Elucidate the World Mechanism with Imagination .Part 2
Mr.Ishikawa(Comic Artist)

Text by Hirokuni Kanki, photos by MOTOKO

You personified bacteria in Moyashimon first, then planets in your most recent manga series, Madowanai Hoshi. Are they somehow interrelated in your mind?


Yes. I depicted a microscopic world in Moyashimon, but in the last volume (Vol. 13), I discussed that the small world and the large world are just different aspects of the same world. Naturally, I thought that the next work should be a story about the bigger side. At that time, I had already decided that the subject of my next work would be space.

(Excerpt from page 205, Moyashimon Vol. 13 published by Kodansha)

I thought Madowanai Hoshi would be a story about the planets of our solar system, but stars, comets, and even black holes are personified. I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds as a reader


I can tell you the plot up to the final episode. I usually make a plan about the storyline from beginning to end. As for Moyashimon, I had two versions: Plan A was a version that ends with a grand finale, and Plan B was for the case where my contract is terminated before the story comes to an end (laughter).

Madowanai Hoshi Vol. 1-5 published by Kodansha and still continues
The story is situated in Japan in the distant future. There is a colorless outer world that exists to maintain the inner world, which is rich in colors with a bunch of anime characters. S-zawa, who sends letters into space, and Oikawa, who collects junk on the ruined surface of the earth, encounter mysterious girls who turn out to be the planets of the solar system visiting the bedridden girl, Earth. In this unprecedented comic, not only the planets but all the astronomical bodies from outside the solar system are personified.
I was scared and hated space

Have you always been interested in space?


No. To be honest, I hated space (laughter). Since I was a little boy, it was something I rejected the most. Space was scary to me. I was frightened because of the scale: there are so many weird dots in space, and they are unbelievably distant. It even caused panick attack just to think about it, so I tried not to (think about it).

I didn’t expect that you were scared and hated space. But you decided to give it a try anyway.


When you walk outside at night and look up, you see space beyond the sky. It means that half of the world you live in is filled with something unknown to you. It was very unpleasant and drove me to take up the subject after all. It was exactly the same reason why I decided to depict the world of bacteria.

So that’s how it is connected to Moyashimon.


They constitute the same single world. Unlike the world of games, these things actually exist in the real world, but I haven’t given anythought to them. That’s the reason why I picked those subjects.

In Moyashimon, we learned about enzymatic actions and how we utilize the relationship among fungi. Whereas you translated the laws of physics as the relationships among stars in Madowanai Hoshi .


If you look at things from the perspective of quantum theory, probably there are many different tidbits, but when you look at the universe, I thought that what bacteria and planets do have lots in common.

I will probably draw an episode about Inflation Theory, which introduces the idea of a multiverse instead of a universe.


The theory also suggests different origins of the multiverses. For example, when there is a spherical multiverse, there will appear a singular point from where a new multiverse separates off. The yeast cell division happens in a very similar manner. I thought if I could link Moyashimon and Madowanai Hoshi, it would be a lot easier to explain.

You study these theories beforehand.


There is no work-around. I had no choice but to read and study from books. At first, I knew almost nothing. I went through a whole two rounds of basic physics textbooks for middle and high-school students, but it didn’t help much. In particular, quantum mechanics was hopeless. I’ve got more confused than ever..

But they are quite interesting as stories. For instance, there is a phenomenon called quantum spin, and that theoretically explains the reason that information is identical at the opposite ends of the universe because of the spins happening at an astronomical distance. It sounds ridiculous to me.

That probably contributes to the discussion of time travel and teleportation!


I read science books, but what they said sounded more like manga (laughter). So, I thought that quantum theory could provide me with clues for a work of fiction.

What are the readers of Madowanai Hoshi like?


The students of science say that Madowanai Hoshi are quite easy to understand. But for haters of science, even a story involving only basic physics is too difficult. I’m not sure for whom I am drawing this manga series. It is hard to decide what to include or not in the story.

There was a popularity contests for planets the other day.


It was premature. Some of the planets hadn’t appeared yet (laughter).

The world of Madowanai Hoshi where personified planets of the solar system live vigorously, just like the personified bacteria in Moyashimon.
(Pages 2-3 of Madowanai Hoshi Vol. 2)

So, which planet is your favorite?


All of them!

(Laughter) Each of the planets has different characteristics. How do you decide on them?


You know, it’s just like what I did with bacteria. I try to focus on their appearance as observed by us humans. Their characteristics are something that accompanies their appearance because there are so many things unknown to us.

