I don’t know the first from the last about history and different time periods, but the setting of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee really captivates me. I’m not sure if it’s the time in French history with their trendy, ever-changing fashions and the stark contrast to the beautifully elaborate, traditional Japanese kimonos that Yune wear; maybe it’s the fact that Claude is from a family of proud blacksmiths and the romance of a tradesman doing what he does best (albeit in a struggling economy). … Or maybe I just can’t wait to see French pastries on screen. Mmm: pastries.
So the setting was enough to grab my interest, but it was the character designs that first caught my attention before I’d even heard of the anime or manga itself. I don’t remember where or how I stumbled upon it, but this image is what made me dig a little deeper and learn a little more about Ikoku Meiro no Croisee:
I then learned that it was in fact a manga that had an anime adaptation airing this Summer of 2011. How wonderful. It was an instant must watch – or at least a must check out. But with cute enough character designs and/or high calibre animation, I was prepared to tolerate a poorly written show for one season. Fortunately, I don’t think that will be the case.
Okay so I don’t really know what the premise is (I didn’t do extensive research or anything; I’ve been too busy being lazy for that) but from the first episode so far, I’ve seen a display of more than just good animation. Yune in France – or more specifically Claude’s home and workshop is like a clash of East meets West: there’s a dissonance in their manners and formalities, their way of thinking, their way of social interaction… From the way Yune greets him to the clothes she wears and even her purpose for being in France, Claude doesn’t seem to understand or agree on anything about Yune and “her people”. Claude isn’t exactly rude in expressing this, though he was, admittedly, a bit blunt with his words; but he wasn’t being intentionally offensive even if he wasn’t being intentionally courteous either. I think that happens a lot when different cultures interact with each other on an introductory level. It just takes time, patience, and willingness – on all sides.
There was one scene in particular that struck a sour note with me though, and that’s when that man commented that Yune looked like a doll. I think it didn’t sit well with me because I’ve heard that comment before – and I understand it’s usually said with fascination and not insult (actually, I think most times I’ve heard it, it was meant to be a compliment), but somehow, it still feels a bit degrading or condescending. Maybe it’s rooted in that dolls are things, objects to be bought, sold, and owned by another. But I won’t dwell on this, though I would be interested if anyone else has been described as “doll-like” in a similar fashion….
Claude’s quick attitude change toward Yune didn’t feel forced and was quite believable. Claude’s not a bad guy! He just needs an incredibly cute girl to help him remember the softer side of his character (*cough* SCAMP). … I just really hope Claude and Yune aren’t meant to be a romantic pairing because – while I have no idea how old they’re supposed to be – it just doesn’t seem right to me. At least not yet. I suppose the creators have 11 more episodes to convince me. Though I’d much rather they spend their time building on the friendship between Yune and that jeune fille blonde Français (that blonde French girl; I used an online translator so don’t yell if my French is wrong. I’m Canadian but I never did well in French class. I only know how to say ‘my name is..’ and ‘I’m hungry’).
I couldn’t help but think (in my typical over-analytical fashion) that the butterfly sign Claude was working on was a metaphor of his relationship with Yune, how at first he was rigid about her being there and her heritage – that was like the sign being formed to its original design, a design his father had come up with so many years before. When it broke, it seemed to symbolize the opportunity for Claude to try something different – to experience something different through learning about Yune and teaching her about France; an opportunity which he took. The redesigned butterfly iron cast sign shows Claude’s personal growth and shift in perspective; his ability and willingness to change will help him build a strong, trusting relationship with Yune, and is likely to help him adapt his skills and trade to keep his family business going.
Yune’s character also takes a step forward though not in such a subtle way as Claude; she just becomes more outspoken by the end of the episode, revealing that she actually understands (and speaks) French. But despite being quite quiet most of the episode, I felt Yune communicated well through her facial expressions and body language – even if it was a bit lost on someone who didn’t understand it. It was a bit funny to hear spoken Japanese but understand that the common language used is French – all the while reading English subs. Plus there are moments of spoken French with both Japanese and English translation. This has to be the most educational show this season.