Kiniro Mosaic is a four-panel comedy manga that is written and illustrated by Yui Hara. It began serialisation in Houbunsha’s Manga Time Kirara Max magazine in June 2010.
It was adapted into an anime by Studio Gokumi – the first season aired between July and September 2013, whilst the second season aired between April and June 2015. You can find my review for season one by clicking here, and my season two review here.
Kiniro Mosaic easily sits in my top ten anime list, and thus I jumped at the chance to pick up the manga when I saw that it had been translated into English. With that said, let’s take a look at the first volume.
Alice loves Japan so much, she’s move there from England for high school! Here, she reunites with her old friend Shinobu, who’s just as passionate about all things European! Join Alice and Shinobu (as well as their friends Aya, Youko and Karen) on their everyday adventures – full of laughs, language gaffes, and a healthy dose of culture shock.
The volume starts with some colour pages, which shows us when Alice arrives at Shinobu’s house, as well as her interactions with Aya and Youko at school. To be fair, most of the content is the interactions between the different characters throughout.
Of course, a lot of this comes from the time they spend at school together – we get stuff like Alice wondering what her friends think of her, and Shinobu (or just Shino) takes that as a confession of love when she asks directly.
Outside of school, we are shown that Shinobu wears some rather eccentric clothing. She also wants to dye her her blonde, but Alice tries to convince her otherwise.
Some actual character introductions follow on from that – the introductions are done from Alice’s point of view so we get an idea of what she thinks of her friends. There’s the ‘picture of ideal Japanese beauty’ Shino, the ‘smart and reliable yet scatter-brained’ Aya, and the ‘energetic and cheerful’ Youko.
The girls look to the future after that with their career path forms – Shino wants to be an interpreter, but she struggles to keep up with Alice speaking English.
Gym class follows on from that – turns out that both Alice and Aya aren’t exactly sporty types.
The subject of age comes up with the arrival of Shino’s birthday – particularly as Shino’s sister, Isami, jokes about Shino actually turning 36. She’s actually 16. Shino receives a few gifts for her birthday – a song from Alice, and something for a mature person from her sister.
A shopping trip is the order of the day after that. It’s Alice’s first experience at a Japanese supermarket. Aya also does some shopping, accompanied by Youko.
Alice goes on to seemingly suffer from a bout of homesickness. After being cheered up by her friends, they take a look at a photo album that shows a younger Alice’s time spent in England – in the album is one of Alice with another friend called Karen.
Karen herself arrives in Japan, where she meets with Alice and her friends. Naturally, Shinobu is thrilled to have a new blonde friend. Also turns out that Karen attends the same school as the others, though she is in the next class over.
Karen makes quite an impression on Shino, Aya and Youko – her displays of affection do ignite some jealousy in Alice, though. Particularly when that affection is directed towards Shino.
Following on from that, Youko finds a letter in her shoe cubby – and the person most curious about it is Aya. Aya ends up following Youko around all day – her feelings towards Youko aren’t exactly subtle.
Youko forgets about the letter until Aya reminds her, and it turns out that it’s not what they expected it to be at all.
Aya, Youko and Karen go over to Shino and Alice’s place, where they meet Isami for the first time. They all go out together, where Isami takes the opportunity to get some photos – she may be a model, but she enjoys being behind the camera was well.
Alice has an anniversary marked on her calender, though Shino is clueless as to what it is. This sours Alice’s mood a little, but she eventually reminds Shino that it will be one year to the day that she arrived in Japan.
Alice has a gift she wants to give to Shino, but she struggles to find the right opportunity.
We end with an afterword from Yui Hara, Aya and Karen discussing puns, and Alice having a nightmare about a blonde Shino. There’s translation notes as well – quite possibly the most I’ve ever seen in any single volume of manga.
That wraps up volume 1, and I honestly believe that the best way to experience Kiniro Mosaic is by watching the anime. The reasoning for this is that you get to experience the delightful Engrish – mostly courtesy of Karen – that you don’t really get to experience in an English-translated manga. Due to that, the anime has a charm that can’t really be recreated in comic form.
I also feel the way they tried to convey Karen’s broken Japanese by giving her broken English is somewhat broken. Admittedly, I can’t really think of any other way to translate her speech that would convey that, but this does result in something akin to caveman speak…
Nitpicks with the translation aside, Kiniro Mosaic is definitely a series that I can highly recommend for fans of slice-of-life, comedy and cute girls doing cute things. Heck, we even get some yuri in there, what with Alice and Shinobu’s affections for each other, as well as Aya’s feelings for Youko.
Great characters, funny interactions and just all around cuteness make Kiniro Mosaic an enjoyable read, but I still feel it’s best experienced as an anime.