by Hitoshi Iwaaki; adapted by Andrew Cunningham
published by Del Rey Manga; $12.95 US
After the cat-and-mouse chase from the previous book, Shinichi finds himself bloody, wounded, and exhausted, hiding out in an anonymous crowd from the monsters that want to kill him. He’s a hybrid, and still, no one yet completely recognizes what that means. The fully possessed parasites just see “threat” and seek to remove him and anyone else who knows about them.
Although some of the implications of his unique status are made clear in the opening sequence. Migi, the parasite living in his right hand, ignored morals in order to get them the resources they needed to escape. His words echo back to a lesson of the first book, still not fully understood, by Shinichi:
I’m not human, so human laws and morality don’t apply. … I did this so I could survive. Listen, you and I are cooperating, but we are still different species. We must respect each other’s differences. We have to avoid pushing our own ideals on the other. That will only distract from our common goal–survival.
But how do you respect someone’s differences when their attitudes and actions call into question everything you believe? And does that respect go both ways? Shinichi’s being asked to respect Migi’s brutal survival-at-all-costs attitude, but does Migi respect Shinichi’s qualms and ethics? It’s very difficult to draw a clear line between respect and acquiescence when Shinichi is benefiting from Migi’s theft.
This kind of difficult moral debate, without clear answers, is taking place in the middle of an adrenaline-fueled sequence driven by fear of discovery and death. That’s why I like this book, plus the well-crafted art that uses exaggeration for emotional punch. And the humor, as when, for example, Migi pulls money out of a pocket he’s created in Shinichi’s wrist. How convenient and practical, if you’re an inhuman shapeshifter.
There’s power to affect the reader in the way that everyone’s families are put in danger. It’s an obvious approach, but that’s what makes it of universal concern. These connections with others are both cause and effect for future events. A detective wanted out, to protect his wife and child, but he made the decision too late, pulling him deeper into events. A schoolgirl with a crush on Shinichi provides a more normal view of the changes he’s going through with her perceptions and fears of how different he is.
The parasite woman who gave birth is perceived as no longer really one of the tribe, since she has another claim on her attention. That leads to one of the most disturbing fights in the series, as parasites take each other on not just directly but through attempted infiltration. The resulting questions of identity and how it’s controlled and formed are a high-brain distraction from some truly grotesque images of dissection.
In the end, the love for others is what redeems us and keeps us human in the face of immense danger. Now that the government’s gotten involved, I’m curious to see what next happens to Shinichi. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)