Moyashimon Returns – 3

Moyashimon, an anime illustrating the various events of a group of students in at an agricultural university, has progressed in a fashion parallel to the experiences that many of us receive as undergraduates.  That is, both journeys begin with a comprehensive and unrestricted scope providing ample opportunity for students to sample the extensiveness of college which eventually leads to an eventual focus and dedication to a specific specialization to which the student commits themselves to.  Moyashimon has mirrored this pattern well with the original season detailing a general campus story while the sequel, Moyashimon Returns, has emphasized the students working and learning within Professor Itsuki’s lab.  And not only in terms of content of the anime, too, but this theme of transitioning from breadth to depth can be seen in terms of storytelling and other mechanics of this anime.

The first season of Moyashimon saw a broad overview of university life featuring the students shifting from class to class and from misadventure to misadventure.  There were times when the anime took a step back from the academia of the university and featured another famous aspect of college life with extracurricular activities.  Just two of the more memorable examples of this were the farm robbing and the Spring Festival episodes, which highlighted the lives of the students outside the laboratory.  And while the anime did take place in Professor Itsuki’s lab frequently, Moyashimon seemed to be more intent on the freshmen adjusting to university life rather than anything intensely educational.  The older students also participated in the various social events, too, and never seemed too entirely focused on studying beside the doctoral student, Hasegawa.

The sequel, Moyashimon Returns, has altered this perspective of university life with a redirection toward the academic side of everyone’s college years.  The anime has diligently focused on the characters and their work in Professor Itsuki’s fermentation lab as the students have decided where they want to study and have started to devote their time to studying applied microbiology under his knowledge and expertise.  We’ve rarely ventured beyond the confines of the lab, Yuuki’s worksite (the liquor store he helped redesign/rebrand), and choice locations on the campus which are all directly related to the student’s learning or living.  Likewise, we’ve seen the students perform more academic work and apply their newfound knowledge than we ever saw in the first season of Moyashimon.  We’ve even had several incidences where our microbial friends took us aside to provide a brief explanation of their processes, of which we can assume the characters already know (since they’re usually in the middle of their procedures).  Unquestionably, the second season has shown the characters of Moyashimon through an academic perspective.

As we can see, the transition from the first season to the second has created a narrowing or specialization in the lives of the students.  While the original showcased Sawaki, Yuuki, and Oikawa going about their lives on campus, both through various classes and social events, the sequel has barely shown them outside the walls of Professor Itsuki’s lab and only done so when essential to further the plot.  And since Moyashimon is an anime about life at an agricultural university, linking this progression to progress to real world universities seemed perceptible.  It is almost like the anime had planned for this development with the students exploring their school and everything it had to offer in the first season before becoming specialized and focusing on furthering their knowledge under the guidance of Professor Itsuki.  This evolution from breadth to depth is commonplace for students in real world universities and is what we’ve seen in Moyashimon with the trio of freshman joining the laboratory in their first year.  Furthermore, the storytelling and other presentation aspects of Moyashimon have followed similar changes, too, further strengthening the theme of moving from general campus life to specific academic endeavors.

Not only has the content of the anime mirrored real world experiences for undergraduate students, but the mechanics of Moyashimon have also altered to adjust for this change.  The first season of Moyashimon featured an assortment of stories across its eleven episodes covering a vast range of subjects and documenting the adventures in various university events.  Only two stories within Moyashimon lasted more than an episode with none taking up more than two.  Through three episodes of Moyashimon Returns, we can see this pattern has disappeared entirely with every episode thus far on one specific story.  There are other examples of this theme, too, within the presentation of Moyashimon, specifically with the microbes themselves.  Sawaki had a limited knowledge of microbes that he had seen before coming to college and many instances during the first season, Sawaki and the audience were introduced to one of the new microbes that populate our world.  The anime made sure to cover a vast range of microbes to showcase the diversity and abundance of microbes in our world.  Within the sequel, we’ve increased the number of microbial appearances but reduced the number of different species represented.  This has allowed the anime to specialize its attention to some of the more important microbes to the lab and explain further how they affect Japanese cuisine and culture.  Here, we see again the same theme of narrowing the academic scope within the structure of the anime.  And this theme can be applied to many other examples, too, such as the human characters or the cuisine they are producing.

So, ultimately, what does this mean for Moyashimon Returns?  Sure, it’s nice to learn that the anime has developed since the original season aired back in 2007, but what does this mean for the rest of this season and the future of Moyashimon?  Well, applying this further (along with taking hints of the opening), it looks like the anime will continue with this focused and lengthier approach to its stories, helping flesh out the characters more while spending more time on selected content and subjects.  Does this mean that the anime will be stuck in the lab and focused on academia from now on?  Sure, it might.  I mean, the anime will be slanted toward this angle since it is about college after all, but there should be some episodes on the events outside the classroom or the lab that reintroduce the social aspect of the series.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we had some episodes related to Yuuki’s involvement with the liquor store and some festival or event or something.  There also seems to be clues that the anime will eventually make its way to France which could will probably contain both social and academic elements to it.  Beyond that, it’s hard to predict what else Moyashimon wants to do with its second season.  However, there is an apparent theme now where the anime has begun to focus on and emphasize certain aspects of itself in order to continue its tale of the students in Moyashimon.

Another change from the first season to this, though not pertaining to the whole ‘breadth to depth’ theme is that the personalities seem slightly different.  Perhaps the most notable is the usually infuriated or generally unhappy Hasegawa has been decisively calm and understandable this season.  Unlike our first impressions of her which presented her as a skeptical and brutal graduate student, Hasegawa appears more approachable and amiable.  It’s not unreasonable to expect a change in her character though we she has gotten to befriend the students in her lab and is dealing with other external stressors, but it’s still strange to see her treat Misato and Kawahama like humans when she would often be scolding them, berating them, or whipping them like she frequently did in the first season.  Similarly, Misato and Kawahama seem more responsible and motivated this season, too.  Before, they appeared to be sophomores who were only interested in brewing their own alcohol and making money.  Now, these two students have shown heightened curiosity within the lab outside of sake and have used their knowledge in a few situations.  It seems that they, too, have grown extensively as characters.  The remaining cast has shown development, too, but not to the extreme as these three characters have.  It is almost like they’re new characters despite the fact that they all retain the same appearance, voice, and personality from the first season.  And while it may not play as well into the comedy anymore, it’s a constructive step for Moyashimon as we’re seeing the characters change under the conditions they’re facing and doing so in a positive manner.

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  1. #1 by Tzaphqiel on July 21, 2012 - 6:25 PM

    It sounds like I’ve missed a lot by missing the first season, but I found this series relatively easy to pick up on its own nonetheless.
    That being said, it’s nice to hear this episode described from the perspective of someone who has seen the first season, as it lets me know what I have missed so far (mainly, the more general microbiology “lectures” that identify and describe each of our little guides). But even then, the material covered here isn’t presented in too complex a manner and is easier to understand, with respect to both the fermentation processes and the relationships the main characters have with each other.

    • #2 by avvesione on July 24, 2012 - 11:52 PM

      If you have the time, I’d recommend you go back and watch the first season of Moyashimon soon since some of it will pertain to the latter episodes with Hasegawa. The first season did have some more general microbiology but the content of the episodes and general style of the anime feels different than this one. The two seasons feel very different in this regard, so I hope you’re able to watch the first season and see everything there is to Moyashimon.

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