Moyashimon Returns – 2

If I were to quiz you on what Acetobacter aceti does, would you remember what we learned from Moyashimon?  What about Aspergillus sojae?  Instead, what if I provided a picture of one of our characterized microbe friends, or perhaps a short video clip demonstrating its voice and personality?  Would you remember then?

The fact that we continue to see these distinguished microbes in combination with their name, processes, and effects is done purposefully.  It allows us to link everything together so we can expand our microbial knowledge which is the central theme of Moyashimon Returns.  Microbiology is a vast, complex, and difficult science, so by having the microbes illustrated in this manner, in junction with their role in the anime, we can understand what’s happening in Moyashimon Returns better and we can understand and appreciate it more.  This is why we continue to see the microbes in this exemplified manner, even when Sawaki is not even present despite the fact he’s the only one who can see the microbes in this way.

Imagine, instead, a Moyashimon without all these cuddly characterized microbes floating around the environment.  The anime would still have the same characters, same events, same everything, except the microbes were depicted by tiny, amorphous unicellular organisms.  Visually, you’d be unable to differentiate them in this manner unless the characters presently discussed them or if the animators were generous enough to provide a nametag.  Though the anime would be closer to the real world in this approach, it would cause confusion by its ambiguity.  The fact that these microbes are given specific shapes, attributes, and personalities allows us to immediately recognize and distinguish the microbes that we see.  Though we understand that only Sawaki can see them in this form, the anime presents most examples of microbes like this to us so that we can differentiate our prokaryotes from our eukaryotes and so on and so forth.

The visual aids that are these humanoid microbes go beyond simply helping us recognize each microbe, too.  An additional effect of these characters is that it helps us connect fundamental concepts of Moyashimon together in the form of an image.  Thus far, including the first season, we’ve covered many models of fermentation, brewing, and other microbial processes.  Each time one of these examples is used, we usually have the relevant microbes involved, both shown visually along with their name, and then have everything explained so that we understand what’s happening.  By merging everything together at one time, we can understand the events happening in Moyashimon Returns better as well as see how the microbiology affects the situation or makes it entirely possible.  Even without Sawaki present, the anime chooses to visualize the microbes in this way for this reason.  If we can see the microbes and get their names and learn about the process, we can understand and retain this information better than without these pieces.  Simply speaking, Moyashimon realizes how valuable the characterize microbes are for teaching moments like these and uses them to enrich the Moyashimon experience.

Now, the nature of this anime is not to build us a foundation of microbial knowledge for which to impress collegiate professors (though I’m sure they’d be delighted to hear your interest in microbiology and immediately sign you up to start autoclaving petri dishes).  Moyashimon Returns doesn’t expect us to know the functions of microbes simply name or even a picture like the quiz in the introduction proposed.  Instead, the subject of this post is to bring attention to why the anime continues to show the microbes in this fashion and suggest how it helps us recognize themes, processes, and other occurrences in the anime.  The quiz was there to simply highlight the role of how the visual representation of microbes affects Moyashimon.

These microbes are visual aids to us, characters to help us differentiate between the overabundance of microbes and to link various essential concepts together.  Beyond that, the characters have other features, too, such as being the adorable mascots of the series and the personal friends of Sawaki.  Their roles are multifunctional and fundamental to Moyashimon.  And in order to appreciate these characters for what they mean to Moyashimon, the microbes are given these appearances for which to visualize, improve, and enhance Moyashimon as an anime.  The next time you see a microbe, remember how important its current form is to the anime.

