An anime television series adaptation by Madhouse, titled Parasyte -the maxim-, aired in Japan between October 2014 and March 2015. The English-language dub aired on Adult Swim’s Toonami block in America between October 2015 and April 2016. The manga has been adapted into two live-action films in Japan in 2014 and 2015.
Parasyte centers on a male 17-year-old high school student named Shinichi Izumi, who lives with his mother and father in a quiet neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan. One night, strange worm-like creatures with drills as a ‘head’ called Parasytes appear on Earth, taking over the brains of human hosts by entering through their ears or noses. One Parasite attempts to crawl into Shinichi’s nose while he sleeps, but fails as Shinichi wakes up, and enters his body by burrowing into his arm instead. In the Japanese version, it takes over his right hand and is named Migi, after the Japanese word for ‘right’; Tokyopop’s version-(English dub), in which the images are flipped horizontally, has the Parasite take over Shinichi’s left hand and it is named Lefty.
Because Shinichi was able to prevent Migi from travelling further up into his brain, both beings retain their separate intellect and personality. As the duo encounter other Parasites, they capitalize on their strange situation and gradually form a strong bond, working together to survive. This gives them an edge in battling other Parasites who frequently attack the pair upon realization that Shinichi’s human brain is still intact. Shinichi feels compelled to fight other Parasites, who devour humans as food, while enlisting Migi’s help.
The series’ antagonists, the Parasites are creatures of unknown origin which start off as worm-like creatures that instinctively enter the body of the nearest life form and travel to the brain to completely assimilate it while destroying the host’s identity in the process. From there, using the vital organs of the host bodies to survive, the Parasites would be driven with a need to kill humans and Parasites with failed host bodies. After assimilating their host, Parasites exhibit a variety of abilities that make them dangerous adversaries: the immediate area around their entry site (typically the head) is morphed into a versatile “parasite tissue” which can take a variety of offensive and defensive forms, and a parasite that successfully takes over a host’s brain can then maximize the physical potential of that host. In general, Parasite intelligence is comparable to humans, though their thought process is strictly rational and cold, with very little emotion. They are also capable of learning extremely quickly depending on their environment – Migi, for example, mastered Japanese after one night of reading books on the subject. While most Parasites initially acted alone, causing a chain of multiple grisly deaths coined the “mincemeat murders”, they eventually form groups for safety in numbers. By the time of the final chapter, Shinichi speculating that they might have been created as an evolutionary countermeasure to humans, the surviving Parasites are assumed to have gone into hiding and adopt themselves further into human society to keep their activities to a minimum.
- Reiko Tamura
- An extremely intelligent, calculating Parasite and one of the story’s main antagonists. She originally infected and took on the identity of a woman named Ryōko Tamiya, one of Shinichi’s high school teachers while suggesting a beneficial ceasefire. Unlike most of her kind, she is motivated by scientific inclinations with a drive to understand her kind’s biology, origin, and purpose. She learned that she is pregnant with a normal human infant as a consequence of being impregnated by Mr. A, deeming it interesting while forced to quit to avoid unwanted attention resulting from it. Though she intended to kill Shinichi soon after, she lets him and Migi live unmolested largely because she finds them an interesting anomaly worthy of study. After killing off Ryōko’s parents when they saw through her, the Parasite alters her face and creates the identity of “Reiko Tamura” while aligning herself with Takeshi Hirokawa. She eventually gives birth to Mr. A’s baby and later kills three of her fellow Parasites when they deemed her actions with a hired detective a threat to their plans. It was after Reiko killed the maddened detective to save her child that she allowed the police to brutally gun her down in a park instead of trying to resist or escape. The baby survives because of her protection and decision not to fight back against or run away from the police.
- Tamura is portrayed by Eri Fukatsu in the film.
- Mr. B
- A Parasite who attacks Shinichi and tries to coerce Migi into relocating to his arm in order to extend his own lifespan. To his surprise, Migi kills him on the pretense that relocation is too risky to try.
- Mr. A
- An highly aggressive Parasite formerly aligned with Reiko Tamura. When first introduced, he (or rather, his host body) fathers a child with Reiko as part of the latter’s experiment. Described by Migi as “not one of our smart ones” and called a fool by Reiko, Mr. A is extremely impulsive and animalistic. He has little capacity for subtlety or deception, and no qualms about killing humans in the presence of numerous witnesses. Shinichi is forced to battle Mr. A when he attempts to hunt Shinichi down and kill him at school. Though Shinichi and Migi mortally wound him, they are forced to flee before they could kill him. Mr. A attempts to find Reiko to transfer himself to her body and survive, but she rigs the room to explode to completely destroy him to preserve her human cover.
- Hideo Shimada
- Hideo is a Parasite with a teenager’s body who decides to integrate with human society. Hideo enrolls in Shinichi’s high school on Reiko’s suggestion and expresses a desire to become friends with Shinichi, who does not trust him. Although Hideo is a relatively peaceful Parasite, he has no qualms about brutalizing or even killing bullies who try to start fights with him, and he continues to hunt humans despite claiming to be learning to eat like a person. But when Yuko uncovered his secret and confronts him about it, Hideo ends up being exposed to paint-thinner during the confrontation as Yuko manages to escape. The paint-thinner’s chemical make-up disrupts Hideo’s Parasite cells, causing him to go on an involuntary killing spree across the school. He is killed after he escapes to the roof, when Shinichi, using Migi to enhance his right arm’s strength, throws a well-aimed stone through his chest, destroying his heart.
- Shimada is played by Masahiro Higashide in the film.