Posted on 19 September 2011 with categories: Anime Reviews, Ikoku Meiro no Croisée




Here is a slice of life series with a twist: instead of focusing on the same old setting, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee focuses on a Japanese girl who starts to live with a French blacksmiths in the Nineteenth century. If you’re like me, and you like slice of life series, but not the ones where just nothing happens, then this is one for you.

This show has two focuses. The first is its cast of characters. The second is celebrating both French and Japanese culture, and the difference between them. The studio behind this series, Satelight, has a lot of French roots and connections, and they were utilized wonderfully for this show. Throughout the series, this show examines all kinds of differences between the culture of the French and the Japanese of the 19th century, ranging from food, weather, gestures, customs: a very wide variety. Supported by that is a team of absolutely wonderful background artists, who give a gorgeous depiction of Paris in those days. The setting in this series is amazingly portrayed.

In terms of the characters meanwhile, you get very heart-warming slice of life. Especially Yune and Oscar are great character. Yune incredibly adorable, while Oscar feels very refreshing, standing miles away from the usual “grandfather”-stereotypes. The rest of the cast also has a great chemistry with each other, though there are a few issues with them individually. Claude, the main character can get a bit too angsty for the sake of drama. He acts too unfriendly and bossy a bit too much for it to be really believable. Alice meanwhile will annoy a lot of people in her first appearance, because of how spoiled a brat she is. Both get better over time, though.

This summer season really was lucky to have two such good slice of life series with Ikoku Meiro no Croisee and Usagi Drop. The big difference between them is that with Usagi Drop the drama was very realistic, while with Ikoku Meiro no Croisee it’s a bit forced, while at the same time Croisee succeeded more in creating a heart-warming atmosphere.

Storytelling: 8/10 – A bit forced with its drama, but very heartwarming and relaxing.
Characters: 8/10 – Yune is absolutely adorable, great chemistry, though a few characters that take a bit getting used to.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Satelight has really improved: consistent and the background art is great.
Setting: 9/10 – Amazing depiction of France of the 19th century, full of cultural differences.

Suggestions:
Hourou Musuko
Ristorante Paradiso

Posted on with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



What an absolutely adorable final episode. This was just perfect to close off this series with a heart-warming feeling. At first the episode started off a bit uninspired, with Claude getting angry yet again, and Yune getting lost yet again, but as soon as Yune got on the roof of the Galerie, this episode never lost its charms.

It really forced Claude and Yune to talk to each other, and Claude to finally talk about his father, and the way the creators did it was incredibly charming. Throughout most of the series, my main issue with it that Claude might have been a tad too angsty was also pretty decently explained.

Overall, the big difference between this series and Usagi Drop: Usagi Drop was more realistic, while this series was better at creating its atmosphere. Because of that I believe that I like this series a bit better, and its charms hit me more.

Next season, it’ll be time for Tamayura. From the OVAs, we already know that it’s going to be a charming slice of life series, but it’ll be interesting to see whether it can surpass this series. The key will be the fact that it’s anime original: with that, you can make it do things that just won’t be possible in an adaptation, and I really hope that Sato Junichi will make use of that.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 12 September 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



This episode increased Yune’s charms even more. It started with all kinds of hints towards Claude’s father, but eventually moved on to Yune confessing some bad experiences she had with her sister… while being rather tipsy. It was a really heart-warming scene. And at the same time we also pretty much know what the finale of this series will focus on.

Speaking of performances, Alicealso showed an interesting side of her when she wasn’t allowed to take Yune to the Grand Magazin. In fact, I have to give the overall cast a lot of praises for doing such a wonderful job of acting out the characters throughout the series. I think the only weak spot at this point is Claude, who has the tendency to just be a bit too angsty at some points. It’s up to the finale to make up for that.

An interesting part about this episode was also the theme of eye color. I actually was under the impression that Japanese people just had brown eyes, but Yune and her sister in particular seem to debunk that myth. I watched this episode raw so I might have missed something, but it’s still quite interesting that there are Japanese with such eye colors.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 6 September 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



Now, this was just heart-warming. This entire episode felt just like a warm blanket in the middle of winter and it was incredibly charming. It basically showed two parts right through each other: Claude’s father, and Oscar entertaining first Yune and Alice, and then the whole neighborhood. They meshed together wonderfully.

