One summer, 10 year old Japanese girl Shinbou Oumiya went on a homestay to Great Britain, where she stayed with a young blodne girl named Alice Cartelet and her family. Unfortunately, Shinobu knows no English, and Alice no Japanese. Despite this, the two become the best of friends. When Shinobu leaves, Alice promises to meet her again one day. 5 years later, Alice comes to Japan and is staying with Shinobu, the two reunited again in high school. She also meets Shinbou's friends Aya Komichi and Youko Inokuma.
As much as we love anime, tackling different languages has never been something it's been good at. (Engrish.com's existence can attest to that.) Even in shows where the cast are anything but Japanese, everyone magically knows Japanese. Maybe it's because of this that we found Kinmoza's first episode so charming.
Kinmoza's first episode is unique for the typical (and overly abundant) school girl anime, and also in general for anime. It has Shinobu meeting Alice in her home in England. And surprisingly, Alice and her family speak relatively clear (if heavily accented) English, doubly impressive since all their actors are Japanese. (Supposedly they even got English translators for this series. Kudos for accuracy!) And even though Shinbou and Alice barely know what the other is saying, they become friends. The ending of the episode, which has Shinobu saying "Hello!" to Alice and Alice "Konnichiwa" to Shinobu, is quite touching, albeit very sappy.
One look at the original manga, though, tells you that this was all made up for the anime only. Only the waving of goodbye was in the manga. That's right; Kinmoza's best episode was anime-only filler. How's that for a slap in the face?
Flash-forward sometime later, and Shinobu has become an air headed high school girl. Alice also returns, and somehow now knows better Japanese than most of the cast. The rest of the series' jokes after that fall into several categories: Shinobu fawning over Alice, short jokes about Alice, various topics covered in dozens of these types of shows already, and various antics with Alice's friend Karen. By the time twin-tail "sane girl" Aya (think a poor man's Kagami Hiiragi) and her energetic, snickering friend Youko come into the picture, the series "completes" its transformation from a series about two girls from two different cultures becoming friends into yet another school girl anime. Alice's British-Japanese friend Karen comes a bit later to add in some flavor, but she too quickly falls into generic school girl tropes, which is a shame. Because whichever excitement we both worked up for this show, it was quite promptly doused with a pail of cold water after the second episode started.
We remember actually being excited at one point for Kinmozai. They even went to the trouble of having Alice and her friend Karen talk in clear English with assistance from actual English speakers. After a while, though, they barely speak any English at all. It comes back into play in a later episode, but it feels more like a bizarre non-sequitur than a genuine scene.
And then there was the acting. While one could overlook Shinobu and Alice having squeaky, high-pitched voices as kids because..you know, they were kids...it's jarring when they're supposed to be 15, but still sound like they did five years ago. And since these two occupy a good chunk of the screen time, it gets irritating quickly to listen to them. The other cast members aren't quite as annoying, but this is definitely not a series with good - or even okay - voice acting. We can forgive cutesy voice acting in anime if the jokes are funny, or the characters interesting, but neither applies here with Kinmoza. It's just another thing to add to the disappointments this series brings.
In fact, that's just how Kinmoza rolls; cuteness to the max. It's so damning, because this means the show doesn't feature a lot of character archetypes. It features a lot of MOE archetypes. The show is nearly constantly clumsy, the girls in it nearly constantly blushing or yelling at each other in a cute way with lots of cute squiggly anger lines around their shaking cutesy bodies. There's something so utterly calculated about all of this, as if someone took all the parts from Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth and Place to Place, and basically put together a mishmash of all their worst parts. Even the girls' teacher is adorably moe. And for some absurd reason, each joke is separated by a splash image and an irritatingly cute ditty, like something taken straight out of a show for preschoolers. (I kept expecting a Muppet to pop up any minute in the next segment. - Tim)
Even calling the contents of this show "jokes" would probably be a stretch. Most of the comedy tends to limit itself to people struggling to contain their feelings or emotions. And it's all pretty simple. Alice gets jealous when someone pays Shinobu any attention, so she pouts and it's "cute". Aya really likes spending time with Youko, but since she set her "tsundere" dial all the way to the max, she spouts the same lines you've heard a thousand times before, while blushing furiously (and cutely). Youko herself is kind of dumb as a brick, and unashamedly so while Shinobu continues her English-o-phile streak, double speed once Karen enters the equation dressed in the union jack. You know, because she's from England, and they probably wanted to make sure people didn't think she was American due to her blonde hair and energetic, straightforward nature. Honestly, we get the impression that Kinmoza considers us all to be simpletons, but the show feels so much like a letdown that we don't think not having seen vastly better stuff like Hidamari Sketch -- or even Place to Place -- is going to lessen that.
There's also the lack of any sort of conflict whatsoever. Everything is wrapped up always by episode's end, and even though Alice is constantly the butt of short jokes and just plain awkward jokes (one episode has Shinobu's older sister ask her little sister how much she would pay for Alice, just to play with her mind), she and Shinobu remain the best of friends. Hell, one episode is about Aya inviting her friends (very quietly and shyly) over to her house when her parents are on leave. A scenario that would work in Strawberry Marshmallow or even Mitsudomoe, which actually has grade-school girls in it, but just plain strange in a show with 15 year-olds. Same thing with a game of hide-and-seek at the end of one episode. What high schoolers actually do this?
Now, it's not to say that Kinmoza is entirely devoid of humor or good jokes, but they're few and far between. The series' best jokes typically come from how bizarre the situations/questions are which, while funny at first, quickly get boring. The series mixes things up in the final episode with a fantasy musical (!), but it's way too little, too late at that point.
Tim: So yeah, Kinmoza is a show quick to discard a potentially interesting subject - two girls who don't know each other's language becoming friends - and just make yet another school girl comedy because that's what's popular. The characters are forgettable and the series' few funny jokes are repeated ad-nauseam, with only Karen trying to mix things up really. It's cute, but that's not enough to recommend it. The fact that the series writer was Yuniko Ayana, who wrote one of the most interesting high school anime in years (Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl), makes it all the more disappointing. Even K-On! was funnier than this.
Stig: I will admit that the reason I went into this was because I expected it to be a cute show, albeit more in line with the kind of adorable openness of Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth instead of this processed mess that feels about as filling for the funnybone as a jagged fracture picked up in the supermarket aisle. It's not just that Kinmoza is a bad show. It's also that it's a huge disappointment, both to my expectations in general and also to the hopes I had after the aforementioned first episode.
Recommended Audience: Very little in the way of objectionable content. There is some slightly teasing with Aya and Yoko's friendship, but it's just that; teasing.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream from Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subtitles.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Kinmoza!! © 2013 Yui Hara / Hobunsha / Kin-iro Mosaic Production Committee
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