Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Moyashimon, vol. 9, review

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

Volume 9 is extremely information-heavy. If you're looking for descriptions of the current Japanese agricultural situation, or the relationship between kimchi and Japanese self-sufficiency, this is the book you want. Otherwise, you'll probably skip over most of the text and just look at the pretty pictures.

(Front cover. Marie and family.)

Moyashimon, Vol. 9 - Grade: A
The microbes are standing in front of a makeshift sign this time, which collapses. This is due to Ishikawa's going on vacation. The Moyashimon chief editor shows up in microbe form to try to make them work anyway, but they beat him up and leave. Then they come back and ask if the rumor is true that the series will end after this book...

(Back cover.)

Sawaki calls Yuu Kaneshiro to tell her about having Oktoberfest in November, but she can't attend because there's an awamori event day on Nov. 1 in Okinawa, and she'd pick awamori over beer every time. This leaves Tada in a funk, and Keizo offers to make him some tea to pick him up. This leads to a prolonged discussion of the history of tea, and the connection to the opium trade between China and England that came later. The production of tea does include a fermentation step, but not one that involves the regular yeast cast.

(Chief editor protesting Ishikawa's decision to go on vacation.)

The conversation is interrupted when Marie calls to chat with Tada. She misses them all, and is looking forward to visiting Hasegawa in the winter. He mentions Oktoberfest, and of course, Nov. is when Beaujolias Nouveau is released. The phone call ends and Marie throws the phone in anger, calling Tada an idiot, apparently for not knowing enough about wine.

Continuing his funk, Tada wanders over to the Hiyoshi Sake Shop, where Kei is escorting a customer out the door. The talk turns to Oktoberfest again, and Kei attacks him for not knowing that there's a big "new rice, new sake" release in November. He returns to his apartment, where the yeast cultures have formed a big golem to remind him that Nov. 11 is "Moyashi Day".

Back in the research lab, Tada remembers one day out in the village when he and Kei had seen some workers driving a tractor over a field of cabbages. There'd been a surplus of the crop that year, and it was cheaper to just mulch the field, than to harvest and try to sell it. Kawahama enters the room to show off his latest insect-infested delicacy, and Hasegawa grabs it and throws it out the window (the insects celebrate being freed). The group talks about going to get some matsutake mushrooms, but when they step out on the campus grounds they encounter Keizo, Asst. Prof. Tachibana and a student. There's a small outdoor market being held to sell fresh vegetables. Tachibana introduces the student, a young woman named Kosaka, as a researcher currently working on a study of the government's push for foodstuff self-sufficiency.

(Research assistant Kosaka.)

Kosaka asks for the group's opinions, and is shocked at the negative attitudes. There's a very long discussion of why the self-sufficiency push may be nothing more than a short-term government-driven marketing ploy. Hasegawa takes the lead, talking about how consumers waste tons of food every day, and how convenience stores throw out more tons of food simply because bento boxes have gone past their best-use by date and the corporation heads don't want to give the food to the homeless. Hasegawa is getting pretty worked up, and is acting much like Mutou had towards Hana Kanou, but being older, Haruka is allowed more leeway in her behavior. In the end, though, Keizo still calls her a child.

(Making kimchi.)

They move back into the lab, where Keizo demonstrates the perfect example of Japanese self-sufficiency - the adaptation of kimchi to the Japanese diet. There now follows a discussion of the production and dietary value of kimchi. Keizo eventually comments that Kosaka is doing good work, trying to eliminate agricultural science from the agricultural process. That is, making natural farming practices more popular. Unfortunately, it had been tried in the past, when local governments asked citizens to work the fields to harvest their own crops. This was back in 1970, and the people hated it, because it was such back-breaking work. Tada mentions his having seen the workers trashing the cabbage fields, in part because the produce had also been infested by insects. Along the way, the conversation turns to how Mutou and Hasegawa had first gotten along, with Mutou biting Hasegawa on the back. Mutou corrects her, saying that she'd just kissed Haruka on the back because she had such beautiful skin. This eventually spurs Kosaka on, because she kisses Haruka on the back of the neck, shocking the rest of the group. In the next panel, Hasegawa has strung both women up to hang from the rafters; Kosaka is profusely apologizing, and Mutou asks Tada to share some of the nashi (Japanese pear) he's having for desert.

