by Srijon Mukherjee
Why are we here, and what are we really? This is a question we’ve all asked at some point in our lives, and are quite frankly bored of not being able to answer. Here’s another question: We’re human, but are we humane, and if we are, what separates us from animals, besides the lack of claws, and our supposedly superior intellect?
Tamiya Ryoko was a parasite living in a human’s body, shown in last year’s anime, Parasyte. she came as a part of the spores that mysteriously landed on Earth, filled with parasites who took control of the human’s mind, killing them, and functioning as a human with the mind and being of a parasite. However, this article is not about the anime, though there really should be one about the anime too. (Makes note to self) This is about this one very character, originally seen as a major villain, who tries to understand the nature of her existence, and in the process, raises a few questions about our own existence too.
How do we define a beast, and why are beasts normally feared and regarded with caution by us?
From what I know, we fear beasts because they're unpredictable; they have no mind, they're dangerous and they consume without morals. We think, and therefore those who do not are barbaric, and thus: dangerous.
"Flies know how to fly without being taught. Spiders know how to spin webs without being taught. Why is that? Here's what I think: Flies and spiders are simply following an order. I believe all lives on Earth have received orders of some kind. Don't humans have any directive? When I took over this human's brain, I received a directive. It said, Devour this species."
Very valid question. What is our directive? I can't see any directive, to be honest. There is no directive. Maybe we do what we do because of an outside force governing us, maybe we don't. Either way, it's not any sort of natural inbuilt instinct that we're born with.
So, who's predictable then? The beast with an inbuilt desire to consume, or us thinkers who kill when we want and pet when we don't want to kill?
Tamiya Ryoko was full of insight, and was also much more skilled and able than most other members of her species. While other parasites struggled to cope with and maneuver the human body that they had taken control of, Ryoko had no difficulty with it, and seemed the most human from the start, with only her cold rationality and lack of empathy being the only giveaway.But her character was not limited to only rationality and murderous intent at survival, as were the other parasites. On meeting Migi, a parasite who, unable to take control of his host’s brain, had taken control of his right hand and entered into a symbiotic relationship with the host, she seems intrigued and takes an interest in Shinichi. She also comes to conclusion that her race is incapable of reproduction when she mates with another parasite in a human’s body, and becomes pregnant with a normal human child.
Tamiya Ryoko learnt a very confusing lesson about the limits of rationality when the biological mother of her human host was able to tell that she was an imposter, in spite of her looking exactly like her daughter. It was here that she started to take an interest in humans, thinking them to be beneficial to parasites not only as food, but also as a medium to understand themselves better too.
It didn’t take her too long to understand the difference between her race and the human race: Her race did and just did, without feeling, while the human race felt, so they did. She understood the concept of vulnerability and the joys of embracing it. And the more she understood, the more she moved away from her own fierce identity and started to resemble us carefree, irrational and self aware weak humans.
She couldn’t perform the experiments she’d planned to perform on her newly born baby, due to her recent edification.
However this intense change went unnoticed by the humans who considered her an intense threat and gunned her down. She held the baby in her hands, protecting him, and let them kill her, and even surprised the attacking party, as it was no secret that she could have massacred them if she’d fought back. But she didn’t. Instead, she embraced her death, and with her dying breath, handed over the unharmed sleeping baby to Shinichi, who was a spectator in this major scene, and said:
"I've been thinking for a long while. For what purpose was I born into this world? Whenever I resolved one question, another would arise in its place. I sought the beginning, I sought the end, I've just been walking and walking, thinking all the while. Perhaps nothing will change, no matter how far I go. If I'm to stop my journey, that is fine, too. Even if I were informed that everything has reached its end, I'd just accept it. But even so, I found an answer to yet another of my questions today. Shinichi, this child. In the end, I didn't do anything to it. The child is a normal human being. Raise the child by human hands to lead a normal life."
She’d realized the answer to the secret of existence of humans and beasts. And the answer is pretty simple. We’re all the same. We humans, can be humane, just as we can be beasts, As Tamiya Ryoko put it, “..We are two halves of the same whole. We and humans are one family.”
And the humans proved her right, albeit posthumously. A few weeks after her death, threatened and scared by the sudden replacement from the top of the food chain, the humans formed an Parasyte Extermination Squad and stormed a building full of normal citizens AND parasite infected humans, on the pretense of rescuing the civilians and the actual intent of killing the parasites. Their objective was to destroy the threat completely, even if it meant sacrificing the lives of members of their own species too, a trait reminiscent of the very beasts we look down upon for acting only for the survival of their own species, and nothing else.
We’re one family that acts interchangeably and exchanges each other’s traits. Sometimes we, consumed by our fear, gun down a ‘beast’ holding her child, failing to notice that the danger we perceive is non existent at least for the moment, just as a beast may decide to let us have our way with them and ignore its rational intent for survival just for us.
Two contradictory traits within both of us, branding us together with what we both consider ourselves to be above.