Hazuki Oikawa, arguably the lead female in the series, has seen her role expanded in this young second season of Moyashimon.  Whereas her role in the first season was important, Oikawa has seen more of a central role around Sawaki and been given the most screentime of any character thus far.  Her position in the anime is significant, too, and she has a positive personality which steadily advances dialogue and scenes.  Her romantic interests with Sawaki are also a reason why she’s seen an augmented role this season, though that hasn’t really been a point of significant interest or time thus far.  And this increase in time has had an effect on the rest of the cast, too, seeing their prominence and screen-time reduced as a direct result.  Hasegawa, Kaoru, and Takuma have all had minimal roles in these first two episodes despite being three of the most dominant characters by this point in the first season.  It will be interesting to see how this dynamic shifts as the season progresses, whether it will continue more in Oikawa’s favor or allow the others a chance to play their parts in the story.  Judging by the opening sequence and the developments in this episode, I suppose we’ll learn more about Hasegawa’s role in the anime shortly, but at whose expense?  I suppose we shall find out.

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  1. #1 by illegenes on July 13, 2012 - 2:26 PM

    I do enjoy the balance between educational information and a witty, off-the-wall humor show with decent characterization in Moyashimon. It’s probably my favorite thing about it, actually. The idea that anime can be informative and teach you something at the end of the day and using creative means to do it and being able to execute it in a way where it’s subtle so you don’t shut your brain off while it’s given is really what this show excels at. Maybe it’s just my biology major nerves tingling with excitement when we’re introduced to a new microbe and how it’s used for fermentation purposes, but I think the reason why Moyashimon is so great is because it manages to be funny and fun to learn. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a show I’d recommend for teaching purposes, but I do think that it definitely creates a new sort of edge to anime where a show can be enjoyed viscerally and intellectually. I also like the characterization given, though I would argue that it’s not Moyashimon’s strongest point; I’d like to think that Moyashimon functions more as a well rounded show than one that has certain characteristics? But that’s just me.

    Either way, keep up the lovely reviews- I personally find it hard to blog Moyashimon but you do such a great job! :)

    • #2 by avvesione on July 15, 2012 - 1:58 PM

      As a biologist, too, I share your passion for how this anime uses microbiology in a positive and educational way. It’s always fun to see various aspects of our knowledge be recognized or discussed in an anime, especially if it’s used for an amusing scene or something. And for those who are unfamiliar with the topics at hand, it must be fun to learn random tidbits about microbiology while also being entertained by the characters on screen, too. It isn’t purely education based, so it’s not like we’re just drawing information the entire time, but I’ve learned a bunch about sake, miso, fermentation, and the likes.

      As for the characterization bit, I do agree with you that it isn’t the strongest point of the series, but it is an important point to be covered. I think giving the microbes all different shapes, colors, personalities, and voices really helps differentiate them from one another. It doesn’t really impact the story or the anime, but it helps keep things straight in the eyes of the viewer, I think.

      Anyway, hope to see you around here this summer! It is a bit challenging to blog about Moyashimon but that’s why I’m doing it this season; to test me and push me in terms of my writing.

      • #3 by illegenes on July 18, 2012 - 9:16 PM

        Oh no, it seems WordPress messed up my reply and never sent it! :( In summary- I do agree with you and I think it’s great that the microbes have personalities to make the processing of the information much easier and more enjoyable than just having it spelled out for you. It’s something I’ve definitely noticed in Returns, because the first season (which I luckily marathoned the day before the second season premiered) seemed to have less fermentation information and more plot/character interaction. But I still really enjoy Returns nevertheless, and I’m glad you’re doing a great job of blogging it- as bloggers, it’s our duty to expand our boundaries and test our limits every once in a while and you’ve definitely inspired me to do the same! Can’t wait for tomorrow’s episode and your review.

        • #4 by avvesione on July 18, 2012 - 10:21 PM

          Thanks, I’m glad to hear the support you have for both Moyashimon Returns and my blog.

          Having just marathoned the anime myself just before the start of the season, too, I have the original series still fresh in my head which is why I’m trying to incorporate or compare themes from the first and second whenever I have the chance. Though not everyone remembers the original from about 5 years ago, I’m sure people are still curious about the link between the first and second and what has remained the same and what has changed. That being said, this is one area where I believe Returns has improved upon the original as we’ve seen more of the microbes play a role in education and comedy than we did in the first season (at least at this point).

          And like you, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s episode, too!

