmed in this battle, even collaterally, lowered the stakes somewhat. Ryouko hasn’t quite earned the right to be someone I’d route for. I’d sooner they all destroyed each other and leave Shinichi with a couple fewer problems to worry about.

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Ryouko returns home to find her baby gone; kidnapped by Kuranomi, so she breaks into Shinichi’s house, goes through his baby pictures, and asks him to meet her at the same park where Kuranomi told her to meet him.

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Ryouko then exits Shinichi’s house just when Satomi happens to be outside, hoping for him to be home. It’s very understandable for Satomi to get the wrong idea here (especially when Ryouko says she’s not his mother), but Ryouko also screams “answers.”

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Then just as Satomi is wishing and hoping for Shinichi to come back soon, he passes right by her in a bus, and she just happens to see him, and then chases after the bus. Satomi’s luck continues when she arrives at the bus station to find Ryouko and then chases her down. Uhh, what? That’s a lot of timely coincidences to get Satomi involved in one day!

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Kuranomi and Ryouko meet at the park, though I’m not sure what Kuranomi wants, but he seems to think no matter what he does, Ryouko will simply shrug it off, because she’s an unfeeling monster. Despite this, he feels the need to have her experience an iota of the grief he has, so he prepares to toss the kid over a balcony, when Ryouko’s maternal instinct kicks in, kills him, and snatches the babe up, surprising not only him, but herself as well.

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So yeah, at this point Satomi is simply sitting around in the park. Unaware how much of the episode had progressed, I assumed one of two things would happen: she’d finally witness Shinichi in action (shocking truth!), or she’d get herself killed (far less likely). Surprise: Neither happens. Nothing happens, which was kind of deflating.

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Kuranomi is killed, but our time with him was so brief, and his choices often so idiotic (do not kidnap crazy monster’s infant or face he alone, ever), I can’t say I’ll miss him. Truth be told, we only saw his family for one brief scene. In terms of emotional impact, Kana he is not (Kana’s death still gets to me).

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Well, here we are: Shinichi and Ryouko facing off once again. Will this be another calm chat that turns more heated when Ryouko pushes Shinichi’s buttons? Will Ryouko tell him her buddies tried to kill her and now she’s alone with her baby and her philosophy? Will the blades come out and they’ll just start hacking at each other, when all of a sudden Satomi strays into their attack radius? I wasn’t able to say this before, but at this point, I’ll take anything, as long as it’s…something.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 16

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Parasyte presents a ratings-challenge this week. Perhaps you’re finding this a typical response for me on this show now but, honestly, I could rate it anywhere between a 6 and an 8 it was so all over the place in quality.

Let me clarify: the drawing, style and tone were consistent but it felt like two different episodes. Like it was split in the wrong place and half way through a totally different show emerged.

Gah… this is going to take a little Oigakkosan Brand Rambling™ to explain. So hold your horses and lets get at it!

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Shinichi and Migi pick up where last week left off: a showdown with a stronger, even more robust Parasyte. The entire first half of the episode is dedicated to the fight, more or less, and even though it ends without a conclusion, it’s satisfying in its own way.

That said, there’s something about the fighting that’s becoming unsatisfying to watch. Maybe it’s how the players stand still and flail at each other with bladey tentacle-arms or that the character design is very plain or that the action is often narrated by Migi or Shinichi or both and our only surprises are minor things like the bad guy not dying when they thought he would.

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That’s putting aside how goofy the action can be too. Seen above: Migi grabs a truck and pulls Shinichi through the air. This kind of thing is funny, and to be sure some of Migi has always been adorably weird, as much as creepy. Still, it had a certain Warner Bros vibe to it which…felt out of place?

Combined with the static nature of the fight, and the start/stop nature of running away to re-position in another background that looks very similar to the last one, the battle didn’t feel dramatic to me.

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Then the second half happens and maybe three or four times the normal number of events seen in a single episode are thrown at us all at once.

The P.I. goes to the cops and is ready to spill the beans on the Parasytes, then he freaks out and goes to take Ryoko down on his own, Ryoko posits humans are individuals that share a single mega brain of sorts, which confuses the other Parasytes and they then decide to go and kill her, but first she nurses her human baby and muses how weird it is and the P.I. is also going to kill her and it’s a cliffhanger with all of them coming together for a show down.

