Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – 11

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I can already tell that next week’s finale of Ikoku Meiro is going to leave me an emotional wreck.  I’ve rarely encountered a series that can evoke such a powerful reaction with so little effort – every gesture and phrase is meaningful.  In the context of what’s looking like it might be a bittersweet finale, that means next week could hit pretty hard.

I’ve said that this might not be the best show of the season, though it’s my favorite – but to be honest, I think it’s the best, too.  Either way, every so often a series comes along that just hits the perfect wavelength to impact me, and this is one of them.  I find the interactions of the characters to be almost frighteningly authentic and cutting.  This is a story that understands the things that are truly important in life, and the things that aren’t nearly so important as we sometimes make them out to be.  It also understands the barriers we erect between ourselves and others out of fear, and the way we proudly carry our pain with is almost as a badge of honor.  Simple and profound, my favorite catch phrase – and this is a case where it really fits.

The nominal subject this week is this sort of pain, the kind we don’t want to share.  For Claude, there are painful memories of his father – brought to light when Alice asks Yune to go to the Grand Magasin, her brother’s modern, lavish department store.  We already knew that Claude considers it the enemy of the Galerie du Roy, but Oscar shares the fact that it also recalls painful memories of Jean – we’re not sure how, but clearly it specifically contributed to his demise.  Claude forbids Yune to go, and Alice – perhaps sensing the depth of feeling this inspires in Claude – relents with surprising humility.  Yune, upon hearing the truth from Oscar (and clearly crying about it) fiercely tells Claude that she no longer wishes to go.   The joy this brings to Claude is heartbreaking, and he suggests a picnic in the park as an alternative day out.

The story of Yune and her sister Shione has been hinted at in prior episodes, but when Oscar inadvertently gets Yune drunk on eau de vie, the story takes on a new meaning.  We’ve seen how loving and protective Shione was, but Yune – inhibitions lowered by the alcohol – shares the tragic story of her sister’s loneliness and pain.  Because of her pale blue eyes, everyone in Japan considers her creepy and scary – a jab by the author at the cultural xenophobia that persists in Japan even today.  But Yune considers her sister’s eyes beautiful, and in an innocent act casts a “spell” on Shione that says she’ll only be able to look at Yune.  When Shione really does go blind and her health starts to decline as Yune grows stronger, Yune carries the guilt with her – silently and alone, until this day in the park.  As with so much in this series we don’t know all the details.  Is there Western blood in Yune’s family, perhaps related to the Bohemian singer Anne in the special DVD episode whose Grandmother taught Shione the song her European husband had written her, “Tooku Kimi He”?  What really caused her blindness?

The point of all this is that in her moment of weakness, Yune revealed a secret she thought to keep to herself – and in doing so, breached the wall that Claude had set up to avoid becoming too emotionally attached to her.  Oscar reveals himself once again as the marvelous character he is, so much the quiet unsung hero of the cast.  It’s he who comforts Yune, telling her that he knew all of this from Shione already, and weaving a spell of his own to make Yune feel better.  Later, he confronts Claude about his desire not to learn too much about Yune for fear of the moment when he might lose her.  As Oscar says, it’s easy to have faith in someone right next to you – but Shione had faith in Yune that she could go to Paris and thrive, and be happy (and faith in Oscar too, if you ask me).  Faith is not something that comes naturally to Claude, but if he’s to grown beyond the cage he’s built around himself he’ll have to learn some of Oscar’s wisdom.

I strongly encourage everyone to watch the newest subbed version of episode 4.5, if you haven’t already. “Tooku Kimi He” is heartbreakingly beautiful musically, but knowing the lyrics adds another layer of meaning to it – both in the context of the story of the special episode and that of Yune and Claude’s current situation.  I’ve been listening to the OST and this might be the most beautiful anime song I’ve heard in years – I just can’t decide which I love more, the version sung by Toyama Nao or Megumi Nakajima (Anne).

