Friday, January 21, 2011

Moyashimon, vol. 2 review

Moyashimon, vol. 2 is kind of like a roller coaster ride. It's one of the first manga that I've read in Japanese where I went through it cover to cover, pretty much word for word, in one day, and tried to fully understand everything that's going on. I'm just barely able to keep up, because most of the kanji lacks furigana pronunciations, but I was able to understand most of the story, and I laughed my head off in places.

Moyashimon, Tales of Agriculture, is set in an agricultural university in Tokyo (sorry, Bunny, I don't know which school was used as the model for it). The heroes: are Tadayasu Souemon, who can see microbes; his friend Kei Yuuki; Hazuki Oikawa, a girl in Tada's class that often hangs around with him; the two 2nd year students that kind of rope Kei and Tada into their circle - the fat Takuma Kawahama and the mustached Kaoru Misato; their professor, Keizo Itsuki; and Keizo's one lab assistant, post-grad student Harukawa Hasegawa.

(Hiyoshi Kikuji, tanjou!)

In volume two, we're introduced to three new people - the microorganism-loving sake shop owner, Hiyoshi Kikuji; Keizo's errand girl, Aoi Mutou; and Mutou's friend, Aya Hirooka, who works part-time at a bar. At the beginning of the book, the group visits Hiyoshi's store, where they're taken to a backroom tasting bar and shown what good sake is really like. At the end of the night, a tired, filthy girl wearing Russian fatigues stumbles in to the bar, asking to see Keizo. Hiyoshi's grandson tries to help her take off her backpack - bad move. The food inside that had spoiled on her trip explodes. This results in a couple fumigations, and the quarantine of one of the rooms Aoi visits later. Aoi had traveled across Asia in search of rare foods for Keizo, and half of what she got is still salvageable.

(Aoi Mutou, tanjou!)

The group also visits the UFO club, which Aoi runs, where the members have been keeping chickens and pigs for food to supplement their meager savings. Naturally they discover that such animals are associated with things like swine and bird flu. This results in another visit by the university's hazmat team. Aoi takes the group to a bar where her friend, Aya, works part-time. Aya tells them about how Aoi joined the UFO club (ex-boyfriend, who later dumped her for someone else), and we find out that Aoi likes Bombay Sapphire gin on the rocks (goes through the entire bottle in one sitting).

(Aya Hirooka, cheerleader and part-time bartender.)

Then the Spring Festival arrives. Every year the rules change. This year, no one is allowed to leave the campus until the final event occurs, expected to take 3 days. Members of the athletic clubs run around with their faces covered, trying to break the balloons of the farming club members. Special event cash must be purchased in advance because yen can't be traded at the street shops. And, if the balloon on the top of your head breaks, you can only eat whatever foods you can find for free - the shops can't sell to you. This is where we find out that Professor Keizo is evil.

(School hazmat team.)

Keizo has a shop set up, selling aphrodisiacs for 10,000 festival dollars. The only way to buy the full set is to either defeat the masked enforcers to pick up their bounties, or to defeat the final guard posted at the main gate, who is surrounded by other bodyguards. The girls attend various seminars during the day, leaving Tada, Misato and Kawahama to fend for themselves. Oddly enough, Keizo had Kei spirited away from the campus before the festival started, and he remains absent for the rest of the book. As the days wear on, those students defeated in the fighting decide that they've had enough and they set about to help our heroes finish off the final guard in order to end the festival as fast as possible. Tada is hidden in a suitcase on a skateboard and sent rolling in front of the guard, who turns out to be a robot. And, the robot club screwed up - their creation freezes up and Tada attacks it, discovering along the way that the key to the main gate is hidden inside the robot's balloon.

(Spring festival enforcers.)

Tada receives the 10,000 dollars for the festival, and the money is immediately given to Keizo to buy the aphrodisiacs. The boys put the full set (liquor, chocolates, and a burned lizard) on the table in the lab and wait impatiently. Unfortunately for them, Hasegawa is the first one in, and she knows what the stuff on the table is intended for. She consumes all of them to show that they don't work. Which is when Keizo shows his hand. Using the money he got from selling the aphrodisiac set, he takes Aoi and Hazuki to a restaurant for sukiyaki, and tells Hasegawa to bring two bottles of sake to Misato's room. Hasegawa normally refuses to drink alcohol, but the aphrodisiac liquor is enough to break her defenses down, and the fact that the two bottles of sake are worth a lot more than $100 USD, makes her start sipping to verify if they really are what Keizo claims (one top-flight sake, and one that's 200 years old (the oldest known sake was 140 years old)). Hasegawa loosens up, but she's got a vicious streak which Misato expects is going to get him killed. So, when she wakes up, she finds Tada and Kawahama naked in the room, and she immediately runs out, leaving Misato still breathing and mostly unharmed (which was Kawahama's plan all along).

(UFO club.)

While, at the restaurant, Aoi has some perfumed liquor and Hazuki tries some chocolates, before the meal starts. After the meal, they do a lot of drinking (Keizo carefully avoids alcohol this time). As the two women take the taxi to the dorms, Keizo asks "is it the sake, or is it the aphrodisiacs? Doesn't matter, either way it's the power of microbes". When Hazuki wakes up the next morning beside a naked Aoi, she desperately blames the chocolates and tries to remember if anything happened during the night.

(Prof. Keizo shows his microbes of love.)

Still no real emphasis on beer yet, and no French maids. Guess I'll just have to read the next book now. Highly recommended to adult readers.

(The cast as microbes.)

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