Kinmoza Complete Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs DVD/ 1 Disc Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running time: 304 minutes approx.
If there is one unifying trend among anime fans it would almost assuredly be the desire to one day visit Japan. Some of us have achieved this, many of us haven’t but what is it really like to make this journey to the Land Of the Rising Sun?
Kinmoza (aka Kiniro Mosaic), originally a four-panel manga by Yui Hara, takes a look at this – sort of. The story begins with 10-year old Shinobu Omiya coming over here to Old Blighty as part of an educational exchange programme, staying with the Cartelet family based in the Cotswolds, where she befriends shy daughter Alice.
Five years later Shinobu receives a letter from Alice announcing her imminent arrival in Japan because she misses Shinobu. In the interim period since their last meeting, Alice has studied Japanese language and the culture, ahead of arriving in the country to join Shinobu’s school to study, staying with Shinobu and her family.
This is where the early promise of Kinmoza quietly fades into the background and the focus switches to covering the typical high school comedy conventions of daily Japanese life, using Alice as a convenient and lazy catalyst to retread the same ground as every other slice-of-life anime show. Even series writer Yuniko Ayana can’t even muster any energy to try to be different with such a ripe premise to work with.
With the characters all being cute, round faced, wide eyed moe blobs it was presumably hoped that this would distract viewers from the sharp detour from potential storyline substance to featherweight confection of the fluffiest order. It would transpire that this has actually worked judging by the franchise’s popularity, leaving those of us hoping for an in depth exploration on cross-cultural pollination looking like curmudgeonly cynics.
In reality, this series is less about Alice fitting in with the Japanese but the Japanese being in awe of having a genuine blonde haired blue eyed girl from England. Alice is soon joined by her friend, the half-English, half-Japanese Karen Kujo – also blonde – whose family move to Japan because they are rich enough to do so. Yet you would never guess that Alice and Karen had any English heritage since they adapt extraordinarily quickly to Japanese life without once showing any British traits or habits.
Apparently, reading books and learning the language is enough to make anybody become Japanese if Kinmoza is to be believed which is both a shame and an annoyance for Brits hoping to see our nation portrayed in a non-stereotypical manner. Since Alice and Karen are fluent speakers of Nihongo there are no struggles with the language barrier and the speed in which they adapt to their new surroundings, we aren’t even afforded this lazy courtesy.
Early signs that Hara has done her homework about England include Shinobu taking the train from Paddington Station en route to the Cotswolds, but we are expected to overlook the fact that a TEN YEAR-OLD GIRL can fly unaccompanied from Japan to the UK then board a train alone with NO-ONE batting an eyelid! The Cartelet abode is a quaint detached cottage of traditional British appearance (read: old) while Alice is dressed like a cast member of The Railway Children.
Alice’s parents inexplicably speak fluent Japanese and the house has nary a mod con in sight because presumably the Cotswolds haven’t progressed since the 1950’s according to Japan. Shinobu only manages to learn “hello” and “thank you” in English, whilst Alice masters the same in Japanese while not an iota of cultural sharing has passed between either girl, but a friendship blossoms nonetheless.
Fast forward five years and Alice is still short and Shinobu is still ditzy with a fascination for blonde hair, but they still adore each other. Karen is a whirlwind of boisterous energy and the group is rounded off with shy Aya Komichi and tomboy Yoko Inokuma. There is a distinct yuri frisson between these two unlike the playful co-dependence of Alice and Shinobu.
As mentioned earlier, instead of this being a voyage of discovery for Alice and Karen with Shinobu and co as their guides, this sense of wonder that could have been shared between audiences from both countries – with Alice relating the change in mindset she has to adapt coming from a completely different culture – is supplanted by the usual everyday occurrences seen in every other anime – school festival, bento boxes, fireworks displays, etc.
Likely to prove the biggest bugbear is the spoken English dialogue performed all too evidently by struggling Japanese voice actors resulting in awkward Engrish, with over pronounced inflections on the vowels in an attempt to sound “British”. However, it appears that the study of the language has been via American English since certain phrases and colloquialisms used here would never be used by a Brit!
Studio Gokumi’s presentation is suitably colourful and playful, with backgrounds and set pieces rendered in a soft fuzzy watercolour style, while the character designs are moe to the hilt, thankfully without sexualisation. They often go off model for comic effect, the blank eyed expression favoured the most, and the dialogue of usually delivered with excitable gusto at a pitch that would make a dog rip its own ears off that grates every quickly.
Yet, despite all the things this show gets wrong or fails to address, there is something annoyingly amiable about it that draws you in. It might be the unflinching cuteness of the characters, or maybe the hubris of the blissfully self-unaware Karen, arguably the star of the show, along with meek teacher Miss. Karasuma.
For a concept that begs to be take seriously but doesn’t Kinmoza should be a total write off but somehow it escapes censure and scorn by being too fluffy to hate. It is not a show to marathon as the sound of Alice’s high pitched “Shino!” whine will haunt you for the rest of your days, but in small doses, it is passable entertainment.
Japanese Language 2.0 Dolby TrueHD
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ***
Man In Black