What They Say
Episode 4: “Microbes, Microbes Everywhere” – Professor Itsuki sends Sawaki and his best friend, Yuuki Kei, to steal vegetables from a university farm. The pair are on edge as they set out for their first thieving experience… but it turns out to be part of a campus-wide event using first-years to teach potential thieves a lesson!
Episode 5: “Horrors! The Microbe Monster” – Sawaki encounters a “microbe monster,” a man covered from head to toe in microbes. He turns out to be Hiyoshi Kikuji, a friend of Professor Itsuki’s who runs a liquor store. Sawaki and his companions are fascinated by Kikuji’s tales of the depth of Japanese sake and the work of microbes. Just then, a woman bearing a huge backpack and a horrible stench, Mutou Aoi, appears…
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With main character introductions finally out of the way, Moyashimon can get straight into the main story. And the show decides to jump straight into the action, with Kei and Sawaki being chased through a field by what looks to be American football players. After the opening, we flash back before this to get some context for what we’ve just seen.
Whether or not this is what life at a Japanese Agricultural College is really like, Moyashimon decides to make a great story out of it. The day begins with Kei, Sawaki, and Oikawa working in a rice paddy learning to plant rice, which they soon find is exhausting work. On the way to their next first day activities, they run into Professor Itsuki, who’s out gathering earthworms for Kawahama, who tells the students of worms’ importance to agriculture. Kawahama and Misato are meanwhile playing researcher while making folk remedies out of the worms, which annoys actual researcher Hasegawa to no end.
When everyone’s back at the lab, Itsuki suggests picking some vegetables, which Kei and Sawaki agree to do. However, it turns out the vegetable thievery is a university hazing of a sort. Every group has sent someone to pick vegetables, and deciding to avoid the crowd, the unlucky duo decide to pick vegetables from another field across the way, and thus the trap is sprung. This other field is used for experimental herbicide research, and so traps are set up to catch anyone who might try to steal from it. This, it turns out, is the reason Kei and Sawaki were being pursued: To teach the students a valuable lesson about stealing vegetables from random university fields without considering the potential risks. The faces of the two young men are put up on the school bulletin board as part of the ritual humiliation.
But the humiliation isn’t over for Sawaki, who ends up with a stomachache and his arm up the rear end of a cow. As part of orientation, the students are lead around the school in tractors and made to take part in activities from multiple branches of agriculture. It just so happened that Sawaki was the lucky one to get to feel whether the cow was ovulating or not. Moyashimon makes fun of the somewhat simple, rural and quirky nature of the agricultural university, but it does so in a very affectionate way. It’s hard to tell if the author actually attended such a university himself, or made up the whole thing out of the cloth. I’d be rather disappointed, honestly, if Japan’s agricultural universities weren’t actually like this, so loving is the portrait painted by the series.
The fifth episode introduces a character with super-powers similar to Sawaki’s own. While walking down the street, Sawaki notices a man who looks like a giant cloud of microbes, almost resembling a character out of Spirited Away. In a panic, he tries to report the microbe monster to Professor Itsuki, but he’s out of the lab. He tells Hasegawa about the monster, but she coolly responds that with his power, every person should look covered in microbes. Though she’s still in her usual bad mood, Hasegawa has managed to keep Misato, Kawahama, and Oikawa quiet by running a smile mold through a maze. While the Nausicaa joke from the manga was sadly removed, it’s still a great character moment seeing the three watching the mold with rapt anticipation.
Itsuki returns and sends the group out to Hiyoshi Liquors to pick up some sake. We’re given more hints of character development along the way: Itsuki, Hasegawa says, talks very little about himself, though he worked on trying to get Zero fighters to run off of potatoes during the Pacific war. Hasegawa’s jealousy is as strong as ever, and she steals my heart away by telling Sawaki that she would drink his blood in an instant in order to gain his microbe-seeing powers. And we see more of Kei’s strong ties to his sake brewing family when he sees what appear to be bottles of sake sitting unprotected from the sun.
We soon discover, like always, that Professor Itsuki’s plan has an ulterior motive, in that the owner of Hiyoshi Liquors is the microbe monster that Sawaki has been seeing. He’s just an ordinary man, but he so loves microbes that they follow him wherever the goes. As they’re both sake aficionados, Hiyoshi and Kei get into an argument about who’s responsible for the decline in popularity of Japanese sake within Japan itself. Oikawa finds the entire argument boring, and the viewer might as well, as it’s primarily of interest to people who care of sake a great deal, and few others.
It’s a weak spot in the episode for sure, but the tedium is soon broken by the introduction of another beautiful microbiology student, who’s dressed for cold weather and bearing a backpack full of horrifyingly smelly fermented foods. She’s on her way to meet Itsuki with another payload of exotic and horrible fermented delicacies from across the globe. However, her payload is incredibly unstable, and she manages to spill a great deal of it in Hiyoshi’s bar.
I still haven’t seen an episode quite as strong as the first, but the introduction of Mutou and her fermented treasures promises we’ll be in for some surprises next time, for sure.
There’s something incredibly refreshing and nostalgic about seeing college students in an anime, but it’s even more fun seeing them in such an exotic educational setting. Instead of seeing the usual entrance ceremonies and high school festivals, we’re getting orientations, hazing, and seminars. And for people who don’t find the college locale appealing enough, we also have exploding food and unfortunate encounters with livestock. Its combination of educational material and comedy doesn’t always flow together in the most natural way, but there’s really nothing else like Moyashimon.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Review Equipment: Sony VAIO 17″ HD screen