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Parasyte: Part 2
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by Jay Seaver

"A bit nastier but still deserves a hand."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: A mere six months passed between the releases of "Parasyte" parts 1 & 2 in Japan, and it feels like that's the case within the films as well - something has changed, taking a turn for the darker, and is easy to feel that it isn't for the best. It's natural for this to happen, of course; opening acts are for discovery and finales are for not just using those discoveries but whittling them down. It can make something that originally thrilled with its invention and make for a bit of a drag, although the filmmakers do at least make an exciting chase out of it.

Though the man-eating parasites introduced in the first are merely the subject of urban legends as far as the general public is concerned, the police are taking them seriously, and their newest weapon is Uragami (Hirofumi Arai), a serial killer with an uncanny ability to recognize those whose heads are not human anymore. He doesn't quite know what to make of Shinichi Izumi (Shota Sometani), a teenager who had his hand rather than his head replaced, and who is doing all he can to eliminate all the parasites he can find. Because they can detect each other, including "Migi" (voice of Sadao Abe), parasite leader Ryoko Tamiya (Eri Fukatsu) is using a human journalist (Nao Omori) to keep tabs on Shinichi and Migi. Tokyo mayor Takeshi Hirokawa (Kazuki Kitamura), who leads a City Hall full of parasites, has decided they're better off getting rid of Shinichi, and Mr. Goto (Tadanobu Asano) is more than happy to take on the job; every fiber of his being says to devour them all.

One of the odd things about these movies, noticeable in the first but more pronounced in the second, is how Shinichi is actually much less central to the larger story than one might expect, although there's something eminently reasonable about it. Sure, he's unique in this world, but be honest - is an infestation of murderous shapeshifters with a taste for human flash really going to be thwarted on the larger scale by a kid on his own looking for revenge on the creatures that killed his mother and classmates? No, the are probably going to be trained professionals who know how to think tactically and have the arms to match. It's odd to watch the big story shift away from Shinichi, although in some ways it's stranger to see him brought back to center stage toward the end.

It's good that the focus does come back to Shinichi, because while the movie tends to whiff on the big issues - speeches are made about how humans are a parasite on the planet, and the Sunday execution of parasite-infested bodies is ruthless, organized, and public enough that it bears some pondering, but that doesn't happen - it's fairly strong with the central characters. Shota Sometani and Ai Hashimoto make a surprisingly winsome pair as Shinichi and his girlfriend Satomi; they connect well enough that threw are real stakes to how unemotional the link with Migi is making Shinichi, and his basic decency still comes through as crucial even if he's no longer breaking down at the site of mutilated bodies. Sadao Abe continues to impress as the voice of Migi, selling that maybe he's not so entirely focused on self-preservation any more. Tadanobu Asano is perhaps a little under-served by a character who is simply vicious (even if he's got an Intriguingly gross science-fictional backstory), but even more than in the first movie, Eri Fukatsu shines. Enough time has passed that the pregnancy Tamiya initiated as an experiment has come to term, and she's an impressively terrible mother, but her coming to terms with human emotion and attachment beyond how they help the survival of the species is worth watching, especially in a moment when she catches half having a genuine reaction to her son and then looks kind of horrifying as she tries to replicate it.

The darkness of the story does mean that there's not nearly as much unsettling whimsy to the parasite visuals as there was in the first; Migi is still often bizarrely cute, but Goto and the others are often the sort of generically nasty tentacled things that the first movie tended to avoid. The action is solid, but there's a casually mean streak to this film that wasn't present so much in the first, especially toward the end, which goes hand with the impulse to have certain bits of the finale both ways.

That can be a tough thing to avoid, even when the complete cycle is planned out as well as it is for "Parasyte". "Part 2" has its flaws, but it is still a satisfying way to wrap up a nifty combination of sci-fi, horror, et al, and taking in the whole four hours either at once or over a couple of days likely won't lead to any disappointment.

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originally posted: 07/19/16 09:05:48
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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