Shinobu Oomiya once left Japan as a child to do a homestay in England. During her time there, in spite of the language barrier, she became close friends with the daughter of the family, Alice Cartelet, and both were heartbroken when they had to part. Five years later, now in her first year of High School, Shinobu receives a letter from overseas, penned by Alice, revealing that she is doing her own homestay in Japan, attending Shinobu’s school and living with her to boot! Alongside their friends Aya, Youko and Karen, the five girls learn on a day-to-day basis what other cultures have to offer.
‘They may use different words to express it, but friendship can be a universal language’. This is the tagline from the back of the box of Kinmoza!, the wonderful slice-of-life series adapted from Yui Hara’s 4-koma manga, and it’s potentially one of the best taglines ever. Never before have I seen words sum up the appeal of an anime so effectively that it actually made me well up slightly upon first reading it. If the thoughts conjured by the tagline being enough to almost bring me to tears doesn’t speak volumes for my total love and adoration for this fantastic show, then I don’t know what will.
At the very core of Kinmoza is the constant theme of friendship, and this is honestly what makes it so great. It is set up absolutely perfectly in the first episode, as we see Alice and Shinobu establish an incredibly deep, seemingly lifelong, bond even in spite of the language barrier between the two, and this theme is carried on throughout the show, be it Karen trying to make friends in her new class or flashing back to how childhood friends Aya and Yoko met. This overarching theme and how it’s portrayed within the world of Kinmoza! is so pure and just plain cute that it’s almost certainly the biggest appeal it has to offer. I know there will definitely be a substantial camp of people for whom this will do absolutely nothing, and I can understand that, but for those who are into this kind of anime, Kinmoza! delivers the cute wholesomeness in spades.
Of course, the friendships and bonds between the cast are worthless if the characters themselves aren’t up to scratch, which is a pitfall Kinmoza! graciously avoids. Although they aren’t the most original in terms of personalities, having some fairly familiar traits, that didn’t stop me from instantly falling in love with the cast, who are all charming and likeable in unique ways. Whether it’s ditsy, England-obsessed Shino, whose fashion sense alone is enough to make her stand out, the timid, naive but adorable Alice, energetic tomboy Youko or the smart but woefully tsundere Aya, each one is memorable in their own right, and the chemistry in the group makes for a lot of great moments. The stand-out in the bunch is definitely Karen, the mischievous and hyperactive half-Japanese childhood friend of Alice, who steals every scene she features in.
Something people might find rather surprising about Kinmoza! is that not only is it a cute series, it’s a legitimately funny one too, with every episode having more than a few great gags. Although I’ve watched all the comical bits to death over the years, upon re-watching to write this review, I still found myself laughing at the gags, so they definitely hold up on repeat viewings. Something I noticed about this particular brand of comedy is that it’s far less mean-spirited than some other anime. When you watch something like KonoSuba, for example, you notice that a lot of the time you’re laughing at the expense of the characters, who are going through some sort of on-screen suffering. Whilst this isn’t a bad way to do comedy, the change of pace in this show’s humour is quite refreshing, and serves as an extension of the more relaxed and cute tone. A lot of the laughs come from the characters’ interactions and reactions, as well as traditional situational comedy.
Animated by the relatively unknown Studio Gokumi, whose only other notable works include Tsuredure Children, The Ambition of Oda Nobuna and Yuki Yuna is a Hero, Kinmoza!’s animation is actually pretty good. The opening episode, which mostly takes place in the British countryside, features some excellent backgrounds, done in the style of a watercolour, and whilst the halls and classrooms of a Japanese school can’t really compare with the picturesque, idyllic landscapes of England, the quality still remains pretty consistent throughout. The character designs look identical to their manga counterparts, which is highlighted in the previews at the end that purposefully mimic the 4-koma style of the source material.
Animatsu’s release of Kinmoza! includes only a Japanese voice track with English subtitles, which is not an issue at all, given how brilliant the cast is. Manami Tanaka (Keijo, Rewrite), Yumi Uchiyama (Nisekoi, The Heroic Legend of Arslan), Rise Taneda (Is The Order a Rabbit?, When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace), Asuka Nishi (High School DxD, Sakura Trick) and Nao Touyama (Love Live!, Naruto: Shippuden) round out a brilliantly talented bunch of seiyuus, especially Tanaka and Touyama, who both have to do a fair amount of lines in English. Sure, the English is a little broken, but it adds to the charm of the characters, and the lines are subtitled all the same, so understanding them isn’t too hard.
Alongside the voice acting, I also can’t understate how good Kinmoza!’s soundtrack is. Composed by Ruka Kawada, the music matches the tone perfectly, with whimsical, light and fun tracks that complement every single scene without fail, and are memorable to the point where I’m honestly thinking of purchasing the soundtrack alone! Also suiting the tone very well are the OP and ED, ‘Jumping!!’ and ‘Your Voice’ respectively, both performed by Rhodanthe*, a band which was specially formed for the show and consists of the five main seiyuus.
One of my all-time favourite anime, Kinmoza! never fails to put a smile on my face, being concentrated slice-of-life goodness that’s nigh guaranteed to warm your heart and make you laugh in equal measure.