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AKA: Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture, Tales of Agriculture
Genre: Supernatural comedy / educational slice of life
Length: Television series, 11 episodes, 25 minutes each
Distributor: Currently streaming on crunchyroll. Licensing rights by Media Blasters have since lapsed
Content Rating: PG-13 (adult themes, sexuality, fermentation)
Related Series: Moyashimon Returns (Sequel)
Also Recommended: Azumanga Daioh and Nodame Cantabile (another beloved 2007 college anime)
Notes: Based on a manga by Masayuki Ishikawa and adapted into a live-action TV drama on the "noitaminA" block on Fuji TV where the anime had aired. With the former licensed by Del Rey Manga and the latter simulcast with Funimation, the anime is the only unlicensed version of this series. A Nintendo DS game also exists.

Four mini-episodes expanding on the Microbe Theater segments were included on some DVDs of the show.
Rating: Five StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive StarsFive Stars
 

Moyashimon

Synopsis

Sawaki Tadayasu, a member of a fermentation-starter business family, has an unusual ability to say the least: he can see and communicate with bacteria and other micro-organisms. Their appearance, however, is not nearly the same to him as to an electron microscope. He enters a well-known agricultural university with his childhood friend Kei Yuuki, whose family is in the sake business. Upon arriving, he learns that, despite not being believed or being open about his ability, one of the professors, Keizo Itsuki, learned of his ability from his grandfather. Add to that Keizo's rather sadistic assistant Haruka Hasegawa and a few other students, and the lab might as well become a clubhouse.


Review

If I said that there was a point where I didn't like what Moyashimon was doing, chances are you aren't actually talking to me. From the very first episode of this show all the way to the last "Microbe Theater" in Episode 11, all Moyashimon ever did was consistent quality episodes that, personally speaking, are some of the most charming anime I've ever had the chance to watch. Even with some flaws, the anime so rarely went below being fun that those flaws take on a certain charm of their own. It's like Lunar to some extent in that it's not cutting edge and not the most forward-thinking entity, but what it lacks in power it more than makes up for it in just good old fashioned enjoyment.

The biggest flaw, one could say, is the story here tends to err on being rather weak. While not a bad story, the way it's incorporated into the series means it kind of has to be pulled along. At some points, it actually feels as if the story is being written on the spot rather than previously decided. While most everything does have stories written episode-by-episode, here it feels like the story really is being decided on step-by-step during production rather than before it. However, for what the story doesn't do, it needs to have characters you can't really hate to compensate. Three or four shall be enough.

But in reality, I found out later that I can't really hate anyone here. Sawaki and Kei grew on me quickly, especially in some of the funnier scenes they were in, and it becomes noticeable when Kei briefly leaves the campus. In the lab we have Professor Itsuki, whose utter love of microbes leads to scenes of utter shamelessness such as when he deals with fermented foods like kiviak or surstromming (and he usually tends to be a source of good comedy). His assistant, Haruka, also goes shameless with being more or less a dominatrix Yukari Tanizaki. The streak isn't let down by Hazuki and Aoi, who come into the lab later. Even the human comedy relief duo of Kaoru and Takuma earn their laughs and I still cared. One character, whose name I forgot, is seen surrounded by bacteria so bad that he looks uncannily like an agricultural version of a boar demon from Princess Mononoke) Later on, the drama for each main does kick in, with breakups to sheltered lives to sexual and gender issues (this one is the reason Kei left campus (he reappears as a gothic lolita) and is what he's best known for). Even here the show doesn't let the characters down and I just found myself caring more for the characters when each came in. Although there was a slight touch of rushing in the later episodes (the ones that explores these), it was so slow with rushing that compared to things like Iriya no Sora and Papa and Heart, it was not really that fast and it handled itself rather well.

However, pride of place for characters must go to the very things this show is known for: the microbes. Usually, a microbe can only be seen via electron microscopes. Sawaki can see them with the naked eye, but that's not the kicker. Normally, a virus looks pretty insignificant on a microscope (like a spore or capsule). Sawaki's versions of them are so adorable it's easy to see one in the show and want to hug it. Aspergillus oryzae (a mold used in Japanese cuisine), in particular, is considered the show's mascot. And on top of looking cute, they act rather dear, whether it's playing children's games (Basillus halodurans), or just acting Japanese (Lactobacillus yogurti) as opposed to the bacteria in a European yogurt. Even pathogens like E. coli strain O-157 have over-sugary chibi forms. Incredibly, the show even does the microbes a favor: it's rather educational. Although it isn't a college level course, how it handles microbiology and campus life on an agricultural university was enlightening and while keeping me in for the experience with the characters and story (as weak at times as it was), I would be a bit remiss if I didn't say I learned something from this show (the university itself is designed based on the Portuguese University of Coimbra to the point that even its flag is based on Portugal's). The segments at the end of each episode (the Microbe Theater) also offers a slice of education, and unlike many educational programs I stumbled through, it held my interest all the way.

The factual nature of the show is actually a large part of what makes the comedy work so much. Several comedic scenes revolve around fermented foods and their actual nature, or more like it, the reactions to said foods. The kiviak scene in Episode 1 was an example: it wasn't funny due to the mere fact the food existed, but it was funny because of the reaction to how the professor partook of the offering (practically everyone had looks that read as if they thought the good prof lost it). That, however, doesn't mean the comedy exists solely in the fermentation department: there's gold outside of it too. One scene, during the festival, was so over-the-top that it was impossible to keep a straight face.

And even with all of that, this is still an anime, and it still needs to be judged as such. The artwork, although not trailblazing, is rather good for the story and the animation is quite top-notch. Even the music was catchy beyond needed, with the opening song "Curriculum" (and a nifty real-life film with the microbes floating about) and the ending song "Rocket" (whose video bears an odd resemblance to the "Groovy!" ending of Card Captor Sakura) forming the perfect bookends to the episodes. The episode music also doesn't fail the mood, which from a series that goes from light-hearted to dramatic is quite nice. The whole package was a great method to exploit the contents, and what could've been just an educational show/character study ends up taking well into the field of anime.

Finally, by the end of the show, I openly realized my problem: I loved this show. I loved its story. I loved its characters. I loved its music. I loved its art. I loved its comedy. I want to cuddle with the bacteria (and so did a lot of people: the plushies based on them tend to sell out quickly). I loved learning a bit about microbes. And by the time I started remembering the weaker details (the plot weakening every now and then, the ending being a bit quick, and the art not being the prettiest), they got purged by the fact that the show was more than what was put into it. And while you might think I'm being too positive and giving a few too many byes, the fact that I could so lose it when describing a show is a testament to that show's ability. And Moyashimon had an undeniable charm for me and I hope it gets a second season to explain more about the story. However, if the legacy of the show must only come down to eleven episodes, it couldn't have had a better eleven if it tried.

Good job, microbes. Good job.

It may not be one of the best anime ever, but it very well ranks among the best to me.Jake L Godek

Recommended Audience: Outside of sexuality stuff in later episodes which includes a sidestory about aphrodisiacs, it's fairly innocent. Those with weak stomachs, however, may want to turn away, as the fermented food segments do tend to get a bit strong.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital source
Review Status: Full (11/11)
Moyashimon © 2007 Shirogumi / Tele-Com Animation
 
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