Parasyte: The Maxim – vegan messages in an anime

I just finished watching Parasyte: The Maxim (2014 – based on the manga from 1988) and really enjoyed it. I was struck throughout the 24 episode series (available on Netflix) by the quotes and themes that could reasonably be described as pro-vegan or pro-environmentalism. At the very least, it seems to draw attention to the hypocrisies of caring about humans while consuming non-humans or damaging the environment.

I want to just talk a little about some of the quotes and themes, but naturally spoilers will follow aplenty from here. Fair warning.

The general concept is that some parasites have taken up residence in the brains of humans (and occasionally non-humans) in the present-ish day world, completely taking over their body. The human brain is gone, replaced with a parasite brain which, despite starting with no knowledge, is quickly able to learn how to function in society and blend in. They eat other humans to survive.

The main character, Shinichi Izumi, by fluke and quick thinking, is able to stop a parasite from getting to his brain, and it instead takes over his arm. As a result, he retains control of his brain, but the parasite (who Shinichi calls Migi, which translates to ‘right hand’) is able to take over his arm at will as seen below.

To cut a great and long story short, other parasites try to kill Shinichi, who eventually decides to take it on himself to kill them to protect humanity. Migi doesn’t feel loyalty to anyone except themselves, and perhaps Shinichi, as they will die if Shinichi does. Throughout the series, Migi and others point out the hypocrisy of Shinichi wanting to protect humanity from the parasites despite humanity engaging in the large scale harm of non-humans.

The mysterious and gruesome killings of humans become known as the ‘mincemeat murders’. In one scene, Shinichi is thinking about the murders when he sees someone throw a half-eaten hamburger in the trash (how’s that for symbolism).

I’ll share some quotes from the anime below which highlight what I’m thinking about.

“Such a shallow breed. They grind cows and pigs into feed, and then act so surprised when it happens to them.”

“Shinichi, upon researching the concept of demons, I believe that, among all life, humans are the closest thing to it. Although humans kill and eat a wide variety of life forms, my kind eat merely one or two kinds at most. We are quite frugal in comparison.”

“You sacrifice other lives so that your own live can continue. That is how animals live. Humans are one-of-a kind creatures that commit suicide.”

“If you have the right to live, so do we. Granted, I believe rights are a concept unique to the human species.”

“In comparison, humans are the true parasitic vermin infesting this planet.”

“There may be no other life forms that are truly a “friend” to man. Still, even if we can’t comprehend them, they are, without a doubt, neighbors deserving of our respect. We protect other species because humans themselves are lonely creatures. We protect the environment because humans themselves don’t want to go extinct. What drives us is simply self-gratification. But I think that’s fine, and that it’s really all there is to it. There’s no point in despising humans by human standards. That’s right. So in the end, it’s hypocritical for us to love Earth without loving ourselves.”

Shinichi saving a cat from three youths who buried it up to its head in sand and were throwing rocks at it.

To conclude, I want to talk about the speech given by a local mayor Takeshi Hirokawa, shortly before he is killed. He was elected during the series on an environmental platform, and the viewer is lead to believe that he is a parasite. He works closely with other parasites, and uses his power as mayor to set up locations around the city that the parasites can safely and secretly feed on humans.

In the end, during a police/military operation which leads to the deaths of many parasites in the city, Hirokawa is cornered in the council chambers. Before being gunned down, he gives this speech [dubbed video version here if you prefer].

When it comes to the art of death, every species on Earth pales in comparison to that of the human race. Yet as I look at the fine instruments you hold [semi-automatic shotguns] I feel they could be put to a far greater purpose. Such implements of force can be used not for simple eradication, but rather the protection of the balance of our very existence.

That’s right, to purge those who offer nothing to our community. Because when put to task, all of us must admit an obvious truth. That not everyone in our vast population deserves to be part of our family. Instead they attack our values. They attack our ecosystem in a crime of arrogant apathy far greater than that of crude genocide.

Yet hope is here. It’s staring you in the face. It may be different and seem frightening, but you will come to cherish it. The time has come that we must hold our own predators in high regard, and in fact protect them. And the most fascinating thing is that these predators will ultimately allow us to grow stronger and more powerful. They are our saviours, our masters, and they will restore the balance that we could not.

Not long ago, someone on Earth had a passing thought. All life is sacred and must therefore be protected.

Who do you think you are you monster?” [a soldier]

This is why I cannot abide my own kind. If defiance is truly your intention, do not pretend to act otherwise. Even environmental conservation is skewed in favour of our own hubris. A few point most refuse to acknowledge. We must consider all life on Earth, not just the prosperity of a single species. That presumes your own rule over creation. Humans repeatedly claim they’re on the side of justice, and what greater justice is there than natural selection?

The human race has been inhabited, and relinquished of the sacred duty by preserving the balance of life on Earth, thus exposing you as nothing but parasites infesting this planet. It’s you, you are the infection.

In short, Hirokawa makes the case that parasites killing some humans would actually be good for life on Earth in general. The quote “Not long ago, someone on Earth had a passing thought. All life is sacred and must therefore be protected.” is repeated several times throughout the series. While we never find out, it seems to suggest that the parasites were created by humans in the first place, possibly as a solution to humanity’s destruction.

Sounds a bit like a Thanos – killing to benefit the greater good. How utilitarian!

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