Moyashimon – Tales of Agriculture Review

4 03 2008

Genre: Comedy, Slice o’ Life, Science!
Main Studio: Shirogumi
Episodes: 11

Every so often something comes along that actually manages to be original. Obviously not every show can be an FLCL or a Mononoke, but I am please to inform you that this show is unlike anything I’ve seen before. That means it’s good, in case it was unclear. Describing has been proving troublesome, so rather than just start listing things about the show, I will attempt to build up a picture of Moyashimon.

Imagine, if you will, a show set in a university. A set up like Animal House may come to mind with drunken frat boys, panty raids and evil deans. You will therefore have to erase that image as I inform you the university is the fictitious Agricultural University of Tokyo, so rather less plagued rather bizarre fraternity and sorority system that infests American universities. Attending the university are two friends Sawaki and Kei. Sawaki is the son of a miso fermenter type person (don’t know the technical name for it), and Kei is the son of a sake producer, as such you can probably work out why they might be attending a farming university. Okay, so so far doesn’t sound all that odd. Well.

This is one power I could probably do without.

Sawaki, has the ability to see cute anthropomorphic versions of bacteria and other micro-organisms, and he can communicate with them. It’s sort of like Doctor Doolittle, but with yeast instead of cats. Of course the ability to see such things isn’t really that pleasant a power for him. He is constantly aware of the filth that surrounds him wherever he goes. Bacteria form a core part of the show, and it even somehow manages to come across as educational sometimes. I am even so impressionable as to briefly become irritated that I had not chosen to study the subject at university, but of course there’s no way bacteria are as interesting as shown in this show, no matter how nauseatingly cute the opening sequence is.

To cement this concept, please direct your attention to the show’s opening as thoughtfully embedded by myself.

Sawaki is an interesting choice for a main character as has quite a negative attitude towards everything that goes on, and he’s a diminutive, this all initially makes him come across as grumpy. He also has the nasal voice of a Tokyo convenience store worker, the sort of voice they usually use for the annoying friend of the main character. I grew to like both his attitude and his voice as the show went on, as I started to understand that it was just a natural reaction to the disgusting bacteria infested things that always seem to end up happening around him.

A perfect conglomeration of all my university lecturers.

Sawaki ends up under the tutelage of Professor Itsuki (played by Doctor Zoidberg), a very strange yet very knowledgeable expert in the field of fermentation. One of the first things Itsuki does in the show is unearth and consume Greenlandic delicacy Kiviak (The fermented innards of a seagull, that has been sewn inside a dead seal and buried, sucked out through the seagull’s arse). He obviously sees great potential in Sawaki’s power, and instructs him to keep it a secret as not to interest undefined parties who might use the power for evil, rather than for Science.

“Look! Freaks!”

The character designs in this show are very odd. Sawaki makes friends with two destitute upper-classmen who live in a filthy dormitory. Kaoru Misatoe is rarely drawn with a mouth and generally just has a beard, and Takuma Kawahama who seems to be played by Eric Cartman. Bringing up the female cast is school beauty turned dirt-ridden research assistant Mutou, aggressive and dangerous drunkHaruka, and the requisite normal girl called Oikawa who just turns up in Episode 3 with absolutely no introduction and acts as if she’s been there the whole time.

Muto and Oikawa
Mutou and Oikawa – doin’ stuff

 The main theme of the show is deciding what to do with your life, and so university is a very appropriate settings for such a story. The characters are all at some manner of crossroads in their lives, and have some big decisions to make involving things such as marriage, career and um, gender confusion.  It’s suprising how much character development there is in the mere 11 episodes they had to work with, but the comparatively small cast with a keeps it all nice and compact.

I’m finding it hard to explain why I like this show so much in mere words. It’s probably something to do with it’s scientific leanings that make the whole show weirdly fascinating. The characters are all so excellent, and the art, voice acting and music are fantasitic. The show also has a lot of energy and never becomes even slightly formulaic. Each episode has a wildly different premise, mostly consist of, and I’m wary of using the word, ‘zany’ things that happen to characters at the university, but there are also a few mysteries that start to unravel.

Microbe Theatre
Microbe Days?

Worth mentioning is a sequence called Microbe Theatre that they put at the end of each episode. It’s a one minute short about the various microbes mentioned in the episode and are actually slightly educational. It reminds me quite considerably of the Tachikoma Days sequences from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex in content and style. These sequences are short and amusing, definitely something to skip to the end of the credits for anyway.

Unfortunately the show sort of stops mid sentence at episode 11, without any real resolution or even definite ending. It just stops. There is apparently plenty more manga to adapt, and I hear the show did really well in Japan, so they’d bloody well better be working on more of it.

Arbitrary Rating: 10 – Watch.