Bacteria to School
Just when you thought you have seen it all, Del Rey brings one of the most original and funny stories to English this reader has read in a long time. The first Moyasimon is the tale of university student Tadayasu’s opening days at a Tokyo agriculture school. He is joined by his buddy, Kei, the son of sake brewer. What makes Tadayasu special is his secret ability (that everyone seems to know about) to see microscopic organisms with his naked eye. Any bacteria, fungi, germ, or other microbe appear as tiny (and cute) little guys floating in the air. Since each microbe has its own qualities, each looks different (for example, a microbe beneficial for making sake appears to Tadayasu as a little smiling ball with a top-knot like a samurai).
Despite Tadayasu’s truly unique ability, he is one of the most down-to-earth characters in the book. Between his eccentric professor who takes Tadayasu under his wing and bad sake-brewing classmates, Tadayasu’s special talents come into play again and again in some often bizarre and always entertaining situations.
What makes Moyasimon surprisingly special is how it reads like a manga, but is chock full of fascinating facts about our world’s smallest inhabitants. Without even realizing it, this first volume is a crash course in microbes. Notes on the edges of the page remind readers every chapter of not only who the main characters are, but who the main bacteria are. As fundamental as the information “taught” is, much of it was news to me, and Tadayasu’s desire to be able to identify the bacteria he sees on the spot becomes to a degree the same goal of the reader.
It is no surprise Moyasimon remains a mega-hit in Japan. Limited edition Moyasimon microbe toys and phone straps were released in Japan, and a sake brewer who convinced artist Ishikawa to put sake microbes on a special label was rewarded with a sold out line of sake. The requisite anime series is no surprise, but two children’s books about microbes also came from Moyasimon, including the timely upcoming release Let’s Wash Hands.
Dense and wordy, Moyasimon is a surprisingly good read. The 16+ rating is more for lots of alcohol talk then for anything really lascivious, and the hidden educational benefit will pique the interests of those interested in science and agriculture. But even this decidedly non-biologist reader was infected by the engrossing story upstaged by the real stars of the show: the microbes.