Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moyashimon, vol. 4 review

(Outer cover. All copyrights protected by their owners. All images used here are for review purposes only.)

Moyashimon vol. 4, by Masayuki Ishikawa - Grade : A
We now get into a bit more drama and character development. There are still several clear story arcs, but they are kind of blending in together. Mainly, we're starting to see team formation, but it's at the expense of the focus on sake brewing.

(I'm not going to translate the entire back cover of this issue. Suffice it to say that readers of the manga have been asked for their comments regarding how the microbes have been portrayed in "moyashi" format. In response, a Japanese biologist named Okada stepped forth with his rendering of the Aspergillus niger mold spore. The cover then offers a comparison between the real thing, Ishikawa's depiction (left), and Okada's version (right).)

The volume starts out with Nodame having trouble playing the piano and her teacher hitting her with the sheet music. The microbes carry on a running commentary that makes it impossible for Tada to finish reading his "Nodame Cantabile" manga. They go on to talk about the aspergillus mold species, from its original discovery in 1729 to the determination of the Japanese variant by Herman Alberg (sp?) in 1877. They then describe the conflict that ensued between American and Japanese researchers, that was eventually found to be due to a misprint in the English reference book. Tada gets tired of the discussion and blows on his manga, sending the colony out the window into the real world, where they try to settle down next to some trees in the nearby woods. Problem is that there's already millions of thriving microbes where they land, and the agricultural students keep coming in and digging up the soil for research samples. The errant colony thereby finds themselves stuck in a plastic sample bag.

(Return of the goth-loli.)

Meanwhile, another colony that lives on the sheets and pillow case of Hasegawa's bed are in a quandary. Normally, the human skin is a paradise for microbes, especially around the hair follicles. But Hasegawa is too thorough in her anti-infection practices to allow any of them a foothold to grow on. Then Mutou stumbles into the room drunk and passes out on the bed (Hasegawa and Mutou have rooms in the lab building). This leaves the microbes overjoyed, because Mutou is always in the middle of rotten food explosions and is thus a prime carrier for bacteria and mold spores.

(Goth-loli Kiss Attack!)

Hasegawa continues to press Tada to study harder, but he can't relate SEM images of real bacteria to the cartoony sketches that he sees in front of him. She asks the boy what he's going to do if he ever loses his ability to see bacteria, and he can't answer. He goes outside and heads back to the sake shop to look for the goth-loli, and she steps outside just at that moment by accident. They start talking and it's clear that the goth-loli knows Tada from way back, but he doesn't recognize her. She gives him a kiss, shocking Tada and stunning Hazuki Oikawa. Hazuki was angry that Tada was taking so long to meet her to go shopping, and had been trying to track him down on her scooter. She arrives just in time to see the kiss, and takes this to mean that the goth-loli is Tada's girlfriend.

Hazuki and Tada go to a furniture shop and buy a carpet that they hand-carry on the train to Hazuki's apartment. Tada is forced to wait outside in the summer heat until Hazuki can take a shower, and is then let into the apartment. When he enters, he comments to himself that she must really love cleaning - he can't see any microbes at all. Tada suggests putting gum tape under the carpet to keep it from being a trip-hazard, and she sends him into the bathroom to wash up so he can't see the secrets she keeps in her closets as she looks for the tape; but the bathroom is cluttered with all of Hazuki's underwear that is drying after being washed, and he can't understand her priorities.

Prof. Keizo has sealed off all the toilets in the building. He wants the group to use one specific toilet so he can experiment with using human-generated ammonia for black powder production like used to be performed a few hundred years ago. Naturally, the women don't like this idea, and they try to trick Tada into being the one to use the special toilet so they don't have to. Keizo doesn't care and makes all of them use the special toilet anyway. They then go out to one of the fields where some grain is being grown to tie the stalks up into stacks, and discover that the UFO club has stomped the stalks down to make a crop circle (which a handwritten note left at the scene claims was done by Menou aliens). Only Mutou is gullible enough to believe the note at first. Of course, this means war.

Kawahama comes up with another of his plans, and Keizo angrily starts work on his black powder. That night, the UFO club members are meeting to discuss the success of their crop circle operation, and continue their obsession over Mutou as a pinup girl (it's turned into more of a Mutou fanclub than an alien contact mission). Tada sneaks in and leaves a box containing all of Mutou's UFO gear and runs away. The club members look in the box and see a note saying "look out the window". They do so, only to watch Mutou get levitated up into a flying saucer. A giant head of Keizo as an alien peeps out, and several black powder bombs drop from the saucer and blow up the front wall of the building. At the back of the building, sitting in the crane holding the fake saucer and the cable that Mutou is hanging on, Tada is panicking over the extreme nature of their attack, and Kawahama comments that the excess clouds of smoke may have been one reason why this kind of powder was unpopular. The next day, a notice goes up banning the UFO club for endangering the campus with their experiments in explosives. Keizo decides to not claim credit for the production methodology, and the UFO club grudgingly admits defeat.

