Monday, August 23, 2004

Finished reading the last volume of Hitosi Iwaaki's Parasyte over lunch today. Decent ending to a plain, but very striking manga. The story and art survives everything that early-industry boneheadedness threw at it, from silly localizations - whoever heard of juvenile deliquents named Londwell and Mitch? - to art-flopping mirroring - at one point in the last volume, our hero gripes about a machete being for "left-handed people", as if the world was built for the minority of the left-handed. Anyways, Parasyte's blend of flat-toned, undecorated blandness with shocking ultraviolence and massive, grotesque slaughters made for a hypnotic comcs experience. People seem to relate most to the cloying, muddle-headed humans-are-poison, destroying-the-world-with-pollution line of argument made by the villains, human and monster alike. Personally, I found the message of "Lefty", our protagonist's parasitical, ultrarational, totally unsentimental mirror-flopped right hand, to be the more compelling point of view. "Lefty", who failed to develop the usual monster-hatred of their human prey when he failed to devour his host's brain, is still a very inhuman character. As the story progresses, his host takes on more and more of "Lefty"'s philosophy, which can be summed up by this final set of observations, late in the last volume:

If we protect other species, it's because we're lonely.
If we protect the environment, it's because we fear our own extinction
The only thing that matters to humankind is its own satisfaction.
But that's okay. That's all that matters.
There's no point in despising our own behavior.
Human beings can't love the Earth without loving themselves. Otherwise it would be a contradiction.

I think it's probably this base viewpoint of radical anti-sentimentality that makes the self-demolition of the monster "Tamara Rockford"/"Tamaya Ryoko" so utterly affecting. In a certain sense, Iwaaki shares with John Woo this sense of high sentimentality rising from the unflinching acknowledgement of sudden violence. Parasyte wouldn't be nearly as interesting without that base of harshness and savagery.

The reason I'm getting into all of this is that the last few pages of the manga volume is taken up by the musing of the Hollywood producers who've optioned the story for a movie. They're a couple of guys who were involved in Men in Black and Beatlejuice, but their ideas about the story are far more Men in Black's wanna-be hipster bullshit than Beatlejuice's willingness to shock. For one thing, they want to do a PG-13 movie. Now, while I can see how a story based on Parasyte could get cut down to R without doing major violence to the concept, we're still talking about a story revolving around creatures that devour their hosts brains, and live by devouring human beings in a messy, butchers-shop sort of way. It just isn't PG-13 material. A straightforward adaptation of the manga as presented would definitely get a NC-17 for violence. Secondly, they're talking about localizing to an American setting. Thirdly, the protagonist is no longer a teenager. Finally, they seem much more taken with the schmuckbait philosophy of the human-hating monsters and their Stockholm-syndrome human sympathizers than the hardboiled anti-sentimentality which is the actual central view-point of the narrative. While some of these points aren't too distressing - the story wanders far enough from the high school setting in the manga as to not make it absolutely vital, frex - once you pile them on top of each other, the resulting pile, creaking in the breeze, looks precious little like the original architect's plans. All you've got left is a guy and his CGI-a-riffic mutating hand, versus freaky shape-shifting beasties. The whole thing reminds me strongly of why the Filthy Critic likes to refer to Hollywood folk as "grassfuckers". 'Cause this grass done been violated, that's for sure.

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