Tadayasu Sawaki isn’t your average college student- unlike other people, he has the ability to see microbes with his naked eyes, in the form of cute, self-aware chibis. A strange power under any circumstances, perhaps, but when he and his friend Kei start at Agricultural college, they discover that there are many more bizarre things in the world. Whether it’s an eccentric old professor with a penchant for brewing sake and experimenting with rotten foods, or a college festival quite unlike any you may have experienced before, Sawaki’s life seems destined to be packed with all kinds of craziness.
The noitaminA block seems to be the natural home for series based on college life; in Honey and Clover, we went to art college, Nodame Cantabile took us to music school and now Moyashimon furthers the set by showing us life at agricultural college. This time around, however, things were to be a little different, with the slice-of-life elements reduced in favour of comedy, craziness and the science of brewing sake.
With that in mind, it is clear that Moyashimon is a rather unique experience, and it is that that acts as both its strength and weakness. There is no doubt that the ability to see microbes as cute floating chibis is a novelty that will attract viewers regardless of content, and certainly the other unusual elements such as the crazy school festival will remain memorable long after other series have faded from the mind, but at the same time, there is something about the series that just doesn’t click. The various random and bizarre happenings of the series make it harder to connect with the characters and appreciate their story- in effect, the viewer superficially glides along the surface without really appreciating any of the deeper character and story dynamics.
With only eleven episodes to work with, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Moyashimon can’t quite contribute as much as it should to character development. Over the course of the series, we are introduced to many distinctive and borderline eccentric personalities, but try as it might, the series doesn’t have time to do much more than establish their backgrounds. We know that Oikawa is a neat freak with a liking for older men, that Hasegawa went to college to escape the demands of her rich family and so forth, but we never really have the chance to progress forward with these ideas. Other revelations also seem quite rushed- for example in the latter half of the series Sawaki’s friend Kei takes a leave of absence, and the next time we see him he is dressed as a gothloli trap who is working through his gender issues. Having thrown us this unexpected curve, however, the series merely comes to an end, leaving us to wonder what would have happened next.
Visually, Moyashimon opts for a clean and bright style that sticks with realistic designs but gives them enough impact to be memorable (and let’s face it, who’s going to forget Hasegawa’s revealing leather outfits any time soon?). The microbes themselves are not only surprisingly cute, but even get to have a star turn in their own ‘Microbe Theatre’, the series’ equivalent to ‘Tachikoma Days’. Background music is largely forgettable, although the live-action OP with microbes floating around in the real world is a nice touch.
Despite having criticised it above, I don’t want to conclude by saying that Moyashimon is bad, because it most certainly is not. It’s just that somehow, despite a strong basis, something fundamentally felt lacking- perhaps simply due to a lack of episodes in which to properly settle down. If that is the case, then surely a second season is exactly what is needed to give this series a chance to show its true potential.