We don’t know much about what Uranus and Neptune are like. We are still observing them from a distance, sothere is a room for wild imagination. I don’t want any new discoveries about them. I do not want to know any more about them. I wish NASA would stop investigating them.... No, I’m just joking (laughter).

Enzymes and stars have been there even before we discovered them.

There are the inner world and the outer world in the future earth depicted in Madowanai Hoshi. The difference between the foods in these two worlds left a strong impression on me. The people who live in the inner world eat a processed food paste, but those who live in the outer world eat real meat. I thought, “Oh, this story also involves food.”

(Excerpt from page 88, Madowanai Hoshi Vol. 3)


If what we eat now is featured on a TV program a thousand years from now, they would say, “A mysterious recipe for macaroni gratin from 1000 years ago was uncovered. The ingredients include grain and animal milk. The ingredients are processed, respectively, and put together, then animal meat, nuts and spices are mixed . They use fire to change the texture of the mixture, but, basically, the food is made of animal milk and grain. Yikes!”

By the way, I wondered why we invented macaroni, sauce, and cheese. My conclusion was because they taste better that way. Raw milk and grain flakes are nutritious enough, so probably the future humans would find it strange to process them. If we regard the time and effort to cook food as something wasteful, the discussion stops there.

Cooking involves all sorts of enzymatic reactions. The taste is one reason, and the effective nutrient-digesting rate is another.


I think the discussion of nutrition is something added afterward. I think that the taste is something that mattered the most, probably the second most important thing is ... preservation?

Or it’s just we evolved to findeasy to digest and nutritious things more tasty. We don’t know which is the cause and which is the result.


That’s right. When they ate a raw acorn, it gave them a stomachache later, but when they boiled it, it was tastier and did not cause any stomachachePerhaps, in the history of food, we didn’t think about the reasons until quite recently.

(Excerpt from page 44 of Madowanai Hoshi Vol. 1)
Do you know why the moon is so sharp-tongued and bitter when he talks? Probably he is irritated by humans for the long course of actions he has witnessed at a relatively close range. He’s like “What, you did it again?” (Ishikawa)

The title Madowanai Hoshi (Not a Wandering Star) is taken from the origin of 惑星, the Japanese word for planet. The ancient people gave the name because there were certain stars that moved differently from the rest of the heavenly bodies.


That’s right. I chose this title because the planets weren’t wandering at all. They move according to the laws of physics. They weren’t at a loss, but we observers were.

We talked earlier, in the context of Moyashimon, that microorganisms don’t have any vicious intention. It is similar to that.


Indeed, it is. The stars have been there for billions of years and moving repeatedly in the same way. It is the same for enzymes. It may be a discovery for humans, but for an enzyme, “You know, I’ve been like this from the beginning.”

I agree! (Laughter) Each year, hundreds of new enzymes are constantly discovered worldwide. Humans look for enzymes that can do what they can’t and study each microorganism thoroughly in various ways. It might be a new discovery for humans, but we have been working that way since ancient times.

Maybe new enzymes will be found in space.

Those microorganisms live in an environment where it is impossible for humans to survive but have enzymes that allow them to live there. For example, it is known that there are microorganisms in the stratosphere. They used to live on the surface of the earth, but they were caught by the wind and blown up higher and higher. They survived because they were tolerant of radial rays. Now we are looking for microorganisms in the layers beyond the stratosphere and close to outer space to find traces of extraterrestrial life. If it is too distant from the earth, we can safely conclude that life has an extraterrestrial origin, such as having been carried by meteorites.


I drew those fungi in the stratosphere in Moyashimon. There are fungi living in submarine volcanoes and high in the sky.

(Excerpt from Page 217 of Moyashimon Vol. 1)


These highly tolerant fungi, which can preserve their DNA and be proliferous even under strong radiation, were already known when I worked on Moyashimon. I knew there was much to study about them but wanted to mention them.

In the end, you need to entrust everything to microorganisms

Speaking of looking for enzymes in extreme conditions, I heard that there are enzyme hunters in the lab at Amano Enzyme. Koso-kun, please tell us exactly what they do.

Enzyme hunters collect microorganisms from soils from just about anywhere around the world and look for enzymes that can be of help to humans. It’s like inviting microorganisms from different backgrounds and interviewing them to see if they have any special skills to survive in such an environment! They also expose microorganisms to severe conditions that require certain functions and see if they can acquire a new skill to survive.

So, that’s how they look for unknown enzymes that might solve our problems.


