Ikoku Meiro no Croisée Review

This is review number sixty nine. It’s part of the Summer 2011 lineup. I’m in an odd position because I’m lso waiting for the Summer 2012 lineup. The anime I’m reviewing today is Ikoku Meiro no Croisée or Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth. It’s a twelve episode anime about a small Japanese girl in a foreign land trying to be cute and sh*t. It’s a great show. Let’s read on.

Story

In Paris, at the end of the 19th Century

In the old glass roofed King’s gallery,

You can see the silhouette of a tiny Japanese girl named Yune

However, only a few Parisians knew that she has arrived.

Taking the Pants Off

Simplicity is the greatest sophistication. It’s the one thing that makes slice of life (SOL) anime good. There are no giant robots, no transforming dogs and other things that would make it “anime”. It’s just the everyday lives of the characters and the theme added to the mix. It could be love, growing up or friendship. It’s a hard genre to execute and even harder to like. The simple theme of the genre is a great contrast to the everyday idea of an “anime” though which makes it such a nice thing to watch from time to time. Ikoku Merio no Croisee is a SOL anime about a Japanese girl living in 19th Century Paris. It’s not hard to like this anime though because it had one thing going for it that makes it interesting. The simple idea of putting the characters in a 19th century Paris, where mankind is seemingly progressing into the modern era, was a nice premise for the anime to dance around in. It’s a place where people are proud of their craftsmanship, technology is slowly improving and status is something very important. The anime has this nice story about east meets west and a fish out of water kind of adventure.

The anime is about Claude Claudel, a third generation blacksmith who specializes on decorative pieces, was informed by his grandfather that he is now living with a Japanese girl named Yune. His grandfather just came back from his travel and he agreed to keep Yune as she wishes to see Paris. Yune is not familiar about Paris though so Claude has to worry over her while she tries to get accustomed to her new environment. The anime is very SOL with Yune learning new things about this new place and she also gets closer to Claude. At first glance, the anime may put people off because of the “moe” appeal of Yune. I do understand the problem and it doesn’t help that the anime is SOL. What can it possibly provide that isn’t borderline moe blob or the like? I was thinking that too, to be honest. The possibilities seem limited.

The first episode clearly establishes what the anime aims to do. It’s just a simple story of this Japanese girl trying to get accustomed to this foreign land and this concerned guy is there to help him. The anime is really good at depicting the culture of both Japan and Paris without going overly preachy about it. I still remember Thermae Romae where it made modern Japanese culture seem superior to ancient roman culture and it comes off as a bit disrespectful. The anime was comedy though so my reaction may have been a bit too much. Other anime seems to do it too though. They seem to elevate the Japanese culture as if it’s the only culture out there. I always hated that and I was a bit surprised the anime didn’t take that route. No, the depiction of the cultures was respectful as Yune is slowly trying to understand the life of Parisians and Claude is slowly trying to understand Japanese culture. It’s an “East meets West” kind of story that really intrigues me. It’s not just the characters learning things, the viewers is getting a bit of cultural lesson as well. For example, the Japanese love to take baths at least once a day because it’s part of their tradition. Yune was scolded by Claude because baths are something only rich people do as a form of luxury. The anime was very open-minded of both cultures and it integrated that into the story. It’s often a source of comedy too. The disgusted reaction of Claude to umeboshi was a great thing to add spice to the anime.

The anime isn’t all about cultural lessons though. Majority of the episodes is about the normal lives of the characters so it takes a little patience to watch it. The anime has another great strength though in form of the characters. The characters in the anime really complement each other and there is a balance to them that often go unnoticed. Claude is this realist who understands the inner workings of society. He understands that he is poor, he can’t afford to dream of a life of luxury and he knows that the even poorer people should not be trusted because they will steal in order to survive. This often clashes with Yune’s personality who is friendly to everyone, thinks that people has goodness inside of them and that she should be respectful of others. There are a lot of moments where Claude would get upset at Yune and scold her for not thinking about herself. Yune would often give a rather goody two shoes answer, Claude would storm off but later, Claude would often feel bad at scolding Yune and would try to apologize in his own way. This character dynamic is so strong that there is really no boring moments in the anime. The caring nature of the characters really brings forth the lovely SOL theme of the anime. The rest of the cast is pretty strong as well and they add depth to the anime. They do remain undeveloped until the end of the series and they have some generic-ness to them but their interaction with each other adds strength to their personality.

