Sunday, April 19, 2015

Parasyte - the Maxim

Parasyte – the Maxim is a unique series about strange non-human parasite creatures that just appear one day and begin killing and/or taking over humans.  They are kind of slimy-bug-worm looking in their natural form.  They burrow into humans, if possible through the ear or nose, and try to take over the brain.  If they succeed, the human is dead and the parasite has a human appearance and begins killing and eating other humans indiscriminately. Some of the parasites mistakenly take over animals instead of humans and don’t do well.  And a few manage to burrow into humans but don’t succeed in taking over the brain.  They can then only control that part of the body they take over.

The story plot line follows a middle school boy named Izumi Shinichi who has a parasite take over his right hand.  He calls the parasite Migi (right), and a lot of the plot involves the two of them coming to terms with each other.  Early on they discover they must work together to survive, as other parasites who have taken over humans completely try to kill them.  So they learn and discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  In addition, Migi learns a lot about human values, and Shinichi learns that human values may not apply to all creatures.
Early in the series the parasites simply take over humans and then kill and eat other humans.  But as the story progresses, they begin to try to fit into human society.  Early on Shinichi’s Mom is taken over by a parasite, and she kills Shinichi by a thrust through the heart.   Shinichi lives because Migi enters his bloodstream and repairs his heart using some of Migi’s flesh.  This causes Migi and Shinichi to integrate together, with Shinichi gaining extra-human abilities in the form of speed, agility and strength, and no longer needing glasses.

Shinichi and Migi spend a lot of time avoiding the parasites that come after them trying to kill them.  They also learn to work together and they fight a number of parasites, defeating them when by rights the fully integrated parasites should be stronger.  Shinichi and Migi befriend another parasite-human mix who helps them kill Shinichi’s Mom.

They also interact repeatedly with a parasite named Tamura Reiko.  Reiko is a logical and somewhat scientific parasite who has been trying to figure out what the parasites are, why they exist and how they can co-exist with humans.  She and a parasite who has taken over a male have sex and Reiko gives birth to a baby, who is completely human.  So she determines the parasites are fragile beings with no apparent ability to reproduce.  She deplores the parasites killing humans for food, as they draw attention by doing that and they are vulnerable.  The authorities already know of the parasite’s existence and they target and kill Reiko, who chooses to protect her human baby over her own life.

After Reiko’s death at the hands of the authorities, a parasite extermination is planned and carried out, but the exterminating military forces are wiped out by an insanely strong parasite named Gotou.   Gotou was created by Reiko and is actually many parasites controlling different body parts, and all controlled by one parasite in the brain.  Gotou has almost no vulnerabilities.  He decides he must kill Shinichi in order to move on.  Shinichi and Migi run from him, but are forced to face and fight him eventually.  Part of their strategy is to separate (which Migi can do for brief periods of time) and tackle him separately since he cannot sense Shinichi when Migi is not part of Shinichi’s body. 

Their plot almost succeeds, but Migi is killed and Shinichi runs.  He then realizes he must face the Gotou and try to prevent it from killing more people.  So he returns and manages to stab the monster with a toxic piece of metal he grabbed from a toxic waste dump.  At the height of the conflict, Migi, who was absorbed into Gotou’s monster body, returns to Shinichi as the parasite in Gotou's brain loses control of the parasites in his body.   Migi and Shinichi finally kill him and return to Shinichi’s everyday school life.

Throughout the series there is also a budding love story between Shinichi and his childhood friend Murano Satomi, which has its ups and downs.  The love between them is hampered by Shinichi dealing with the parasite in his body and Satomi not liking him being so weird and secretive.  The relationship does go forward though.  At the end of the series Migi gives Shinichi back his right hand fully and disappears into Shinichi’s body and subconscious.  Shinichi struggles to deal with the loss of his “friend” but discovers Migi isn’t permanently gone, as he shows up to help rescue Satomi at the last.

This is a really unique series, and despite it being fairly bloody, I liked it a lot.  It got a little preachy at times about human hubris and being top of the food chain at the expense of everything else on earth, but overall it was very much worth watching.  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama

Kaichou wa Maid-Sama is a slice of life anime series adapted from a manga.  It’s a romantic comedy centered around a high school girl and boy, Ayuzawa Misaki and Usui Takumi.  Misaki is an all-star student who is also the student council president of a rough, mostly male, high school called Seika High.  Seika High used to be male only, and has a reputation for being rough and unsafe.  Misaki’s primary goal as student council president is to rein the school in, making it safer for girls and less rough and tumble.  As such, Misaki is adored by the instructors and her female student friends.  However, she is mostly feared by the male student population as a boy-hating, rule-following, cold, demon student council president.

Misaki’s family is poor and she has a part-time job to help out.  Her personality is straight-forward and aggressive at school, and her secret is that her part time job is at a maid café where she works as a maid.   Because this job is so at odds with the tough, boy-hating persona she wears at school, Misaki keeps it a secret.  Usui discovers the secret in the first episode and begins to frequent the café.

Usui Takumi is a somewhat mysterious, good-looking, smart, athletic and popular boy, and he is attracted to Misaki from the very beginning of the series.  So basically this series is their love story, as he works to bring her around to accepting him.  Once he discovers her secret, he uses it to get closer to her, but he basically spends all his time supporting and protecting her. 

The story line is not much more than that.  It follows their everyday lives, including what’s going on in the maid café, at the school, and in the lives of their friends and family.   Misaki gains a following along the way and even when some of the boys learn her secret, they keep it for her.   Some episodes focus on Misaki’s family, some on Usui’s family, and some focus on things their various friends are doing.  And of course, during the series, a love rival for Misaki’s affection shows up.

There are some plot elements added by a rivalry with an upper-class high school and its snobby students.   Misaki is offered a scholarship to the upper-class school, which her friends worry that she will take.  Along the way, the upper class high school’s student council president, Igarashi Tora, discovers Misaki’s maid secret, and then tries to take advantage of her when he gets her alone.   When she refuses him and his school, he tries to force her.

This is one of the several times that Usui rescues Misaki.  In fact he spends a lot of time pulling her out of tight spots.  At the end of the series he finally gets her to admit that she wants to be with him, even if she doesn’t fully understand her feelings for him.  

This series is definitely not one with a fast-paced, intense plot line.  There are no cliff-hanger episodes, no twisty, unexpected plot devices.  It's just a nice, even-paced love story, following two main characters with fairly normal teenage lives.  The animation and character style is really pretty though, so it's nice to watch.  Plus nobody dies and the main characters get together.  As a slice of life life anime, it's worth watching.