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Manga Review: Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture by Masayuki Ishikawa

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The latest release from Del Rey comes from a manga that has been going strong since 2004. Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture is decidedly different from most every other manga out there. It all comes from the mind of relative unknown Masayuki Ishikawa who, to my knowledge, hasn’t been published prior to this work. But you know what? That’s okay! Ishikawa’s book stands out in many ways, and it looks like Del Rey did the right thing scooping it up.

At first I was unsure of whether or not a manga about agriculture would be interesting. I mean, agriculture isn’t the most fascinating subject in the world. Where Moyasimon stands out is with the unique ability Ishikawa bestowed upon the main character.

Tadayasu Sawaki is a first year college student at an agricultural college somewhere in Tokyo. He comes from a more rural area of Japan, but what stands out most about Tadayasu is his bizarre ability to see germs, bacteria, and other microbial organisms. While they are naked to the human eye, Tadayasu can see everything from the common cold, to bacteria that would cause food-born illness, and even the active ingredients inside fermenting sake.

Yes, Tadayasu’s uniqueness has often been made an uncomfortable focal point for many people to poke fun at. His peers have made fun of him. Needless to say he doesn’t talk about his powers because he doesn’t want the weird looks, teasing, and untrusting gazes. Fortunately he has a friend named Kei Yuuki who has also decided to attend the same agriculture college. They’ve been buddies for a while. and Kei is one of the only people who knows about Tadayasu’s ability, and accepts him for it. When the two arrive at the university they are greeted by an old friend of Tadayasu’s grandfather, Professor Keizou Itsuki, and his assistant Haruka Hasegawa.

Itsuki is a mad scientist kind of guy. He knows about Tadayasu’s powers and is constantly conducting experiments in fermentation and testing his new student’s ability. In many ways he reminded me of Professor Farnsworth from Futurama, but he’s not quite as whacked in the head…or is he? Anyway, Itsuki takes Tadayasu and Kei under his wing, and along with Hasegawa they go from one subject to the next, all revolving around Tadayasu’s ability to see bacteria.

So what happens in this volume? Well, in all honesty a lot of time in this opening installment is spent introducing the characters. The greater focus is on the bacteria and germs within things, and then Tadayasu’s reaction to these guys. He sees them as cute, personable critters and can even interact with them. They talk to him, and he often watches as they play around. It’s rather charming and is one of the main reasons Moyasimon stands out so much. Watching as Tadayasu walks into a dirty room, sees e-coli on lettuce, or even witnesses yeast playing around in sake is very entertaining.

Aside from learning about Tadayasu, seeing the germs, or reading about character reactions to his powers, there’s not much that happens here. Some goofball sophomore students named Misato and Kawahama make a mess of things with some illegal sake brewing, and Itsuki is downright goofy, but that’s about it. A more interesting plot develops towards the end of this volume, so the next one should be much more interesting and faster paced.

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture is well-written, nicely translated, and features some downright fantastic artwork by Ishikawa. I really enjoyed the look of the world and all the germs Tadayasu sees in the world. Things have a simple, yet refined look, and it stays constant from start to finish.

If you’re looking for a new manga to check out, Moyasimon: Takes of Agriculture is definitely one that should be on your list. The setting is very unique; the character are nicely developed; and when you combine everything you have one fascinating and entertaining read. I look forward to the next installment and give this one a solid recommendation.

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