Warning: Spoilers for Parasyte/ Kiseijuu
Tamura Reiko, also known as Tamiya Ryouko, is an antagonist and Parasyte from Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu or Parasyte: The Maxim. I think all fans have a few fictional villains they like. I tend to hate characters who are too much like me, or who resemble my pathetic side, but in this case, I like Reiko because I see some of myself in her. Or maybe it’s not that I’m similar to her, but just that I can completely understand her. Let’s examine the story of Reiko and try to grasp who she is as a character. Then we’ll look at the way she changes near the time of her death.
First, let’s make sure you know about Parasytes. They are monsters who eat the head and brain of the human and take over the rest of its body. Then they blend into society, reverting to their monster forms to eat humans. The anime never states exactly what Parasytes are or where they came from. They are typically thought of as aliens, but other theories exist, too. They may or may not count as living things, depending on the definition. (For one thing, Parasytes don’t seem able to produce more of their own kind.)
The creatures are as intelligent as humans, but aren’t social, and have little capacity for empathy or sympathy. They feel the basic emotions like fear, pleasure, anger, and disappointment, but can’t experience ones like love, loneliness, or remorse, which are associated with social animals. Well, most parasytes can’t feel those emotions, but I believe some are capable. We’ll cover some ideas about that and more later on, but those are the basics.
Tamiya Ryouko was the human whose head was eaten and whose body was taken over by the Parasyte who later called itself Reiko. For episodes 3 and 4, the Parasyte lived as Ryouko the highschool teacher, adopting a female gender identity and beginning to express the thoughts unique to her. Compared to other parasytes, Ryouko/Reiko is cautious, thoughtful, patient, and yet extremely curious about humans, Parasytes, life, and the world. In episode 3, she and her temporary partner A-san meet with Shinichi at a cafe. In Shinichi and Migi’s experience, it’s the first time a Parasyte has wanted to talk instead of just attack. Ryouko shows little emotion, of course, but she seems to find it fascinating to talk to Migi and Shinichi about her species and what they might be, as well as discussing the result of her most recent experiment.
The experiment was Ryouko having sex with A-san and becoming pregnant with a human “baby.” That becomes crucial to her story later, so I wanted to mention it here. At the end of the discussion about life and what Parasytes might be, A-san leaves the table impatiently, saying he eats humans because he’s hungry, and there’s no need to think any further than that. This makes Ryouko curious about different personalities among Parasytes. With regards to how A-san is so different from her, she says thoughfully, “Perhaps it was a difference in our maturation environments.” As you can see, she’s constantly thinking.
Another interesting and important aspect to Reiko’s character is how she is always questioning and searching for the purpose of her life. She explains to Shinichi that she is compelled to hunt humans because of her instincts, even though it might be possible for her survive on nutrients and proteins from other sources, the way Migi does. “Flies know how to fly without being taught,” Reiko says. “Spiders know how to spin webs without being taught. Why? Here’s what I think. Flies and spiders are simply following a directive. I believe all life on earth has received a directive of some kind.” Shinichi doesn’t understand, and Migi stays silent. So Reiko states, “When I took over this human’s brain, I received a directive. It said, ‘Devour this species.'”
In episode 4, Ryouko’s obvious pregnancy and lack of a husband causes her to be dismissed from her teaching job. It doesn’t seem to affect her very much. However, something does strongly affect her when she returns home. The mother of the human Ryouko is at the apartment for a visit, and she can somehow tell right away that the Parasyte isn’t the same as her daughter. Parasyte Ryouko kills the mother when she tries to call police. It’s a shock to her that a human was able to instantly see through her identity. This is also an important event in the story of Reiko/Ryouko, because it triggered her to become interested in the subjects of mothers and motherhood. After this episode, the Parasyte ceases to be Tamiya Ryouko, changing her face and hair, and adopting the similar name Tamura Reiko.
From episodes 5 to around episode 10, we don’t know exactly what Reiko was doing, other than hanging out with Hideo and birthing her child. By around episode 11, she is together with Miki, Gotou, and the other Parastyes working to make Hirokawa the next governor. Later, it’s revealed that Reiko was the one who found Hirokawa and hatched the governor plan. She also conducted many experiments, including putting multiple parasytes into one body. Gotou and Miki as we know them— conglomerate beings made up of three to eight Parasytes— were essentially created by Miss Tamura. As Japan’s government and major detective agencies became aware of and studied Parasytes, Reiko had many discussions with Hirokawa.
“We could have foreseen this,” she says in the ninth episode. “If we continue mindless predation like insects, we will be hunted down and eradicated. What weak and imperfect life-forms we are.” Hirokawa responds, “I imagine you’re the only one who has given it so much thought.” Reiko explains that’s because she wants a question answered. “What is the purpose of our existence?” When faced with the question, Hirokawa replies at once, “It’s simple. Humankind has become toxic to the earth, and there was a need for a neutralizer.” From episodes 11 through 17, Reiko works closely with Hirokawa and his Parasyte followers. She also raises her baby (with human help), and attends University classes to learn more about humans, biology, genetics, and the like.