The slice of life element of the anime is really strong. The anime has a relaxing feel to it that resounds throughout the episodes. It has a laid back appeal to it with its beautiful scenery and stunning background. The story is pretty simple with Yune slowly adjusting to Paris. There was a great development there too. At first, Claude would instruct Yune not to stray far away because the streets are dangerous. There was even a scene where Yune felt endangered as people ignore her as she tries to talk to them. The story progresses nicely though. It wasn’t long until people are fond of Yune and she would feel comfortable walking the streets by herself.

There was some downside in the anime though. The one thing that irked me was the Japanese language in the anime. It would’ve been nice to see the characters actually speak French to make it more authentic. They would be surprised that Yune can’t speak their language but the language spoken in the anime is Japanese. If it was WOWOW that made this anime, they would’ve made the characters speak the language. The studio is really bold in doing things like that like what they did in Blood the Last Vampire but I guess I do understand that a twelve episode anime about French speaking people would get tiring. Atleast have them speak some French but the anime doesn’t go that route. The only French spoken was by the narrator. I actually love his French because it was fluent and I was still wishing the characters would speak it as I watch the anime. I can’t believe 19th century Paris speaks Japanese. That’s bullsh*t. What, the Japanese audience can’t watch subtitles?

The other thing that the anime doesn’t discuss is the racial reaction to foreign people. I’m wording it wrong but a Japanese girl clad in a kimono and wooden sandals in a European environment would get some negative response, right? Anime never seems to discuss racism and it always bothers me. 19th century is a place where travelling is only done by the rich and so there isn’t a lot of global integration. I was hoping there would be some emotional or psychological backlash to Yune being in a land she is not accustomed to. The anime was too light hearted to discuss it and that really sucks. It was focused on other things and while the tasks it set out to do was greatly accomplished, you would wish the anime would take time to discuss some serious issues. It was a wasted opportunity especially since the anime was able to make cultural barriers work in a SOL environment.

Sight and Sound

The anime did a great job capturing 19th century Paris. The scenery is really great with a paint to canvas appeal to it. It’s as if the characters are in a beautiful painting. The details in the trees, the columns and the street pavement all gave a nice look to it. The architectural style matches that of European style and its minor details like this that I really admire. The background is really breath taking at times and it often makes you tour 19th century Paris.

The character design is alright. Yune is your typical “moe” character and the rest are your run of the mill type of characters. They don’t standout in terms of character design though I do like the moe appeal of Yune. It reminds me of Binchotan who wears a kimono as well. The outfit adds to the feel of the anime. The fluffy clothes, the use of corset and other English style attire is present in the anime.

The opening song is really nice. It has a nice European appeal to it and the opening sequence really captures the beauty of 19th century Paris. You can see everything the anime has to offer in the opening song. The awesome sceneries, the vibrant feel of the anime and Yune’s “moe” is all presented in the opening sequence.

The ending song is a slow ballad sang by Yune. She has a nice voice accompanied by a beautiful piano arrangement. The ending sequence features Yune slowly waking up in a bed in the middle of a flower field capturing the light hearted theme of the anime.

The background music also adds a nice touch of European appeal to the anime. There are instruments played in the background of some of the best scenes of the anime. Instruments like pianos and violins. It adds a relaxing tone to the anime that gives strength to the SOL of the anime.

Overall Score

6/10 “A light hearted tale that makes the slice of life genre proud.”

It’s a great anime. If you can look past the moe of the anime then I’m sure you can enjoy what it has to offer. The characters, the setting and story are enough to make you put up your feet and relax as you watch the anime. A nice slice of life anime. I recommend it.

Thoughts~

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