August 21, 2010
Masayuki Ishikawa – Del Rey – 2009 – 9+ volumes
I was expecting weirdness going in, but this is truly a level of bizarre I’m having trouble comprehending. I know I like it, though.
I put off reading this because I was a little afraid of it being over-wordy and being more science-y than plot-driven. It is a little bit of both those things, but it is so utterly fascinating that I couldn’t help finishing it in one sitting.
Country boy Tadayasu heads into the city to go to Agricultural University with his friend Yuki. The latter’s family are sake brewers, and Tadayasu’s family specializes in cultivating mold used to ferment and prepare different types of food. They walk into the university in the middle of a missing person investigation, and find what they think is a body buried in the ground. Turns out it’s a giant seal stuffed with birds. A professor shows up to cut it open, remove the birds, tear out their tail feathers, and suck their innards out through their anus. He explains that this is an inuit delicacy.
Oh. Also, Tadayasu can see mold and bacteria, depicted in the series as cute little blobs flying around everywhere. Each bacteria is depicted as a different blob. The series goes slowly through the story of Tadayasu acclimating himself to university life, interspersed with explanations on what the various bacteria he sees do, the process of fermentation, and an explanation as to how the professor in the first chapter is doing research into terraforming.
It wanders around peacefully, with chapters about students bootlegging alcohol suffering from a batch contaminated with a particularly nasty bacteria, a chapter on e.coli, a little explanation on a Swiss sport being played in an empty livestock field, lots and lots about fermentation and food preparation both mundane and exotic, and just… lots of different things, spiced up with lots of science. I think it only get a few days into Tada’s university life before the volume ends.
There’s so much here, and all of it is charming, entertaining, and educational. One wonders how a series like this was proposed to an editor, how it was approved, and how, exactly, it wound up in Evening, a men’s magazine.
I feel like I need to read one more volume to wrap my brain around what’s going on. I realize me just talking about what’s in the book isn’t much of a review, but literally, I can’t get past the bizarre contents. That is Moyasimon’s greatest strength so far. I do have the second volume, but with three such a long way off, I may put off reading it.
Weird stuff. Highly recommended.