Manga on Micro-Organisms

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Comics are conventionally seen as an inferior medium that panders to children, teenagers and child-like adults, with its vigilante superheroes obsessed with delivering justice. This kind of description on comics is somewhat true, especially considering the stereotypical comics of the west. However, the Japanese comics, known as ‘manga’ often tries to take a different approach as it sets out to tell a cracking story as well as educate the reader with something useful (not in a didactic manner). Manga comics also have many-headed monster, superheroes, android detectives, and unleashes all types of violent dystopian settings. But, their seamlessly integrated educational parts are getting more attention in the recent times.

One such unusual manga series was created by Marie Hadori, a comic book illustrator, who was also former researcher of microbial behavior at the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Hadori specialized in microbiology and fermentation. The comic, which is already in its second volume, is about the lives and adventures of Prince Euglena, a unicellular algae that is less than 0.1 millimeter long. The euglena-type algae possess the characteristics of both plants and animals. In the series, the prince euglena has power such as super photosynthesis, and meets the female protagonist ‘Kamako’.

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Kamako is portrayed as a tardigrade. Tardigrades are animal that is little large than 1 mm, which lives in an aqueous film on moss and has also earned a nickname “water bear”. Taridgrades lives on most extreme places on Earth. It has been frozen roasted, boiled, placed in a vacuum, exposed to great pressures exceeding those found in deepest trenches in the ocean, and zapped with X-rays. Tardigrades have survived in all these extreme conditions that would be instantly lethal to most other living organisms.

Hadori has been drawing since her childhood, and has used her knowledge about micro organisms to create fictional universes that was only previously seen through microscopes. These comics have now become a hot topic among science students and microbial researchers. The first book of comics was published in spring 2013, while the second series named ‘Micronest’ was recently released, in this year. Another example of the educational manga comics was ‘Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture’. This multi-part series followed a couple of endearing students at a Tokyo agricultural college.

From the Manga Series 'Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture'

From the Manga Series ‘Moyashimon: Tales of Agriculture’

The outset of the comics is said to have a banal premise, but it has a bizarre twist as one of the protagonists has an unexplained power to see all manner of microbes with the naked eye. It was a power that was turned on and off at his will. These tales were said to be likened a lot by non-microbiologists, as the footnotes in the tales provided a little more detail on the various microbial species introduced. The microbial characters were the real stars of the comics, and they are broadly categorized into good and bad ones.

The student drama, racier plot-lines and microbiology lectures appealed a lot to the manga fans. It also showcases the chance for illustrating stupendously imagined stories in a medium overridden by cliches.

 

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