by Hitoshi Iwaaki; adapted by Andrew Cunningham
published by Del Rey Manga; $12.99 US
This volume concludes the manga horror series about shape-shifting parasites that become serial killers. What I really like about it, though, is the journey Shinichi has been on over the course of the series. He moves from standard schoolboy to individual capable of making his own moral decisions.
Shinichi is the previously normal boy who’s playing host to one of the alien creatures. (Note: they seem pretty alien to me, but I seem to recall an early author’s note that says they don’t come from another planet. Instead, they represent how we can be at war with our environment, and how badly humans treat the earth at times.) He lost an arm but gained an inhuman companion, with its own choices and morals. As he and Migi have been forced to learn about each other, trapped together as they are and faced with atrocities committed by others of both species, they’ve provided hope for co-existence and adaptation.
As this book begins, once again, Shinichi and Migi are facing a monster. A parasite with immense abilities — stronger, faster, and more determined than they are — is going to kill them, and all they have as an advantage is their ability to do the unpredictable. That includes considering the choice of separation. It’s a testament to the way the story has developed that Shinichi thinks of the possibility of losing the alien inhabitant of his body as a loss, something to be mourned.
He takes temporary shelter with a funny older woman in the country, but even finding a hiding place away from the city and the carnage won’t work for long. The monster is still coming, and these people are at risk. This period of reflection, of what if, serves as a gentle respite between the escape from the menacing cliffhanger of the previous volume and the final struggle.
The theme of the book, the drive for survival and the question of how far someone should go to keep themselves alive, is revisited. How selfish can one person be to keep living at the expense of sacrificing others? Is caring for even one other person what makes us human? Guilt can be a sufficient motivation for noble acts, the desire not to save your own life if it requires too much in return. There’s also an acknowledgment of ecological Darwinism. How you feel about which is the monster may depend on your place in the food chain and loyalty to your species.
The inevitable showdown between Shinichi and the super-parasite is as much mental as physical. He has many difficult decisions to make, and there’s a feeling of inevitability to much of it, between the rules of fiction and the premises of the story. Two additional chapters serve as epilogue. One has some mind-blowing concepts about existence, while the other jumps ahead a year to show where the characters are and how the world, and they, have changed. Additional material includes eight pages of the author answering reader questions, including elaborating on what he sees as humanity’s greatest quality, and reflecting on the completion of the series.
I’m glad I read this series, although it has elements that would normally turn me away. The horror here, although bloody at times, is more intellectual than slasher or gross-out, and it’s that ability to provoke deep reflection that kept me interested in Shinichi and Migi’s story.