Arte – 01 (First Impressions) – Her Own Power

Arte, an artistic girl approaching marriageable age in sixteenth century Florence, loves nothing more than capturing the world around around her on paper. The “caged bird” metaphor is immediately put into play: with her father deceased and her noble family barely clinging to solvency, she’ll have to work hard to make a man like her enough to accept a modest dowry. Just one issue: Arte doesn’t want to marry and be caged for life. She wants to be an artisan.

As is the case of oppressed groups throughout history, Arte has to work twice as hard to be noticed half as much, if at all. The sheer difficulty of her task becomes clear when all eighteen of the workshops angrily dismiss her without so much as glancing at her drawings. She’s so frustrated she cuts her hair and threatens to cut off her breasts, but she’s stopped by Leo, who ends up being the first and only man to take a look at her art.

Leo miraculously agrees to let Arte be his apprentice (he currently has none), but sets her on a seemingly impossible task: cleaning, sanding, and priming a huge stack of wooden boards by tomorrow morning, something even he and his fellow masters would be hard pressed to pull off. Yet Arte doesn’t see it as an intentionally undoable feat, and spends all night doing the undoable, ruined noble hands be damned.

Leo, returning home from a bender, is shocked she actually finished the boards, and admits he never intended to give her a real chance. But rather than overt sexism, it’s classism that drives his dubiousness and resentment towards Arte. He became an artisan to avoid a live of begging on the streets, while this rich girl initially tells him she wants to become one because she “loves drawing.”

Then Arte comes clean and tells him that was just putting on airs. In truth, she wants to live through her own power—not just some rich dude’s—Leo realizes he read the girl wrong. After all, even a former beggar like him had a better chance of becoming an apprentice than even the richest girl in Florence. He decides to give her a chance.

With that, Arte moves out of her family’s estate, against her mother’s explicit wishes (we’ll see if there are consequences for that) and into a decided fixer-upper of a shed atop Leo’s workshop. She initially finds the level of repairs and cleanup needed daunting and draws herself to sleep as the walls barely keep out the cold night rain. But in the morning the rising sun peeks through the cracks in those walls and she opens the shutters to reveal a glorious view of the Duomo that would make any master jealous.

Arte is as straightforward and earnest as its heroine. Her situation isn’t sugar-coated; most artisans in Florence are insulted by the mere idea of a woman in their line of work. But nor is it punishingly bleak. It simply took one person giving her a chance…her relentlessly working her ass off, but she’s on her way.

Arte’s dogged determination and optimism is both compelling and inspiring. Komatsu Mikako is well-cast for the role. That her character is loosely based on the real-life female artisan Artemisia Gentileschi lends the show a measure of historical legitimacy. I’m looking forward to watching her tough but rewarding journey towards self-actualization and independence.

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