Within every anime, a guide is present. Whether it is a kindly narrator assisting the audience by explaining fundamental concepts regarding the setting and historical events or a learned character providing clarification or even enlightenment to the protagonist as a means of indirectly communicating to the audience, guides exist for which to educate the audience. As Moyashimon covers various scholarly subjects in depth and detail, ranging from microbiology to fermentology to even agricultural engineering and political economics, there needs to be someone who can lend a hand to the audience and help them understand the basics of the situation so they are able to understand and appreciate the dialogue and message without being lost to the difference between Koikuchi soy sauce and Kijouyuu soy sauce. But what’s unique and extremely advantageous about Moyashimon is that this role of guide is divided between two separate entities. Splitting the duty of guide between Professor Itsuki and the main microbe, Aspergillus oryzae, allows Moyashimon to preserve its current pacing and characterization while also educating the audience and creating an experience that is both informative and entertaining.
Given the complexity and breadth of subjects presented in Moyashimon, the presence of two guides is a logical decision. For one, it allows the two characters to differentiate their subjects and present the material in more personalized or effective manners. Consider the all-knowing Professor Itsuki who often educates the audience as a side-effect to educating his students. A bulk of his teaching points is focused on the human aspect or the outcomes of agriculture rather than on the science alone. They are delivered in a way to get the characters to think and appreciate the material they’re learning about instead of just memorize facts or learning trivia. An example of this is Professor Itsuki’s explanation of daiginjou and how to evaluate the ‘wasteful’ nature of its manufacturing. While it was used as an educational point to the audience, essentially teaching us about the differences in polishing rice, manufacturing sake, and agricultural waste, he proposed it in a way to influence how the students (and the audience, too) both sides view the manufacturing process of daiginjou and how the brewers respect the efforts of the rice farmers by producing the best sake as they can. Essentially, he’s guiding both the students and the audience about this topic in a way to make both sides think. This is something that our lovable A. oryzae could never do, propose the human aspect of agriculture to the students or audience. Instead, their role as guides in Moyashimon is quite different.
Through only Sawaki is able to visualize and hear Aspergillus oryzae and its other microbial friends, A. oryzae acts as a sophisticated mascot and works to educate the audience about the hard science and trivial matters of Moyashimon. Whenever a scientific process or trivial matter appears in the anime that is assumed to be common knowledge to the students or characters on screen but not for the audience, our little fungal friend creates a quick break in the anime to bring us up to speed. Often times these explanations omit the human aspect of the description and focus on how the microbes play their role in whatever it is they’re discussing. As we can assume the microbes don’t understand our processes or rationale the effects the sciences have on us, A. oryzae sticks to the facts of the situation and provides us the minimum until we have a firm understanding before getting back to the anime and using this knowledge to understand the situation. An example for this is how those adorable microbes explained to us the process of manufacturing soy sauce and how variations are produced. And while it is possible for Professor Itsuki to provide these clarifications, it would be awkward considering his position in the anime. Everyone but the audience already knows these basic agricultural sciences, so the professor explaining this common knowledge at almost every turn would make his character seem less aware of his surroundings and inconsistent with how he’s teaching his students. Instead, by cutting away from the main anime, we can have our little yeast friend A. oryzae give us a private lecture on the current material in the anime, feeding us the essential information for which we need to understand and appreciate the scene. This is where A. oryzae shines in Moyashimon.
With each playing an exclusively dissimilar role as guides in the anime, Moyashimon is able to take advantage of this situation to optimize or fundamentally improve the anime. For one, and perhaps the most significant of these, is that the two roles essentially allow for the pacing to remain unbroken and for the characterization to be consistent. When the professor is explaining something to the students and the audience, it’s usually presented as a prose for which the students to mull over and digest in their minds, a method that helps us learn while also showing the professor teach his students in these exciting processes. Similarly, since it’s presented to the characters directly, it does not ruin the pacing of the scene as a cut-away might. Rather, these monologues often become the focal point of the scene along with the respective growth of the characters.
For A. oryzae, its explanations often require cut-aways but are at points where the information is required before proceeding with the hard science of the scene. And while these cut-aways do break up the flow of the episode, an unfortunate outcome, we’d be dealing with more issues without these lectures such as the anime advancing too swiftly and not explaining itself entirely. And with these basic and trivial explanations done by A. oryzae, we can experience the knowledge that we assume the characters already know without having them be educated with us. This has the added effect of making the cast appear more knowledgeable and capable than when Professor Itsuki educates us since we believe the characters already know this information. Because of this dynamic and specialization in knowledge, Moyashimon is able to capitalize on this ideal situation and guide the audience in an almost perfect manner.
Often times I’ll save the final paragraph as a point for which to step back and provide a rebuttal against the point of this post or for which to reexamine the theme and see what areas are weakest or missing. But here, I fail to see any outweighing negatives given this set-up of how the guides work in Moyashimon nor do I see really any flaws or faults in this approach. Any inclusion of those details would be nothing more than unrequired nitpicks on aspects that would be personal in nature. I’m not about to say it’s perfect because it is not, but it’s amazing how effective this set-up is in Moyashimon. As you can already tell, I really enjoy all the education and subjects covered in Moyashimon, so I am truly thankful for the characters of Professor Itsuki and A. oryzae in how they present this knowledge to us. Can’t wait to see what else we learn when Moyashimon returns!
Having just watched the entire first season of Moyashimon less than a week before this sequel premiered, I have the original still fresh in my mind (and littered throughout my screenshot folder). While the art style has remains unchanged, the production values between this and its predecessor are night and day. Moyashimon Returns has displayed much smoother animation throughout its first episode than I can remember in any of the previous episodes, especially with how the cast moves about their environment. Likewise, the use of crude and minimalistic artwork for characters in the background (usually reserved for Misato and Kawahama for comedic purposes) has improved, too, giving them more features and generally being more consistent. The number of microbes seems to have increased as well and, at one point, we were able to see an army of A. oryzae preparing for war with Sawaki looking onward. It seems the budget of Moyashimon Returns is quite a bit larger than Moyashimon ever had and it certainly is evident in just the first episode. And while the increased production values will probably only have marginal outcomes on the anime in general, it does give the anime a more aesthetic look about it that I have already begun to enjoy. It give the anime a boost in quality that, while unnecessary, is a bonus that I’m sure everyone will enjoy. I mean, who wouldn’t like to see more complex animation or gorgeous artwork in Moyashimon? As anime is a visual medium for which to enjoy stories, I have to say this improvement in production values is certainly something I am already beginning to appreciate.