Wednesday, May 02, 2007

NEW COMICS DAY: Parasyte redux

It's Wednesday, which means it's time to visit your local shop and pick up new books. I took a healthy 1.5 week break from buying any comics or manga after APE, but I think it's time to start up again :)

A few titles of note, issue 3 of Jeff Smith's Shazam and um, Buffy Season Eight #3 are out today, and might be worth checking out. The manga we're most hyped about is the Del Rey re-release of Hitoshi Iwaaki's PARASYTE!

Now, if you've been into manga for a while, you've likely heard of this title before. The series originally debuted as one of the main titles seralized in the manga monthly Mixx Magazine (Mixx being the former name for Toykopop), and was later published in 11 volumes. I remember personally being an avid reader of Mixx waaaay back in 1997 (I was 15 years old, yes), and Parasyte was probably the first "horror" manga I ever encountered.

Briefly, the story of Parasyte (Kiseiju in Japanese) involves weird pods landing on Earth bearing parasitic worms that take over humans, turning them into shape-shifting cannibals. In some cases, the worms inhabit dogs, or fail to fully take over their hosts. The main character, Shin, is one of the lucky infected, and the sentient parasyte merely takes over his arm. The rest of the story follows Shin and his talking/shapeshifting killer parasyte hand (which is dubbed 'Lefty' in the flipped Mixx edition) navigating a symbiotic relationship with each other, which includes hunting down other parasytes and dealing with Shin's very normal slew of high school problems: teachers, homework and dating.

The overarching plot is a mishmash of Day of the Triffids, John Carpenter's The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but the main story is suspenseful (other parasytes wanna kill Shin/Lefty since Lefty failed at taking over his host properly, etc), gory (parasytes can shapeshift their head's into huge razor-like whips or simply turn into a giant mouth and chomp their human victims) and comical (Shin talking to Lefty in a men's room, Lefty doing Shin's homework). People have rightly criticized the art as sparse and stiff, but I remember it servicing the story well enough. I have a nostalgic memory of really getting sucked in to the weird juxtaposition of gnarly gore scenes with humor and high school dating angst and digging this manga. I'm looking forward to seeing how that experience holds up 10 years later.

My overview of the plot was, admittedly, a mess, so I recommend you check out Viz editor Shaenon Garrity's excellent review (with some panels and pages from the original releases) in her latest overlooked manga column.

Despite the Mixx/Tokyopop editions being pretty ubiquitous at used book shops, the series has been out of print for a number of years. Along the way, relative newbie manga imprint Del Rey picked up the rights to this series and is planning to reissue the entire Parasyte series. The new editions are in the usual Tokyopop size, unflipped this time and featuring a new and improved translation. As you can tell by the cover, above, they're deftly trying to capitalize on the strong (but tottering) resurgence of horror manga.

An interesting note, in the Japanese edition, the worm infects Shin's RIGHT arm, and is referred to simply as Migi (literally right in Japanese). Mixx used the name Lefty in their edition because of the flipped pages (hey, they get points for being consistent). I was wondering how they'd fix this in the unflipped Del Rey releases-- Some ideas include Righty (dorky), Migi (possibly unclear), or as an AoD forum poster suggested, Dexter. I heard from the translator Andrew that they did go with Migi, but included a translator's note (and mention of Lefty) in the back of the book.

Another weird piece of cultural debris in my head was that I strongly remember the series being censored in certain spots when I originally read it. The censored panels I saw were from reading it in the original Mixx Magazine release, but according to Evan and others, the Mixx graphic novels and the new Del Rey editions are uncensored.

