I plan on someday getting around to just about every anime that has aired on the noitaminA block in Japan and so when I heard that the show Moyashimon was getting a sequel this summer I decided this was the perfect time to watch the original show. The premise was a quirky one but I hadn't tried it out before since it wasn't licensed, although the manga was at one point and Funimation streamed the live-action tv drama version a couple of summers back, but by this point it looks like it probably won't be licensed in the US (unless this was the "classic" anime license that Funimation hinted at in an ANNCast from a few weeks back). In any case, there's still enough time before Moyashimon Returns for people to catch the original show so let's get on with the review so I can explain just what this show is about.
Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture
Summary: Tadayasu Sawaki has been able to see microbes floating all around him since he was young and by now it's a normal, if annoying, part of his life. But when he and his best friend Kei Yuuki head off to college they find out that his skill is quite valuable indeed and, as the sons of a yeast maker and a sake brewer respectively, find themselves dragged into the schemes of Professor Itsuki and his students.
The Good: I had forgotten that Wandering Son was not the first noitaminA show to have a transgender character (actually, Paradise Kiss probably was) and I thought that character was very well done. I had remembered hearing there was one before, and from the snippets I had read about reviews of the live action series I had guessed who it was, but there were some very good visual foreshadowing to tip off the viewers. Actually, the show had a good sized cast and managed to give several of them much more character development than I would have thought possible in 11 episodes. The show was also paced well, I've heard that they had to skip some things to get to the point they did but I thought that everything flowed well and that none of the events took too long or were too rushed. I will say though that I feel more confident recommending this series knowing that there's a second half coming since the show really needs more time.
The Bad: It's clear that the show didn't have a really good place to end so they chose the end of an arc and made it work as well as they could (and after the credits make it clear that they really want a second series). The show does provide a bit of closure, the characters have started to grow and move on but the ending still feels rather abrupt and there doesn't seem like there was any way to fix that. Tvtropes has also pointed out that, for a college set at an agricultural university the story doesn't seem to like some of the newer, "green" advances in technology which is a bit odd when you think about it*.
The Audio: While both songs were a bit odd, especially the ending song, neither of them really stuck with me and I listened to both of them the full 11 times. The voice acting was fine, I especially liked how all the microbes had different voices (even the ones that were just variations and not something completely different). Overall there's not much to discuss here, although for an 11 episode show that doesn't put the characters through a roller-coaster of emotions or through scenes requiring dramatic music that's not especially surprising.
The Visuals: The show continues with the un-official noitaimA tradition of having a really weird looking opening/ending sequence (in this case a live-action/CGI mash-up opening and closing) but aside from that everything looks rather normal. Some of the character designs are a bit odd (both body-type wise and the fact that an awful lot of characters have blonde or a reddish-orange hair color) but nothing that would throw a non-newbie anime viewer. There's actually not that much else to mention here, everything remained consistent and there weren't any scenes that merited extra fluid animation or such so the visuals were never pushed to the animators limits, everything just worked in a very quiet way.
While not one of my favorite noitaminA series it's a cute little series and I would recommend it to people who like more comedy/slice of life titles, just be prepared for some really disgusting descriptions of how fermentation works (I normally watch anime while eating lunch/dinner and found that was not a great idea for this show, I didn't even know humans ate that much rotten food).
*full disclosure, I'm minoring in green technology at a school that's got a fairly good department in it so I have to raise an eyebrow when the characters can't get a biofuel tractor running, in my town the school's buses use so much biofuel that we use the oil from I think every fast food place in town. So I'm quite biased here, although I am willing to cut them a bit of slack since it has been a little while since the original manga was published.