Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 12 (Fin)

In the finale, Yune offers to help in the workshop, and when she grabs a pair of gloves, he yells at her and tells her to leave. She goes outside, and later, nobody can find her, and Claude starts to worry. He finds her on the roof of Galerie du Roy, chasing after the sound of a theoretical cat bell. While saving her from a fall through the dome, he reveals why he was angry earlier: the gloves reminded him of his father,who died falling from a scaffold at the Grand Magasin, which is why he didn’t want her to go there. Having found her, he insists all he wants is for her to stay safe and enjoy life in Paris, then changes his mind and offers to take her to the Magasin.

This last episode was a good microcosm of the series, as well as a showcase of everything good and bad about it. First the bad: Claude can be really angsty and impatient at times. Yune is a girl from a foreign land, and she’s very fragile, yet time and time again, he barks at her or scolds her, without telling her the reason. That grew a little repetitive. Also, I believe we’ve already had the “Yune Gets Lost” episode, did we really need another one?

That said, the episode does make the best of things, using the search for Yune as a vehicle to give all the various characters of the show a little sendoff, including Alice and Camilla. As usual, the visuals of the Galerie du Roy are gorgeous, and we get to see them from a new vantage point, the roof. And finally, we learn a little more about what’s eating Claude all the time; anyone who watches their father die is entitled a little angst now and then. Just…try not to frighten the tiny Japanese girl!


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 11

Claude forbids Yune to join Alice for a trip to the department store, and she obeys, once again saying one thing while possibly thinking another. Instead Claude, Yune and Oscar go to the park for a picnic. Oscar impresses her with a “spell” that stops the rain and sleight-of-hand tricks, but they remind her of a similar “spell” she put on her older sister that she believes made her blind and weak.

Who would’ve though Yune had a Dark Past She’s Not Proud Of, eh? Well, a dark coincidence at least. Yune’s sister Shione had pale blue eyes, which would have been no big deal in Paris, but in Japan, people gave her looks and even feared her. Lil’ Yune insisted that Shione only look at her, and otherwise keep her eyes closed, sparing her from the looks. Anime eyes tend to be all the colors of the rainbow, but in this realistic period piece, color matters.

It’s an innocent enough sentiment from a concerned lil’ sister, but when Shione grew frail and went blind, Yune blamed herself out of superstition. Shion’s plight is a dreadful shame – but not Yune’s fault. It turns out every time she sees Claude’s eyes, she thinks of Shione. She finally stopped holding everything in, let it all out, and experienced a catharsis. Another cute chapter of a cute series that has just one more cute episode to go.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 10

Claude is off to Dijon to meet with an important client about new metalwork. Claude has to study his late father’s work, and it brings back memories of his childhood when his father was still alive and business was booming. He’s conflicted about keeping the business running by simply copying what his father did. Meanwhile, Oscar keeps Yune and Alice entertained with a projector and phenakistoscope found while Yune was cleaning the storeroom.

My favorite scene this week was when Yune remembered what Claude told her about the metalworks shop: His father and grandfather worked to make every metalwork sign in the entire Gallery, so their skill is on display everywhere, with signs fulfilling the dual purpose of advertising for the shop it hangs over as well as advertising for the one who made the sign. It’s as impressive as it is sad; the best days seem to be behind both the Gallery and the metal shop.

Claude’s father was a genius with metal, but Claude also remembers him being cold and stern. This new job in Dijon is the latest challenge – can he outdo his departed dad? Oscar has never pushed him to keep the business going. The question is, is he keeping the fires of the forge burning for his father, or for himself? Not much to say about the B story involving Yune, Alice, Oscar, and eventually the whole gallery; it was pleasant enough. People were certainly easily entertained back then!


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 9

Part II of “Hangin’ With the Blanches.” Yune has tea ceremony with Alice while Claude reminisces about his past with Camille. The two were good friends despite the difference in status, but whenever Claude wanted to take her out to explore the city, she’d refuse and get all huffy. It turns out her family only let her hang out with him if she didn’t leave the house. That, combined with the fact they’d never be able to marry, makes for uneasiness on both sides in the present.

I didn’t really get the last couple episodes. Sure Yune has fun with Alice, but Claude has just sitting in a dark room for two episodes, and nothing was ever resolved between him and Camille. True enough, it may never be resolved, but his flashbacks with her felt repetitive. We get it; she’s rich, he’s not-so-rich; it could never be. But she still wanted to be friends with him, and I guess it didn’t turn out that way? What of it? What does that have to do with crossroads in a foreign labyrinth?

