Moyashimon Returns – 4

The results of intoxication are a diverse variety.  Every person responds to alcoholic beverages differently with the consequences ranging from a jovial drunken ruckus, to an impatient, irrational hot-head, to even a quiet, sedating stupor.  The portrayal of drunkenness in media recognizes these states but goes a step further and casts them through various lenses to illustrate it as either positive, negative, humorous, or however it wants us to interpret this inebriated behavior.  Given the content and characters in Moyashimon Returns, examples of intoxication have been used and reused time and time again for numerous purposes and with extensively different outcomes.  How do these states of drunkenness and their portrayals figure into the grand plan of Moyashimon Returns?

Within the fourth episode of Moyashimon Returns were three examples where drunkenness: when Sawaki suggested Hasegawa go out for drinks with Misato and Kawahama, when Mutou returned to campus plastered, and when those kids were getting faced in Aya’s bar.  Each scene used the topic of intoxication differently, portraying each case uniquely depending on the characters and context for broadly different results.  Though all three examples end up being the jovial drunken ruckus-type alluded to before, the depiction of each example is what’s significant here.  How Moyashimon uses its drunkenness as a theme in its storytelling is rather quite interesting.

The first example used in this episode was a rather quick reference to a scene from the first season when Hasegawa got a bit too tipsy with her alcohol.  After Sawaki suggested that Hasegawa repair her friendship with Misato and Kamahawa over a few drinks, Hasegawa does what she always does around the thought of her consuming alcohol and reminded Sawaki of her regrettable nature when intoxicated.  Not only was this scene used to help show a difference in Hasegawa’s personality and separating herself from her friends as she was in the process of leaving the university, but it was also a reference to her view on alcohol which is rather unique among the cast.  Though a drunken Hasegawa was comedy gold in the first season, she always paints it as a regrettable behavior on her part and does her best to stay away from any alcohol.  She isn’t shy about it, bringing it up at every given chance to drink booze, but she certainly isn’t proud of her past behavior.  She’s the only one who does this as everyone else (who isn’t a minor) is eager to take a drink of whatever alcohol is present.  This character trait of Hasegawa shows some personal restraint on her part, portraying her view of intoxication as undesirable and embarrassing whereas everyone else is fine with a few cold ones.  Though her behavior while under the influence of alcohol was illustrated as a humorous adventure, her actions otherwise regarding alcohol are stern and serious.  That is, this instance was used as a reminder of the hilarity before but showcases her steadfast stance against alcohol and how she regrets her behavior when she’s drunk.

The next example, however, is quite the opposite with Mutou returning to campus as an absolute wreck with half a bottle of sake stuck on her finger.  Though the scene was ultimately important with Hasegawa disappearing from campus and her being handed the letter of withdrawal, Mutou’s drunkenness was shown entirely for comic purposes.  As one of her most distinguishable character traits, Mutou is often shown blitzed after a few too many drinks, though it’s never shown to be a problem for her character. In fact, she’s become a joke itself with the onlookers saying ‘Oh look, that silly Mutou is drunk again!’ and going on with their lives as she stumbled and struggled to make it to school in that erratic walking pattern of hers.  Furthermore, when Mutou was talking with Hasegawa’s father, her cheerful, drunken demeanor played into another quick joke before the scene got to the point and removed Haruka from school.  Like the drunken Hasegawa of last season, Mutou’s portrayal of intoxication was largely comical and positive, used to make the scene amusing and lighthearted.  Her character is often shown with this positive interpretation of drunkenness, so it’s not abnormal to see her like this, and she, herself, has a positive outlook on alcohol as well, eager to get smashed whenever she has the chance.  It isn’t a bad thing that there were no negative consequences or effects of her drunkenness, especially since it was used for laughs, but it is worth noting that her behavior quickly sobered up when she finally noticed Haruka was in the car being driven away.  Removing that comic bit from Mutou’s character really solidified the scene as something critical to the anime, so that absence of drunkenness is also significant to point out as another portrayal of drunkenness.

The final example of drunkenness in this episode of Moyashimon was the few college-aged guys getting loaded in Aya’s bar.  True, there was another couple already into a few drinks at that point, but the disturbance caused by the guys put the intoxication in a much more serious and realistic tone than the Hasegawa and Mutou examples.  The contrast here is that these guys were not played for laughs or amusement, but as an example of how people ideally respond to conflicts and problems.  Though the ultimate angle on this example was negative, it felt like a realistic trio of rowdy frat guys getting way too much alcohol at their favorite dive.  There was also a sense of conflict arising with all the noise they were causing and when they shattered a few glasses and attempted to shift the blame on their uncomfortable chair.  It wasn’t until the manager politely informed them about the destruction to his bar and their health did they decide to leave the establishment in a way familiar to anyone when watching drunk people trying to take care of drunk people.  Though the point of this scene wasn’t about being drunk, drunkenness was used as a means to structure the scene for which Aya and Oikawa to benefit from.  It cast the drunken guys in a realistic manner, showing the negative consequences of being sober around a bunch of shitfaced kids and them causing trouble to themselves and everyone else around them.  It didn’t have any specific times when it tried to be overtly humorous or demonizing of alcohol, but just used it in a way for the intoxication to cause a problem for which the manager to resolve.  It didn’t need any special filters or angles, this portrayal of drunkenness felt genuine and realistic and was all that was needed to make the scene function properly.

