Would the destructive tendencies of humanity be reduced if the population was cut by half, or more? It’s a question posed, at the beginning and end of Parasyte, a startling new Japanese Sci-Fi feature that closed this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.
Parasyte opens with small scuttling, prawn-like aliens, appearing on earth and finding their way into present day Japan. The creatures enter the human body through the ear or nose and take over their host’s brain, then transform their body into a deadly killing machine. The infested humans in turn feed on other humans and soon bloody, unsolved murders with cannibalistic overtones start to trouble the police.
Meanwhile Shinichi Izumi (Shota Sometani) a shy, withdrawn, artistically talented high school student, strikes up a very unique relationship with one of the aliens, Migi (voiced by Sadao Abe). Shinichi, like any teenage boy wants his own independence, but is still very close to his mother Nobuko (Kimiko Yo) and also has a (mutual) crush on fellow student Satomi Murano (Ai Hashimoto)
Shinichi and Migi are forced to rely on each other to survive, and while Migi wants to co-operate with the other aliens, the pair find themselves caught in a series of increasingly deadly encounters which will inevitably threaten Nobuko and Satomi.
There are many familiar themes at work in Parasyte, from body snatching aliens to high schoolers on the frontlines of the battle to save humanity. But, it’s all handled in such a startling, grim and unique way that one could never accuse this film of being formulaic.
On the contrary, Parasyte is a rather ambitious piece of film-making; ambitious and successful. From the low-contrast, desaturated look, to the warm, tender moments between Shinichi and both Nobuko and Satomi, there is much about Parasyte that feels fresh and engaging.
Parasyte is the latest film from director Takashi Yamazaki (Space Battleship Yamato and The Eternal Zero), and based on the assured performances, gripping visuals, subtle humour and sheer terror, this film looks set to continue the director’s run of commercial successes. Adapted from a manga, “Kiseiju” by Hitoshi Iwaaki, Parasyte is the first of what will be two films, with the conclusion slated for next year. So, not every part of the story resolves by the time the credits roll.
Genre fans of either alien-invasion style Sci-Fi or body possession Horror will immediately find lots to like about Parasyte. But, given the emotional range of the film, its unique twists on familiar themes and the surprising, at times rather funny relationship between Shinichi and Migi, this film should appeal to a wider audience. Recommended.