Moyashimon tastes better than it smells!
By Bob Johnson
This one really takes me back. Way way back, to before I even cared about anime all that much, when it was just kind of a sideshow to the tabletop and computer gaming circles that were my main jam. My university’s anime club watched this one almost right away, when “right away” meant waiting for Geneon to release a DVD box set, have someone in the club bring it over, and have everyone say, “ya sure you betcha” when the idea of watching it for the club was floated.
I was amused from the beginning to watch this university school life show called “Tales of Agriculture” in a university lecture hall, from the same projectors that handled the daily powerpoint slides mere hours before – and actually learn something! It is just as informative, and certainly more entertaining, than the average introductory microbiology course, and now… whoa, 16 years already since its release?? Well, it still holds up.
The show’s about a brewers’ son, Tadayasu Sawaki, whose folks send him to cow college to get his degree. Along the way, we meet a few colourful characters that help drive the plot forward, as well as a special situation that requires Sawaki to risk revealing his superpower: he can see and hear microbes, which appear to him as cute little anime chibis. Along the way, there’s much done to explain the science of fermentation and spoilage in food and beverages.
Our lead characters are a short-stacked, short-tempered Anime Protagonist, supported by a lackadaisical, weird-food loving professor, permagrads in three flavours, and some love interests for our superhero that are obvious but perenially and humourously deflected.
The real stars of the show are the chibi microbes, though. All of them are vaguely shaped like the real microbe and have a silly smile on their face unless they need to be in another broadly brushed mood. Generally they just sit there or float around, but occasionally they talk directly to or about Sawaki, or to each other. It’s a somewhat different approach than say, Cells at Work, which also turned bacteria into characters. But unlike the scary germs in that show, most of the microbes we see here are just little derps who actually help humans out, doing things like making sake boozy or cheese taste good.
I hate to call it “Old School” – as Moyashimon is available today as it was originally shown – in full HD – but it still harkens back to an older era, before moé took over everything, when vampy milfs could still be Best Girl, and CG was still pretty bad but could be put to effective use in certain situations. The mid-2000s still had a lively market for odd manga with a semi-educational message, and interesting shows could still make it to the US even without a dub.
Other folks saw Moyashimon and said “eh, that’s kinda weird” – I went and made Natto and Sake for real, because that’s muh freedom. Apparently that’s a bit lacking in Japan, which (as the show mentions) has strict limits on home and microbrewing, something that America rolled back in the ’70s. Thanks, Jimmy Carter! Homemade sake is awesome, and it’s easier to make than beer… I should do another batch sometime. Natto, on the other hand, well let’s be generous and say it’s just not going to happen indoors at my place. But hey, watch Episode 8 if you want to learn the recipe for yourself.
If you’re still thinking, ‘eww gross! germs!’ Well sure, Moyashimon won’t please everyone. It’s cute and silly and nerdy as all get out, with just a dash of spice, and that is certainly better than you would expect from a biology textbook masquerading as an anime. What this show is not (thank god!) is a shonen action adventure isekai, which is why I strongly, strongly recommend thoughtful, genuinely nice shows like this as an antidote to the braindead, same-y, copy-paste, slime mold matting every surface of the modern anime quarterly release schedule.