Also, Shinichi tells his dad to get out of the house and Murano is nudged into bringing his abandoned backpack to his house by her friends and AHHHHHH it’s just a lot of stuff and, especially in the case of Murano, I Just. Don’t. Care.

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I guess this has been my problem with the past few episodes. Shinichi is interesting, Migi is interesting AND adorable, and Ryoko makes for an introspective story forwarding villain…but no one else provides substance.

Maybe the Evil Council of Parasytes could, but they are ultimately focused on killing Ryoko (and probably her baby) so they aren’t even in Shinichi’s theatre of villains. So seeing them just distracts us from the unraveling mystery or risks over-exposing them to the point of feeling dull. No secrets to tell.

I guess I’ll give it a 7—a top-notch 7—but I don’t feel it being higher. It just isn’t emotionally gripping enough as an episode without relying on my long-term emotional investment in the series.

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Prestons take:

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I enjoyed the scenic forest setting of the battle with Miki, as well as all the new challenges of having to fight a parasyte far different from anything they’ve gone up against previously. I was also glad it ended in a rare stalemate, because Miki shouldn’t be that easy to kill (and Shinichi is just hella fast).

The remainder of the episode, as Franklin describes it, indeed sounds like a bit of a jumble, with incremental developments on many fronts and no distinct climaxes. But I guess I just didn’t mind that as much, and certainly was never overwhelmed or bored with any of it. I’m fine with a select few characters providing the substance while the others add flavor and texture, and variety. It helps that I still care about Murano.

Shinichi/Migi’s challenges are growing in number and complexity by the day, and soon it will be all he can do to keep his father and Murano from ending up like Kana or the P.I.’s family, to say nothing of his goals for saving humanity. The building of tension is unhurried and multi-directional, but also steady and robust.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 15

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This week’s Parasyte starts off as many previous ones have—one of the titular monsters snatches up some lunch—with two key distinctions. First of all, he’s being watched and followed by an associate of the Kuranomi (the P.I.). Secondly, before that associate meets his untimely but inevitable demise, the parasyte has a lot more personality than we’re used to. With a wry grin and taunting self-scolding for letting himself be followed, he seems far less animalistic and far more like, an evil human villain.

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When Kuronomi recruits Shinichi to accompany him to the garage, they find another parasyte about to feed. Ryouko’s outwardly “civilized” crew have made the garage a discreet dining area. The activities may be different, but such a location is as suitable for humans to misbehave as parasytes.

Kuronomi films everything as Shinichi lunges out of the shadows and dispatches the parasyte (who isn’t quite as emotional as the cold open’s), but not before the monster kills the woman, with grim efficiency, in the blink of an eye. In case you’d forgotten: Yes, humans are very very weak.

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After witnessing that murder, and the monsters dueling, Kuranomi is OUT. Forget his high-minded talk of helping to save humanity, he has a wife and kid, and neither the strength nor courage he credits Shinichi with having. While I can’t blame him, at the end of the day he’s exhibiting It’s the typical “I’m just one guy, what can I do” attitude common to normal humans.

Shinichi knows he’s not a normal human anymore. Keeping Satomi at a distance and reaching an impasse with Ryouko; all of it has been to prepare for a war he has only a vague idea how to fight, against a foe he doesn’t know as well as he thinks.

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Shinichi believes himself well-informed on the evolution of parasytes—just because his right hand is one of them—at his peril. Ryouko’s crew initially has varying opinions (more human behavior), but they eventually come to the consensus, Ryouko included, that Shinichi is a threat that must be eliminated. Her only proviso is that they bring him back intact enough for her to dissect him; it would be a waste to destroy such an enlightening subject.

As one parasyte plays Chopin beautifully on the piano (in nothing but boxer briefs) a chilling spectacle, he and another discuss sending someone named “Miki” after Shinichi. Their demeanor suggests he’s a tough one.

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Speaking of chilling spectacles…Good GOD that was a creepy nightmare, where a pale, demonic parasite with Migi’s voice shows Shinichi his reflection, and he sees his face rotting away. I’m not going to read too much into this, but could that skeletal wight be Shinichi’s final form, once all of his humanity is sheared away? I shudder to think.

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Like I said last week, just because Shinichi is trying his hardest to make Satomi hate him doesn’t mean she’s going to cooperate. This is because she isn’t an idiot; she can connect the dots and arrive at the possibility that everything Shinichi is doing, including keeping her in the dark, is to protect her.

