First Impressions – Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

OP: “Sekai wa Odoru yo, Kimi to (世界は踊るよ、君と。)” by Youmou to Ohana

From Satelight comes the absolutely delightful Ikoku Meiro no Croisée (La croisée dans un labyrinthe étranger), a series that had me won over from the pre-credit opening and had my hypnotized right through until the end.

It’s a fairly simple story. At an decorative ironworks in late 19th Century Paris, the Galerie du Roy, young Claude (Takashi Kondo) works hard to keep the traditions his father and grandfather started alive. It’s a small shop and not thriving, and Claude isn’t much of a businessman – his heart lies in the workshop, not the gallery.

Into this picture steps Claude’s kindly Grandfather Oscar (Hideyuki Tanaka), just back from a trip to Japan. He has a suitcase full of small art pieces and some ironworks for the shop, too, but that’s not his main cargo. He’s also brought back the ridiculously adorable Japanese girl Yune (Nao Toyama), so tiny that the locals mistake her for a doll. She’s come to work as a “signboard” – to stand out in front of the shop and attract customers.

That all seems simple enough, but several interesting things immediately become obvious. Straight-laced and stern, Claude is against Yune’s presence immediately. But mostly he’s against the way she’s being treated as an object, and continually apologizing. When she breaks the precious glass and wrought-iron signpost his father created, Claude reacts calmly and without visible anger, remaking the sign in a new way. Yune isn’t all she appears either. She actually speaks French, though not even Oscar appeared to know. She’s clever, hard-working and earnest, and this endears her to Claude.

Really, it would be hard to have asked much more of the first episode. The OP and ED were outstanding and well-suited, and the BGM – a mix of gentle guitar, piano and violin pieces – supports the story without overwhelming it. The background shots of Paris are exquisitely detailed, with a rich pastiche of colors bringing to mind stained glass. All of the character designs are beautiful too, most especially the expressive and irresistible Yune. I’m not a moe guy, and she captured me immediately.

It’s really no surprise this was as good as it was. It’s based on a manga by Hinata Takeda, illustrator of Gosick – which had some of the loveliest character designs you’ll ever see. Director is Kenji Yasuda, who was one of the men behind the masterpiece Noein and directed Shugo Chara. It’s a top-notch crew and an excellent studio, and Yuuki Aoi hasn’t even made her appearance yet.

This one looks like a keeper for sure. As a mood piece it succeeds immediately, and from what I hear of the source material the story really comes along nicely, with some romance developing later on (still not sure how that’s going to work). It isn’t going to suit those looking for action or traditional anime themes, but for those looking for a slower-paced character series with a highly unusual setting for anime, this should be a slam-dunk.

ED: “Koko kara Hajimaru Monogatari (ここからはじまる物語)” by Nao Toyama

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9 comments

  1. M

    I absolutely loved the first episode and I'm not a moe guy either.

    Seeing her break the glass was heart wrenching. And replaying that scene was just cruel. And seeing Yune give away her mother's keepsake was moving. Seriously, I even got teary-eyed.

    I'm nominating Yune as the most adorable thing this year.

    I'm surprised to hear there is going to be romance in this one. If it's true though, my guess is it will be between Claude and a yet to be introduced character. It can't be Yune, right? Do we have any clue about her age by the way?

  2. Yune is 13, believe it or not. I have heard that the romance is between she and Claude (I think he's about 18, but that's a guess) but that's 3rd hand-information so not reliable. There is a Yuuki Aoi character who hasn't appeared yet, so she might be a candidate as well.

  3. K

    I read somewhere else she meets another girl around the same age. The girl's brother is fascinated with all things japanese and he becomes interested in Yume.

  4. 0

    "Yune is 13, believe it or not."

    Hmmm… if I had to make one strong criticism, its that the anime utterly failed to get the across. And I'm usually really good at guessing the ages of anime girls.
    "The girl's brother is fascinated with all things japanese and he becomes interested in Yume."

    A weaboo before his time… my curiousity is piqued.

    More than anything, this struck me as a lighter version of Kurenai with a French setting – admittedly because I though Yune was much younger – which is awesome, because I loved Kurenai. Also, loved some of the little touches – based on what I know about how seriously the French take the "equality" bit of their revolution, the bow would be shocking to a Frenchman. Although I must admit my inner otaku couldn't help making snide remarks like "oh hey, you brought home a loli… you sick *deleted*".

  5. Well, your Kurenai parallel – Yuuki Aoi will be showing up soon.

    I think it's possible (I'm guessing, mind you) that the fact she's 13 is going to be revealed as an on-screen surprise to Claude and the audience at the same time.

  6. 0

    That could be interesting… I wonder how many Japanese know that westerners tend to guess the ages of asian girls as something along the lines of "real age minus four year"

    I actually noticed the Yuuki Aoi bit… I think my first reaction was "she could probably do a pretty good Yune cosplay":

    http://hashihime.blogspot.com/2011/04/yuuki-aoi-kotobuki-minako-hayami-saori.html

    (The height difference in the second pic was already impressive, then I noticed the substantial heels…)

  7. l

    Wow, at first i'm not sure what to make out of this anime but it seem interesting enough to keep watching. If any, just watching Yume is good enough for me.

    Even she is at 13, he still a lolicon (Sanzenin Nagi is 13) and who is this Yuuki Aoi you all talking about?

  8. Aoi Yuuki is a voice actress who's been quite popular of late. She played Victorique in Gosick, among others, but her breakthrough role was in Kurenai.

    Any feedback on the new blog layout? What do we think?

  9. l

    Aoi Yuuki huh, i'm not that of a seiyu mania. The only one i know is the almighty tsundere queen Kugimiya Rie and sexy Yui Horie. :)

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