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K-drama ● Review: Parasyte: The Grey

English Title: Parasyte: The Grey

Korean Title: 기생수: 더 그레이

Director(s): Ryu Yong-jae

Screenwriter(s): Yeon Sang-ho

Studio: Climax Studio & Wow Point

Released: 2024

Runtime: 6 episodes, 43m – 1h each.

Starring: Jeon So-nee, Koo Kyo-hwan, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo


My Verdict: Solid writing, performances and production. Tight plotting. Surprisingly good, even if one doesn’t like the genre.


Parasyte: The Grey

● Based on the manga Parasyte by Iwaaki Hitoshi that was published between 1989 and 1994, this short series acts as a spin-off or a side story.


● This is in essence another version of the zombie genre. Parasitic alien creatures land on Earth and they use human beings as hosts. Typically, the takeover is total so nothing of the human host’s personality, consciousness and memory remains.


● The plot follows three main viewpoint characters: Jung Soo-in (Jeon So-nee) who was attacked and severely injured when the parasite tried to take over, thus preventing a total takeover; Seol Kang-woo (Koo Kyo-hwan), a thug who has to lay low after a failed assassination attempt on a rival gang boss; and Choi Joon-Kyung (Lee Jung-hyun), the captain of “The Grey”, a team that hunts and kills these parasites.


Jung Soo-in (Jeon So-nee)
Jung Soo-in (Jeon So-nee)

● Soo-in is basically the “half-zombie” trope with her humanity intact. The parasite exists inside her but as a distinct entity with its own intellect and personality. As the group of parasites embed themselves in society with The Grey and local police hunting them, Soo-in is caught in the middle.


● The three main characters are distinct and can be described as strong and well-portrayed. Soo-in’s background is arguably written a bit too simply. As a child, her mother left the family and she had to endure domestic violence from her father. Whilst that is very fitting to the themes of identity, social acceptance and survival, it plays the sympathy card too much.


● That said, the people around her now don’t necessarily mistreat her so that aspect of the stereotype is avoided. Either way, Jeon So-nee’s performance is consistently good: ordinary, vulnerable and melancholic but tries to be positive in her own subtle way.


● Koo Kyo-hwan as Kang-woo is good too. The character is not the most likable person but he manages to make him not annoying and, later on, even likable. He is not written as the “criminal with a good heart” but he is willing to consider his circumstances and try to do the right thing.


Seol Kang-woo (Koo Kyo-hwan)
Seol Kang-woo (Koo Kyo-hwan)

● Lee Jung-hyun as Captain Choi is fine but the writing and directing pushes her attitude too much at times. She is supposed to be shrewd and uncompromising. That is fine. However, that fake condescending attitude, whilst deliberate, is sometimes too forced.


Choi Joon-Kyung (Lee Jung-hyun)
Choi Joon-Kyung (Lee Jung-hyun)

● One of the best traits of the series is that the minor characters are also well-written,  solidly played and are very much part of the story. For example, Kim Cheol Min is the detective who helped Soo-in as a child and has since been looking out for her. Kwon Hae-hyo plays the kindhearted avuncular figure in a straightforward manner but it works and the two have good on-screen chemistry.


● Whether intended or not, the parasite’s behavior and the way they infiltrate society is mildly comical. (I will not elaborate and spoil it.) Their infiltration also crudely parallels real life. This point is not subtle, which also makes it mildly comical.


● As already mentioned, there are the themes of identity (being a “monster”), social acceptance (seen as a “monster”) and survival, and related to survival is the question of whether to be part of some social structure for support. At merely 6 episodes, one does not expect a deep exploration of the themes, and there doesn’t have to be, but whatever is there is mostly consistent. The only complaint is that it got to the point that the show spells it out which is mostly not necessary.


● It is nicely lit and shot in a mostly conventional way. Some of the parasite monster fight scenes can be clearer with better film editing but nothing jarring. The visual effects, although obviously CG, are decent for this type of production and it is good enough.


● Overall, solid writing, performances and production. The characters might follow a template but they work. The structure is tight. It avoids gratuitous action and gore, and every scene serves a purpose for the character and/or plot. Since it also follows three main characters and a few key secondary characters, it keeps the narrative fresh and dynamic.

 

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