There really seem to be a lot of hints that Claude is as cold as he is thanks to his father. In those flashbacks, he actually hardly ever talked to Claud. I actually felt that Claude also grew a tiny bit in this episode, especially after how fast he calmed down after he got offended after being compared to his father by that customer of his. It’s subtle, but he would not have been that diligent at the beginning of the series.

What has also surprised me about this series is Satelight’s animation quality, and how consistent it turned out to be. Two years ago, especially when they were working on both Guin Saga and Basquash at the same time, they really had this trouble to keep their faces consistent and keep their art crisp. Heck, even Macross Frontier had a lot of strangely drawn faces and inconsistencies. Nothing of that shows here: nearly every part of this show is detailed.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 29 August 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



Now, don’t get me wrong, this episode was wonderful. However, it did feature the big one; the cliche of cliches: the childhood friends. Instead of having Claude and Camille dating at their fifteenth or sixteenth, the creators consciously chose to show a romance between young kids of around ten years old. Here it makes sense: the theme of this episode would not have worked with older characters, but this is really something that lazy anime just keep using over an dover again.

This is something that has always baffled me about Japanese culture: how serious they view the romance between children. Instead of just playing tag, with everyone going his own way afterwards, anime seem to place a huge value on the memories they made as a kid. Instead of looking back at those childhood romances as an adorable quirk, every anime seems to believe those memories will decide your fate for your entire life. With this episode I was originally planning to question the Japanese culture again, only we’re talking about French kids here. But then again, I’m not French either. Are the French obsessed over childhood romances as well?

Anyway, the reason why I consider it to be such a bad twist is because it’s forced and overused. The big problem being the former, and the latter is the thing that made it worse. Nine times out of ten, when a childhood friend becomes involved, this is just reduced to a flashback, and a cheap excuse to get the main couple dating. It’s like saying: “I’m too bland for you, but we used to play tag together!” – and anime just keeps using that as an excuse.

In this episode things are different, though. It definitely had its purpose; this is a series about cultural differences. Not just between the French and the Japanese, but also between generations and between social classes. The childhood romance wasn’t used as a cheap romance, but instead to give Claude and Camille even more character. It added a ton of things to both the cast and the setting, on top of being adorably executed. And seeing Claude’s father was a plus too.

Here’s the thing with this show: it’s forcing me to reconsider the stereotypes I have in my mind about anime cliches. It’s not like Ao no Exorcist, which just has a bunch of cliches and executes them well, no this is really thought-provoking and it’s forcing me to take a different look at things I took for granted. Now that’s great storytelling.

Also, the tea ceremonies immediately gave me flashbacks to Hyouge Mono. I can not watch those anymore without picturing these overly obsessive faces along with it. It was quite good though: again it was a neat way to show how different something simple like tea can be. Plus, the way in which the Japanese sit. Because the bodies of Asians are slightly different from Europeans, they can sit like that much more naturally. I find it particularly murderous for my legs when I’m forced to sit like that for more than ten minutes.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 22 August 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



We’re now really getting down to the characters. This episode had a lot less cultural differences, but instead it spent a lot of attention on giving its characters some depth. And it looks like that this wasn’t even the background episode (that’s for next week).

The talk between Claude and Camille started off okay, but it all was rather predictable. As it went on though, that air of predictability vanished. There seems to be something interesting behind their break-up, though when this episode really got going was when Camille started talking with Yune. Comparing the way both think of him was an excellent touch. In fact, this episode really shined because of how it underlined the differences and similarities between the different characters. I talked down on Alice when we first saw her, but she really turned out much better than expected.

Overall, Sato Junichi is going to be one of the most interesting creators of the second half of 2011, due to his involvement in three different series. Two of which original. Ikoku Meiro no Croisee will probably have more drama than Tamayura, but I’m still really interested in how it’s going to treat its story: we will have one of the first actual slice of life original stories since ages (not dramas like Anohana or Hana-Saku Iroha, but actual slice of life). It’s a genre I tend to dislike because of repetition and no incentive for the characters to really show their characters off, but if anyone can do the genre justice, it’s him. And then there’s going to be Phi Brain, in which we finally get to see him outside of this genre again, where he’s even better.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 16 August 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



And here we have the first time where this show really gets something wrong: the dreaded cold!

