Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moyashimon, vol. 3 review

(Kawahama in his dugong suit. All copyrights reserved by their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Moyashimon vol. 3, by Masayuki Ishikawa - Grade: A+
The more I read this manga, the more fun it becomes. There's a lot of science involved, but there's also a fair amount of "how-to" if you want to try making certain foods by hand. Plus there's the sheer silliness of it all, with the microbes carrying on conversations with Tada, and with each other. I have it good - nine of the volumes are out already, and I can follow along with the story in Japanese. For those of you not so fortunate, start up a writing campaign to get Del Rey to start working on volume 3.

The only real complaint I have about this particular book is that the paperback cover is printed in a faint mustard yellow, making it really hard to read. It's fortunate that the front cover is just a picture of fermented Swedish fish, and therefore there's nothing to translate. The back cover, on the other hand, has a lot of talking microbes, and microbes use difficult kanji.

There are 4 major story arcs in this book. First, we have Mutou making natto in the lab. Natto is smelly, sticky and slimy. Plus, you can make it at home. Misato likes it because it's filled with microbes, but Kawahama hates it because his family is Mexican-Japanese, and he likes worms, and the microbes used to make natto are fatal to worms. Prof. Keizo talks Kawahama into trying it anyway, then says that for this month, the rule is that no one is allowed to eat natto.

This is followed by the wine-making arc. Keizo wants the lab to make its own wine, but Hasegawa is dismayed to see that the grape-stompers (Kawahama and Misato) are stained up to their butts (Kawahama tends to dive face-first into the juice). Keizo then shows the group the new facilities that he's putting into the formerly abandoned building, including a high-tech press, and a stainless steel pool for cleaning large items. When Hasegawa notices one side effect of the shiny surface, she makes the professor scour it until the polish is completely removed. On the other hand, Mutou is shocked to learn that she and Hazuki had consumed 3 of Keizo's four bottles of expensive French wine at the end of the Spring festival, and she puts on her cheerleader uniform to encourage the guys to make wine faster to try to replace what she'd drunk.

(Inside cover flaps. Ishikawa seems to like parodying Nodame Cantabile.)

A subplot involves the UFO club. They're unhappy that Mutou's been spending more time at the lab, and they want Hazuki and Tada to talk her into coming back. Hazuki tells them that Mutou has quit for good, and the club blames spies and rival clubs for this betrayal. One of the members comes in with dirt that he claims was obtained from a UFO landing site, and verified by a "returnee". Tada sees the microbes in the dirt breaking out of their disguises and exposing themselves as botulism toxin. This results in Tada needing to trick the group into letting him get the dirt and throwing it outside; a return of the hazmat team to fumigate the room, again; and Keizo's team being banned from the UFO club room.

A second subplot takes place in a bucket. After Mutou had cleaned up the lab in volume 2, she'd left the bucket and a dirty rag outside on the second floor landing. This allows several colonies of microbes to grow on the rag, and talk about their relationships with the humans, until Mutou returns and dumps the water out of the bucket.

This brings us to the digression. Prof. Keizo was inspired by the botulism incident to go out and get Botox injections. His skin becomes so shiny and soft that the team equates him to a big jiggly pudding and draws his wrinkles back on with a marker. This is followed by Kawahama's attempt to eat some rotten cheese, but Hazuki panics and sprays it with disinfectant. To prevent Kawahama from killing the girl, Keizo breaks out a can of Surstromming - a fermented fish made in Sweden, and brought back by Mutou. Oddly enough, it's Mutou's job to open the can.

With disastrous results.

Fortunately, the rest of the team set up a big feast including bread, veggies and other cheeses to accompany the Surstromming, and they eat it all in peace. Outside on the landing in the rain, where the smell won't infect the lab.

Haruka Hasegawa's date takes us to the third arc. Haruka gets glammed up in an evening dress, and is taken by limousine to a massive hotel in Tokyo. Turns out that she comes from a very wealthy family, and her father owns the hotel. She has to spend the meal talking to the man that her father has arranged for her to marry, and her father is upset that she won't hurry up and graduate. She reminds him that the wording of the promise is that she can have her freedom until she leaves school, and she will leave when she's ready for it. Both her father and her betrothed (a regular brown-noser) berate Prof. Keizo's works, and belittle the idea of her filling her head with silly little science things.