If she’s ever going to re-enter what’s left of Shinichi’s life, she’s going to have to force her way in. But she’s neither strong enough to break through the bars of that gate, forged by Shinichi to keep her safe, with the unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect of keeping them apart. If Satomi is with Shinichi, she is the very definition of unsafe.

But weak as she is, I’m inclined to believe it should be her choice. Calling Shinichi a paternalistic bastard is oversimplifying, but he is dictating how Satomi should live her life. She has every right to fight and die by his side rather live without him. It’s not logical or self-preserving, but love seldom is.

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I’m not saying having Satomi around is a good idea, of course. But the Ryouko crew’s carefully-implemented plan is executed just as Migi has to go to sleep, resulting in a four-hour period that’s both thrilling and oddly casual, as even without Migi Shinichi can still get away with the best of them.

When Migi does wake up in the nick of time, Shinichi learns that all three of the parasytes after him are really contained within the body of the single guy chasing him, a very expressive guy named “Miki” who is confident the battle is over and he’s won before it begins, but I doubt that’s the case.

With thrice the cutlery, Shinichi and Migi are suddenly up against their toughest opponent yet. I don’t doubt they’ll find someway to survive and possibly even defeat Miki, but there’s sure to be a cost.

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Franklin’s Take:

I remain a fan of parasyte’s world, characters, and disturbing emotional dilemmas. I especially enjoy Migi and his ongoing evolution towards a more human human than Shinichi (in current hybrid form) That said…

Meh? The animation has become a bit ho-hum, we’re retreading Shinichi’s emotional ground and nothing is really moving forward that hasn’t been put into place for weeks. It’s also a bit average, by Parasyte standards, we didn’t get a good fight or gore/terror injection this week. So, despite enjoying the show and the occasional bit of dark-black-humor, my verdict is much lower than Preston’s.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 14

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This week’s Parasyte was all about moving on. SatomixShinichi is no more; The private eye plot seems to be wrapped up, and Migi and Tamiya Ryouko both show signs of emotional growth, albeit in the opposite directions.

The last of these elements was most interesting, and possibly most horrifying as things with ramifications go, but everything that needed to happen did. SatomixShinichi especially needed to go. While entertaining, the distraction was holding the plot back and, until Murano is ready, there was no point in dragging it out longer.

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To quickly run down the events: Migi concedes killing every threat isn’t going to work, at least not work for MigixShinichi’s relationship, so they agree to trap and kidnap the P.I. and explain the situation.

Uda and “Joe,” his newly named parasyte, come and help. Ultimately, aside from driving a car and staying in the loop, they don’t really do much. Though I suppose Joe is there to show what a ‘pure’ parasyte is like, and how much Migi has evolved.

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How has Migi evolved? Certainly compromising his kill streak could be seen as same-old practical Migi. Likewise, when Migi berates the P.I. for being a lowly idiot of no worth compared to Shinichi, we could assume he’s just playing the typical ‘Migi Feels Superior’ card.

However, the plumb is in the details. Migi’s tone can read as exasperation, or even empathy for Shinichi’s struggle, which is definitely new.

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Later, Ryouko dismisses the P.I. and actually laughs about it, which is a change in her as well. Then she calls a stand-off with Shinichi on the roof of a university and they exchange barbs but have to break off before coming to blows.

Ultimately, there can be no peace between them. Shinichi’s rage over his mother and how terrible a mother Ryouko appears to be (human shield baby? Really??) not even his parasite can contain the rage.

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What was good: All of the developments were interesting, even the less spelled-out ones like the baby showing some signs of parasyte-like emotional control and response to a parasyte’s strong emotions.

It was also nice to see Uda and Joe again, if not because they are funny to watch.

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What could have worked better: Depends on what you want from Parasyte. This feels very mid-season as episodes go. A lot happened, but there wasn’t a strong overall arc and the developments were personal, character points, not plot developments.

Certainly this is understandable, and it didn’t feel like stalling (unlike some of the previous weeks). Even still, Parasyte faces the age-old challenge of filling two seasons’ worth of episodes without feeling plodding or bloated and this is creeping towards the plodding side of the spectrum.

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Over all, I enjoyed this episode more than the last two. Parasyte emotional development is more interesting than Shinichi’s devolution, after all.

I could use a car chase or a flashy love-interest offing tragic murder rampage though. Couldn’t you?

