Thursday, April 7, 2011

Moyashimon, vol. 10, review

Edit: Added image scans, and removed hot-linked image of cover from amazon.


(All rights reserved by their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.

Moyashimon, vol. 10 - Grade: A
As the "rescue Marie squad" flies off in the Hasegawa family jet, a pair of small fighters, piloted by two of the microbes, trails behind and supplies some introductory commentary. The microbes then enter the jet and beg Tada to open up the "mamori" (mamori = protective amulet or package), which turns out to be a sealed jar of home-made soy sauce, so they can join the rest of their friends. In the jet, Haruka refuses to identify their destination, and Misato and Kawahama are too busy jumping up and down on the master bed in the center of the plane to care. Once they touch down and get through customs, Haruka calls Marie and learns that the emergency has passed and they can take their time from this point on. We also get a series of running gags where TMK fail to recognize all the clues as to where they are (one of the first is that the sleeper train they're on says "Amtrak"). Kawahama figures it out first when he looks at the money Hasegawa gives him, and Misato catches on before reaching Penn Station, but it takes Tada until he sees the American flags outside of the station.


(Inside front cover.)


(Inside back cover.)

Hasegawa and troupe have a decent lunch in a San Francisco restaurant, trying to understand the flavors of the shrimp and steak, and talk about the background behind sourdough bread. Hasegawa then has the family helicopter pick them up and drop them off at the Amtrak station. Initially, the group likes the novelty of riding on a sleeper, but all of the good berths have already been booked and Haruka has to rough it with a shared bunk with Tada and no shower. The food is good, although Kawahama warns the others to avoid the pork. The fat one also discovers that if you do wash yourself off that there's no towels and the only real alternative is to make yourself a toga of toilet paper.



By the second day, Haruka has had enough and she sneaks off to take a jet to New York, leaving TMK to rough it out one more night. They're also learning that the menu is the same day after day, leading to a sense of monotony. To break things up, Tada makes up a set of playing cards on scraps of paper, and Misato accuses him of using the microbes to cheat by looking over their shoulders. Along the way, Misato is losing patience with the U.S.'s restrictive anti-smoking laws.


(Coming to grips with American ashtrays.)

Back in Tokyo, Kei got Mutou to tell him where Tada had gone, and coerced Keizo to tag along with him on the trip. They landed shortly after Hasegawa's jet had, and rented an SUV to make the drive cross-country. At one point, they do catch up with the train, just enough to watch it pull out and continue off at a time when Kei really needs to stop for sleep.


(Sleep-deprived Kei.)

Keizo is in touch with Haruka over his cell phone, so they do know where they're going. However, when they reach the Grand Canyon, Kei accepts that the U.S. has some things to redeem itself with, and waxes poetic over the scenery. Later, to kill time, Keizo tries asking Kei if the boy likes Tada, and Kei tells him to stop talking silly.

In New York, Tada (now knowing where he is and having his preconceptions kick in) sees his surroundings with new eyes, and notices all the fat people chomping on fast food burgers and slugging super-sized diet drinks. They're also realizing that it's hard to figure out how much to tip waiters at restaurants, and dislike it when the bill has the tip already precalculated, not allowing them to make their own decisions based on service and food quality. Fortunately, Haruka locates TMK and rescues them by paying the bill herself. Marie is in tow behind Hasegawa, and explains that the "emergency" was actually driven by her choice to visit the U.S. before continuing on to Japan, and then deciding to go up to the top of the Empire State Building. The building was crammed with people and the "emergency" was simply the number of hours it took to just go up a few floors. At about this point, two guys in far away Mexico get a phone call and decide to go on their own road trip. That is, Kawahama's two younger brothers, Carlos and Jose, have found out that their big brother is in the U.S., and they gleefully jump into their car to go see him.



As Marie was telling our heroes her story, Ishikawa suddenly remembers an important point - this is New York in December. It snows in December. So everyone gets covered in snow in the next couple panels. But it's hard to draw snow so the microbes tell the readers to just imagine that there's ice everywhere. Haruka gets a text message saying that Keizo is in Arizona, and tells Tada, who's surprised that Kei has been following them. Haruka asks if this is love and Tada tells her to not be silly. He then asks if New Orleans is very far away from there. She says that it is, and Tada thanks her for this chance to see the U.S., which has turned out to be a lot of fun for him. A few minutes later, Marie, Kawahama and Misato discover their first America supermarket, and are entranced by the variety of products on display. None of them can understand the American fascination with microwaving frozen food rather than cooking from scratch. Marie then complains about the store staff keeping some of her smaller change rather than handing it all back. The next day, they go out to an open air market, where Marie makes herself happy eating freshly-made donuts. Eventually, Kawahama comes up with tears in his eyes, begging Haruka for some money - his brothers are getting tired from their road trip and he wants to fly down to meet them right away. After a few seconds thought, Hasegawa agrees, but only if they can all go together. She's going to split the difference by taking them down to New Orleans. When Keizo gets told of the new destination, Kei gets concerned. New Orleans is where Tada's older brother, Tadatsugu, lives.


