Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture, vol. 1

While the connection to today's review may seem a bit tenuous, I'd like to give a nod to Cesar E. Chavez, who led the first successful farm worker's rights movement in the United States. In California, we celebrate his life's work on March 31 with a statewide holiday. Since this book focuses on farm work and agriculture, it seemed an opportune time to note Chavez's work in providing equal rights to migrant and other farm workers.

The story
: It’s the first day of college for Tadayasu, an agriculture student with a special skill—he can see bacteria and other germs without the help of a microscope or other tools. While he’s kept the secret to himself for many years, his nutty professor, Dr. Itsuki, soon finds out and seeks to use Tadayasu’s gift for scientific research. While all Tadayasu wants is a cool Tokyo college experience, it seems other forces are conspiring against him!

Reaction: This unique story was funny, science-filled and gross—but in a good way! The inordinately gifted main character, Tadayasu, provides a close-up view of all the things better left unseen, like fungus and bacteria. While the obsessive professors and goofy classmates were reminiscent of the art college manga (and personal favorite) Honey and Clover, the similarities ended there. With entertainment and education in equal doses, I found myself enjoying this story on several levels.

Deep thoughts: With a microbiologist mom and a science-filled childhood, I probably enjoyed this book more than most. Growing up, The Anatomy Coloring Book was an unlikely part of my childhood coloring book collection. More recently, I shared this book with a colleague at work—the dean of the College of Sciences at the university I work at, who also happens to be a microbiologist himself. He was so interested in it that he immediately bought the book and then informed me of the anime based on Moyasimon!

Artwork: This is definitely a seinen book in design, with realistic character designs (Hasegawa, in particular, reminded me of Detroit Metal City at times) and detailed backgrounds. But, the cartoony depictions of fungus and bacteria are unexpected, while providing a “fun” balance to the graphic grossness of agricultural life.

The verdict: Highly recommended. There is no other book like Moyasimon, manga or not. From Tadayasu’s unique gift to the disgusting situations he’s thrown into, I found this a promising start to a series I’ll definitely continue reading. Moyasimon is available in the U.S. from Del Rey.

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