It’s clear that Reiko is still doing a lot of thinking and experimenting during this time period. She also remains fascinated with the concept of mothers, which share such strong bonds with their offpsring in the majority of mammal species. In episode 14, Reiko meets with Shinichi and seems amused when she correctly guesses that Shinichi’s mother was eaten by a Parasyte. When Shinichi is ready to attack her in rage, she holds up her baby, using her own offspring as a shield. It seems that at the current time, Reiko had no bond with the baby. On the other hand, she is going to great lengths to keep it alive and cared for. In addition, she knew perfectly well that Shinichi would never attack if there was a human child in the way.
At this point in the series, I began to wonder why Reiko was so invested in that infant. She could always kidnap other babies and children to conduct experiments on them, if she wanted. So why would a Parasyte without the capacity for love keep her child alive? In addition, I had found a good enough answer about what Parasytes are, but I wondered if Reiko had. It all becomes clear in episode 17. Private detective Kuramori kidnapped Reiko’s baby, intending to lure her to a park where the official detectives and police would ambush and put an end to her. When she receives the note telling her to go to the park, Miss Tamura doesn’t seem perturbed. But the fact remains that she goes to the park, meets Kuramori, and talks to him instead of killing him right away.
The private detective goes on a long spew about how Reiko isn’t a real parent, has no feelings, and wouldn’t even care if he killed her baby right now. Then he says, “Besides, this isn’t your child. It’s a human child.” Right after Kuramori says that, a change comes over Reiko. Her blank expression shifts just slightly, becoming more serious. Deep in her pupils, some tiny orange dots of light sparkle for a second before vanishing. Those miniscule stars symbolize evolution and going beyond the understanding of your species. Elsewhere in the park, Shinichi and Migi are searching for her. Migi detects the brain-wave signal he knows belongs to Tamura Reiko, but the emotion carried in the signal is one he doesn’t understand and has never felt from any of Parasyte-kind. What do you think Tamura Reiko was feeling?
When Kuramori appears to be preparing to throw the baby off the high overlook at the park, Reiko immediatelyruns him through with a bladed tentacle. At the same time, she shoots out another tentacles that formes a mini-cradle and catches the baby. Kuramori laughs at his enemy and says he’s surprised that a monster would do such a thing; then he falls off the overlook. With her child safely in her arms, Reiko says she is surprised by her actions too. Before Hirama and the police unit can reach her, she finds Shinichi and Migi. One reason for wanting to meet with them was so she could warn them not to fight Gotou, who is invincible. But the main reason was so she could have someone to give her baby to. Before the cops arrive, Reiko says the following.
“I’ll be blunt. I have killed thirty-eight so far. Mostly for food. But I believe my numbers are on the low end for those of my kind. I could supplement any lack with normal human food. In other words, Parasytes can survive without eating people. I’ve also done much research on humans. What are we parasytes to them, and what are they to us? My conclusion is this: we are halves of one whole. We and humans are one family. We are the children of the human race.” When Shinichi tells to stop talking shit, the Parasyte says, “That’s fine. I expect this to be difficult for you to comprehend, given human emotions. However, we (parasytes) are fragile. We are merely a life form that cannot survive on its own. So don’t bully us.”
What that means is up to viewer interpretation– and I have my own that I may discuss in another post– but the point is that Reiko found the answer to her major questions of, what are Parasytes and what is their purpose? In addition, she found the answer to the question of what her personal purpose in life had become. Tamura Reiko wanted to protect the child that was her own. In the end, she gave her life defending it. Hirama and the cops open fire on her at the park, but rather than retaliating or killing anyone, this strange Parasyte focused all her strength on protecting the baby so none of the bullets hit it. She managed to hand the baby to Shinichi and say her final words before dying.
“I’ve always, always been thinking. For what purpose was I born into this world? Whenever I resolved one question, another took 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 must stop my journey, that is fine, too. Even if I were informed that everything had reached its end, I’d just accept it. However, I found an answer to yet another one of my questions today. Shinichi… it’s 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 falls down and dies right after Shinichi accepts the baby. So in the end, what can be said about my favorite Parasyte character, Tamura Reiko? She’s the smartest and most contemplative of all the Parasyte characters. (Migi is incredibly intelligent, too, but he doesn’t have the need to search for meaning or conduct experiments.) Though she preys on humans for food, Reiko overcame the need to kill just because her instincts (or the directive) told her to. She managed to survive for some time on the foods we humans eat. Most importantly, Tamura Reiko is a character who mentally and emotionally evolved beyond the bounds of what should have been possible for her species. There’s no way to explain her behavior at the end except with motherly love. She valued the infant’s life more than her own, even though it was a human and she was a Parasyte.
The evolution of Tamura Reiko is just one of the many immensely intriguing elements of Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu. I cannot recommend this show enough. It can be legally streamed in high quality on Crunchyroll. Yes, the show is very violent and contains character death, but it’s worth it for the themes, psychology, and philosophy explored within. This has been Anime Rants. Ja ne!