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