I’m really not sure where this trend started. I know that back in the days of Perrine Monogatari (1978) they also portrayed diseases in the same way, but back then it was believable: when Perrine got sick, she slept outside in the rain for an entire night: of course that would terribly mess up her system. Nowadays characters spend a second out in the rain and immediately collapse. And everybody in the anime business seems to believe that that’s the accurate way to represent a cold. Even the great Sato Junichi doesn’t seem to realize this.

Having said that though: this was a really heart-warming episode. Everyone in this episode was just totally adorable, but also the drama that the creators got out of the cold was just wonderful. This is where the clash between cultures really shines, comparing the reserved Japanese to Europeans who much more like to speak their minds. They used the young boy really well for that. I applaud this series.

What also really surprised me was the nonchalant way this episode dealt with kisses. In Japan it really seems to be something intimate (just look at all of the teenaged couples who. REFUSE. TO. FREAKING. DO. IT), while in Europe it’s a greeting, though it definitely got a bit strange when these two interpretations clashed with each other. With some great results.

Oh, and we’re past the halfway point in the series, and there has been a significant amount of character development already. That’s great to see!
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 7 August 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



Alice stopped getting on my nerves. Quite a pleasant surprise.

Instead, this episode was completely adorable again. Alice mostly swooned all over Yune, but her enthusiasm is feeling more and more genuine, and her quips towards Claude were actually quite funny. The only part I have to complain about is the part where Oscar came in with the line “oh, you’re fighting. you must be in love with each other!” – seriously, stop using that.

Oh, and this episode was all about dress up and Japanese and French clothing. Again, surprisingly detailed about how these dresses work. The photography part was also really cute, though I do wonder why the creators didn’t explain why Yune’s image of photographs is different. The characterization of this episode overall was really subtle and nicely balanced, with a lot of great chemistry and a good, relaxing atmosphere to boot. And yeah, this was also the episode that hinted at something that happened between Claude and Alice’s older sister. It’s good for a nice bit of drama here.

Oh, and I believe that this is the first anime in which I’ve seen living statues appear.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 1 August 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



This was quite the interesting episode. For one, Alice made no appearance whatsoever, so the creators aren’t trying to overuse her, but this episode also went another step further in its analysis of the cultural differences between France and Japan. Previously it discussed things like different foods and climate,but this time it really looked at the people: how they act towards each other and strangers.

Beyond that, Yune also had the bad luck to get lost in the middle of a rainy day where everyone would be rather pissed off, but I’m actually surprised at how she thought that talking to strangers with a smile will catch their attention: my impression of Japan (and do correct me if I’m wrong here) was that it’s very difficult to talk to strangers, in an “everyone’s minding their own business”-kind of way, even more than what’s common in Europe.

The shop scene pretty much nailed it though: I was also really surprised when I first found out that Japanese shop keepers tend to really flock to you and try to assist you in every way. Beyond that, this episode also addressed the poverty in the area quite subtly as an introduction: we’ve seen that young boy before, and only now he just makes his move, actually taking advantage of Yune’s niceness.

Oh, and in the meantime this show is also doing quite a good job in fleshing out its characters. The Aria-esque parts where Claude explains how important his grandfather is to him also really worked here, and this episode pretty much did that with the rest of the cast as well
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 26 July 2011 with categories: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée



Ah, Alice. This episode showed an episode fully dedicated to her… and I guess that she got better. It’s not like she’s an entirely typical spoiled brat, because she actually has a bit of a character beyond being conceited and all, but she still feels rather out of place. So I have to admit that I have no clue how the bourgeosie acted back in those days, but I really often feel like anime misses the mark while portraying really rich characters: they’re either perfectly flawless or conceited bastards with no middle ground. That lack of middle ground really is a problem.

This episode again was really adorable. For once we have a “running into bathing”-scene that actually makes sense and feels different from pure fanservice. Claude also is the first protagonist since ages who actually looked away as soon as he realized what happened instead of just gazing like an idiot. It’s a good way to show the differences in bathing. For more cultural differences, this episode also showed Yune introducing some Japanese food to Claude, after the previous episode’s onslaught of French cuisine.

And I guess that Alice does spice up this series a bit. As long as she doesn’t take over the series it’ll probably be fine. This, because I do wonder what this series has planned for the long run: how does it want to end? How far will the characters develop? Alice did do a bunch of great things to flesh out the main cast, and without her the whole picture of this series would be incomplete. Really the only problem with her that I have is the way she acts, not how she is.
Rating: * (Good)

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