Moyasimon Vol. 1: Tales of Agriculture

By Masayuki Ishikawa
240 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

I love when publishers take a chance on slightly strange and out-there books, and I think that’s a category that Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture certainly falls into. After all, books and comics about brand-new university students are a dime a dozen, no need to do more than bat an eye over them. On the other hand, take that idea and then add in the extra twist of the protagonist being able to see microscopic germs as cute little animated beings that talk to one another? Well, now we’re going somewhere sufficiently odd.

When I first heard about Moyasimon I’d thought it would be more like Mushishi, with its lead character that can see hidden spirits that plague people and try to heal them. Moyasimon goes in a different direction, though; the book feels like a strange combination of attempted educational tool (like Oishinbo A la Carte) and school-based adventure. When Tadayasu Sawaki sees the different germs swarming around, he doesn’t get to command them or even communicate. After all, they’re germs, right? So instead this is a book where he merely reacts to their presence. Sometimes it can work in his favor, like spotting E. coli around picnic food that everyone’s about to eat. Other times, like learning about a hidden body buried out in the forest, it’s fairly disastrous.

But really, Tadayasu’s abilities are almost second to everything else that goes on here. Sure, his professor wants to use Tadayasu’s gift to the advantage of the university, but there’s more to the book than that. I actually found other parts of the book more interesting, like Tadayasu’s childhood friend Kei, or the sake-brewing get-rich-scheming Kawahama and Misato. It’s as Tadayasu deals with the people around him that Moyasimon seems to find its strength; I like seeing the germaphobic Hazuki enter the mix, or having Professor Itsuki lecture them on just what the latest sighting of a germ really means. And of course, there are the strange traditions of the university that Tadayasu and Kei are just starting to learn about; they seem odd at first, but the more you read about each of them, the more sense they make to the reader. It’s an odd, slightly off-kilter world in Moyasimon but by the end I almost hate to admit that I found myself wanting to live in it for a little while.

Masayuki Ishikawa really knocks it out of the park, though, when it comes to his art. So far as I can tell this is his only major work, and that’s too bad if only because I love how he draws his characters and want to see more right away. His characters have faces that seem perfectly sculpted, with just the right curve on the edges of their jaw, and delicate individual hairs drawn onto the top of their heads. Ishikawa’s art defines the word "crisp" to me. Adding to the delight of the art, though, is how Ishikawa draws the germs that Tadayasu sees. Through his eyes, they’re jovial little beings with big heads and smiles. In other words, they’re absolutely adorable. Even deadly bacteria seem cute through Ishikawa’s art, which of course makes comments from the germs along the lines of, "Let’s brew up and kill ’em all!" that much more startling and amusing. Who knew drawings of alcohol fermentation could be so entrancing?

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture is really odd, but I say that in the nicest possible way. I don’t think there anything else quite like it out there, and that certainly adds to its attractiveness. If you don’t mind trying something out that’s a little more off-beat, this is a fun trip. Ishikawa packs enough stuff going on here—not only germs, but character relationships and interactions—to keep you entertained from start to finish.

Purchase Links: | Powell’s Books

3 comments to Moyasimon Vol. 1: Tales of Agriculture

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  • themooninautumn

    This series is so gross and funny that I hope more people read it and fall under its quirky spell. I am fairly certain there is no other manga out there that will teach you more about disgusting fermented foods (that people actually eat and consider delicacies) around the world than Moyasimon. The campus antics are fun, too. Nice review.

    I hope the bacteria get more love, and I kind of hope DelRey licenses some merchandise because those tiny critters are made for stickers. :)