Kiniro Mosaic Volumes 1-2
I don’t normally read a lot of 4-koma manga (collections of four-panel strips), because I find them too fluffy and inconsequential. I do like Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, because it’s got a good amount of in-jokes about making manga, and I appreciated the best-known, Azumanga Daioh. Too many, though, just want to copy that last title by showing a group of girls, each with a mildly distinctive characteristic, and lots of school uniforms.
Kiniro Mosaic by Yui Hara has a premise that at first I thought would set it apart from the usual schoolgirl shenanigans. Alice is an exchange student from England staying with Shinobu. There are two other classmates, Youko (who’s more outgoing and sporty) and Aya (who’s a better student).
I expected the culture clash aspects to be played up more and provide a continuing theme. Instead, they mostly talk about topics that could fit any group of girls, such as Alice being small and cute, like a doll, or wanting to get their pictures taken. There is a running gag about Shinobu thinking that she knows English when she doesn’t, but that pales quickly.
The girls do typical school things — worry about filling out a survey on their future careers, struggle with gym class — which felt both familiar and lightweight. Halfway through volume 1, another transfer shows up. Alice’s friend Karen is half-Japanese, but her language skills are worse than Alice’s. That provides some jealousy at first, but soon enough, she’s just another one of the gang. The uniqueness of the premise gets lost in just another set of student gags.
I liked the first book more than the second volume, as I was getting to know the cast. When I picked up book two a few months later, I’d forgotten who the characters were, since they’re so similar, and the brief character descriptions choose rhyme over helpfulness. Alice is “buoyant” and Youko is “effervescent”, which isn’t much difference.
Not remembering the distinctions among the cast, it was basically just schoolgirls in cute poses doing silly things, which didn’t stand out for me. There is the occasional hint of the girls snuggling with each other, which might please a yuri manga fan looking for a comedy so fluffy it’s like cotton candy and lasts just as long. Not a series I can recommend, particularly given the price ($17 suggested retail), which I assume is justified by it being slightly oversized from the typical manga, although thinner, and having a few color pages at the beginning.
My favorite part was the copious translation notes. Since so many of the comics are about small, everyday practices or items, it’s nice to see the background explained. (The publisher provided review copies.)