So, considering all these examples, what does it mean for Moyashimon to use intoxication to such a varying degree?  For one, considering that alcohol is such an essential theme in Moyashimon, it’s only natural for characters to be intoxicated from time to time.  And considering how the anime has a strong comical angle to it and uses humor well with its cast, it’s understandable to see drunkenness depicted in a positive and amusing way, though Hasegawa might disagree with that.  When the anime wants to return to being serious, especially when considering true character development or its story, the amusing drunkenness usually disappears to help reinforce the importance of what we’re watching.  Either that or the drunkenness becomes the problem and is used as a means to further the serious nature of the scene.  If there are examples where alcohol is used in a negative means to construct a humorous scene (like Mutou missing an exam because she slept in too late) or used in a positive light for a serious scene (Mutou giving someone inspirational advice while drunk), I cannot think of any.  Generally speaking, it seems that whenever the anime is humorous, the series glorifies alcohol a bit, and when it wants to be serious, it either demonizes it or attempts to construct it as realistic as possible.  As the series continues, we can expect to see our cast drunk again and again as they enjoy the fruits of their labors, so it will be interesting to see if these portrayals of drunkenness change or if they retain this dichotomy of positive/humorous and negative/serious.

It seems with Hasegawa being taken on a vacation by her partner from the arranged marriage, the series will be transitioning over to France as indicated by the opening credits.  Not only will the series somehow force the characters to track down Hasegawa and attempt to bring her back, but there’s bound to be numerous examples of how fermentation and the applications of microbiology differ in Europe compared to that of Japan.  Not only will the species of microbes be different on the other side of the globe, but so too will be their processes, giving the series a chance to compare the similarities between all uses of fermentation and brewing but to also contrast each and see why we have so many alcoholic and fermented products.  Expect the number of educational examples to make a significant rise in this upcoming arc, as well as the number of new cuisine eaten, especially since Professor Itsuki was in the mood for some cheese with his wine.  You should also expect to see the amount of drunkenness rise, too.  As for the story, who knows, though it will be interesting to see how and why everyone gets to go to France and what they do when they get there besides track down Hasegawa and attempt to bring her back to her familiar life in Professor Itsuki’s lab.

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  1. #1 by Marina on July 29, 2012 - 2:19 PM

    I do find it interesting how often alcohol comes onto the scene in Moyashimon Returns, but I appreciate it since the drink is a pretty common thing now that I’m in my late 20s. Seeing all the different reactions to alcohol reminds me of many of my own personal experiences and makes the situations shown all the more realistic.

    I don’t know if the “negative” effects to alcohol are really “demonizing” it in this show. I see it more as an acceptance that everyone reacts to spirits differently, and that there are individuals who act completely different drunk than they would sober, like Hasegawa. Instead of focusing negatively on the drink itself, the people who partake are the ones called into question; whereas Hasegawa is aware of the damaging effects of her own intoxication and acts accordingly, her peers aren’t as concerned with their own drunkenness since nothing seemingly bad has occurred as of yet. The alcohol and process that goes into creating it are innocent, and is a beautiful blend of science and nature that the show really tries to show with Yuuki’s involvement in the sake store.

    Fun read!

    • #2 by avvesione on July 31, 2012 - 11:23 PM

      Yeah, I have many fond memories of when me and my buds hit up the local bars here by my school. I certainly understand where these characters are coming from being in the middle of college and finally able to drink.

      And yeah, you’re right about the whole negativity toward alcohol being more an acceptance on it rather than demonizing it, but I was thinking more toward the frat guys who were boozing it up and, as the manager putting, destroying both his bar and their health. Hasegawa actually seems to use hers as a quick hit of comedy, saying more like “hey, remember that time I was drunk and how awful I was” more than anything damning of alcohol, so perhaps not every instance of mentioning alcohol negatively is something serious. And yeah, beyond just the intoxication, it really fleshes out Yuuki’s character and his involvement with the sake store. Kinda hoping to see him, Sawaki, and Oikawa drunk at some point in this series.

      Glad you enjoyed the read and thanks for the comment!!

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