Ikoku Meiro no Croisee / Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth Anime Series Review
Ever studied a foreign language? I was forced to take 12 units’ worth of French way back in college, and believe me, it was never ever pleasant. Every time I read something from the textbook, I sounded like Pepe Le Peu on sedatives and my tongue would cramp. Every time I wrote something in French, I would mistake words for scientific names of obscure insects. Frankly, I only passed the course because of perfect attendance. Yes, it was that horrible. I never really gotten past sentences beyond “I feel bad,” “I don’t understand,” and “I ate a cheese omelet at the blue library.” And to this day I haven’t met even one French person to brag these phrases to.
So when I dozed off a bit and found myself in a French language class, I knew I was having another nightmare. My unbelievably patient and kind French instructor Ms. Reyes was replaced by Archangel Duriel. He was asking me to translate “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?” in French. Surprisingly, I was able to give him the correct answer. But even before I can celebrate, he lunged at me with a sword that looked a lot like a four-foot-long piece of stale French bread. I instinctively grabbed something from my pocket, but to my horror it was only Spanish bread, about 3 inches long. Unable to parry, Duriel’s French Bread pierced my heart, and my last words were “Vive la France.”
I woke up with a loud “Gah!” and found myself on the floor of my dining room with a half-eaten croissant in my hand. A friendly reminder: never eat a croissant from a bakery that can’t even make a proper ensaymada. I knew that this was a sign from the heavens that I need to review another anime series. Luckily, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee was up next, and it was a pleasant series to watch from start to end. My verdict? 4 out of 5 creamy eclairs, because the series is just so yummy you’ll be begging for more. Why a score so high? Read on to find out more.
The anime tells the poignant tale of Yune, a young Japanese girl (whose exact age the anime never really got to say), who goes to France at the end of the 19th century with an old traveler, Oscar Claudel, and promises to help at Oscar’s family’s sign shop in Paris. Claude Claudel, Oscar’s grandson, owner of the sign shop and owner of such a silly, redundant name, is understandably flabbergasted when his old grandfather goes home with such a young, innocent foreign girl to live with them. Despite Claude’s seemingly antisocial and distrustful nature, he eventually reluctantly lets Yune stay and work for him. How these two seemingly different individuals with nothing in common with each other eventually warm up to each other and get past personal and cultural differences is at the heart of this truly endearing anime.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is classified as a historical and slice-of-life genre anime. The viewer is treated to a depiction of typical life in France in the final years of the 1800s, from how businesses were like, the food that were eaten, to how the people spent their time. The show is not meant to be a history lesson. It’s just that the marvelous sights and sounds of Paris are depicted well and serve as the backdrop of the unfolding story.
The power of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee lies in the subtle ways the main characters reach out to each other. One can see how earnestly the characters try their best to get their feelings across to the other person. Their interaction despite and in spite of their idiosyncratic and cultural differences makes the series both touching and enjoyable. The characters are believable and natural, which make them interesting and likeable, with all their attitudes, ideals, insecurities and quirks. These are all fleshed out such that the viewer can genuinely feel for the characters.
Character design is commendable, with most of the French characters looking appropriately tall. big, and, well, Caucasian. Yune, on the other hand, looks like a freak of nature compared to them because she is simply the most ADORABLE anime character to come out in years. Sadly, all realism is thrown out the window with those big, earnest, enchanting eyes on that small Japanese face. But then again, if you’ve watched anime most of your life, you’d think all Japanese have such large, beautiful eyes of unbelievable colors.
The backgrounds are finely drawn, attempting to capture Paris’ famous early landmarks, busy early metropolitan streets and shopping districts. The carefully drawn sequences with these backgrounds lend an air of realism to the places where Yune and the other characters move around and live in.
The music of the series in also top-notch, with touches of ambient street organ music, violins and even sequences with supposedly Japanese folk music blended in. Music is appropriate and lends itself well to the overall mood of the series. Opening and Ending sequence music are quite enjoyable too.
If there is one thing I’d have to complain about this series is that it doesn’t tell us the whole story. Like most other anime, this show is based on a manga that is still ongoing. After 12 episodes and one special, the anime series ends poignantly, but one may need to read the manga, also ongoing, to go further into what happens next to Yune and the other cast. Of course, we can wait for subsequent seasons of the series, but there’s still no news about that yet. Yes. I bet you can hear me groan from way down here.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is a spectacularly refreshing anime set in recent history. It is a great example of how anime can be a great medium to tell a truly unique, heartwarming story. This is a series I’d happily recommend to people, even those who don’t normally watch anime. At 12 episodes, it is short and sweet but it will definitely leave a lasting impression. So again, my score and verdict: 4 out of 5 French eclairs, because its just that sweet.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you drop by again sometime for another review.