Monday, July 4, 2011

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee

Plot Summary: It's a series taking place in the mid-1800s about a Japanese girl named Yune who moves in Paris and works as an attendant in an ironwork shop with a man named Oscar and his nephew Claude.

Before Viewing: So far this season I've been utterly bored by Double J and Ro Kyu Bu!, mildly entertained by Uta no Prince-sama, and loved Kamisama no Memochou. Here's another series that I was really looking forward to. First of all, I love historical series. I'm a bit of a history geek, so these types of series always peak my interest. Secondly, I'm very interested in culture, so series where the characters get to experience culture shock interest me as well. And finally, look at those beautiful costumes! I am such a sucker for lovely settings and costumes, and this series appears to have both. This series better be pretty great!

After viewing: With beautiful animation, scenery, music and a very adorable lead, this series hits all the right buttons for me. This is moe at its finest, the way it’s supposed to be. No panty shots or objectifying the adorable lead, just a sweet little girl trying her hardest to accomplish something. The series has a very classy feel, although the accordion music in the background is a little much. You’d think people just constantly walk around carrying accordions in France. Yune is almost unbearably cheerful, completely unfazed by moving halfway around the world, and is delighted rather than confused or upset by culture shock. She never whines, even through internal monologue, which is rather refreshing for these fish out of water series, even though it is a bit unrealistic. The only time she ever gets upset is when she accidently breaks something in the shop, to which she responds by selling her most precious possession, given to her by her mother that she’ll most likely never see again, without even a second thought.

This episode is more about atmosphere than story-telling, and it’s a very relaxing enjoyable one. It’s the kind of series that you would watch at the end of a stressful day and feel immediately calm and serene. It’s almost like sight-seeing in an era that you’ll never get a chance to see, so much detail is put into the sights, the art, the scenery. It’s just simply lovely in every way.

The series seem to revolve around Claude and Yune attempting to understand each other’s culture, which is a nice set up. Claude is a bit of a tsundere character, but he’s the type that’s nice to those he knows or intends to know well. At first, he’s irritated that his uncle brought home a little girl to work in their metalworking shop, and he’s a bit culturally insensitive, but by the end of the episode he acknowledges this and apologizes in a Japanese way to Yune, promising to learn more about her culture. He also swears to her that he’ll one day buy back her mother’s kimono, which is very expensive and precious to Yune and very sweet of him to do.

One problem the series does have is that it attempts to acknowledge the language barrier in a very confusing way. Most of the time, in television, books or movies, everyone speaks the language of the audience, and no language barrier is acknowledged, even between characters from different nationalities. This series attempts to acknowledge that the characters are speaking different languages, but they are all actually speaking Japanese. With characters that speak both French and Japanese, it’s impossible to tell if they’re supposedly speaking French or Japanese, and it’s confusing. Sometimes the characters supposedly don’t understand one another, but you can’t tell because they’re speaking the same language. And then the series retcons that and they can have a conversation with one another. Who can speak Japanese, and who speaks French in the series? It’s extremely confusing, and not very well explained or conveyed. This could work in written format, which the series was originally a light novel series, but it doesn’t work in an animated one.

Overall, despite unrealistic characters, a badly conveyed language barrier, and a little too much reliance on French stereotypes, it is a lovely piece of animation, and one that I was glad to have experienced and spent time on.

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