Kiniro Mosaic: In Wonderland Review and Reflection
February 17, 2015
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“It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.” ― P.D. James, A Taste for Death
Kiniro Mosaic, or “Golden Mosaic”, is is an anime that is remarkably similar to GochiUsa; it was a part of the summer 2013 lineup and follows Shinobu Omiya who had a homestay visit in England when she was ten. She spends time living with a British girl named Alice Cartalet, and while Alice initially has trouble getting along with Shinobu due to the language barrier, the two are soon peas in a pod. As Shinobu’s homestay comes to an end, Alice hopes that she will one day come to Japan. In the present day, Shinobu receives a letter from Alice that allegedly states that she is coming to Japan; it turns out that Alice has transferred to Shinobu’s school, thus beginning yet another slice-of-life comedy based off a four-panel manga. The first episode is largely a flashback and comes with letterboxing to indicate thus, and the story it tells is one of nostalgia, of how two friends first met.
- I came across Kiniro Mosaic by pure chance: on some forum somewhere, someone had mistaken the announcement for Kiniro Mosaic‘s second season for an announcement for GochiUsa‘s second season. I suddenly realised that I had missed an anime that was right up my alley from Summer 2013, a summer characterised by graduation, floods, The Garden of Words, Half-Life 2 (and making donations to the Red Cross for flood relief), Yuyushiki and Skyrim (which I’ve still yet to beat).
- The second season is set to air this spring, but I’ve still got a bit of time to watch this series. The first episode is set entirely in England, evoking memories of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and the idyllic depiction of rural England (probably the Lake District). Filled with greenery and quiet, the countryside stands in stark contrast to London, which was the main destination for K-On!‘s Houkago Tea Time during the movie.
- Initially, Alice finds Shinobu frightening, but the two strike up a close friendship during the course of Shinobu’s stay. The dialogue is largely in English, and although Kiniro Mosaic chooses to go with native Japanese speakers to deliver the English lines (K-On! went the extra mile for their movie and had native British English speakers deliver the English dialogue for the London citizens), it is definitely syntactically correct and can be understood by native speakers without any difficulty.
- Shinobu sits down to an English-style dinner featuring a Sunday roast, a meal that typically consists of roasted meat and potatoes with vegetables and gravy. It’s considered to be a less extravagant variant of Christmas dinner and contrary to its name, can be eaten any time of week, although traditionally, it is eaten on Sundays, and leftovers from the meals are used for other meals, such as for sandwich fillings and pies.
- Shinobu gifts to Alice a hair ornament that the latter treasures greatly during her home-stay in England. Admittedly, I am a little surprised that Kiniro Mosaic somehow fell under my list of things to watch, considering that it’s a slice-of-life/comedy anime derived from a four-panel manga of the same name, although a look at the old archives shows that I did not watch many of the anime from Summer 2013 until Fall. However, being a year-and-a-half late to the party does not mean the show is any less enjoyable than it was when it first came out.
- Alice and Shinobu enjoy afternoon tea outside in a large garden.Alice takes Shinobu in a stroll around the English countryside, a truly magical place with scenery quite unlike what I’m used to: where I come from, we have vast fields of gold under a blue sky, and majestic mountain ranges in the distance. The rolling hills and lakes of England thus seem quite unique to me and has made my list of places to eventually visit. On that note, I’ve decided to suspend my original plans to travel to Japan for practical reasons that take the form of a Master’s Thesis.
- The soundtrack in Kiniro Mosaic is quite pleasant, rather like the GochiUsa soundtrack. The rationale for my decision is that I would very much like to make a substantial amount of progress in both my research project and the thesis paper itself such that I may publish to a conference before I graduate, and a weeks’ time could mean the difference between having a good project and a great project. I’m also considering travelling Europe (England, Scotland or Germany) rather than Japan, given that I’ve just returned from Taiwan a little more than a month ago, and that I’ve never set foot on the European continent before.
- Thus, this summer, I will continue to work on my research and save any travelling for my graduation trip. Returning back to Kiniro Mosaic, the anime returns to the present-day, signified by the aspect ratio. The odds of something like this happening are probably slim, but Alice manages to transfer into Shinobu’s class. Five years since the home-stay, Shinobu’s English has not improved any, and as such, she found herself unable to read Alice’s letter properly, leading this moment to be quite surprising for her.
- The setup is the inverse of what it was back during Shinobu’s homestay, with Alice now staying with her. Contrasting Shinobu, whose English skills are inadequate, Alice is able to converse fully in Japanese, having studied diligently in previous years owing to her love of Japanese culture. From a technical perspective, Alice’s Japanese proficiency far surpasses her English, a consequence of practical constraints, but this is a very subtle point that I’d figure I’d mention for fun.
- The first episode to Kiniro Mosaic was really about setting the stage, and later on, the show’s other characters (Yoko, Aya and Karen) are introduced. I began watching Kiniro Mosaic just recently, but the anime has caught my attention, and I’ve been moving through it at a relatively brisk pace while waiting for other shows (Kantai Collection and Saekano): I anticipate finishing Kiniro Mosaic quite soon, just in time for the second season to begin.
Kiniro Mosaic is the latest slice-of-life to grace my library, and the first episode stands out for being set completely in rural England with Alice’s family. In keeping with the atmosphere, the British characters communicate in English to give the audience the impression that Shinobu is staying somewhere completely foreign. Compared to the K-On! Movie, where the characters’ interactions overrode any sense of foreignness, Shinobu has completely embraced English culture, illustrating how much of an impact the homestay program had on her. It’s quite rare for anime to do so, but this is quite welcoming, and with the first episode finished, the setting returns to Japan to explore what happens once Alice arrives.