Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Episodes 1-11 Streaming
For some reason Tadayasu Sawaki can see microbes. Always has. Maybe it had something to do with his family's long history of manufacturing yeast. It made him something of a pariah as a child, so he doesn't advertise it. Life is about to change for young Sawaki though. Along with best friend and confidante Yuuki, he's about to enter an agriculture college in the outskirts of Tokyo, where his unique skill set will be of incalculable value. He's immediately taken under the wing of eccentric Professor Itsuki, a fermentation expert who knew his grandfather, and before long has caught the eye of Itsuki's leather-clad grad student Hasegawa and a pair of profit-minded goobers named Misato and Kawahama. Life is about to get lively for Japan's gift to microbe-kind.
It's a shame there aren't more anime about college. It sometimes feels like the anime industry expects you to be arrested at the age of sixteen for the rest of your life. I resent that. I expect to be arrested at 21 for the rest of my life. Compared to high school, life in college is just more interesting: the range of people and experiences far broader, and life in general less muddled by hormones and parents and crippling self-consciousness. It's also the time when the world truly opens up and the terrors and joys of adulthood begin to manifest. Moyashimon's strength is in capturing that collegiate feeling: the freedom, the newness, the adventure; the bad roommates, the bizarre school activities, the drunken sexual experimentation. Good times.
Of course, Sawaki's isn't exactly a normal college experience. For one he can see microbes. He can also hear them, talk to them, push them around, and tell them to do stuff for him. They're like microscopic SD sidekicks that spend their spare time spreading decay across the globe. And like full-size sidekicks, they're mostly used for comic relief. It's always good for a smile when some gang of anthropomorphized single-celled organisms gives Sawaki a hard time or even just goes casually about, doing what microbes do. Often they have silly quirks that reflect their specific nature: the yeasts domesticated for food manufacture are gregarious and friendly to humans, Japanese yogurt bacteria have topknots, and the food poisoning “Gang of Five” are all scruffy and disreputable-looking.
Sawaki's microscopic buddies are also given most of the educational heavy-lifting, normally done in the ”Microbe Theater” omake segments at the end of each episode. It's here that we learn the names, habits and useful functions of the many microorganisms we meet over the course of the episode. Generally the omake will zoom in on an event or location in the episode and have the bacteria involved explain themselves. If you've an even passing interest in microbiology, they're tons of fun—and far superior to the second season's educational interludes, which were piled on in the middle of episodes, interrupting the action and attenuating the episodes.
Not all of the food science and microbiology is packed into the omake, but even the stuff in the episodes proper tends to be more interesting than that in season two. Partly because it involves more interesting foods—fermented seagulls sewn into a rotten seal, for instance—but mainly because this season does a better job of incorporating science and learning into its laid-back fun. That rotten seal is mistaken early on for the buried body of Hasegawa, a hypothesis only proven wrong after Itsuki digs it up, pulls out one of the seagulls and sucks its fermented innards out of its birdie butt—apparently the proper way to eat fermented seagull innards. After which Itsuki introduces himself to Sawaki, all the while talking through a splatter of brown seagull muck (which does his breath no favors).
It's a very funny sequence, and only one of many such food-related hijinks. Oikawa—the germophobic girl-next-door who joins Sawaki's expanding circle of oddball friends—is introduced while carting around a fermented stingray. “The world's second-stinkiest food!” brags Itsuki. Naturally the stinkiest isn't far behind—it features prominently in a doomed dinner at a fancy restaurant. Apparently splatter is a common side-effect of stinky foods.
And of course, there's plenty of non-food-related fun too. The Spring Festival, in which the campus becomes a self-sustaining nation with its own nonsense laws, locked down until someone figures out the conditions required to free the school, is a highlight. There's the inevitable collision between Oikawa and the germ-farm being run by Misato and Kawahama, a raid on a vegetable field guarded by a motley assortment of football players and other violent sportsmen, and an ill-fated rendezvous between Sawaki's arm and a cow's rectum.
And that is what really sets this season apart from season two. In essence they're basically the same: easygoing college comedies with great ensemble casts and a bit of an educational bent. The characters—comically unflappable Sawaki, S&M queen Hasegawa, walking mystery Itsuki, loveable losers Misato and Kawahama—are equally awesome in either version, the humor equally odd and equally funny. The only difference is density. There's just more of the good stuff in this season: more strange campus customs; more of Hasegawa's drunken insanity; more, even, of the little nuggets of serious character growth (Hasegawa lamenting her instinctive sharpness, Sawaki's growing independence) that are sprinkled about.
Sure there are other differences. This season is the sharper looking of the two, with cleaner designs and more detailed settings; season two is the more vivid, with brighter colors and more expressive designs. This season's score is sometimes incongruously serious (which actually adds to the humor on occasion), and its fan-service level is orders of magnitude higher. (Remember the drunken sexual experimentation? Let's just say no men were involved). But ultimately the only difference that matters, and the only to give it an advantage, is that it gives itself and its characters more room to charm and entertain.
Which is where the end of this season makes its fatal mistake. At its best, Moyashimon isn't a story so much as a place to visit: the wacky college we all wish we had attended, populated by the people we wish we had attended it with—properly exaggerated, of course, but familiar enough that we can recognize some of our own lives in it. In its last episode or two, however, it tries to be a story: complete with crisis and drama and—the horror!—a total lack of campus capers. It isn't too awful, but it's so clearly not the series' forte that it ends the show on something of a sour note.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B+
Animation : B
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Campus life as it should be: full of weirdness and fun and new things and new people, most of whom are mildly to acutely insane.
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