The microbes interrupt the torture to talk about the next step of the miso/soy sauce production. This phase involves the interaction of enzymes introduced by the yeast, and there's a discussion of the history and importance of enzymes. The microbes return control of the story to the humans. The group exits the lab and Mutou collapses drunkenly head-first into the cement. Hasegawa gets disgusted and suggests that the females stay the night at her place. The guys go to their own dorm, with Misato commenting on Hasegawa having changed a little, becoming a little more cute. Kawahama gives him a hard time about this. Tada asks if hanging Kosaka from the ceiling was ok, and Keizo replies that Haruka had been a lot nastier to Mutou back the first time. In the apartment, Hazuki and Kosaka have passed out on the bed. Mutou is getting out of the shower, feeling much more refreshed. Mutou wants to have a snack, so she grabs some ham from the fridge but cuts her finger with the knife, and Hasegawa tells her that it's a bad idea to handle food or put on makeup after getting cut. Mutou wants to use some antiseptic, and Hasegawa goes on another discussion, this time of the importance of letting cuts heal on their own, allowing the body to build up its own antibodies rather than relying on medicines all the time.

(Mutou cuts herself.)

Over a glass of wine, Mutou changes the subject and starts talking about what she should do next. She's got no plans for the future, and doesn't think she can do all that well in lessons or in an office. She's hoping that she can make the transition to university lab researcher. Hasegawa comments that there's little freedom in being a researcher, since university research is sponsored by corporations that demand specific results. Further, university research is dominated by men, leaving little room for women to maneuver in. She then talks about one female researcher - Helen Beatrix Potter - who tried escaping the lab to write the "Peter Rabbit" books. Eventually, she used her book proceeds to buy a farm and become a sheep farmer. Hasegawa doesn't want to plan that far ahead, she just wants to try to do research as far as she can. Then Mutou notices that Hasegawa has been drinking wine and hasn't gotten vicious yet; Haruka snaps that she'd just had one glass, and to shut up and go to sleep. (Note that because of some unexpected timing, the Japan Post Office has picked this month to issue a sheet of stamps dedicated to "Peter Rabbit".)

(Never handle food, or makeup, with a freshly-cut hand.)

The microbes have found a new place to form a large culture village - on Misato's towel in the men's bathroom. Tada notices a new table in the middle of the apartment. Misato says that he'd bought it because the wood supposedly has anti-bad microbe properties, being the same material that Antonio Stradivari used to make his famous violins. Misato is hoping that Tada can find the good microbes that modify the wood to produce the "Stradivari sound", but Kawahama interrupts complaining that the wood is anti-insect. Tada changes the subject by asking if Misato likes Haruka. Misato denies it, sweating heavily from fear. Kawahama suggests that if they match everyone up with women, then Tada should get Kei. Tada calls them perverts, then asks why Kawahama doesn't have a girlfriend. The fat one replies that there are no women in the clubs he's in, trying to use chopped onions to cover up for the fact that he's crying out of frustration. He just wants some cute girl that he can share a plate of insects with. Finally, back in Haruka's apartment, Mutou is getting ready to go to sleep and she asks if Hasegawa likes Misato. Bad move. Haruka drains her glass of wine and asks the terrified women to say that name again.

The next day, Hazuki is having trouble with her scooter, and Kawahama tunes it for her. But, it's getting cold and she's told that she should get a car instead. In the lab, it's just as cold. Tada tells them to warm up by helping him with his current task. Keizo has just gotten a pile of Japanese radishes (daikon), and he wants to make takuan (pickled radish using salt, rice and spices, with a 1-2 month fermentation period). There's a long description of the history of takuan, the production process, and the fact that presently commercial pickles use artificial food coloring to give them their characteristic yellow color (Kawahama is happy to add that Mexican cochineal beetles can also be used for yellow coloring). There's a commentary on the enzymes used in the process, and how even America uses such processes. Hazuki remarks about Americans using catsup, and Kawahama says that the number one condiment in the States isn't Heinz catsup, but salsa. Keizo then adds that catsup originated in Indonesia, when tomatoes were substituted for mushrooms in the original recipe.

(Living on Misato's towel - priceless.)

