I first stumbled upon Kiniro Mosaic, or Kinmoza! for short, on a YouTube video just over two weeks ago. It was a recommended video which compiled a collection of English spoken in Japanese dubs, and naturally as an English speaker I was curious (procrastinating revision was also a key factor). To my absolute surprise, there were British people! As a Brit myself, it gets a bit tiring seeing most Westerners being represented by America so to find a series where British people existed outside of a historical setting – I’m looking at you Kuroshitsuji – was very welcome. I pretty much binge watched all 24 episodes over the space of four days, finding myself drawn in instantly.
Two cultures collide as we follow the escapades of Shinobu Oomiya, a Japanese high school student obsessed with anything foreign, but mostly blonde hair! A few years before, she had gone on a homestay in England and befriended a blonde girl named Alice Cartelet. To Shinobu’s surprise, Alice turns up at her school as an exchange student. She’s closely followed by Karen Kujo, a biracial girl with both English and Japanese heritage… and blonde hair. Shino’s long suffering friends, Yoko and Aya, have to handle her obsession and all five of them navigate high school together. It’s a case of weeaboo vs. teaboo as West meets East, complete with culture shocks, homesickness, and language barriers.
Now, Kinmoza! is not the style of anime I usually choose, as I haven’t watched a slice of life high school comedy in a while. I watched quite a few while I was still in high school myself but as I grew up I grew apart from the genre. Revisiting it at the age of 21, Kiniro Mosaic felt nostalgic from the start. It fits many different tropes, such as the beach episode, the love letter and arguably the most important – the school festival.
The use of English is definitely Kinmoza!’s unique selling point. Rather than just using accented Japanese throughout the series, they’ve gone the extra mile. While all of the seiyuu are Japanese, they’ve made the effort to learn lines in English, and while sometimes the delivery can sound a little awkward to native speakers, it’s impressive that they’re acting in a different language. It may have been a good idea to hire English voice actors to get the pronunciation and delivery perfect, but then the Japanese would sound awkward and it is mainly marketed to native Japanese speakers. However, the seiyuu do a much better job than a lot of the other cases of ‘Engrish’ in anime. As a British person, I could hear the slight accent in Alice’s voice. This sets it apart from other series as the majority have either American or strong Japanese accents.
Another difference between Kinmoza! and other anime is the representation of foreigners, or gaijin. There seems to be a pervasive stereotype that younger foreign people interested in Japanese culture are only hardcore otaku that aren’t really respectful of the other aspect of Japan. I’m not about to discuss whether otaku or weeaboo is the more negative term because it has been argued so many times, but weeaboo is often used to describe those who are obsessed with everything Japanese, so it seems to fit Alice perfectly. A reason why Kiniro Mosaic is different is that it doesn’t show this as a bad thing.
If anything, the tables have turned.
Shinobu’s obsession with anything not Japanese is portrayed as kind of ridiculous, especially when it comes to blonde hair. While everything is exaggerated for comedic effect, Shino is shown as the one who takes things too far instead of Alice, who tries earnestly to fit into Japanese culture as best she can. It could be argued that by reversing the stereotypes, the series is trying to make a point to weeaboos, but then again, it could also be pointing out how negative the otaku stereotype actually is – that there are Westerners who have a genuine interest in the culture, despite liking anime.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of the cast are female, there is no shortage of material for those looking for pairings. While Alice and Shino’s pure love for each other may seem a tiny bit excessive for friends, and Karen and Honoka have potential, the real tension is between Yoko and Aya. Best friends for absolute years and practically inseparable, they have all the makings of the perfect couple. Not to mention the fact that whenever they toe the line between platonic and romantic, Aya goes from shy introvert to flustered tsundere in a split second. Even though Kinmoza! isn’t a yuri series, the undertones are impossible to ignore. I wasn’t looking for an anime with lesbian subtext but it is always welcomed. One criticism is that if it’s just played for laughs, it could be considered queerbaiting – that is, waving potential LGBT+ representation in the audience’s face before taking it away. Unless something more serious comes of Yoko and Aya’s storyline, Kiniro Mosaic is in danger of falling into this territory. There are no promises that the YokoAya pairing will happen and I’m definitely not expecting much but it would make the series even better if it did. For now, we’ll just have to settle for getting frustrated as Aya struggles to express her feelings for Yoko.
Overall, this anime is a very light-hearted high school comedy that is perfect for people interested in different cultures. While the representation of Britain is pretty stereotypical, it’s a refreshing change from the US-centric view of English speaking Westerners. The episodes don’t particularly follow each other, so it’s easy to watch them out of context, and you don’t need great deals of attention to know exactly what’s going on. Kinmoza! probably wouldn’t translate well into an English dub, with most of its appeal lying in the use of both Japanese and English, with a lot of the jokes relying on the bilingual nature of the anime. Because of this, it’s understandable why there isn’t an English cast despite it being licensed by Sentai Filmworks.
Kiniro Mosaic has so many great factors, from the voice talent to the storyline. The implied yuri is just an added bonus.