It’s like putting bacteria in a severe environment and telling them something like “You need to create a diamond in the water.” If they successfully produce a diamond, then we say, “Okay, you have the enzyme to create diamonds!” It sounds a bit harsh for enzymes.

That reminds me of witch hunting in the medieval world. They sink a suspected witch under water and say, “If she is a witch, she will not die but will rise to the surface. If she dies, she is not a witch, so no harm to us!” They never found witches in witch trials like that.

Junketsu no Maria (Virgin Mary) Vols. 1-4 published by Kodansha
Ishikawa’s imagination vividly depicts medieval Europe, where churches and wars ruled society. In the era of the Hundred Years' War, there was a witch who has the name of the Holy Mother. She commands a Succubus and appears in the war to crush both the British and French armies with her powerful magic spells. The true wish of the Strongest Witch was to abolish war from this world. The legend of Maria the witch who fought against wars and the Archangel Michael to the end.

The story of enzyme hunters is a bit different from cruel witch hunting because once those women were suspected of being witches, they were destined to be killed. Enzyme hunters are always respectful and thankful for bacteria. At Amano Enzyme, we even have a tomb for bacteria called a kinzuka. Because we need their help in the daily production of enzymes and in finding antibiotics to cure diseases, we thank and pray for them every day for their sacrifices.

The kinzuka on the premises of Amano Sanso of Amano Enzyme. “Visitors from abroad are surprised to know that we Japanese believe that bacteria have souls. That’s exactly why we show the kinzuka to foreign people.” (Words of the spokesperson at Amano Enzyme)


After all, the purpose of witch trials was to kill the suspects. In that aspect, they are totally different stories.

(Excerpt from pages 148-149 of Junketsu no Maria Vol. 2)
The small world of bacteria, the large world of the stars, and our world in between ... Ishikawa depicts the respective mechanisms of the world.

I’ve seen a bronze statue dedicated to laboratory mice at a research institution abroad, but in Japan, we care for bacteria as living creatures. The fact really reflects what Japanese philosophy is like.

That’s why we talk to bacteria, like in the world of Moyashimon. We feel that bacteria have spirits. One of the most prestigious enzyme hunters in the world once said, “In the end, you need to entrust everything to microorganisms.”


Ah, just as I thought!

While studying, I often come across vital points.

We have talked about the enzymatic actions and potentials of enzymes today. What do you think about it?


They are full of potential. I simply think the more enzymes we find, the more convenient our lives will become. Maybe we can find an enzyme that allows you to lose fat from a particular part of the body.

Though it’s not research about enzymes but microorganisms, we might culture good enterobacteria for better bowel movements, which would contribute to losing weight in a healthy way. There should be enzymes that help such actions of microorganisms, and there are many researchers working on it.

I understood your passion today: How you are driven by your spirit of inquiry to study the subjects, and how you are committed to conveying what you learned through your work.


I’m not an author of textbooks but a manga artist. That’s why it is enjoyable. There are certain things that might cause a huge backlash if they are mentioned by an expert, but if it is something in a manga, people don’t care that much. I enjoy that comfort.

While studying, I often come across vital points. If I can get over those points, I might understand even the most difficult themes, such as what enzymes are. You know there’s an episode about a 5-year-old child in the lecture for theory of relativity. The child was the one who understood the theory most of all audience there.

It sounds encouraging! I hope more people in different fields will be interested in the world of enzymes and talk about them and expressthem in various media. Then even more people will be interested, and there will be a better chance for us to contribute to the futureMost importantly, researchers can enjoy their work.


I, as a creator, do enjoy the work of researchers. My manga cannot be without researchers, so I hope they continue working in their chosen fields. I can make a living based on the extracts of the researchers (laughter).

Thank you for cheering up the researchers. It has been a wonderful interview!

■Amano Enzyme’s Impressions

One of our employees said that his children are big fans of Mr. Ishikawa, and have the entire series of Moyashimon at homeand read them all. We appreciate that the world of microorganisms and enzymes, which are something very familiar to our researchers, is depicted through fascinating stories. In his latest work, Madowanai Hoshi, the thought experiment by Einstein was explained in an easy-to-understand manner. Einstein might have started by putting forward a far-fetched argument, but he kept thinking about how things should be and eventually compiled them into the theory of relativity. That changed the world of physics forever. Again, it is truly amazing that world of researchers are explained through manga.

Enzymes are active in every aspect of our world, and we are seeking new possibilities for them.
In this corner, we visit people who are currently active in various fields with "Enzo" and ask them about their stories.