I shudder to think of what germaphobes would do if they got their hands on Masayuki Ishikawa’s Moyasimon. I’m nothing of the sort, yet doing a little post-read refrigerator cleaning had microscopic organisms bouncing before my very eyes. So yes, more than a few people may cringe at the bacterial contents of Moyasimon, but most everyone else should find it charming and funny, wondering why it’s taken so long for these wildly productive germs to sweep our own nation.
Tadayasu Sawaki is a student entering his first year at an agricultural university with his friend Kei. As much as the two may share in common, Tadayasu has a peculiar ability he can wholly call his own. Ever since he was a child, he’s been able to see microscopic organisms, from the simplest cause of the common cold to the bacteria that hops and pops in the swirl of rotten sake. Not only can he see them in the form of bouncing, cute little critters, but he can also understand and communicate with them.
One can quickly see how this might benefit him throughout his agricultural endeavors, but what’s key here is how his ability benefits others. He’s immediately taken under the wing of his grandfather’s old friend, Keizo Itsuki, a professor at the school that’s more than a little eccentric. Assisted by post-grad student Haruka Hasegawa, professor Itsuki quickly tests the abilities of his new student, giving him the task of calling out organisms on sight.
Those organisms, all of which are given brief explanations in the panel borders, are the true signs of Masayuki Ishikawa’s genius. I promise I’m saying this with no cynicism at all, but it takes a special kind of ability to create something so instantly marketable. Moyasimon has that rare power to make its readers immediately desire keychains and other trivial trinkets. There’s even a drawing of a cellphone strap that Ishikawa “would dearly love to see packaged with an issue of Evening” as early as page six. It was eventually produced and packaged in limited editions of volume five in Japan. Ask and you shall receive.
While I went into Moyasimon with a solid idea of just how pervasive these tiny things would be, Ishikawa doesn’t simply fall back on them lazily, or allow the story to stagnate in favor of a bunch of attractive germ designs. The story and the characters are both carefully constructed, with well-timed humor that mixes nicely with a subject that Ishikawa clearly holds dear. To be fair, an otherwise solid pace occasionally gets lost in the fog of long-windedness, but even that is typically played up with self-aware comedic flair. As the eighth chapter begins, the text above the title says it all: “People tell me this manga has a lot of words.”
It does indeed, but the words in Moyasimon are worth reading; its subject both interesting and unique. Even if the concept of being able to see every nasty germ face to face, harmful or otherwise, sounds like the thing of nightmares, don’t hesitate to pick this title up and give it a shot. The manga kicked off its run five years ago in Evening, and the reason for its sustained popularity in Japan is clear. Hopefully we’ll be the next to catch the fever.
Publisher: Del Rey
Story & Art: Masayuki Ishikawa
Rating: OT 16+
© 2005 Masayuki Ishikawa