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Preston’s Take:

Ah, just when Migi has finally come around to Shinichi’s way of thinking—at least in terms of not killing everything in sight—Shinichi is provoked into a rage and wants to kill everything in sight. And just as Ryouko seemed to be trying to find a civilized solution to coexisting with humans and meets calmly with Shinichi on that roof, she kind of burns any potential bridges by mocking the murder of Shinichi’s mom with her newfound laugh.

As Franklin said, the parasytes are going in opposite directions, but I’d argue they’re both becoming more human as Shinichi becomes less. 

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I fully admit to being ShinichixSatomi shipper (even during the Kana Inkursion), even I agree the awkwardness reached critical mass. I do appreciate that his cold behavior was qualified this week by his desire to keep her safe, which wasn’t going to happen as long as she stayed close to him. Here’s the thing, though: when a guy tries to make a girl hate him, the girl doesn’t always cooperate.

I’ll also admit to liking the little scene of the P.I.’s home life. He’s not the best father or husband, but there’s love there, and it instantly made the previously annoying side character more sympathetic. But that the episode had the time to show us this speaks to the fact this show could be straining to fill 24 episodes.

“OUT OF THE WAY, HUMANS!!”

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 13

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Tamiya Ryouko is getting things done. She’s assembled a group of like-minded full-body parasytes willing to temper their primal urges and help her find more efficient ways to coexist with humans. Her baby is also coming along nicely, though the nanny she hired is freaked out when she touches the crying babe’s head and says “quiet”, and the baby just…shuts up. Just like that. Like flipping a switch.

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That ability to flip a switch on one’s emotions, both internally and externally and indeed without even knowing it, is what primarily troubles our unfortunate protagonist in this first episode of Parasyte’s second half (well, that and he’s almost discovered). I’ll be honest: I’m still pretty torn up about Kana dying, even if her death made perfect sense to the story, I had grown fond of her. So had Shinichi, but after that initial burst of fury that destroyed the parasyte that killed her, he’s been emotionally fit as a fiddle.

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His inability to remain pissed off is pissing him off, as contradictory as that sounds, so he heads to the scene of Kana’s death to try to muster up more…grief, or anger, or something. He desperately wants to, not just because it’s what normal humans do, but because he owes it to Kana.

But the private investigator Ryouko hired follows him, and Migi acts on his own on behalf of both him and Shinichi in attempting to kill the witness. Shinichi manages to hold Migi back until he falls asleep, but we learn two things: one, when push comes to shove, Migi can still act alone; and two: Shinichi has had it awfully easy thus far, as far as the risk of exposure.

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Kana aside (look at me, flipping a switch…I’m terrible), if you’re a SatomixShinichi shipper like me, this…was not a great episode in terms of progress. Satomi knows from rumors that Shinichi was with Kana and was the first person to find the body of the high school girl murdered nearby. But she still trusts Shinichi, and is hoping he’ll eventually tell her everything.

But after the incident with the P.I., Shinichi’s so on-edge about being followed or watched, he blows right by a making-an-effort Satomi. God, they’re so frikkin’ doomed.

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When a teacher snaps him out of his somewhat silly ‘what if his class discovered what he truly is’ daydream, Shinichi books it out of there and returns home, where he turns on his super-hearing and eventually senses the P.I., who is in a sling and on a crutch but still doing the job he was paid for. Shinichi wants to explain, but the dude, understandably petrified, flees on sight.

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Yet even this bout of paranoia recedes, far faster than it should. Shinichi is starting to get it: the human being he was is gone, and he’s something else now; something better in some ways and far worse than others. And one of the worse things is being almost utterly emotionally unavailable. To his credit, he meets with Satomi to do what he probably should have done a while ago: cut her loose.

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Satomi takes control of their meeting, however, by saying whatever he’s holding back, or trying to maintain, he can tell her; he can trust her. In his head, Shinichi is a storm, itching to tell her, show her evrything. But then the switch flips, and he won’t tell her anything. He smiles his fake smile and softens his empty gaze, and tells her “Really, it’s nothing.”

He knows she doesn’t believe him. He knows she has no reason to. But in pushing her away, he reveals an emotion he still has in spades, whatever his outward demeanor: fear. He’s afraid of what Migi might do without his leave; of being caught and becoming a lab rat; of being responsible for another friend’s death…and he’s especailly afraid of how Satomi might react if she knew the truth.

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