Tadayasu Sawaki has a gift: he can see all kinds of microbes, from the ones that ferment sake to everyday bathroom mold. Not only that, but they're not scientifically accurate but instead cute chibi creatures. When he enters an agricultural university and a professor finds out about his gift, he begins to meet new people that help him discover more about his abilities and himself.
Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture (or Moyasimon as Del Ray chooses to spell it for the North American release) is a slice-of-life manga with a strong informative slant and comedic character-based interactions. The highlight, of course, being the super cute happy microbes who just want to ~brew.
Moyashimon is ongoing, with 11 volumes at present, though only 2 have been translated and released officially and only the first one is floating around the Internet. The first two volumes coincide with the anime.
Despite the "super power" nature of Tadayasu's ability to see and interact with microbes, the manga doesn't dwell on that point and simply follow Sawaki Tadayasu's
life with his friends and colleagues at agricultural university. If you're looking for a sci-fi backstory or angsty protagonist, you should probably turn back now.
As usual for slice of life, the characters are key. The cast are unique in both personality and outward appearance, including Hasegawa, who would probably fit in with a genderswitched Detroit Metal City, to Tadayasu's senpai Takuma, who is obsessed with bugs and almost looks like a bobblehead doll. Our protagonist, Tadayasu, is relatable without sacrificing his personality, and seeing his obvious reluctance to go to university after being ostracised for his "gift" melt away as he interacts with the cast has all my d'awws forever. Enjoyably, the microbes are not devoid of character, whether it be all that the Japanese L. yoghurti have a chonmage or that L. fructivorans (the microbe that turns sake bad) look super drunk.
The set-up of every chapter makes it easy for anyone to jump right in, with notes in the margin informing the reader of key facts about the situation or characters in question, though, notably, the author uses these to surreptiously add tidbits of humour - such as the rumour that Misato has a liquids fetish - to otherwise dull summaries and introductions of the microbes in question. Each volume also has omake material, which is mostly just of the microbes being cute, which is fine by me (why isn't there a microbe-only K-On, is what the world should be asking).
The art is consistently pretty, with big almond shaped eyes and expressive faces for most of the cast (except Takuma), that don't go the easy way out with chibi effects. Most of the cuteness is saved for the microbes, especially A. oryzae's huge grin.
The setting of university is pretty familiar but a surprisingly nice change from high-school fare, and the backgrounds are adequate but not really notable.
Though set in a relatively specialist area, the manga never makes you feel stupid or throws information in your face, and instead you learn along with Tadayasu and the other first-year students. The goings-on at an agricultural university are surprisingly compelling, whether focused on bizarre fermented foods from around the world or being forced to shove your arm up a cow's butt.
To conclude, Moyashimon is one of the rare manga that simultaneously made me laugh and feel a little smarter than I did before I picked it up. The cast and antics are hard not to like and harder not to recommend; I can only hope Del Ray release further volumes and for this series to gain the popularity it deserves.