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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
New Smithson! 
26th-Apr-2007 09:31 am
My little filler alphabet poem continues. Not all of these characters have appeared in Smithson yet, but I think all of them will eventually. The only one I'm not sure I'll find room for is Ulysses, a.k.a. Ulysses Tennyson, first president of the college and namesake of the dorm where Chuck and Scooter live.


Also, Andrew has another installment of The Chronicles of William Bazillion up! Seldom have I seen so little artwork put to so much use. My hat goes off to him.

Yo, I'm Shaenon. That's right, my LiveJournal's a trip. It's time for the Overlooked Manga Festival!

Every once in a while, an overlooked manga gets a second chance. Such is the case with this week's manga, which was published by Tokyopop so long ago that Tokyopop was still called Mixx. (Remember MixxZine? Pocket Manga? Sailor Moon everything? Come on, it was less than ten years ago! Don't make me feel old!) It's been out of print for a while, but now Del Rey is bringing it back, so that American readers can once more enjoy the adventures of a boy and his anthrophagic parasitic hand.

Parasyte was a very popular manga in Japan during its run in the 1990s, but passed in and out of print without notice here, despite going through a couple of editions from Mixx/Tokyopop. Incidentally, the first Mixx edition is quite possibly the most entertainingly bad English edition of a manga ever (as opposed to, say, the early ADV manga, which are just bad). Behold the classic back cover to Volume 1:

I don't know how it is at other manga companies, but over at the Viz offices there are several longtime editors who can quote that passage from memory. I bet Carl Horn can rap it.

The other Parasyte moment that gets the thumbs-up from all my manga-editing pals:

One thing you want to avoid in the men's room: letting your left hand act strange.

Anyway. Parasyte is sort of nominally a horror manga, combining the best elements of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Alien, Terminator 2, and Every Which Way But Loose. As the story begins, strange spores drift to the earth and infect hapless humans. Drilling into the victim's head, a spore takes over the brain and upper body and becomes a shapeshifting monster with an appetite for human flesh. Like so:

But one Parasyte accidentally infects its victim's arm instead, leaving his brain intact. The victim, a teenage boy named Shin, finds himself stuck with an erudite, shapeshifting hand, which he names Lefty. (In the original Japanese, the hand is named Migi, or "Righty," but the Tokyopop edition is flopped to read left-to-right, so...) Lefty is a rational soul, so he brokers an alliance with Shin, and the two team up to protect themselves from human authorities and other Parasytes.

Lefty/Migi is, by far, the greatest parasitic hand in all manga. He thoroughly kicks the ass of the face-hand from Vampire Hunter D, the black-hole hand from Inu-Yasha, and the airheaded-teenage-girl hand from Midori Days, hands down. Um. Sorry. But it's true. He's a great character, and probably one of the main reasons this manga was a hit in Japan.

In fact, much of the appeal of Parasyte, aside from the cheerfully-rendered gore, is the way the Parasytes develop from body-snatching menaces into something more complex. Like the Alien movies, the manga spends a lot of time carefully detailing the biology of its monsters. But it also takes them in unexpected directions as characters. The Parasytes are intelligent, and, although they lack human emotions and morality, some of them develop personalities as time goes on. Chief among them is Tamara Rockford (Reiko Tamura in the Japanese), an unusually canny Parasyte who experiments on herself and her fellow Parasytes in an effort to figure out what they are and why they appeared on Earth (a question, incidentally, that's never really answered, although several theories are presented).

And it goes the other way, too, as Shin gets infected with Parasyte blood and starts to develop superhuman strength while losing his human emotions. This is both awesome, as Shin acquires the ability to totally kick ass, and troubling, as he drifts farther and farther away from humanity whether he likes it or not.

The border between human and Parasyte is constantly breached: there's man who lives symbiotically with a Parasyte located in his jaw, a Parasyte who gives birth to a human baby, and a serial killer whose sense of morality puts him on par with the Parasytes even though he's 100% human. This reflects the manga's quasi-environmentalist outlook, which sees humans as just another species of animal and the human species as a parasite on the Earth.

As you've probably noted from these sample pages, Parasyte is almost certainly the worst-drawn manga ever featured in the Overlooked Manga Festival. I've heard it described charitably as "dated" and somewhat more accurately as "stiff." Hitoshi Iwaaki can basically draw one thing really well: people's bodies rippling into freaky mutant forms. Everything else gives him serious trouble. On the other hand, he does come up with some great Parasyte visuals.

It's the story that carries Parasyte: the horror, the action, the human drama, the Parasyte drama, the buddy-picture bonding, the oddly reflective bouts of philosophy. It's an unusually thoughtful horror manga, and I hope it wins some new readers when Del Rey brings it back into print on May 1. But, you know, life's a bitch...

