MOYASIMON • Masayuki Ishikawa • Del Rey • 16+
Tadayasu is a freshman at an agricultural college, where students go on vegetable raids instead of panty raids, biodiesel-fueled tractor chug around the campus, and pig poop is a not uncommon sight. Keizo Itsuki, a doddering old mad scientist, is impressed by Tadayasu’s inexplicable special ability: Tadayasu can see bacteria with the naked eye, and to him they are charming little stick figures each with their own personality and shape, from the loveable bacteria-next-door like Aspergillus oryzae to the cheerfully homicidal e. coli. What follows is a series of school misadventures involving, not really agriculture in the sense of growing plants, but every type of brewing, fermenting, sake-making, yogurt-making and other sorts of microbial food-making. The modern overuse of disinfectants and obsession with “anti-bacterial” products is cheerfully mocked; “It’s a better idea to work with bacteria than kill them,” says Hasegawa, one of Keizo’s colleagues, a scientist whose personal quirk is that she dresses more for the nightclub than for the laboratory. Demonstrating deep, wonky knowledge of bacteria (much of it expressed in little microbe character sketches in the sidelines), Moyasimon also has a taste for the disgusting: the hapless Tadayasu ends up smelling or tasting fermented stingray sashimi, Alaskan kiviak (bird carcasses left to ferment inside a dead seal), caterpillar fungus and many other questionable edibles. (“You know how at campsites, the filthy, cramped men’s bathroom has just one long urinal trough? I feel like I just picked up a piece of toilet paper that’s been stewing in there for a few weeks and put it in my mouth.”) Ishikawa sometimes errs on the side of too much info, resulting in pages and pages filled with text, and not so much in the way of plot or character development in the macroscopic human world. Nonetheless, it’s an imaginative mixture of the cute, the gross and the educational.
*** (three stars)
I’m back from my vacation, and 365 Days of Manga is continuing for just over one more week! Here are the winners who won while I was away, who I couldn’t announce: Amber B. and Matt H. of Ohio, Michael G. of Maryland, Jamie N. of California, and Trey M., Ihsaan H. and Leslee A. of Pennsylvania. Congratulations! As many people discovered when they tried to sign up for the manga contest the last few days, the contest form was temporarily broken over the weekend, but has just been fixed. Go now to graphic-novels-manga.unboundworlds.com and sign up on the right-hand side of the page (you may have to scroll down a little) for a change to win some free manga!
And now back to the other half of the contest: showing the faces of manga readers/winners around the U.S.! This photo was sent by Trang N. — thanks for sending it in! Prepare to receive more manga!