For the longest time, I had hoped that noitaminA would target the right shows for a sequel. So far, the only sequels have been Honey & Clover (back in 2007, before the first streaming anime shows were screened) and a few follow-ups to Nodame Cantabile. Since 2010, we have had a few two-cours shows, but one of them was Guilty Crown, and I'm pretty sure most of fandom isn't hammering down doors to get that one green-lighted for a return.
There could be many arguments that some don't deserve sequels (No.6, Hataraki Man) and that others would have continuity ruined by a second season (AnoHana, House of Five Leaves), but many could say that shows like Princess Jellyfish, Shiki, Eden of the East, and
How appropriate that I mention fermenting. It's just too bad this show wasn't left in the vat for a little longer. Sixth Place in Summer 2012's Anime Survivor is Moyashimon Returns, a noitaminA show that didn't deserve a half-hearted attempt at a sequel.
Bountiful Harvest: Even outside of Tadayasu Soemon Sawaki, our central figure and a young agriculture student who has the ability to see and speak with microorganisms, there have been some pretty entertaining characters, and despite the relatively harmless talent that Tadayasu exhibits, some interesting stories came from it. I, for one, wasn't prepared for the pipe-bomb of a twist that was his classmate Kei Yuuki, but it gave the show at least a bit of color and an underground following.
The second season basically completes the first season's Spring Festival with the corresponding Fall Festival, bringing with it the comedic fury of housewives looking to tear down the university gates for free harvest samples. Lost in the hustle and bustle is the underlying plot to the show, as one of the graduate students, the S&M queen Haruka, is faced with a quandry very real to Japanese women—what comes first, career or arranged marriage?
As much as the show would like to entertain us with funny faces and dramatic twists, the microbes are the show-stealers here, floating about the air in a flurry of excitement over fermentation. One moment they are the miniature narrators of the show, only to become educators about sake, miso, beer and other potent potables the next moment. That's definitely one of the better parts of the show—there is little hiding the things that Moyashimon Returns is trying to teach about agriculture, and some of the information is very intriguing. It almost makes one want to pack soybean pulp away to make homemade soy sauce.
Withering Crops: Unfortunately, if you look past the momentary flashes of decent animation and the cornucopia of information on incubation, you'll find a show that really doesn't have much else to say. Considering that most of the cast has already been introduced with their quirks, the show lacks any fuel to keep the engine motoring. Everyone seems to have gotten over Kei's desires to crossdress, and most already know of Tadayasu's skills. The only thing left is for Tadayasu's classmate Oikawa to learn the truth about the microbes, but what will that end up accomplishing in the end?
The only other plot in this threadbare sequel exists in the form of a mysterious underground passageway under the school, the drab Fall Festival, and Haruka's forced hand in marriage. Considering that she looks so discouragingly bored about her trip to France in the process, it's hard to feel any excitement in seeing the situation solve itself. Here is a hint to all of you scriptwriters and storytellers out there—if you have a character in your show that wishes they were elsewhere, your viewers won't want to be there either.
I suppose the underlying principle about Moyashimon Returns is that there is no longer any reason for the bacteria to be floating around. Unlike the first season, they don't seem to serve much of a purpose for Tadayasu, as there's a lot more idle chit-chat between Doolittle-sensei and his microbial minions. There are no shocking revelations from the bacteria, and the "My powers are gone!" card can't be played again. It just feels like we're waiting for something important to happen sooner or later, but the show would rather just sit there and collect alcohol until it's ready.
Fertilizer: Look, I really enjoy an anime show that has the courage to educate the viewer about little-known subjects, but without a good plot, you're left with just a show that belongs in a home economics class, hardly the environment in which a noitaminA show should be found. After all, the animation block has been able to brag that it shows some of the more intellectual and artistic shows out there (Kids on the Slope, Wandering Son), so something bland like Moyashimon Returns really tears the brand down, especially after an incredible spring season.
Perhaps Moyashimon Returns also suffers from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is stealing so much dramatic thunder and light-hearted jocularity from the other half of the noitaminA block that there really doesn't seem to be room. If there was a show with more intensity, edgier action, or darker topics that was running with Moyashimon Returns, perhaps it would look better than it actually is.
Sadly, all it is right now is unexciting mush. It's quite possible that unexciting mush could turn into top-shelf sake, but I'm not willing to wait three more episodes for that beverage to bubble.
Next Time: 5th Place!