I’ve been a huge Parasyte fan well before the anime was released. I was a fan before Del Rey rereleased its publication. I used to read Parasyte in MixxZine, Tokyopop’s now-ancient manga magazine, when it was serialized alongside Sailor Moon, Magic Knight Rayearth, and Ice Blade. Back when manga was translated to read left-to-right, when Migi’s name was changed to Lefty due to the flipped images.
That was a really long time ago.
When I heard there was going to be a Parasyte anime in late 2014, I was both excited and worried. Parasyte was among my first manga and I was thrilled to see it come to life, but….20 years after the manga finished?
For those who haven’t read or watched Parasyte, it’s basically a sci-fi/horror about alien parasites that take over human bodies, turning them into monsters that devour humans in some sort of graphic manner. Like chomping their heads off. The parasites look human until they strike – then they look something like this:
Basically, their heads split open in some terrifying way, and there’s lots of blades and teeth involved.
Anyway, the story revolves around a high school boy named Shinichi, whose body gets abducted by a parasite. However, since the parasite fails to reach his brain, it can only survive in his right hand (hence naming it the Japanese word for right – “Migi”). Since Migi is dependent on Shinichi’s survival, it helps Shinichi battle the other parasites to defend themselves and Shinichi’s friends – and really everyone else from being eaten.
The manga was notorious for its horrifying parasites, gore, and dark atmosphere. The (human) characters were drawn realistically, no “kawaii” elements, overall a pretty serious story. Despite being published alongside magical girl manga, Parasyte was intended for an audience of adult males. Neither the art nor plot was made to appeal to the stereotypical mainstream anime fans who preferred magical girls, happy-go-lucky protagonists, and/or epic adventures often filled with action and laughter.
The anime, as I feared, took a different turn from the manga.
The plot is generally the same. Compared to most anime, it follows pretty well. In fact, if I didn’t read the manga, I’d probably really like the anime. The gore and crazy aliens have not been cheated.
But pretty much everything else I liked has.
It’s almost painful how much the animators are trying to appeal to the modern, mainstream audience. The character designs are almost completely different. When I first saw the promo art, I was confused. For a moment, I thought they completely changed the cast.
Shinichi is awkwardly nerdy at the start of the series. He eventually looks a bit more badass later on in the anime, but he was never that awkward or nerdy in the manga. Yes, he doesn’t spike his hair at the very beginning, but he was pretty much just an average guy.
Shinichi in the anime, before and after:
v.s. in the manga, before and after changing:
As for Shinichi’s female friends, they’ve become much cuter for the anime.
Murano, his best friend, anime vs manga:
Colored hair, cuter style.
“Bad girl” Kana, anime vs manga:
She’s still sassier than Murano, but far less rebellious than she was in the manga. Girlier clothes, tidier hair.
I could rant on about character difference, but I think you get the idea.
What frustrates me is the anime creators felt Parasyte would not be appealing to today’s audience without the archetypal geeky boy surrounded by a sea of cute girls as potential love interests. The female presence is stronger in the anime – there are five chicks on the promo art for the anime. Nothing against girls – hell, I AM a girl. It’s just that this isn’t an accurate representation of the original Parasyte story. The art on the manga covers were of disfigured parasite humans with multiple eyeballs and twisted faces.
The dark vibe is almost completely gone from the anime. It’s not necessarily a bright atmosphere, but the darkness has definitely been lifted. It’s more of a Black Butler or D.Gray-man sort of dark, minus the fantasy elements. Dark, creepy, but you know it’ll be okay.
The creators also tried to modernize the show to an almost awkward level. The characters use iPads to read the news while eating breakfast. iPads. I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve seen an iPad in anime. It’s like the creators are screaming, “Look at how modern we are! Don’t be turned off by how old the manga is because this is a totally hip show!” Dubstep music plays during the battles between parasites – which is actually kind of cool, especially since it makes for a good sci-fi battle vibe – but also a little tacky. It further emphasizes how had they’re trying to be modern and as not-90s as possible.
Maybe I’m just over analyzing the anime. Maybe it really was necessary to modernize the characters and overall vibe of the show. But if that’s the case, isn’t it at least a little sad that we, as anime fans, come off to the creators as so narrow-minded that they have to completely revamp a series to make it marketable? Or that they feel it’s more important to have a show be marketable than to please the already-existing fans?
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t watch the Parasyte anime. The action is still awesome, the music kind of cool, and Aya Hirano (voice of Misa Amane, Haruhi Suzumiya, Konata Izumi, Lucy Heartfilia) plays Migi…which is actually really amazing. If you like sci-fi horror, you will probably love Parasyte, but if you read the manga first, you – like me – might be disappointed by the changes. (And if you haven’t read the manga, you should totally read it.)
Have you read and/or watched Parasyte? What did you think? Did the changes bother you? Comment below! I’d love to hear your opinion!