Camille is more interesting than Alice, but I fear we’ve seen too much of her. At the end of the day she’s just an angsty aristocrat who tacitly complains about her “plight” while doing absolutely nothing to change it. She’s been stuck in a stuffy mansion her whole life and hasn’t experienced anything new or real. She just pouts like a Persian cat. Bring Yune back into the spotlight. She’s everything Camille isn’t.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8

Yune and Claude stop by the Blanche residence, and Alice takes Yune by the hand and wisks her off. If it was ever in doubt, this episode confirmed that she sees Yune not so much as a human friend, but as a doll-like ideal of a childhood dream she had. It’s pretty odd that this girl made up a story about meeting a Japanese girl, then meeting her by chance years later. Is she an oracle?

In all seriousness though, while she and Yune chatter away about folk tales and rice balls, Claude is just standing around waiting, when he’s cornered by Camille. From a flashback and her general behavior around him, she had an unrequited love for him. The cold way they interact here confirms that they share some complex feelings, not all good. Camille resents her role as a family bargaining chip – she won’t be marrying for love – but she’s resigned to that life.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 7

Yune and Claude hit a bit of a rough patch, and for a while there, in the midst of all the latter’s yelling, I was starting to fear their relationship was going downhill. This week proves that cultural differences aren’t just a matter of comic relief or whimsy, but can be hazardous to your health…and for business. Yune has taken ill, and it’s revealed very subtly at first, with a stumble here and a cough there.

Meanwhile, the little kid who stole a candlestick is back, and this time Claude is there to shoo him off and scold Yune. Yune doesn’t blame the kid for having to steal to eat, but Claude takes a harder line; give Parisian kids an inch and they’ll walk all over you and clean you out. I respect Yune’s basic decency, but she needs to learn more European pragmatism As for concealing her illness…well, if I was a turn-of-the century Parisian like Claude or Oscar, living with a Japanese person could be potentially infuriating

To Yune, not troubling them with her illness is more important than her personal health. Even after Claude has said multiple times her well-being is more important than anything else in the store. Luckily it was just a cold, and thanks to Alice, Claude makes her some Japanese-style rice porridge, but what if it was something worse, and by the time she collapsed it was too late to help her? Speak up, Yune! Oh, I’d also be remiss if I neglected to mention Claude gives Yune a kiss this week…albeit on the cheek, and as the traditional French greeting.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 6

Croisée VI: The Return of Alice. Alice is not the most annoying character I’ve known – not by a long shot – but she is edging towards most annoying of the season, and isn’t helped by the fact there’s a much better, more tolerable Alice doing duty on the S.S. Kamisama no Memo-cho. This one treats Yune like a doll with no free will to play dress-up with and have photos taken for her facebook (which, in these days, was just a book.)

Still, despite the fact Alice has a lot of screentime this week, it was still an enjoyable episode, with Yune learning the tribulations and sheer lunacy of Western aristocratic garb. She likens the carilion, for example, to a birdcage, which it is to an extent, as it limits the movement of birds (ladies). Alice is  just as astonished by how expertly Yune folds initially massive kimonos into the neat, compact outfits she wears daily.

It’s a shame though that Alice’s older sister Camille didn’t have more to say or do, she struck me as immediately more interesting than the tiringly hyper Alice. She looks very much the caged bird, extremely well-bred and well-trained, but there’s always a little melancholy in her face and few words, and when she looks at the corsetless Yune – whose future can be whatever she wants – she almost seems a little envious.


Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 5

More ways of the French bemuse and confuse young Yune this week. She constantly wants to be of use, but in her new Parisian life, she’s neither required or expected to constantly work. She should fine time for leisure, to celebrate her freedom, to spend the money she’s made. But she’s having trouble understanding.

When I was in Japan I was amazed by how consistently kind, friendly, and helpful shopkeepers were, whether it was a 7 Eleven or a Toyota dealership. You receive a hearty welcome and the smiles hardly ever leave the faces of those working. Yune has this same mentality, but Claude warns her that in France, being too friendly or emotional to customers can scare them away.

When a young lad makes off with a candlestick (to later sell for food), she gives chase and gets lost in the gallery, neither of which boost her self-worth. When everyone either ignores her or gives her a strange look, she decides running and closing her eyes to be the best course of action, and…it is! She bumps into Claude. He repeats to her that her safety is more important than any item in the store. Yune took Claude’s advice too seriously. But she is learning.

Oscar makes a good point about a lot of the store’s wares (before going on a booty call): when electricity and such arrive, they’ll be rendered even more unnecessary. However, even things that are no longer useful are worth protecting. Do we still need butter churns? Or katanas? Not really; but those processes are a part of culture. Such arts must be preserved. Claude means to do that, and Yuna aims to help.


