Agar is made from seaweed, boiled down and separated off. The resultant substance is jelly-like and clear, and looks a lot like gelatine, which is extracted from animals. Indeed, you could say agar is vegetarian gelatine, but it is also far superior and is preferred for many things.
Agar is that stuff you see on top of jellimeat to stop it going bad, it is used in DNA fingerprinting technology, it is used in the soft centred chocolates Cadbury make, and, perhaps the one we all know from school, it is used in scientific laboratories to grow cultures of bacteria. The little plastic dishes of agar, with their distinctive smell, are the trademark symbol of laboratories the world over. And in 1941 the sole supplier of Agar to the world was Japan.
Can you see the problem?