("Mmmm, donuts.")

Hasegawa decides to land in Louisville and meet Kei and Keizo, who have been steadily veering north from the border. They run into the statue of Col. Sanders sitting on a bench, and Misato and Kawahama excitedly take turns posing to have their pictures taken with it. But, a few minutes later they want to hike around from the hotel to look at shops and are realizing that the roads there are just too wide to cross easily. Nearby is a Fujiyama restaurant, and Marie is desperate to eat "authentic sushi in an authentic setting". She's in awe when the chef starts juggling the knifes and applauds when he makes the flaming onion volcano. Tada asks Haruka if they should let the French girl know that real Japanese food is not like this, and she tells him to not burst her bubble - just let her keep enjoying herself. Haruka gives Tada her cell phone so he can use it as he likes, and the boy goes out into the parking lot to call his brother just as Kei and Keizo drive up. Marie is at the cash register, trying to get a taxi back to the hotel, but no one wants to make the drive out for such a short distance. Suddenly a figure blows past her, and she runs back to the table to ask if the others had seen the girl dressed all in black, just as Kei is asking where Tada is. Marie and Kei look at each other and both go "you're cute!!!" simultaneously. In the parking lot, Tada has reached his brother just as the older one is getting out of the shower, and they agree to meet up. He goes back into the restaurant and, on seeing Kei, asks him to go out with him.



Kei delivers a terrific blow to the top of Tada's head, yelling in a panicked voice that yeah, he wears a dress and make up; and yeah, he kissed Tada full on the lips once; but they're both guys - they shouldn't be dating each other. As the rest of the group tries to argue with Kei about this, the goth loli gets distracted and goes to sit at the bar to eat his first real meal in 3 days. Tada corrects him - he just wants moral support for meeting Tadatsugu. Kei settles down, but on seeing the chef doing the onion volcano, yells out "that's not Japanese!", completely deflating Marie. The two goths look at each other and turn away.



The next morning, Tada announces that the missing members of the group are ready, with Kei and Marie both exiting the hotel sans make-up and cosplay outfits. They drive to the Maker's Mark plant, where Keizo gives a brief overview of whisky; starting with akavit, the "water of life", which eventually morphed into "whisky" in gaelic, and then made its way to Canada and the U.S. There's one chart for which kinds of whiskeys are made in which countries, and also a nice little graph showing the process for making whiskey. Afterwards, during lunch, to continue pointing out the importance of variety and perceptions, Keizo asks everyone to give their thoughts about their experiences in the U.S. TMK reply that because they hadn't initially known where they were, their preconceptions of American food as being bad fast food burgers didn't cloud their judgment - they mostly liked it, especially the food on the train. Kei, on the other hand, was living on bad burgers and pistachio nuts, and he found it to be a "food hell". Tada says that they'd had seafood in San Francisco, and Kei shouts - "seafood? What was it? Was it delicious?" Back in the car, Keizo is continuing on about how America can have a wider variety of good foods partly because of the early influences of Spain, France and Mexico, but also because of its shorter history leading to fewer rules regarding what "good food" is. Misato and Kawahama want to get him to shut up to ask the question that's been bothering them since this morning - why are Kei and Marie wearing plain street clothes? The two look at each other in embarrassment, and mumble really fast. Tada has to translate - Kei thinks that Marie is a beautiful blond doll and he can't compete with that. Marie is fascinated with the boy's perfect black hair and dark eyes, and knows that she's not in the same league. Now that their thoughts are out in the open, the two rush back into the changing room and return with the shared battle cry "New Orleans!" Hasegawa reminds them that they won't hit the city limits until the following day. They then drive past the Louisville Slugger museum with its giant bat on their way down south.


(Tadatsugu.)

