Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Moyashimon, vol. 11

It's been a little over a year since the release of Moyashimon vol. 10, and I haven't really talked about this series during that time.  I did, a few weeks ago, run some pages of the Evening issue that mentioned the Ishikawa manga exhibit, but that's about it. For those of you unfamiliar with this series, I recommend that you check out my Moyashimon database.  Suffice it to say here that it's about a Japanese teenager who can see yeast and bacteria, and his adventures at the agricultural university, NouDai, that he starts attending.  With this volume, he and his friend, Kei, are nearing the end of their first year in college.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Moyashimon, vol. 11, by Masayuki Ishikawa.  Grade: A
At the end of volume 10, our heroes were split up, with one group in New Orleans and the rest back at home on campus in Japan.  Maria, the French wine grower, has returned back to her vineyard, while the lead NouDai researcher, Haruka Hasegawa, has flown to Hawai'i for some year-end parties, and Japanese-Mexican Takuma Kawahama has teamed up with his two younger brothers to drive back to their family home in Mexico.  This leaves our main character, Tadayasu Sawaki, goth-loli crossdresser Kei Yuuki, scheming 2nd-year Kaoru Misato and professor Keizo Itsuki - who all fly back to Japan in time for winter break.

Back on campus, alcoholic Aoi Mutou gets into a spat with Kei, while waiting for germophobe Hazuki Oikawa to show up with snacks for a party.  Kei's primary gripe is that since Itsuki's research staff has shrunk, and Mutou's always drunk, they're behind schedule on producing their own nihonshu (Japanese sake).  Before the spat can get out of hand, a group of university seniors show up to summon Mutou to a hearing.  Because she's been drinking so heavily lately, Aoi's taken to sleeping under the bushes, which during the winter is a bad thing.  Since she's the current reigning Miss NouDai, it's giving the school a bad image.  Mutou gets tricked by Misato into stepping down, so the council announces a new Miss NouDai contest to be held over the next 3 days, limited to 5 contestants, plus Mutou.  Word goes out immediately, and every male student currently on break rushes back to campus to participate in the voting.  The rules are simple - one student, one ballot.  If there are enough ballots for a particular nominee, she qualifies for the top 5 challenger's positions.

(From left: Nishino, Kei, Oikawa, Kosaka and Nakayama)

The rest of the volume is then divided between the contest, and the moyashi (yeast) that talk about yeast stuff.  Misato sees the pageant as a way to make a fast buck by running bets on who the winner will be, forcing Sawaki to join him in backing Kei on the ballots.  The other 4 challengers are Oikawa, Kosaka (a research student studying the government's self-sufficiency program), Nakayama (a husbandry student that dislikes Mutou) and Madoka Nishino (a high school student working part-time on campus).

(Kei at a shrine preparing to make nihonshu with his backer's help.)

Kei decides to participate only if his backers (who don't know his secret identity) will help him produce nihonshu for his class project.  Oikawa likes dressing up, as well as the attention, so she quickly accepts the nomination.  Nakayama is the most attractive woman in farm studies and animal raising, and her classmates quickly rally around her.  Kosaka had a run-in with Mutou in volume 9 and is willing to try knocking her off her pedestal, if possible.  This just leaves the unknown Nishino, who is being backed by Professor Itsuki.

(Aya, helping run Mutou's campaign.)

Mutou, feeling insulted, sulks in a street gutter, until her best friend, Aya Hiroka volunteers to be her "second".  In the first round of the competition, Aya immediately begins the assault by questioning Nishino's presence on the stage.  Itsuki steps up, saying the the girl, while still in high school, will be entering NouDai this winter and is part-timing on campus as kind of an intern. Plus, there was nothing in the rules that said that candidates had to be university students, just that they had to be popular.  Aya turns next on Kei, announcing that there's only one Kei Yuuki enrolled at the school, and the records show that Kei is male.  Misato rushes to the microphone to spin a story about Yuuki being twins, and that his "sister", Hotaru, had gotten into Noudai by using Kei's identity.  Mutou, who's been drinking again, yells out that the next stage of the contest will be swimsuits.  Nishino and Kei both decide to drop out of the running right there.

(Haruka is less than happy.)

