Grisly comic depicts
life with aliens
Science fiction carries certain connotations. Prosperous cities and robotic thingamajigs are prevalent themes, although wastelands and desolate planets have their niche as well.
But the core of sci-fi is not simply how different things will be in the future; it is how people retain the traits that define us as "human," or how far they have strayed from those qualities.
The Japanese manga "Parasyte" by Hitoshi Iwaaki explores that second theme.
One night, hundreds of wormlike alien creatures land on Earth. Before they mature, these aliens seek to infect a human brain and take control of the host body.
In Japan, one of those infected is a teenager named Shin, but he sees the alien crawling up inside his left arm and manages to stop its progress by tying a sheet around his arm. So the alien matures in Shin's arm, and since neither can survive without the other -- the alien now depends on Shin's health, and of course there's no way it would allow Shin to amputate the arm -- it's the beginning of an interesting symbiotic relationship.
In a spurt of originality, Shin names the alien "Lefty." The aliens are intelligent and can speak and morph into any shape and appearance. But because of their manner of survival, Shin starts referring to them as "Parasytes," and the name sticks.
Humans are Parasytes' food, leading to a rash of deaths. The remains are so horribly mangled that the deaths are called the "Mincemeat Murders."
That said, this manga is definitely not for children. This is hands-down the most gruesome comic I have ever had the stomach to read. People literally get chomped in half, limbs sliced, decapitated, you name it, all in the game of survival.
ONCE THE humans learn what is in their midst, they fight back. Shin, being one of the few symbionts, is a target for true Parasytes out to kill anyone who knows about them, thus endangering everyone around him. Much of the manga's violence concerns Shin and his dealings with Parasytes.
"Parasyte" is a microcosm of evolution, as the aliens first go about their survival in the most mindless, primitive way imaginable but then rapidly adapt to human society. The "Mincemeat Murders" taper off as the aliens learn to feed in more discreet ways.
But as is true in any interspecies contact, there are "deviants": Some Parasytes are trying to get along in the human world, eating human food and taking human jobs. And the symbionts must learn to live with their Parastye parts.
In the process, humans and Parasytes learn things about themselves, both as separate species and in relation to each other. This makes some wonder if it is possible to live peacefully together.
THIS IS ALL seen through the eyes of Shin, who struggles with daily survival and with the future; his own and humans'. He tries to come to grips with the reality of having Lefty while trying to maintain a "normal" human life.
Conversations between Shin and Lefty are highly philosophical as the manga delves into the basics of nature -- or, as another Parasyte puts it, the inherent commands that each species is born to follow.
Lefty's intelligent observations make it easy to see why aliens would consider it a boon to Earth to eliminate the human race. We are made to realize that most of what we think is good and proper is so only in the eyes of a human.
It's a sobering thought as people try harder to discover and contact aliens. It begs larger questions: Can two species with very different views ever cohabitate, or will contact inevitably lead to the decimation of one? And what of humans' own devastating impact on the planet?
They are questions that will likely never be answered.
Wilma Jandoc covers the universe
of video games, anime, and manga for
the Star-Bulletin. She can be e-mailed at