The best parts of ‘Parasyte’ left on the cutting room floor in China

By Yuan Dengyu Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/8 19:23:39

Promotional material for Parasyte Photo: IC

In May, many moviegoers were shocked by the news that Japanese sci-fi film Parasyte, an adaptation of the manga of the same name, would be coming to cinemas in the Chinese mainland. This surprise was due to a couple of reasons: First, the first part of the two-part film was already released in Japan in November 2014, which meant that many Chinese fans of the series have already found ways to watch it online. 

But more importantly, is the fact that the film's substantial amount of bloody and violent scenes clearly would not make it past Chinese censors.

The film features parasitic shape-shifting creatures that invade the heads of human hosts. While these creatures can pass as normal humans, in an instant they can use their shape-changing abilities to turn their host bodies' heads into blades, giant mouths full of teeth and other appendages which they use to brutally and quickly kill and eat humans. These scenes are not only not suitable for children, they can be terrifying even for adults. 

Herein lies the problem with the mainland version of the film, as many of these scenes have been cut due to content restrictions.

What's worse is, this version takes the original parts one and two and edits them into a single film. This has led to more than 100 minutes being deleted from the story.

Most of this deleted material consists of bloody and violent scenes, but several details that are helpful to understanding the story have also been removed. The result is that the new version is jumps around quite a bit when it comes to the storylines and the relationships between the characters. For instance, the depiction of the mother-son relationship between the main character and his mother becomes far too shallow because a lot of the interaction between the two has been left on the cutting room floor.

This is not the first time that something like this has happened in the mainland. Substantial scenes were cut from the films Babel and Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which impacted the depiction of the characters in the story.

The thing is though, as a sci-fi/horror film, these scenes are also one of Parasyte's major charms.

On one hand, the special effects depicting these transforming monsters reflects the very best of a Japanese film industry that is on par with Hollywood. The parts of the original films in which human limbs transform into weapons and the fights that follow are very creative.

On the other hand, the way the parasitic creatures brutally kill humans in the originals reminds us how humans go about treating other creatures on Earth.

Starting off with a theme about environmental protection, Parasyte uses the sci-fi/horror genre as a cover to delve into the profound topic of how humans and other creatures see each other and co-exist together.

While most of these creatures have essentially killed their human hosts when they took over, the film's main character is a high school student whose arm, instead of his head, was taken over. This has left the two sharing the same body, and being forced to learn how to peacefully co-exist with each other.

Additionally, the main female character is a parasite trying hard to control her ruthless nature so she may blend in human society, unlike the rest of brethren who only try and fit in so they may hunt successfully.

Yet, despite the interesting topic of the film, it is ultimately damaged beyond repair by the removal of content. And one has to question the effectiveness of this editing in the first place. Even in the mainland version there are still quite a few scenes that are far too violent for children. For example, the corpses that can be seen lying around after a massacre are still very disturbing.

This film is once again a reminder that the mainland is strongly in need of a ratings system. Without such a system, imported films and the audience end up in a lose-lose situation. 

Yuan Dengyu is a film critic based in Beijing.

Newspaper headline: Lose-lose situation

Posted in: Film

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