(Papa Hasegawa and Haruka's arranged-marriage future husband, Ryouta.)

Kawahama and Misato had tried to get part-time jobs in the hotel kitchen, but get fired quickly. Haruka announces that they can stay as her guests and eat in the restaurant with them. She also pleads with Kawahama to rescue her some how. The fat one calls Tada and explains his plan. Tada shows up at the hotel, and gives a can of Surstromming to the door guard to give to Kawahama inside the room. During the resulting havoc, Misato and Kawahama carry Hasegawa out to the elevator and they all run away. Hasegawa promises to treat them to a meal - they can have whatever they want, except alcohol. She doesn't remember the details, but she thinks she'd gotten too cuddly with Misato last time. Misato yells "what do you mean, "cuddly", you sadist?", risking the possibility that Hasegawa may revoke her offer.

(Haruka Hasegawa, age 14.)

The group goes to Aoi's bar, where Keizo is trying to get Aoi to give him free samples of the more expensive stuff on the shelves. Two guys sitting at a table nearby are hoping that Hasegawa will show up soon. Turns out that they're two of the "resistance" team that had helped Tada win the Spring Festival event, and they're dying for the chance to talk to Hasegawa. When she does arrive, in her evening dress, the resistance is so panicked that all they can do is sit there and sweat. Hasegawa asks Tada to walk her home, and everyone else follows them to make sure that Tada doesn't get lucky by accident.

(Yuu Kaneshiro)

In the final arc, summer has come, and everyone is dying from the heat. Kawahama and Misato take off for a part-time job at a resort. Keizo tells Hasegawa that they've got some lab work to do at the university facility in Okinawa, and because this is part of their official studies, Tada and Hazuki are allowed to come with. Hasegawa wants to know if Keizo was serious about that one sake being 200 years old, and he reveals that he'd been stretching the truth. Actually, the sake had been sitting in the ocean for 40 years. Under such conditions, sake ages 5 times faster, to be effectively 200 years old. In Okinawa, the group is met by Yuu Kaneshiro, a tanned young woman that looks like a ringer for Kei Yuuki. Yuu is a diver, and the dive shop they get their gear from is the one that Kawahama and Misato have their part-time job at.

(Grandpa Kaneshiro and Keizo.)

Yuu's grandfather is an old friend of Keizo's, and 40 years ago the two of them had put a crock of awamori (Okinawan sake) in the sea near a shipwreck. They've decided to bring it up to drink, and Kawahama objects - it's not 200 years old yet. He develops a plan, in which he dons a seal-like wetsuit and interferes with the recovery attempt. The two old men sitting on the boat in front of a TV monitor watching the dive just see a black streak rushing past the camera on Tada's helmet before it runs into the crock of sake. The two old men console themselves with the sake they have, but they know what's going on. Keizo lets the kids have the sake still sitting on the sea floor as his gift to them.

At the end of the Summer, the group returns to Tokyo, commenting on how Yuu so-closely resembled Kei. One of them mentions that across the globe, everyone has 3 people that look like them. Hazuki zips off on her scooter, leaving Tada to slog back in the heat, wishing that he had a scooter, too. As he walks past Hiyoshi's bar, he sees a strange goth-loli girl stepping out, holding a broom to sweep the sidewalk. The goth-loli looks just like Yuu. (A little earlier, Mutou had been in Hiyoshi's bar, trying to bum sake off Hiyoshi's grandson, when she saw the goth-loli coming up the stairs from the wine cellar. The grandson identified her as his little sister.)

(Hiyoshi's grandson.)

Kawahama explains his great swimming skills as having come from his time living near the shore in Mexico. As a child, his nickname was "the yellow dugong of the Caribbean".

Tada Sawaki receives a package from his grandfather. It contains "kouji miso" (rice malt). The microbes from it are so energetic that they form together to make a giant microbe, resulting in Tada's deciding that maybe he doesn't have to get a separate pet for himself after all. One of the boxes is labeled "Sawaki Moyashi" (Sawaki Beansprouts), indicating that this may be the name of the family business, if not at least one of their product names.

The "Ex-self-government resistance". These two students are in the same class as Misato and Kawahama. They don't have names yet. Their nickname is "make inu" (whipped dogs). They were two of the guys that had helped Tada win the Spring Festival event at the end.

No comments: