Ikoku Meiro is fast shaping up as my favorite series of the Summer, along with Natsume Yuujinchou San. This is clearly a labor of love for everyone involved, from the author Hinata-san to the director to the animators. And it shows.
It’s hard for me to remember a series that just simply makes me feel so good, from the first notes of the OP to the preview and every moment in between. What an amazing environment has been created here – the Paris of 1898 feels so alive, every loaf of bread and raindrop and sunset. And the people inhabiting it are people I’d love to spend some time with, and that’s a sure ticket to success for any series.
There still isn’t much of a conventional plot here, and that’s absolutely fine with me. I wouldn’t want to change a thing. The focus this week was on a sort of cultural exchange, with Yune and even Oscar teaching Claude little bits about Japan. He learns about kanji, even using the kanjo for Yune (“The Sound of Hot Water”) to make a sign for a musical instrument shop. He learns about Japanese bells, and the “Gong!” (not “Dong!”) sound they make, as lovingly demonstrated by Alice. he learns about paper walls and doors, and miniature furniture and lacquerware and even people. And though the foreign nature of all of it puzzles him (being the curmudgeon he is) Claude has a keen curiosity to learn and understand more.
If that doesn’t sound very interesting, than this probably isn’t the show for you. For me, it’s heaven watching Yune iron shirts and resist the urge to step outside the store to pet a cat, and – most especially this week – step daintily around a puddle that Claude has just jumped over. That one just about melted me, right there. Yune is a marvel of cuteness, but it’s never overbearing – she wears her moe as well as any character I can remember.
There were a few serious moments here. Another closed shop in the Galerie du Roy, amid strong inclinations that the entire place may be on the verge of going under. Oscar even suggests half-kiddingly that the three of them should go to Japan “if the shop gies under”. Claude denies the possibility vehemently, but I wonder of things could go that route eventually. It was clear from the look in Oscar’s eyes that he was entranced by Japan and would love to go back. And we finally get the long-awaited introduction of the Aoi Yuuki character, Alice. She’s a rich girl and Japanophile whose sister Camille bought her Yune’s kimono. Whether she’ll be a true villain (I hope and think not) or more of a foil remains to be seen.
Whatever happens with the plot happens, but I’d really be fine if things just stayed the way they were. What a pleasure to discover Paris through Yune’s eyes. And to be a fly on the wall, watching Claude and Yune’s relationship develop as they learn about each other and their respective cultures. I watch anime for many reasons, but one that can make me as happy as this one does is a rare thing.