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7 comments

  1. A

    Beautiful episode, as usual. Alice and Claude keep growing on me to the point where I don't even remember why I ever disliked them to begin with. Claude showed some strong compassion this episode (much like when Yune had fallen ill) but at this point I've reached an understanding of his character and what sort of burden he's carrying that made my heart bleed for him when he had that lost, anguished look on his face.

    Alice on the other hand … I remember when you compared her to Koki as something of an annoying brat, but as the show went on … I think I really started to like her after the tea ceremony (Yuuki Aoi's bizarre noises certainly had me in stitches lol) but with the previous episode where she moved for the older women and then this episode … I think I actually might like her moreso than any other female in this show … lol?

    Out of the summer crop, I think the one show that is on both my favorite and best list has to be Croisée. It's certainly going the one I want the most out of all shows I'm watching right now to get a second season (only above Kamisama Dolls) since everything I've seen from it makes me just want more. (Luckily, I'm well behind Aria, meaning I wont go into withdrawal once it ends next week)

    Best list:

    1.Penguindrum
    2.Natsume
    3.Croisée
    4.Kamisama Dolls
    5.The Idolm@ster

    Favorites List:

    1.Croisée
    2.Kamisama Dolls
    3.Idolm@ster
    4.R-15
    5.Penguindrum

    There are the other stuff I'm watching (No.6, BLOOD-C, Mayo Chiki!) and that I'm waiting to end so I can marathon them (Nekogami, Dantalian) that I'm still undecided on (No.6 is good, though I don't know how I should rank it; I've reached the point where I'm disillusioned with CLAMP-B, your post on the latest episode sums up everything I have to say about the show … only with more disappointment since I had so much hope for the show)

    And yes, I did just say that I liked R-15 and Idolm@ster personally more than Penguindrum.

    ''Baelor!!!''

  2. A

    So the Japaness people see Shione's blue eye color and think she's ceepy because its not a normal eye color for the Japaness race? They are the creepy ones IMO. I cant wait to finally hear the story of why Claude truley hates the Grand Magasin. Ikoku Meiro no Croisée really is a gem of the season.

  3. Arabesque, I certainly agree that I like R-15 better than MPD. Objectively it's not a "better" series, but it has more heart and wit, for me. A travesty for most, I'm sure.

    That "10 best" list will probably wait till year-end, for me. Ikoku Meiro will certainly be on it.

  4. K

    Best of course is subjective but this is also my favorite of the season. I certainly didn't expect to love this show as much as I do now when the season first started.

    I really hope we will get a 2nd season. For now it will be sad leaving all these characters next week. It's almost like saying goodbye to your good friends.

  5. I have some hopes, but it all really depends on what the presales look like, and I haven't heard anything. This is clearly a labor of love for Satelight, though, so if it makes financial sense I really think they'd like to make this a flagship series for them.

  6. G

    During my short 2 – 3 years as an anime fan, I have seen many animes – from giants like Naruto, Bleach and Fairy Tale, to short-lived 12-episode shows – most of which I have marathoned.
    In all of that time, never have I once seen such an incredible work of art – Ikoku Meiro no croisée is a true masterpice!
    I am deeply hurt that this work of genius ("series" is too small of a word to describe this anime) has no future, for what i blame the infinite garbage being fed to us animanity (anime + humanity) filled with nudity, harems, "oppai", and other anime clichés and stereotypes that make you sick after 3 series. An animes longevity is decided by money, and money comes from none other than us. How can you bring such an amazing anime to the people if the gaze of our eyes is constantly being drawn by the hypnotic juggling of oversized breast which make me feel seasick…or should I say "boobsick"? Hopefully, my eyes were diverted for long enough for me to gaze upon true beauty.

    Congratulations to Hinata Takeda and the Sentai team who brought this great manga to life on the screen! I loved this anime and I hope that one day we will see a second season announcement, which I unfortunately doubt will ever happen, considering the fact that it hass been three years since the 12th episode.
    On the other hand, the manga is still ongoing…who knows…

    …we might be in for a nice surprise.

  7. Thanks for the comment. Second season isn't going to happen, but that doesn't diminish the greatness of this series in any way.

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