Saturday, November 13, 2010

Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture (live action TV series), via Hulu

Synopsis:

Sawaki is a freshman at Agri U, a crazy university where agriculture is king. Only those in Professor Itsuki's lab know about Sawaki's special ability: he can see microbes with his naked eyes. And they look adorable.

Itsuki's lab group is a crazy bunch that gets added to a bit as the season progresses. There's Hasegawa, a sexy and dangerous student who is as obsessed with fermentation as Itsuki is. There's Sawaki's two friends, who love being able to make sake using things they know about fermentation - they also often get Sawaki in trouble with their antics. There's Mutou, a nice girl who is the object of worship of the UFO club. There's the girl who's a bit germophobic, and the strong gothic Lolita girl, who has her own secrets.

Sawaki gets involved in school life, helps out with the fermentation lab, and helps Itsuki and the others prepare fermented food items and more for various school events. However, things aren't always idyllic, and the lab group learns that Hasegawa has promised her father that she would leave Agri U and marry. Itsuki's group does what they have to to get the whole of Agri U behind them, racing to get Hasegawa back. In the end, Hasegawa must decide whether to keep her promise to her father and remain a caged bird, or go back to the place, people, and work she loves at Agri U. In the end Agri U wins.

Commentary:

The end of this series took me by surprise, but I think this really is only an 11-episode series.  I fell instantly in love with it. Yes, it's a bit cheesy, but I love how bright, humorous, and light-hearted it is overall. I loved the characters, and I loved the snippets of information about microbes. I loved the weirdness of Sawaki's ability, and I loved Agri U's zaniness.

The microbes are adorable. Of course, you can tell they're CGI, but that doesn't make them any less cute. They somehow fit in this show and don't look bad at all, despite the simple, bright look of the microbes being very different from all the live action stuff going on around them.

Like a few other series out there, this is one of those that you can actually learn a few things from, whether it's tidbits of information about various microbes, or how sake can be made with human spit. I know the show is based on a manga series. I haven't read it yet, but I wonder if the educational moments are possibly more detailed in the manga than in this show. The show gave me a great urge to read the manga, so I'll probably find out the answer to my question on my own at some point.

Overall, the show was bright, cheerful, and just plain good-natured. Sure, it had its hokey moments, but that was part of the fun. Pretty much the only thing I didn't like about the show, aside from it being so short, is the bits with the aphrodisiac. First...what?! What was that stuff? I thought that there was going to be a moment where it would be revealed that the aphrodisiac was actually fermented something-or-other, which happens to have an effect on many human beings of making them more receptive to sexual advances. Or whatever. Anyway, no such moment ever happens - apparently, Professor Itsuki pulled this aphrodisiac out of thin air. Second, can we say "date rape drug"? And a professor gave this stuff out. Ew...

The aphrodisiac stuff was not to my taste at all, but everything else I gobbled up like potato chips. Which is basically what this show is like. It's fun, silly, occasionally a bit stupid, and it's not going to change your life or your perspective or anything, but does that really matter? I haven't seen many Japanese live action shows or movies, but now I'm thinking maybe I should make an effort to see more.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Moyasimon : Tales of Agriculture (manga) by Ishikawa Masayuki - Those who enjoyed the live action version of Moyashimon should try the manga upon which it's based - I know I'm going to be.
  • The Stuff of Life (non-fiction-y graphic novel) by Mark Schultz - In an effort to find a cure for a vaguely-referred-to genetic disease that has afflicted many on its planet, an alien visits our planet and learns about DNA, genetics, and related topics. Like Moyashimon, it's got a sense of humor. Those who'd like another fun story with a definite educational edge (in this case, much more pronounced) might want to try this.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers (anime TV series); Hetalia: World Series (anime TV series) - Those who'd like another comedy based on educational information might want to try this - I'm sure that history buffs, in particular, will salivate over this one.The show stars personified (or anthropomorphized?) countries. It's filled with stereotypes, there isn't much of a plot beyond a few historical events, like World War II, and you can't expect much in the way of seriousness. It is great fun.
  • Yakitate!! Japan (manga) by Takashi Hachiguchi - Another silly comedy that includes the occasional factual snippet. In this case, everything revolves around bread-baking, rather than fermentation. The characters in this series are obsessed with bread-baking, and the main character is a natural at it, even though there are a lot of things he hasn't learned yet and doesn't know. Things very rapidly get strange and goofy. I haven't kept up with this series very well, but I remember one volume including a recipe for bread made in a rice maker. If I ever pick up a decent rice maker (my current rice maker is a cheap, crappy thing that doubles as a steamer), I'd like to try that recipe.

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