Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moyashimon vol. 1 review

(All pictures from the Japanese version of "Moyashimon". Copyrights belong to their respective owners. All pictures used here for review purposes only.)

Back in December, I attended the "Moyashimon Presents Preson Beer" event at the UDX building in Akihabara. At the time, I had no idea what Moyashimon was. But, after talking to a few people who all said "oh yeah, I know Moyashimon!", I decided that I had to look at this a little more carefully. Soon after, I was at the Kinokuniya bookstore in Shinjuku, and I noticed some of the Moyashimon characters on an illustration book, sitting right next to a stack of the manga. That made it an easy decision to pick up volume 1. The next day, I saw the latest edition of Evening magazine, with Moyashimon on the cover, and I bought it and ended up reading the most recent chapter before even looking at the first volume. Time does things like that to you.

Masayuki Ishikawa's Moyashimon is pretty well documented on wikipedia so I'm not going to bother going into too much background information here. In addition, the TV anime and parts of the live-action show are available on youtube. (You can even get Moyashimon slippers off Amazon.com). The manga first started in Aug., 2004 and is still running; it's up to 9 volumes. The TV anime ran 11 episodes from Oct. to Dec., 2007. And the live-action drama ran 11 episodes from July to Sept., 2011.

(From left: Kei, Tadayasu, Kawahama and Misato.)

Tadayasu Sawaki can see yeast and various forms of bacteria. This has made him kind of an outcast growing up in a rural village. His only friend is Kei Yuuki, the son of a family that runs a sake brewery. The two of them travel to Tokyo to enter an agricultural university. They encounter Professor Keizo Itsuki, an acquaintance of Sawaki's grandfather, and Haruka Hasegawa, a violent post-graduate student acting as Keizo's only lab assistant. Hazuki Oikawa kind of stumbles into the group when she delivers a manta ray for Keizo to eat (the professor loves obscure, disgusting foods from around the world); she's a neat freak and always carries wet wipes and disinfectant spray with her. She needs it when she encounters Kaoru Misato and Takuma Kawahama, two 2nd year students who are abject failures at operating an illegal sake still in one of the abandoned buildings.

(Keizo and Haruka)

From the outside, Kei would appear to be the only normal person in the group, given Haruka's S&M tendencies, Keizo's penchant for eating rotting seagulls, and Misato's and Kawahama's desire to use bacteria to make quick money. However, even he has a couple twists that surface later in the story.

(Kei and Hazuki)

Moyashimon is a fun read. There's lots of background information on food, food production, and the processes for making different kinds of alcohols. The artwork is very good, and the jokes don't get too silly or outrageous.

(The "face".)

What's interesting for me is the occasional appearance of what I call the "Itou face". Akihiro Itoh ("Geobreeders" and "Wilderness") is one of my favorite manga artists of all time, and he makes constant use of a rounded, simplified facial expression that I haven't seen anyone else prior to him using. Ishikawa uses it periodically, but not quite so often as to be too distracting. There's no indication on the Japanese wiki that Ishikawa worked as Itou's assistant, but I'd like to think that it's a possibility.

I'm looking forward to returning to Shinjuku in the next few days to pick up vol. 2 of the manga, and I now have the Moyashimon wallpaper on my PC (from Ishikawa's website). You can also get Moyashimon in the U.S. - the first two volumes have been released by Del Rey. I prefer the original Japanese covers, but fortunately, I'm not dependent on getting the English versions of the books. (To be honest, I have seen the manga in bookstores in Tokyo before; I just never wanted to try checking it out before this.) Highly recommended.


Bunny said...

You forgot to mention the obsession with beer, the whole volumes devoted to beers, the French maid, and the fact you probably cycled past the place this is based in. ^^!

The live action had some quite silly bits.

Note, his other works aren't as cutesy. Specifically Maria (which is in Good! Afternoon)

Geobreeders 16 is very dark. It looks like a "genocide all the characters ending is in store", even takami!

TSOTE said...

So far, it's been largely about nihon-shu. I think the beer comes later. Mutou makes an appearance in volume 2, bringing with her a lot of strange substances that border on the explosive (like unfresh milk). The French maid doesn't seem to be in vol. 2, but I'm only up to page 50 as of tonight. No idea what school the university is based on.

I'm way behind on Geobreeders. Time to start catching up again.