Review for Kinmoza! Complete Season 1
I love slice-of-life anime. Episodes filled with cute girls (for it is usually girls) doing cute inconsequential things, with a whole lot of comedy is just what I need to wind down from a hard day of watching wall-to-wall Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Actually the more comedy the better, to the point where you forget that it’s a slice-of-life show altogether. Even after all these years, I still love Azumanga Daioh, and such shows are a mainstay of my Crunchyroll queue. And I’m always keeping an eye out for more of these shows to be released in the UK, as we get so few of them here. I’d still love to see Nichijou released here, shows like Kanamemo, Non Non Biyori, Is The Order a Rabbit?, Yuruyuri, and the rest of Hidamari Sketch (we only got season 1). But instead of my favourites, we always seem to get those shows that I’ve never got around to streaming, or shows that I’ve just not heard of. That’s a sign of just how many slice-of-life shows there are, and just how few of them are released in the UK. Just as with any genre, there are good examples and bad examples, but the last time Manga/Animatsu delved into the genre, they released the divine HaNaYaMaTa. Hopefully lightning will strike twice with their release of the first season of Kinmoza (barring delays season 2 will be out by the end of this year).
Five years previously, Shinobu Omiya spent a week in England with friends of her family. Despite the language barrier, she befriended their daughter Alice Cartelet, and by the end of the week, their farewell was warm but tearful, with Alice swearing to one day visit Shinobu in Japan. Five years later, as Shinobu starts high school in Japan, she gets a letter from Alice. She doesn’t even have time to read it before she gets the news directly. Alice walks into her classroom having transferred into her school, and what’s more she’ll be living at Shinobu’s house. Having a cute English rose in her class is a delight for Shinobu and her friends Aya Komichi and Yoko Inokuma, but things get even more exciting when Alice’s friend from England, Karen Kujo also transfers in.
12 episodes of Kinmoza Season 1 are presented on this Blu-ray from Animatsu. Incidentally, if you want the show on DVD, this is a BD/DVD combo release.
2. Even if I’m Small,
3. What Kind of Friends Will I Make?
4. Rainy Days & Aya
5. With My Big Sister
6. Golden Alice, Golden Karen
7. Hungry Karen
8. What Day is Today?
9. Who’s Not Sleeping?
10. The Fabulous Five
11. Guess How Much I Like You
12. Golden Moment
Kinmoza gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. All 12 episodes are presented across a single Blu-ray disc, although given the more simplistic nature of the character designs, the less dynamic animation, the disc is still light on compression artefacts, aliasing and the like, with only some digital banding in scene fades to mention. The image is clear and sharp throughout, colours are strong and consistent, and the animation is smooth. As mentioned, it’s a simpler animation, one where characters tend to become SD caricatures at the drop of a punchline, and as it’s more a verbal comedy, there’s less need for visual flourish. That said, Kinmoza looks fine, with some likeable character designs, and animation that does what it needs to, in order to get the jokes across.
The images in this review were kindly supplied by Animatsu.
Kinmoza gets a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese track this time with English subtitles optional during playback. It’s a shame that this show wasn’t dubbed, as it’s a show with broad audience appeal, likeable light comedy, and to be frank it needed better localisation than the subtitles could provide with British characters and the culture clash that ensues. Alas, the original Japanese have British characters that speak pretty flawless Japanese, or comedy broken Japanese in the faux foreign accents that you usually hear, but who speak Engrish in their native tongue (a bit like Arnie’s flawless Arabic in True Lies). It works for the domestic audience, but if you’re British you’ll have to make a lot of allowances for the original language track. Other than that, the audio is fine, the stereo suits the dialogue focused show well, while the theme songs are really catchy. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
The disc boots to a static menu. The sole extras on the disc are the textless credits, and trailers for From the New World, Mayo Chiki!, Uta no Prince Sama 2000%, and YUYUSHIKI!
I wanted to love Kinmoza; I wanted to adore this show. After all it’s playing in my favourite genre of choice, the slice of life, the cute girls doing cute things. It’s an aspect that has even been taken up by narrative based shows like Hanasaku Iroha to add character nuance, the celebration of all things trivial in life. Alas, I only liked Kinmoza. It’s a show that entertained me, made me smile, made me feel good about life just as the genre is supposed to, and on occasion made me burst out laughing. Kinmoza is a great, feel-good experience, well worth watching, and indeed well worth buying too. It’s just not the memorable classic that I wanted it to be. In fact, it is pretty forgettable as a show, so thin and lightweight that it barely has any presence.
It’s certainly not a patch on the exemplar of the genre, K-On!, but it doesn’t compare to the other shows that I mentioned in the opening paragraph either. The thing is that those shows all have a hook, a twist, something for the viewer to latch onto. With K-On! it’s the quirkiness and individuality of the characters, as well as the music, Non Non Biyori makes the most of its rural setting, Is The Order a Rabbit has its competing cafes as well as a talking rabbit, Yuruyuri has its lesbian overtones, Hidamari Sketch has its artists, there’s a little spark of individuality in each show that makes them stand out.
Kinmoza’s hook is the rather ephemeral cultural love-in that sets the show up. Shinobu loves all things British, blonde, and especially British and blonde, which describes Alice to a tee. Alice on the other hand is fascinated with all things Japanese. A brief homestay vacation five years previously is reciprocated when Alice comes to Japan to go to high school with Shinobu, having learned fluent Japanese in the meantime. She’s soon followed by her friend Karen, so the English contingent in school goes up to two. This is the quaint foreign view of England, where everyone dresses in the Union Flag, sleeps under a Union Flag bedspread, probably have a butler who answers the door when the doorbell plays Rule Britannia. Some of these things aren’t in the show. It’s not particularly well accomplished outside some of the UK backgrounds and locations; K-On’s movie did it better, and about the only cultural gag that made me smile was the difference in how Alice and Shinobu lived their everyday lives. Shinobu woke up and got out of bed for a breakfast of jam and toast with tea, while Alice arose from her futon for a traditional Japanese breakfast.
The characters all conform to the usual, light and fluffy archetypes. Shinobu is the ditz of the group, Alice the baby, Karen the eager go-getter, Yoko the easy-going sensible one, Aya the prim and proper girl (with something of a crush on Yoko), but none of the characters really come to life with eccentricities or quirks. There may be something to be said about grounding characters in slice-of-life shows, not making them so farfetched that they become caricatures, a trap that many slice-of-life shows fall into, but that doesn’t stop Kinmoza still infantilising its cast as all these shows do. These are the most immature 15-year-old girls you’re likely to encounter.
Kinmoza is based on a four panel manga, and that is reflected in the episodes to an even greater degree than other shows with similar origins. Each episode is made up of little comic skits with the characters. Most such shows manage to eke out a thematic thread through an episode, even if the narrative arc might be non-existent or disjointed but Kinmoza can feel really random at times, just a collection of jokes thrown together. Some scenes might just be a quick hit of gag and punchline, some mini-arcs might run as long as five minutes, and there is the rare episode which hangs together thematically better than the others, but it all feels pretty random and inconsistent. That’s with the exception of the final episode, which turns into a grand Pirate musical, with princesses and mermaids.
I may have discussed the negative aspects of the show far more than the positive, but that’s only an indication of my expectations being unfulfilled. With lower expectations, Kinmoza is an appealing, funny, heart-warming character anime. It entertains and it charms in equal measure. It’s just that it’s not the special show that I hoped it would be.