The next day, Kei and Marie repeat their battle cry, and Marie feels happily at home in the French Quarter. Misato likes this place also after seeing the sign "smoking is not a crime". After touring the Quarter, Kei realizes that someone is missing and goes running off. At the Andrew Jackson memorial, Tadayasu and Tadatsugu are facing off against each other. "Yasu" is still upset that his older brother ditched his responsibilities for taking over the family's moyashi business, and accuses him of being too self-centered. "Tsugu" counters that he hates his name of "Tadatsu", with the implied meaning of "just one more person". He ran to the U.S. to escape his father's expectations, nearly ran out of money, settled down in New Orleans, and found a part time job. He speculates on being a food importer. He adds that if Yasu doesn't want to be a moyashimon, then he should quit school and join him in his apartment. Yasu does like school, and has made friends there, but the ability to see microbes, coupled with the name "yasu" (backup protection if something happens to the eldest son) keeps weighing down on him. Tsugu corrects him, saying that "yasu" wasn't intended to mean "backup" as chosen by their father, but "please protect this child", as decided by their grandfather. Tsugu hopes that Yasu can finally laugh from deep within his heart some day. At this point, the two notice Kei, and Tsugu is stunned at the changes in the boy he'd last seen so long ago. He tries to find out what color panties he's wearing, and ends up getting kicked in the groin. They then walk around the Quarter, and Tsugu tells them to come back in the evening - it's Christmas and the city transforms itself at night. He then goes over to a street band to give them some money for entertaining his brother and friend, and the band recognizes him, saying that they don't need his money (because he's so poor and such good friends with the band members).


(Jose, Takuma and Carlos.)

Kei and Tada return to the group, where Carlos and Jose have made their appearances as well. Jose is a tall, buff version of Takuma, and Carlos is a lithe, darker-skinned, handsome version of Jose. Haruka and Misato claim the three are "peas in a pod", while Kei and Tada think that they're "deformed variants" but don't want to say that out-loud. Keizo announces that he's going to a casino then turn in early for the night. That evening, Marie and Kei have gotten some strings of beads, and everyone encounters the massive crowds on the streets. They marvel over the idea that people can drink outside (if you buy a bottle of beer in a bar, they'll pour it into a paper cup for you when you leave). Marie drags Kei into a place advertising a sex show, but is disappointed at how tame it is (Kei is stunned speechless from the experience). Tada gets a taste of New Orleans hospitality when he discovers that one door to a bar is too heavy for him to move on his own and someone holds it open for him. And they all watch as the crowd helps the mounted police catch three purse snatchers (shouting out descriptions of the thieves and directions for where they ran to). Finally, Tada is mortified to see his older brother naked on the streets with a bunch of other revelers. However, Tsugu's lecture to "follow your own bliss with the friends you make" not only inspires Yasu to go back to school and keep studying; but, also causes Marie to return her Japan ticket to Haruka so she can go back to France right away (because she knows that her family can't survive without her). Kei's upset at losing his new friend, and he and Marie both vow to party hard this evening. Jose picks up Tada, saying that it's good to have such great friends and family, then he lifts Marie and Kei on his shoulders as well. Tada is now laughing happily, which causes Hasegawa to grab Misato, Kawahama and Carlos to go drinking with her. Misato turns pale.



And, back in Tokyo, Mutou and Oikawa are in Aya's bar, looking bored and musing over the idea of seeing America.

--------------------------

The last 12 pages are broken up into 3 "omake" sections. The first one describes the recent change in editors, and the fact that a specific design for "microbe X" had gotten nixed in volume 1. The second omake talks about the selection of the live action actor for the part of Misato; Nishida, one half of the comedy duo Warai Meshi (Laughing Rice) was the obvious choice for the role but his participation in a comedy competition resulted in a scheduling conflict with the first day of shooting that almost prevented him from getting into the "Moyashimon" live-action TV drama. And the last section covers the new game applications that have come out for cell phones from both Mixi and FujiTV. The microbes are busy in the debugging process for the games, and they call it "war". Unfortunately, unless you're in Japan and have a Japanese mobile phone, the games won't run. But, you can at least look over the iPhone home page a little. The iPhone page does have a map of sake brewers in Japan, and I was amused to learn that Praha&Gen, the one I visited recently, is included in the map.

Game links:
Fuji TV PC Gateway
Mobile Gateway
Moyashi for iPhone
MIXI app




Notes:

There is a comment at one point that the group wants to see Kei, Marie and Yuu Kaneshiro in a room all at one time.

After talking to his brother about not laughing enough, Tada asks Hasegawa if she thinks that he looks unhappy all the time. Haruka, Kawahama and Misato all try to imitate Tada's standard reaction to MK's daily pranks - one of shocked horror.

In Arizona, Keizo introduces Kei to tortillas, while wearing an Indian headdress from a tourist trap shop.

In Albuquerque, TMK speculate that the city's name is actually from that shop, "Bulgari".

One of the funniest scenes on the train is when Misato discovers grits. The group realizes that anything in America can be improved on with the application of Tada's "mamori" (home-made soy sauce.)

Tada's older brother is shown in his apartment with boxes of miso, surrounded by microbes. He does know about Tada's abilities, but there's no indication that he can see the microbes himself.



(Fake ad for volume 11.)

Summary: The NouDai crew learn that America is not just bad food and fat people. Tada and Kawahama meet their brothers and Kei meets "the white version of me". Marie gets to taste raw Maker's Mark in the vat. Tada reconciles with his older brother and decides to return to school to find his own path. Highly recommended.

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