  2. #5 by Marina on July 13, 2012 - 3:34 PM

    I never had much of an interest in science when growing up and opted for physics instead of biology when the option came around in high school. I was also happy to take the softer sciences for my undergrad prerequisites. But now that I’m in my mid-20s, I’ve strangely taken more of an interest in the scientific world, and wish that I had paid more attention all those years ago.

    In this vein, Moyashimon was such a strange animal to me since I couldn’t really explain when I first watched it what it was that attracted me to it. I think you nail the reason exactly; having the microbes characterized in such a way not only hits my adoration for the “cute,” but somehow also makes them more prevalent to my every day life. Seeing them as microscopic and featureless shapes in petri dishes just didn’t impress upon me as a child how vital of a role they play in the miracle that is life.

    • #6 by avvesione on July 15, 2012 - 2:06 PM

      Ah, that’s too bad you weren’t interested in it in high school/undergrad, but at least you’re curious now and can learn about it at your own pace. And it might be better for you this way, too, since the topics in Moyashimon are more about the art or application of microbiology rather than the science of it (understanding activation cascades, mapping molecular processes, studying membrane transporters, microbial genomics, etc.) which tends to be more exclusive, focused, and, I hate to say it, but boring (as you said, those amorphous cells in a petri dish). Moyashimon covers the real world uses of microbiology, which I believe is more tailored to the whole community than just the scientists.

      And I think I know why you enjoy Moyashimon so much; it always pertains to the creation of delicious and exotic cuisine! Seeing as you run a cooking/food themed anime blog, I couldn’t help but make the connection!

      • #7 by Marina on July 15, 2012 - 2:28 PM

        Ahhh, that does make sense! Thinking back now, I think it must have been a combination of Moyashimon and a K-drama that interested me in trying kimchi.

        • #8 by avvesione on July 15, 2012 - 11:47 PM

          You know, the added bonus of Moyashimon is that almost all the science that we learn about pertains to food or cuisine in some way. Might inspire you to try something different or use different ingredients in a dish. Wouldn’t mind hearing about how Moyashimon impacts or influences your cooking in some way sometime (if it does like with the kimchi).

  3. #9 by azeriraz on July 15, 2012 - 5:32 AM

    It’s interesting how quite a few people will often overlook the technical and complex dialogue in Moyashimon. The use of illustrations helps education for a number of people and it’s interesting to see Moyashimon do this and remain educational.

    • #10 by avvesione on July 15, 2012 - 2:08 PM

      Yeah, I think most people take the educational and informative aspect of Moyashimon for granted, though it is one of the dominant features of the anime. It’s true that it still tells the story of a college freshman and his wacky adventures with his friends, but there’s quite a bit of information being discussed that explains a lot about the world that most people don’t know about. Glad to hear you’re appreciating the education in Moyashimon!

  4. #11 by bobbobsters on July 16, 2012 - 10:54 AM

    You know just as well as I do that hardly anyone autoclaves glass petri-dishes anymore, because hardly anybody uses them…

    • #12 by avvesione on July 16, 2012 - 5:56 PM

      Well, I tried to keep it general so that people would have some idea what I was talking about (petri dishes) but keep it sounding science-y enough that others would be like “Well I don’t know what this SCIENCE is, it must be SCIENCE.”

      Also, I never did that kinda stuff in biology. Maybe you can tell me the horror stories again of quality check or pouring agar plates or whatever fun you had while in either of those labs. =P

      • #13 by bobbobsters on July 16, 2012 - 10:54 PM

        only one was a real lab… and we autoclaved agar yes, but the plates were all disposable plastics, we needed to use so many of them it really was less expensive.

        • #14 by avvesione on July 16, 2012 - 11:12 PM

          Ah, yeah, I remember that one. Also, lol at calling your last job not being a real lab. That made me laugh more than it should have.

        • #15 by bobbobsters on July 17, 2012 - 9:32 PM

          Well, it was a BL1, but not a lab at all.

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