Today we have one of the few source repeats for this challenge. I tried my best to find someone else to fit this category, but I couldn’t find any other characters who I could place here as confidently as I can place Tamiya, Ryouko (aka Tamura, Reiko) from Parasyte -the maxim-. Apart from the main characters, Ryouko is given more screen time and development than any other character in the series. In fact, she may be the only character that shows any real change outside of Shinichi and Migi. Spoilers for her arc below.
By nature, the character of the parasites is supposed to be level-headed and void of emotion. They think logically and act according to their own survival in all situations. As a logical result, they kill a lot of humans to sustain their bodies as well as protect their anonymity. Even still, like all living creatures, there are variations within the species.
Ryouko stands out as one of the more logical members of the parasites. She’s interested in long term experimentation and development of a method for survival. That experimentation ends up changing her from evil superpower to something much more…human. Experiment number one revolves around human reproduction, and eventually, experimentation on an infant.
In order for a parasite to survive, they have to rely on a mature and functioning body from another living creature. They can imitate the function of whatever body part they eat, so they will eat a human brain to give them the ability to fuse with and control a human body. They can then use their shape shifting nature to imitate human faces and blend in with the crowd. Everything below the head is still just as human as it was when the person was alive. Ryouko takes advantage of this to conceive a human child with a male parasite.
All mothers go through permanent hormonal and behavioral changes when they have their child; it’s a natural part of the body’s adaptation to motherhood. What Ryouko didn’t expect was for these changes to affect her as a parasite since the baby could be logically thought of as not really hers. There are times you can see her evolving personality fighting over how to treat the infant; one second, she’ll be treating it as a puppy or any other lower being, the next, she’ll be cradling precious life.
It all culminates into one final moment of truth. She has been discovered as a parasite and cornered in the park with her child. The police open fire despite the fact that she’s holding an infant, determined to kill the dangerous threat in front of them. Ryouko could fight back and win, but the risk to her baby’s life is too great. Instead, she uses all of her energy to envelop the child and shield it from damage with a combination of her human and parasite body. You watch as her body is riddled with bullets to protect her offspring.
Eventually the bullets stop and she extends the last of her energy to safely place the baby in the arms of her second long term experiment, Shinichi. Thanks to damage he sustained in a fight, Shinichi is a unique fusion of parasite and man, augmenting his physical abilities and altering his thought process. It was Ryouko who kept Shinichi from becoming an official target for assassination because of these traits; as a fusion of parasite and man, he represented a potential peaceful coexistence. Her dying wish is for him to take her child and raise it as human, giving it a rich and fulfilling life.
It’s a rather shocking turn of events. The once level headed and rather cold blooded parasite was now showing what could be seen as an ultimate act of love by sacrificing herself for the sake of another; the emotions necessary to do this just aren’t found in the parasites. She demonstrates knowledge of how to appeal to the humanity of Shinichi. Even Migi, a fellow parasite, is confused by the sudden presence of new emotion being emitted by Ryouko.
Ryouko is one of the few characters that I have ever seen that so successfully changes my opinions on them, especially in such a short span of time. The anime makes little hints here and there that her personality is slowly changing, but the full display of altruism isn’t shown to us until the very last moments of her life. By the time she collapses and dies from the bullet wounds, I was regretting the loss of her character. If she had been given just one more chance, I think she would have been a real ally for both parasites and humanity, perhaps one of the few who could actually bridge the difference peacefully.
Who is your favorite supporting character?