Moyashimon Returns – Deciding your own future
September 13, 2012 2 Comments
What makes Moyashimon such a fascinating anime to watch is the way with which it brings together numerous storytelling devices without letting any one of them overpower the others. The oddity that marks Moyashimon out from many other slice-of-life style series – Sawaki’s ability to see and communicate with microbes – is not essential to the series, although it does provide some interesting educational elements, along with certain comedic plot devices. Instead it is a series focussed entirely on the characters and how the cope with daily life at the Agricultural University. At the very centre of the story are questions about where these people belong and what they want to do with their lives. The main focus of Moyashimon Returns, at least in the last few episodes has been firmly on Haruka and her arranged marriage to a fat and entirely unlikable Ryuuta.
Over the last few episodes Moyashimon Returns has shown us the central problem for Haruka, the question of where she belongs, if anywhere. Coming from a privileged background she is someone who could, if she wished, wield considerable power and influence, and yet she runs away from it all, or at least from the arranged marriage part. There are clear elements of Haruka as a bird in a cage, controlled by her father and fiancé, with very little room to manoeuvre. Her place at the Agricultural University offers her some refuge from these external forces, and yet there is also the question about whether she truly belongs there. It is clear that her thesis was partly used as a way to prolong this arranged marriage, with her father agreeing that she won’t marry until her thesis is finished. However, this becomes a handy excuse and during the first few episodes Haruka is clearly struggling with research and ideas that she perhaps has lost interest in. The thesis and her own research have become a weight around her neck, pulling her down, at the same time, they are there to try and free her from this engagement.
Haruka is not alone in this however, with Sawaki and Marie the most recent character both expected to succeed in the family business regardless of what they want to do. However, while Sawaki has essentially accepted that he will inherit the business despite his selfish older brother running off, Marie has other ideas. She doesn’t want to be stuck in one place all her life, and the weight of expectations upon her appears stifling. But, that is not to say that Marie dislikes her surroundings in Burgundy, far from it, she loves the Domaine and has a significant amount of knowledge when it comes to wine. However, it is the feeling that everything has been planned out in advance, which she seems to be rebelling against. Her wishes are not important as long as the Domaine remains alive and well known, essentially dismissing her own desires and wishes for the sake of wine.
Marie wants to travel around the world, along with choosing her own future like her mother who owns a restaurant in Paris, or her father, despite their frosty relationship. While her situation may be similar to that of Sawaki (both have older brothers who ran away to do what they want thus dumping all responsibility of inheriting the family business on their younger sibling) Marie approaches it with a more proactive attitude than that of Sawaki. At the same time she, like Haruka cannot admit to their own feelings and desires, she truly loves wine and clearly knows a lot about it, but her stubborn nature does not allow her to do anything about it. Haruka in a similar fashion almost gives in and accepts what she almost believes is her fate, that of marrying Ryuuta. She may have accepted her fathers invitation for a short holiday in France, and yet it seems hard to believe that someone as sharp as Haruka could have failed to think that the marriage may be brought up at the same time. The resignation that Haruka, a character with such a strong will and fierce temper demonstrates is a sad sight, clearly showing that she has effectively reigned herself to this life without a fight.
In this respect she is far weaker than Sawaki and Marie, and shows that she has almost come to believe that her time at the Agricultural University was simply a distraction. Sawaki appears to have accepted his role as the successor, although there are certain elements that suggest he wants to try other things before doing so. But, he has not resigned himself to his role as the successor without even thinking about his other options or pursuing them. Similarly, Marie is fighting against her families wishes for her to succeed, but at the same time is still attempting to help her equally stubborn father in his quest to be a good wine maker. She approaches problems from a different direction and instead of accepting her life as the successor looks for alternatives to help the Domaine while still pursuing her dreams.
These characters are not alone in this, with every member of Moyashimon’s cast struggling with their own futures, desires and dreams. Yuuki is exploring his new life, and is doing his best to reform his family’s liquor store; he is perhaps the only member of the cast to have found something to work towards in this respect. We also have Mutou, the almost continuously drunk assistant to Itsuki and Haruka, who is looking for something to work towards without any clear direction in her life. Hazuki is similar to Mutou in this respect and really has no true direction in her life, although she is clearly interested in the course. Which leaves Misato and Kawahama, the miscreants who are always on the look out for easy money. The cast all have problems with where they truly belong, and at one point or another certain characters have questioned their own desires and dreams.
In this respect Haruka’s problems are not unique, although in her case they become more troublesome due to the clear authority and power that her family wields. By meeting Sawaki, Kawahama and particularly Misato she is forced to reassess her own attitude towards her life and thus come to terms with what may be considered her own inadequacies. Everyone at the Agricultural University loves her company, despite her sadistic tendencies, and acknowledges her existence in a way that neither her father nor Ryuuta are capable of doing. Haruka has found where she belongs and whom she belongs with, although her character may never allow her to truly admit it. However, when she was running away with Misato we were able to see a side of Haruka that helps to demonstrate the stifling nature of her over-protective family. The embarrassment, but also relief that she shows while running away and holding hands with Misato reveals a cuter side to a woman who is quite happy to make Ryuuta shake in his boots. Ultimately it comes down to the idea that you never truly know where you belong until you find it, and that worrying about such things will never help.
The only exception to this is Ryuuta, a character that long ago accepted his role as a spoiled, rich kid, and who has little understanding of the outside world. Worse than this is his utter contempt for everyone else, clearly viewing other people as below his station and constantly attempting to impress Haruka through stupid and pointless knowledge. A clear example of this comes in the form of the dinner at Marie’s Domaine, where Ryuuta attempts to show off his knowledge of wine by suggesting that you should serve particular wines with sushi. In doing so he is insult several cultures at once along with showing everyone at that table how ignorant and stupid he really is. The problem with Ryuuta is that he has accepted and believes in his role as the heir to his family’s fortune and business. Unlike the other characters he has never even tried to question this lifestyle, nor has he thought about trying something new or exciting.
Throughout this France arc Haruka’s disdain for Ryuuta is clear, even going so far as to use suitcases to make a partition in the double bed. Furthermore, his character has been the least likeable of the series, something that was obvious from the start. By ignoring him and then rejecting the idea that she has to go with this arranged marriage, despite its clear advantages towards her families business, Haruka is further demonstrating her own abilities to make decisions about her life. She is therefore similar to Mary in this respect, showing that sometimes you have to work for your place in society, and often it may not be where you have envisioned yourself being at the beginning. Sawaki is the other beneficiary of this arc, and by meeting Mary it is clear that he has begun to think about his position as the second son and the successor in a different light and context. What makes Moyashimon Returns such a fun series to watch is its ability to provide this human drama while remaining entertaining, funny, silly, and also educational. Sawaki’s ability to see and talk to microbes never overpowers everything else and instead is used to add more depth to the story instead of taking it over.