Kiniro Mosaic, Vol. 1

By Yui Hara. Released in Japan by Houbunsha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Manga Time Kirara Max. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Amanda Haley.

For the most part, when we’ve seen ‘girls in a high school hang out and do things together’ titles in North America, they’ve tended to be attached to some sort of club or activity. K-On! had its band, Sunshine Sketch and GA Art Design Class both revolved around its specialized art classes, etc. To an extent, Kiniro Mosaic does that as well – this time the theme is “foreign exchange students”. We get one right at the start, and midway through another one pops up – both from England. Thus the theme of this series is supposed to be ‘see the amusing ways that Japanese and British culture can clash’. Of course, like many of these sorts of series, including both K-On! and Sunshine Sketch, the real question involved is “how much yuri tease are we going to get?”. So far, a goodly amount.

Our first exchange student is Alice, who’s actually pretty well-versed in Japanese, and mostly runs into issues with cultural variations and such. She’s staying with Shinobu, who stayed with her in England a year or two earlier. Shinobu is the standard ‘average Japanese girl’ for the most part, a bit dense, but she does have one defining character trait, which is her love of cute things, especially blonde girls. Naturally, she really loves Alice, sometimes a little too much. Adding to this we have the remaining three girls; Youko, who is active and somewhat oblivious; Aya, who is usually the straight man of the group, and seems to have a crush on Youko; and Karen, another exchange student who’s not nearly as good at Japanese as Alice is, and thus speaks somewhat brokenly; she seems to be the ‘baka’ of the group, though as always with these types of series I suspect that ball will be passed around as the plot warrants.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this book – everyone’s likeable, cute, and amusing. I suspect it may be funnier for a Japanese speaker, who is more readily able to see the cultural differences a little better than I can. That said, there’s nothing yet that really draws me in like the series I mentioned above do. I suppose there’s the potential yuri tease, but unlike, say, Bloom Into You or similar series, I don’t think I expect too much from that front – after all, nothing canonically happened in K-On!, Sunshine Sketch or GA either (though Sunshine Sketch came reaaaaaal close). So it’s definitely worth a read if you enjoy seeing cute girls crushing on other cute girls. But if that’s not your thing, I suspect this really isn’t going to do much for you. It’s light as air. And of course, being the genre that it is, I don’t expect many dramatic moments to advance the plot – there’s only cute, and there is no plot. Even if someone has to move back to England, you get the feeling it will be resolved by the end of the chapter. Mildly recommended to fans of this genre.