One hilarious example of the Mixx Magazine censorship involves a scene where Shin is at a restaurant with his crush. She makes a flirty joke (or he sees her bra or something like that) and Lefty manifests Shin's entire forearm as a giant phallus, causing Shin's shock and embarrassment. But when I first read this panel, I remember his arm depicted as a cobra snake. This doesn't REALLY match up with the joke, and I remember at 15 being like, 'HUH? It he afraid it's going to bite him? What?' Thanks to Evan (for the penis version) and AoD poster shuironeko (for digging up his old MiXX). Here is the scene in question (from the first issue of Mixx Magazine, August 1997, page 102) and then the uncensored version (from the graphic novel release):




It's a good time to re-release this series, as a live-action film directed by Ju-on's Takashi Shimizu is rumored to be in the works! According to IMBD and Twitch, the movie may finally happen. This film is a no-brainer, really, as the manga is teen-orientated and pretty cinematic in its pacing and action sequences. It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so, as Mixx editor Stu Levy said way back in 1999 at Otakon VI that a live-action Parasyte film could happen soon, and again here in an old post from Anime News Network, there is talk of a movie.

I also found an old interview with Brian Yuzna, writer and director of a number of Lovecraft adaptations including Beyond Re-Animator, and it sounds like he was very interested at one point in doing an American version of the film too (perhaps is the person hinted at above that purchased the rights?). He said,

"KISEIJU is a manga that I was obsessed with making into a film for quite a while. The problem was with acquiring the rights. But the idea very much appealed to me and the plasticity of the body parts infected by the alien parasite was a visual that inspired me. I would still love to adapt that manga."

It's interesting to imagine Shimizu doing a horror film that's more SF, with tangible fight scenes and lots of humor; I imagine that getting the CGI and voice correct for Migi/Lefty could make or break some fans' enjoyment of the film, like Ryuk in the adaptation of Death Note. We'll post again on the film if we hear more news. I'm off to the comic shop in a few hours-- let me know what you picked up and any recommendations as well.

EDIT/UPDATE: I got my copy at Kinokuniya yesterday (they never let me down) and I really enjoyed it. The Del Rey edition looks sharper, the translation is spot on, and the touch-up and lettering looks really great. And yes, the McDonald's hand-penis uncensored panel is intact. The translator notes were interesting, and here is the aforementioned section on calling the parasyte hand 'Migi'


Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought I was the only one who remembered MixxZine, ha ha. It was my first experience with horror manga as well, but I didn't really appreciate it back then (I was only 12 or 13). I'm really happy to have the chance to read it again in an uncensored, nicely translated format.

Rumika said...

That cobra arm panel made my day. Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

holy moly I have neither seen nor heard of this comic; I know what I'M buyin' at my next comic snatchin trip. I LOVE YOU SAMEHAT

Anonymous said...

Ah, I loved Parasyte! But I bought the Mixxzine graphic novel so I've never seen the cobra arm. IIRC later on in the series there's some relatively graphic sex scenes? I don't remember, it's been a while since I've read Parasyte.

C.M.B. said...

if they do make the movie... I want stop-motion claymation. goddamn that would rule.

Ryan said...

violine: haha, actually I didn't initially remember reading MixxZine, but now I think maybe I had a subscription or something. So that must mean I used to read Magic Knight Rayearth regularly??

rumika: haha, thanks :)

hellen: WE LOVE YOU HELLLLEN! I actually couldn't find this stupid comic at the store yesterday though. What the fug

spork: I don't remember the graphic sex scene... was it crazy Parasyte tentacle sex?? I think I only read Parasyte through volume 5 or 6 in the original run, so I'm excited to see how this thing ends.

clint: jan svankmeyer does parasyte!!-- LOLOMGBBQ whoa


C.M.B. said...

you guys okay? i miss the updates!

Anonymous said...

yeah srsly, where's the aaron k blog? how am I supposed to cyberstalk a guy who doesn't exist on the internet?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, What happens?
I miss the updates too

Stop sniffin´glue punks!

Anonymous said...

I hope you guys aren't ill or something.
If so get healthy fast!

Ryan said...

we are alive!!!!

i'm sorry to be such a crappy blogger lately :( but at least things have been fun and busy in the "real world".

BUT , back to unreality life--- we're gonna start posting again soon. like, TONIGHT@@!

thanks for the interest. we dig you guys :B