Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture

"...alcohol is basically just yeast poop." (p.172)

At the start of January, I raved about a manga cookbook and find myself now praising another compelling manga. Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture by Ishikawa Masayuki (Random House Publishing Group, Sept.2009, $10.99) is a trade-sized paperback of 234 pages. It was first serialized in Japan in August 2004 and as of July 2009, eight bound volumes have been published. Del Rey Manga recently acquired the license to publish the manga in English and the second volume is due in May 2010.

The basic idea of the manga may seem bizarre but if you suspend your disbelief, you'll enjoy it very much. Tadayasu Sawaki is a new student at an agricultural university. He possesses a unique power, the ability to see and interact with microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, with the naked eye. He can even pick up in his hand a single microorganism. A professor, and a couple of other students, want to exploit Sawaki's power.

There is a scene at the start of the manga which really seems to set the tone and style for the rest of the manga. It is a striking, comedic, educational and some might even consider it disgusting. Sawaki suspects the body of a missing student may be buried on school grounds. In actually, a professor has prepared "kiviak," which entails burying a dead seal that has been stuffed with 70-80 seabirds. After six months, the inside of the birds has fermented. Then, you remove the birds, rip out their tailfeathers and suck out the liquid interior through the anus.

Moyasimon, which is loosely translated as "koji mold man," discusses a wide range of topics, including bacteria, fermentation, Saké brewing, agriculture, cheese making and more. These are all topics that will appeal to food lovers and I am sure you will learn something new. You will also learn about Japanese culture. Want to know about the second smelliest fermented food in the world? Then read this book!

Yet the book is not a dry lecture. A comedic framework gives structure to the manga, and there are plenty of amusing and interesting characters. Even the bacteria are given personalities! It is a fun read, and you will likely finish it quickly, and then be eager for the next volume. Though you'll have to wait five months for volume two.

This is definitely another food-related manga which I highly recommend. It is original, fun, informative and thought provoking. I just wish U.S. comic publishers would produce similar books.


The Wine Whore said...

I need to check these out! Great post!

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks, this was a great manga and I look forward to part 2.