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 4

Ah, it’s time for our weekly fix of period clash-of-cultures slice-of-life, with this episode bringing the blonde and annoying Alice Blanche into the picture. She’s an aristocratic fanatic of all things Oriental; though I couldn’t call her a Japonophile like myself because she’s simply too ignorant about Japanese culture to make a determination either way.

Anyway, I may have been too harsh on Claude’s manner with Yune; at least he treats her like a human. Upon laying eyes on her, Alice treats poor Yune like a cute pet, or a doll come to life. She also treats her like a slave to be purchased, and later tries to bribe her into living at her mansion. She almost succeeds, as the deal includes her prized kimono and a private bath, something Yune has been missing since she arrived in Paris. Baths were only a daily thing for the very rich in France. They still are, too…haha I kid. Sumimasen!

Anyway I’m not that optimistic about Alice as she seems almost to selfish and stupid to live, but I still enjoyed this episode. It contained a lot more comedy than before, and also chibi cuts, which were employed liberally, though not ad nauseum. I also continue to enjoy the rich Parisian scenery, and hope that Yune – and we along with her – gets to explore more of the grand city. And Claude learns to enjoy Japanese cuisine…’cause he’s really missing out!


Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 3

And…the adorableness continues apace. No surprises here. This week we find out that Yune always wanted to travel to Europe, but now that she’s here she’s still not quite sure what she wants to do, or where else she may want to go next. I have to say, for a little girl to travel from Japan to France may not be all that big a deal these days, in the 19th century it must’ve been a momentous experience.

Claude learns from her and Oscar about Japanese houses and Sumo (leading to some hilariously inaccurate mental images) and how Japanese eat (with what appears to him to be dolls’ bowls and cups). We also learn Yune has an older sister, Shione (that’s funny, after the first episode I had complained that Yune was too young…and she had an older sister all along? Argh.) Yune’s name, it turns out, means “the sound of hot water,” something Claude learns while rather rudely interrupting her letter-writing (although to be fair to him the letter wouldn’t have made it to Japan on the flimsy paper she was using.)

Learning what her name means inspires Claude, who had been suffering from “smith’s block” to that point, uses the kanji “sound” in a sign, and makes a successful sale to a music store. He then buys Yune some high-quality stationary and the two meet after a brief rain to witness a typical but still achingly beautiful Paris sunset, that makes you feel like everything’s right in the world. Meanwhile, the entire Gallerie du Roy is the property of an unpleasant, bratty blonde girl who demands her footman locate the Japanese girl post-haste. Ruh-roh. Rating: 3.5

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 2

As the tiny Yune darts around learning about cheese, fresh bread, breakfast, spoons, and evil department stores, I couldn’t help but conclude than she, Claude and Oscar were having way more fun than I was having watching it. That’s not to say it isn’t fun; the episode was pleasant enough, but now we’re two weeks in and we still have no idea who Yune is and why she accompanied Oscar to France.

Perhaps that’s unfair. In a season full of complex narratives and sprawling casts, it can be tempting to try to fit this round peg into a square hole. No such luck; this series is unapologetic as it is diligent in its detailed depiction of ordinary everyday life in this time and place. The nearest thing to a looming conflict seems to be the big-box store, which looks like an elegant destination for shoppers, but a cancer to local specialty store owners who will die off one by one in its price-cutting shadow.

Will that shadow gradually move in and ruin the light and breezy mood of this series? Unlikely. One thing’s certain: Claude has warmed up to Yune much quicker than I envisioned. So far, this is about a girl in a strange new land, but knows the language, has made friends, and is discovering the foreign culture. What happens next? Rating: 3

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 1 – First Impressions

Literally “a cross in a maze abroad”, this is a very calm and deliberate slice-of-life that takes place in 19th-century Paris. In other words, it’s probably nothing like anything else this season. There isn’t a hint of magic, fantasy, the supernatural, nor any enemies lurking in the shadows. This is about a meeting of two people who are very different on the surface, but once they understand one another, become fast friends.

It’s a very enjoyable introduction, as the setting is a gorgeous Parisian gallery, and the very apologetic, submissive, yet curious girl, Yune, is a very colorful fish out of water. Fortunately, it’s at a time when all things Japanese are gaining in popularity – different isn’t feared so much as admired for the novelty of its different-ness. Claude, form a long line of metalworkers, is a rather inflexible artist who’s keeping his father’s store going, even as the tide of progress (and electric signs) draws near.

There are a few issues: while I realize Japanese people are smaller than the French on average, especially back then, Yune still seems a bit incredibly undersized for a bilingual young woman apparently old enough to travel all the way to France with a much older man (Claude’s kindly grandfather, Oscar). When a customer muses that she looks like a doll, I’m right with him: she looks a little to much like a doll. While kind of a glaring demerit, it’s no’t a dealbreaker. Rating: 3.5