With the days counting down for the Summer Season 2011 anime series, there are naturally several ending shows that will surely be missed. One of these anime series which I will miss is Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, where, amidst the iron and glass garden that is the Galerie du Roy, there is a fragrant flower that can be found there, and it is a young Japanese girl, Yune.
The story takes place in the second half of the 19th century, as Japanese culture gains popularity in the West. A young Japanese girl, Yune, accompanies a French traveller, Oscar, on his journey back to France, and offers to help at the family’s ironwork shop in Paris. Oscar’s nephew and shop-owner Claude reluctantly accepts to take care of Yune, and we learn how those two, who have so little in common, get to understand each other and live together in the Paris of the 1800s.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is a charming series that shows the vast cultural differences in the 1800s between France and Japan. Now, remember that this was also the time of Industrial Revolution as well, so this was a great time of change for Europe and North America. In the midst of all these great changes, Yune-chan arrives from Japan with Oscar Claudel to be a live-in maid. Claude, is understandably quite surprised and unnerved about a foreigner of whom he does not know anything about herself, but nevertheless takes her in.
Oscar’s nephew, Claude, displeased, voices out his concerns and displeasure about Yune-chan staying at Enseignes du Roy, Claude’s ironwork shop. Yune-chan, after an accident that broke a commissioned sign, offers up her beloved kimono to Claude for him to sell for compensation. Claude, not knowing the kimono’s significance, sells it, but upon Oscar’s explanation on the kimono’s significance of being Yune-chan’s memento of her mother, he realizes his mistake. He asks Yune-chan then to trust him as he will someday buy back the kimono, to which Yune-chan agrees with a promise to never give up anything precious to her again. The series then begins to fold out like a fragrant flower in the midst of an iron and glass garden of Galerie du Roy, as we follow Yune-chan’s adorable antics and Claude’s rough, but kind actions together.
In the midst of the series, we are also introduced to a noble family, that of the Blanche family, the owners of the Galerie du Roy. The energetic, adorable Alice is endeared with everything associated with Japan and is naturally drawn toward to Yune-chan, making for some small fun adventures together. Meanwhile, the elegant, noble Camille has some inner conflicts, owing to her relationship with and love interest, Claude, but doomed to be separated by class differences. The Blanche sisters are some of my top favorite characters in this series, and I absolutely adore their interactions.
All these characters have their own endearment, and the interaction between Yune-chan, the Blanche sisters, the Claudels, and the shop owners from Galerie du Roy. A subtle theme here is that of family, as Yune-chan is gradually accepted and recognized as part of the Galerie family, and on the issue of Camille being fond of Alice, who always cheer up Camille as she prepares to make her debut in the noble society. There is also Yune-chan’s sister, Shione, with whom she has a very close relationship with (which I shall not spoil for those of you who have yet to watch up to this point).
Another family relationship here is that of Claude’s relationship with his father, the deceased previous owner of Enseignes du Roy. His father was particularly well-known and had produced nearly all the signs now used by the shops in Galerie du Roy. I found this to be a really nice, but sad relationship as Claude has always been looking up to his father, who seemingly scoffs at him. Despite their sour relationship, Claude continues to look after the shop and he still can’t just get away from his past, even going so far as to forcefully telling Yune-chan what she can do and what she can’t do, for fear of losing her. Though it be a subtle issue in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, it is a strong paternal relationship that determines Claude’s actions, and thus also his relationship with Yune-chan throughout the series.
The series has been so charming and adorable, and the animation quality has been great and not suffered much as far as I can tell. The character designs are very nice and colorful, particularly those of Yune-chan, Alice, and Camille with their cute kimonos and dresses (By the way, do check out Snippitt’s post on the concept of Beauty in this series). The characters are also very much likeable, and you really just can’t help being charmed by the sheer cuteness of Yune-chan and Alice! Now, the story does progress in a slow fashion, but it is a slice-of-life series, where the main purpose is to show the everyday experience. But in this series, the twist is that Yune-chan is a foreigner in Paris, France, and this shows a great unique perspective of multicultural differences back at the era of the Industrial Revolution.
I do recommend watching this series if you’re in the mood for some cute, moderately slow series with plenty of adorable adventures and antics by Yune-chan and Alice. There’s also a piece of drama here as well, though it is done ever so subtly yet clearly shown in the relationship between Claude and his father, and also with Camille as well. And it’s always very interesting to see how two cultures clashes, in this case Japanese and French, especially at the time of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution also happens to be one of my favorite time periods, so I suppose you can’t really fault me for liking this series much for its decor and historical feel as well. Do give this charming tale of a flower in an iron and glass garden a watch, won’t you?