Itsuki talks Nishino into at least wearing a high school one piece suit, while Misato calls Haruka in Hawai'i claiming that she has to rush back because Itsuki has fallen ill.  The next day, Oikawa and Kosaka happily parade around in modified bikinis, while Nakayama wears a cow-patterned two piece plus cow bell choker.  Nishino walks on stage but refuses to take her windbreaker off.  Finally, when Yuuki's name is called, an evil black cloud walks on stage - Haruka dressed up as Kei in a goth-loli suit.  This is where things go out of control.  Someone in the audience calls out "Catherine", and both Kosaka and Nakayama panic.  Turns out that Nakayama has been caring for a pregnant cow named Catherine, which has decided to give birth now, but there's complications.  Meanwhile, Kosaka's parents have arrived on campus to watch their beloved daughter and are calling out her name - Katherine, which she absolutely abhors. And, the crowd has been drinking and they don't like Nishino's attitude and start heckling her.  Kosaka makes up with her parents, but quits the race. Nakayama rushes to save Catherine. Hasagawa reveals that she's disguised herself as Kei and is disqualified.  And Nishino announces that she hates anything to do with nihonshu, starting a riot.  Mutou falls over herself to greet Hasegawa, and that just leaves Oikawa on stage to win by default.

(Fake back page ad for volume 12.)

At the front gate, Kei intercepts Nishino and asks why she hates nihonshu. The girl refuses to answer and exits the campus.  When things settle down, Misato and Mutou are in the doghouse with Hasegawa.  Mutou for being irresponsible, and Misato for dragging her from Hawai'i under false pretenses.

(Misato is also less than happy.)

Misato is now a crippled mess - after Hasegawa finished whipping him, all of the classmates that lost out of the bet beat him up further.  Aya suggests one way for Misato to apologize - he's dressed up as Santa and lowered from Hasegawa's mansion roof by a rope by Itsuki, Sawaki, and Mutou.  One half of the rope breaks and Hasegawa is forced to let him into the room to keep him from falling to his death.  She yells at him for a while for being an idiot, so he gives her Mutou's ballot, followed by his own - both have her name written on them.  He tries exiting through the window again, but Itsuki and the others have already gone home.  Hasegawa relents, and sees a falling star.  Earth is just entering a meteor swarm and some of the streaks can be seen from Japan.  She and Misato watch from her window.  While, half-way around the planet, Kawahama and his two brothers have driven out to a mountain range where they drink beer and watch the fireworks in the sky.


(The experimental nihonshu factory in Itsuki's lab.)

The second part of the story is the moyashi stuff.  The yeast characters start out by confronting influenza viruses, and discussing the history of the polio vaccine, from Europe to Japan.  They also focus heavily on the production process for nihonshu.  In the omake section at the end of the book, the yeasts tell the readers that Evening magazine had included postcards last Fall for voting on who should be the next Miss NouDai, and Oikawa won with 1000 people voting, total.  They imply that there had been 6 different storylines written, to cover whoever won, but the unused ones have been burned so no one can tell whether it's a lie or not.  One of the yeasts lets drop that the mysterious Nishino will be introduced more fully in the next storyline.

(The old way of making Nihonshu.)

Now, about nihonshu.  In Japanese, the word "sake" can apply to rice wine, or to any alcoholic beverage in general.  Because there are at least 3 major kinds of sake in Japan, there has to be a way to refer to rice wine specifically.  There's "ume-shu", also known as plum wine.  "Shochu", the distilled alcohol first made on the island of Kyushu, with a sweet potato base.  And "nihonshu" - "Japanese sake", AKA - rice wine.  So, what most westerners know as "sake", is called "nihonshu" in Japan.

(Bottom edge image - Prof. Itsuki's glasses.)

Summary: We get to see the combat that is the "Miss NouDai" pageant, and learn how nihonshu is produced.  There's lots of great artwork, silly gags, and wonderful backgrounds.  Highly recommended.


koreanzombie said...

well it looks like haruka and misato is a done deal. Surprising because i thought he was going to pair tada and haruka together

TSOTE said...

Thanks for visiting.
Well, in manga nothing is ever really a "done deal", but this pair up is moving forward pretty strongly.