When Tada is done doing all the work on the takuan, Keizo mentions that Mutou has been sent out to get rice for the production of nihon-shu (sake), which the 2nd years get to make. Misato and Kawahama are overjoyed with this situation, although they're going to have to do the same heavy-duty stirring of the mash that they've been doing for miso, except that the rice is thicker and harder to churn. Inside the lab, Hasegawa is seeing a kerosene stove for the first time, and the rest of the group gives her a hard time about having grown up rich and not being exposed to low-tech appliances. Kei and Mutou arrive with the makings of a hotpot, but they're not sure how much salt to add. Keizo adds salt, umami, and stevia (a sugar-like sweetener) to create a mountain of additives. The group shouldn't be surprised - similar additives are in cup ramen and convenience store bentos. Personally, he's pro-additive, in moderation.

(Keizo's idea of additives in moderation.)

At this, Tada asks if Hasegawa has ever had cup ramen and her indignant reaction proves to the group that she has no idea what it is. They then move on to the first steps of making their own sake; Kei marvels over the beauty of 50% polished rice. Kawahama is more interested in seeing how his pulque, made during the Harvest Festival, has turned out after aging. Mutou gives it high marks; then again, she'll even drink lambec, so her tastes are maladjusted. The conversation turns to Hasegawa wearing a jersey top, because of the cold, and then Kawahama's obsession with insects again. Tada mentions that some people eat mixed insects, and Kawahama swears to never forgive those who hurt his friends (Hazuki then asks why he eats his "friends").

To redirect the conversation, Kawahama says that Hasegawa should dump Ryouta and date Misato. Mutou agrees, and out of rebellion Hasegawa announces that she will go on a date with the poor, terrified stiff. Further, Marie is planning to come to Tokyo next week, so they can make it a double date and Kei can meet his doppelganger. However, Kei is fast asleep in Keizo's lap, so Haruka is disappointed at not getting a reaction from him. Keizo announces that they should all sleep in the bedroom in the lab, and kind of forces the group into it against their will. The three women get the bed, and the three guys are stuck in sleeping bags around the edges of the room. Kei wakes up soon after and he and Keizo go down into the tunnel to check out the still before returning to their separate houses. Keizo asks if he likes making sake, and Kei answers that he enjoys it enough to make him want to end his break from school and quit the Hiyoshi shop.

(Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter. You can buy the special edition postage stamps at the Japan post office for a short time in March, for 800 yen for a sheet of 10.)

The next day, Keizo and the group are out in the hills behind the campus collecting mushrooms. The microbes want to rebel against Tada and Keizo to go roam the world, but are lured into sticking around with the promise of being able to eat matsutake mushrooms. TMK are doing the real work of harvesting the mushrooms, while Mutou and Hazuki have prepared a hot lunch for them, with Hazuki complaining about the cold. Hasegawa decides to call Marie to tell her of the change of plans, then gets an earful with Marie screaming "what do you mean, next week!?!?!" Marie's already in Japan, and she's in a blind panic (she got the date wrong).

Hasegawa says that she's sorry, but TMK will have to wait on the mushrooms until later. She needs them to go rescue Marie. She tells them to go home and get ready, then absconds with the family limo. Her father calls her up on the cellphone to yell at her, and she apologizes, saying that a friend of hers is in a pinch. Elsewhere, Kei's spidey senses kick in and he tells old man Hiyoshi that he has to run. Kei gets to the hill where Keizo, Hazuki and Mutou are still standing around, and is told that Marie is in Japan. Kei switches costumes, saying "Marie, the white version of me?", before reverting to his black goth-loli look. He looks very serious. In the limo, Hasegawa is asking TMK if they have more official ID than just their student cards. Tada doesn't have a driver's license yet and none of them brought their birth certificates. This just leaves their passports, which they'd used to go to France. Hasegawa declares a change of plans. She was going to travel on her own, but now she wants all three of them to go with her. They get to Haneda airport and board her father's private jet. TMK yell out that they want to know what's going on, and Haruka says that they have to go to another city - Marie didn't fly to Tokyo Haneda.

The omake section discusses the nature of light, and the fact that light is emitted (or absorbed) by all kinds of things, from fish to plankton, dark stars and various plants. They finish with "the world is a mysterious place, isn't it?" The final footnote announces that Moyashimon volume 10 will be out sometime in winter, 2011. In fact, the Evening magazine, and Ishikawa's websites are all currently giving an official release date of March 25th, 2011.

Lots of footnotes in this issue. Some of them advertise the new Moyashimon picture book, and the fact that Del Rey had released vol. 2 of the English translation of Moyashimon in the U.S.

Summary: Be self-sufficient! Buy this manga! Your grandparents' microbes will thank you! Highly recommended!

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