Previous Overlooked Manga Festivities:
Please Save My Earth
From Eroica with Love
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga
Dr. Slump
Your and My Secret
Wild Act
Knights of the Zodiac
The Drifting Classroom
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 1
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 2
OMF Special Event: Manga Editors Recommend Manga, Part 3
OMF Special Event: Great Moments in Manga Baking
Shout Out Loud
Warren Buffett: An Illustrated Biography of the World's Most Successful Investor
Sexy Voice and Robo
OMF Special Event: 2006 Overlooked Manga Update
The Four Immigrants Manga
Gerard and Jacques
Ode To Kirihito
Bringing Home the Sushi
Banana Fish
Skip Beat
OMF Special Event: The Greatest Manga Magazine in American History
Cyborg 009
Anywhere But Here
To Terra
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
Doing Time
The Walking Man
Sugar Sugar Rune
26th-Apr-2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
This is the first Overlooked Manga you've mentioned that I've actually read before -- not all of it, just the first volume or so. I had no idea it was overlooked. Weird.
16th-Jul-2008 01:22 am (UTC)
So I had no idea who he was, but we started talking, and hit it off, we kind of liked each other, and I thought, "Boy, it's going to be cool to work with this guy.
26th-Apr-2007 07:06 pm (UTC)
Wow, I had almost forgotten Parasyte. I think I only ever owned the first graphic novel (and I remember laughing at that back cover), but I read almost the entire run in Mixxzine/Tokyopop. I was very sad when the lion got decapitated :(

I didn't know it was coming back into print... I'll have to check it out.
26th-Apr-2007 07:43 pm (UTC) - little art Ha!
It's not "little art work" it's LOTS OF LOVELY BLACK.

26th-Apr-2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
Awww man, Ulysses.

He was seriously the one where I was like OH YES I WANT TO SEE THAT CHARACTER.

And who I started speccing on immediately. If you don't use him, you are so getting Smithson fanfic.
26th-Apr-2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
AH! I remember that!
26th-Apr-2007 10:07 pm (UTC)
I really liked Kiseijyu. I actually tried to get DH to publish it, but Mike shot it down (understandably) over the art. And I guess it was a bit too early to try selling something like that, as Mixx found out. Still, it deserves better than it got, and hopefully Del Rey can finish the series. I have less hope for a exceptional translation, since that is Del Rey's weak point.
BTW, thanks for the kind words on Anywhere But Here. I had hoped to start a line of "sub-culture" manga at Fantagraphics, but since ABH sold so poorly despite massive critical acclaim, Gary pretty much lost interest. I have a sad little stack of manga on my desk that will probably never see print, now....
C'est la vie.
16th-Jul-2008 05:13 pm (UTC)
And Chavez, on his fourth stint with the Mets, was signed as a 25th man — a brilliant defender whose inability to hit much better than Rey Ordonez made him little more than a luxury.
26th-Apr-2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
OMG I read a chapter of this ages ago when I was little. This scared the crap outta me.

Though I swore up and down this story existed no one believed me, and the fact it just seemed to drop from print didn't help my case either. I'm actually relieved to see that this is an actual series and not some crazy thing I made up as a child.

16th-Jul-2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
"Reduced corporate income tax revenue Help me with this one, when I read it, This one could be just me not getting it.
27th-Apr-2007 06:44 pm (UTC)
Ah! The head-chomping scene!

I was reading that in a manga shop in Kumamoto, and I was all like, "Whoah!" But I never remembered the name of the comic.

Thanks for bringing it up.
30th-Apr-2007 02:24 pm (UTC)
"My arm's a trip"??? Man, where have I been? Also, you have gotten the "Gashlycrumb Tinies" stuck in my head, but how is that different from any other day?
25th-Sep-2007 08:27 pm (UTC)
I was Googling for Parasyte after reading the first volume at my local public library. I think this review/synopsis and the one about the Warren Buffet manga are some of your best output. Mind if I add you to flist?
(Deleted comment)
12th-Dec-2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
Die in a fire, spammer.
7th-Jun-2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
Here little review about Parasyte manga:

They arrive in silence and darkness. They descend from the skies. They have a hunger for human flesh. They are everywhere. They are parasites, alien creatures who must invade–and take control of–a human host to survive. And once they have infected their victims, they can assume any deadly form they choose: monsters with giant teeth, winged demons, creatures with blades for hands. But most have chosen to conceal their lethal purpose behind ordinary human faces. So no one knows their secret–except an ordinary high school student. Shin is battling for control of his own body against an alien parasite, but can he find a way to warn humanity of the horrors to come?

You can buy Parasyte manga at manga comic


Andy Landers


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19th-Nov-2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
this was one of the most influental comics of my entire youth. fuck sailor moon, parasyte was where it was at 100% until evangelion came along for me.

it's still awesome and i'm still super thrilled to have the whole series in print.
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