(UFO Club watches as Mutou is called back home.)

During this escapade, Kawahama and Misato ask Tada if some bread left over from the previous day is safe, and he says it is. And, Hazuki tells Tada that his secret is safe with her; she knows that he's in love with the goth-loli, but it doesn't affect her because she's attracted to older men. The two events escalate and intertwine. Hazuki goes back to the sake shop to talk to the goth-loli. However, she is a little too forthcoming with details about Tada, commenting that since Hazuki has been hanging around Tada since first appearing with the dead manta ray that it looked like she was attracted to him. Hazuki knows that there are only a couple people that knew about the manta ray, and she pieces together that the goth-loli is actually Kei in drag. She runs to the lab to tell everyone that Tada is a pervert. Meanwhile, Misato and Kawahama get really sick. After some discussion, they conclude that Tada has lost the ability to see microbes, and without that ability Hasegawa will kick the boy out of the lab. Since both of them like Tada, and want to protect him as his "sempai's" (senior classmates) they decide to not tell anyone of their suspicions. Unfortunately, Hasegawa is smart, and she uses the SEM to verify that the leftover bread was spoiled. She confronts Tada about not seeing microbes just as Hazuki runs in to say that Tada had kissed a boy. So, Hasegawa embraces her, saying "ok, and now you kissed a girl, shut up, I'm talking". Hazuki passes out. Kawahama and Misato try to stick up for Tada, saying that he's a friend so it's ok for him to stay in the lab, but she stares them down. Without his powers Tada feels useless and he leaves.

(Don't interrupt when I'm talking.)

Tada returns to the sake shop and asks for Kei. Hiyoshi's grandson repeats "There's no one here of that name", but Kei comes out to talk anyway. Still in his costume, he tells Hiyoshi that he's been outed. Tada tells Kei what happened and that he can't see microbes again. After talking for a bit, Tada asks about Kei, especially since Kei had hated being called a girl when he was younger. Kei answers that he'd been thinking, and after having come to the campus that he'd wanted to be free to make his own decisions about his life. There are things that he wants do before going back home, and this is one of them. He does still plan on graduating, so he may start taking classes again next year. Hiyoshi asks if Tada loves microbes yet, and Tada's realizing that he's never had any plans for his future, or reasons for going to university. Thinking about it, he's not sure if he's happy not seeing microbes now, or if he wants his powers back. That night, he holds a piece of bread and asks the microbes to draw his name on it like they always do, but nothing happens. Right away. The next morning, he sees the bread, commenting that the microbes had been there all along.

In the lab, Keizo confronts Hasegawa about her treatment of Tada. She says that since Keizo had referred to the boy as a lab mouse to be experimented with that it meant that the boy no longer had any use to him. Keizo counters that Tada's father wants the boy to grow up and take over their Moyashi factory, but that the grandfather had asked him to raise the boy to find his own path and develop his powers his own way.

(Tada's grandfather.)

Keizo is angry, and Hasegawa knows that she's stepped out of line. Later, Tada returns to the lab, asking if it's ok to keep visiting, since he'd like to learn more about microbes if possible. Hasegawa hugs him, saying that she doesn't know how to act friendly and asks what she's supposed to say next. Tada says he doesn't know either. She wonders what caused him to not see microbes and Tada replies that the first time, it was when he was almost hit by a car while on his bicycle in the 2nd grade. Anyway, it seems to be the result of some kind of shock (like being kissed by the goth-loli). The microbes come back in full force. Hasegawa is angry that he has such a poor excuse, and the microbes call him "chicken" and "shy boy". They add that they've been watching all along and they've seen everything he's been doing.

(Angry Keizo.)

The omake page picks up when Tada falls asleep, and microbes on the bread wonder what they should do. One microbe decides to be the leader and declares that "sa" should be written in yellow and "wa" in green. However, the leader clones itself and the two halves argue over what colors to use. The other microbes drift way, wondering if they'll be able to finish by morning.

("They're ba----ck!")

Summary: Good stuff. Highly recommended to those of the appropriate age groups.

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