Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Parasyte, vol. 2

The story: Shin and his parasitic right hand, Migi, are on their own for a few days while Shin's parents take a well-deserved vacation by the sea. First, the parasite and host get stuck in the middle of some sort of gang fight between Shin's high school and another. Later, Shin is subjected to a panicked phone call from his father. When Shin finally sees his parents again, he's thrown into a life-or-death situation that proves an emotional turning point for him. While Murano, the girl he likes, notices he's changing, Shin finally meets someone similarly afflicted by an alien parasite. By volume's end, Shin, who was worried about losing his humanity earlier in this volume, has undergone a fairly amazing physical metamorphosis.

Reaction: Things get moving fast with the opening pages revealing Shin worried about losing his human-ness and then walking into the middle of a fight involving a classmate. While there is a lot of action, much of the book is devoted to Shin's inner turmoil and external conflict with Migi. This compelling dichotomy drew me into this story, which could so easily devolve into an action-only series. It proves Hitoshi Iwaaki's ability to produce a compelling title with a can't-pull-your-eyes-away flurry of activity.

Deep thoughts: Shin's physical transformation is an interesting one, especially considering the usually deteriorating condition we associate with parasites. It seems that he's increasingly adapting and becoming stronger, as opposed to weakening from the increasingly dependent symbiotic relationship. In nature, parasites such as fleas, mosquitoes and ticks not only feed off of their hosts, but they also pass along other diseases and infections, from West Nile virus to Lyme disease. It's interesting to see that Migi is, for all intents and purposes, making Shin faster and stronger.

Artwork: The prevailing artwork here features a life-like and realistic design, interspersed with the surreal depictions of parasitic transformation. While the juxtaposition is, at first, jarring, it quickly seems almost normal, mirroring Shin's experience and that of those similarly afflicted. As far as characters go, I especially liked Uda, another person with a wrongfully attached parasite. His "soft" outward appearance matches his personality perfectly and he's an interesting contrast with Shin.

The verdict: Highly recommended. This manga really has it all—from horror to humor to a dash of romance. The concept is entirely unique and intrigues me so much that I know I'll finish this eight-book series as quickly as I can. Parasyte is available in the U.S. from Del Rey.

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