High school freshman Shinobu has always been fascinated by European culture, especially since she returned from a homestay in England. During her visit, she befriended Alice, the daughter of her host family, and Alice became just as passionate about Japanese culture.

When Kiniro Mosaic begins, Shinobu receives a letter from Alice stating that she will be attending high school in Japan and staying with Shinobu. However, the letter is written in English, a language Shinobu has yet to master, despite her desire to become a translator. By the time Shinobu’s friend deciphers the letter, Alice has already shown up at school looking for her. Alice’s visit is a happy surprise for Shinobu, who immediately introduces Alice to her friends, Aya and Youko. Shortly thereafter, Alice’s friend Karen from England—who happens to be half-Japanese with little knowledge of the language—also turns up at school, rounding out the group of main characters.

Alice is bubbly with a child-like personality, but sometimes becomes self-conscious about the way she is viewed by her friends. Petite, blonde-haired, and blue-eyed, she resembles an elementary student more than a teenager; she looks like a delicate porcelain doll compared to Shinobu. Shinobu fawns over Alice, treating her more like a pet or mascot than someone the same age; there’s a scene in which Shinobu and her friends have “Alice’s role” written on the chalkboard, followed by the options of cat, bunny, or hamster.

Shinobu has an upbeat persona and big dreams that don’t quite match her exam scores, while Youko has a fun and fiery personality to go with her orange hair, and she’s always quick to help when needed. Aya is intelligent and shy; a new student in middle school, she was quickly befriended by Shinobu and Youko. Finally, Karen is a go-getter with a forward personality, and when she found out Alice was living in Japan, she convinced her parents to move there.

Kiniro Mosaic is a quick, humorous four-panel manga about friendship and loving a culture different from one’s own, as well as the culture shock and language barriers that can accompany life in another country. Humor throughout the story usually revolves around these concepts. As is typical of the four-panel layout, characters are the most prominent in each panel, with minimal setting or background art included. Recommend to teen readers who like fast-paced, slice-of-life manga with cute artwork.

Kiniro Mosaic, vol. 1
by Yui Hara Hara
ISBN: 9780316501460
Yen Press, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: T

  • Marissa Lieberman

    Past Reviewer

    Marissa graduated with her MLS from Queens College, NY in 2011 and is a children’s librarian at the East Orange Public Library, NJ where she gets to share her passion of anime and manga by running the tween anime club, ordering manga and graphic novels, and planning Tosho-con. She organized Tosho-con, the first library anime convention in Nassau County, NY back in 2010 and continues to run this successful convention at her current library. Marissa has written articles and presented about graphic novels, manga and library conventions for School Library Journal, New York Comic Con, and library conferences. She also reviews for School Library Journal and Voices of Youth Advocates.

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