By Masayuki Ishikawa. Released in Japan as "Moyashimon" by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Evening. Released in North America by Del Rey.
It seems like it's been forever since the first volume of Moyasimon hit stores last September, and it may be forever till we see Volume 3 (which isn't listed on Amazon, and which one bookseller has shipping in April 2011). But for now, we have this volume, and it was well worth the wait, as it's terrific.
There's no real ongoing plot per se, as it's still just seeing the wacky adventures at a Japanese Agricultural college. The joy is in seeing the characters bounce off each other. The deadpan reactions to chaos, meeting the school beauty and discovering she's just as weird as the rest, attempting to survive the school festival, and of course desperate attempts to earn enough money to get an aphrodisiac.
That last one is especially odd as so far, there's been no romance in this series, nor does it look like there will be in the foreseeable future. Sure, there's nice-looking women - in fact, the author really seems to like drawing them, whereas the guys tend to be far more sketchy - and you get the feeling that Tadayasu and Hazuki might make a nice sweet couple if they ever felt that way about each other, but in this volume, you got the feeling that the guys were trying to win the aphrodisiac more for sex as a mythical beast than due to actual desire. Which is likely why Hasegawa held them in such contempt.
Aoi Muto is introduced here, though we still don't quite have much of a sense of her yet. Clearly she's very pretty, and we hear the backstory of how she ended up 'avoiding reality'. And she and Hazuki do provide some fantastic drunken yuri tease, which I'm sure inspired some doujinshi when first seen. Still, she gets more to do than Kei, who takes a leave of absence about 1/3 through this volume for reasons unknown to us. Kei's role was mostly to tell us about alcohol and be a straight man to the wacky antics, but Tadayasu and Hazuki both fill the straight man role anyway, so he was pretty superfluous. I can only hope when he returns, he'll be more interesting.
(That sound you just heard was the anvil I just dropped. You're welcome.)
The original Japanese volume had little character profiles and asides in the margins, which are reproduced here. Much to my surprise, the asides about halfway through start to walk about Moyasimon being released in the US, how they think it will sell, what manga Americans read, that sort of thing. I can only imagine that it was written especially for this volume, and it's fantastic. I love seeing authors interact with their readership, and Del Rey gives this author a unique voice in which to do so.
In fact, the whole volume is well done. All the little niggly editorial issues I've had with Zetsubou-sensei, another Del Rey title, don't apply here at all. The translation is smooth and flows freely, even in the long, long lectures that take up much of the book. There are fewer notes required, but they're either in the endnotes at the back or the author explains them in his margins. And the redesigned cover is cute and stands out. If this is why each volume takes so long to mcome out here, I can put up with a wait.
With a lot of terrific humor (and, frankly, a lot of lecturing about microbacteria - you have to put up with the science lectures if you read this manga), funny characters, beautiful women, and just plain silliness (one chapter is told from the POV of the microbes, bitching about a recent disinfection that wiped out many colonies), this is a terrific Del Rey title and great example of seinen. I really hope it sells well enough for Del Rey to keep putting it out. Definitely recommended.