Parasyte: Part 1


Reviewed by: Luke Shaw

Parasyte: Part 1
"What could have been turned into a gritty, gloomy film with a penchant for gore, instead retains the lighthearted feel of the manga."

One of life’s great truths is that you’ll never really get to experience everything. There are too many films, books, albums, and if you’re so inclined there’s probably more manga in existence than you read in a lifetime. Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte ran for 7 years, from 1988-95, and it’s one of the few whose lack of recognition has always puzzled me, though its themes, which ape Otomo’s masterpiece Akira, and its aliens that appear to have dropped straight out of Carpenter’s The Thing perhaps make people believe it's a more derivative experience that it actually is. Instead, it’s a fairly interesting story about a young boy who finds his hand taken over by a shapeshifting alien parasite, but Iwaaki touched on all sorts of environmental fears and social concerns which for my money elevate Parasyte beyond its lowly pulp roots.

Fast forward to 2014, Parasyte got reimagined in a modern context by Madhouse, and now, thanks to New Line Cinema’s rights to option it lapsing, Toho have released a two part live-action version of the story. Shota Sometani is Shinichi Izumi, the young boy who ends up with an alien in his right hand, which dubs itself “Migi” after the Japanese for right. He finds himself drawn into a Bodysnatchers style scenario where the parasites are trying to eat their way through the populace of Japan whilst masquerading as human. The horrific body horror of The Fly and The Thing are called to mind here, as the parasites inhabit their hosts heads, morphing them into flower like maws, or uncoiling like bladed orange peels.

Copy picture

What could have been turned into a gritty, gloomy film with a penchant for gore, instead retains the lighthearted feel of the manga with Sometani having to undertake some amusing physical comedy as Migi acts with a mind of its own. The plot has been remixed and truncated to fit into the two films, and in doing so it loses a little of its flow and Eighties melodrama, but the main beats are still present: pragmatic Ryoko Tamiya (Eri Fukatsu) still infiltrates his school and gets her host body pregnant as ‘experiments’, the social commentary about working mothers in Japan is still present, and Shinichi’s mother is still unwittingly dragged into the action by the atavistic Mr. A.

Overall, it's the blend of pulpy humour, over the top wriggly parasite combat, and some pleasingly tactile looking visual effects that make the film. Migi himself (Sadabo Abe) isn’t quite voiced with the detachment and clinical nature that he’s written with, and Shinichi’s slow transition towards thinking like a parasite is performed in a way that makes Sadabo’s performance look flat. As it's a cultural relic, its interesting to see it gain so much attention in such a short space of time considering its age. This is a modern take on an oddball manga that addressed some post WW2 concerns in Japan, and if nothing else it should at least entertain, and hopefully encourage people to seek out some the more left-field titles that have been lost over the years.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2015
Share this with others on...
A Tokyo teenager has to try to live witha mutant parasite that takes control of his right arm.

Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Writer: Hitoshi Iwaaki, Ryota Kosawa, Takashi Yamazaki

Starring: Shôta Sometani, Eri Fukatsu, Ai Hashimoto, Kazuki Kitamura, Masahiro Higashide, Tadanobu Asano, Miko Yoki, Jun Kunimura, Hirofumi Arai, Pierre Taki, Sadao Abe, Satoshi Araki, Nao Ohmori, Kimiko Yo

Year: 2014

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: Japan


EIFF 2015

Search database: