At times a show will just grab you at the hip, pull you close for one hell of a tango, and let you go only when you begin clamoring for more. These are the shows that make the most impact on you, the likes of Serial Experiments Lain, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and for me, Aria the Animation/Natural/Origination. So after reading the first two chapters of the manga and watching the entirety of this, I can comfortably say that Ikoku Meiro no Croisee does not belong in this category at all. Rather than giving the tango of a lifetime, it lethargically has the audience lead, dragging its feet while begging for a brief reprieve so it can look at itself in the mirror.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee is the newest slice of life series to grace the fruitful realm of manga-to-anime adaptations, centering on a young Japanese girl and her move to Paris to experience the culture. She moves in with Oscar and Claude, a lecherous old man and a blacksmith respectively, who help carry the struggling shopping district that they inhabit through means of sign making and drinking copious amounts of wine.
Yune laughs, she cries, she acts cute, and she takes up half of the show’s length with each and every one of these antics. So if you were expecting the culture shock to set in and bring to light several of the historical differences that make up the divide between French and Japanese cultures (So steep a divide that many Japanese visiting Paris suffer from adverse effects for a time), you will leave slightly disappointed. If you just want to see a 19th Century Japanese girl barely into the double digits age-wise frolic about Paris, this is your kind of show, and I doubt any of the criticism I can levy against it will change that for you.
Many issues stand in her way as she attempts to settle into the Parisian lifestyle, including one of a bratty, blonde nature who seems just a little too enamored with her to have her fascination be called platonic. Early on, Claude sells a prized belonging of Yune’s without knowing how important it was, and vows to get it back. While this is occasionally touched on in later episodes, it’s hastily resolved in time for, you guessed it, more of Yune’s faffing about. And thus the collective IQ of the anime watching public goes down another 30 points.
If my slightly repetitious dance metaphor didn’t clue you in, IkoMeiro drags its feet quite a bit. It isn’t a story intensive show by any means, but there is still no discernable progress in the show’s run beyond the occasional nod toward a prior event. It isn’t a deal breaker, but at times getting through the series can be quite the slog. Many times, it seems more interested in primping itself than it does in putting on a good show.
Despite being occasionally touted as the next Aria, the similarities are very few, beyond taking place in a European-esque (Actually European in this) city. The characters are different, the “conflicts” are different, the tone and atmosphere are way different… suffice it to say, I just don’t see what the point of IkoMeiro is. Aria was an overly-sugary, optimistic love letter to everyday life that just happened to take place on a terraformed Mars. It had one of the most uplifting, soothing soundtracks I’ve ever heard, a deep appreciation for Venice, and very charming characters that get more than their fair share of screen time.
Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, on the other hand, doesn’t so much revel in its setting as it does loosely acknowledge it through half baked “Look how different Japan and France are!” montages that end up more groan-inducing than funny. I get that the audience is supposed to laugh at characters not using utensils correctly or misinterpreting various myths from the other side of the cultural fissure, but it’s all for naught, swiftly neglected to watch Yune prance around for half the episode or have Alice molest her at every given opportunity.
It may sound like I found these scenes to be absolutely abhorrent, but I just ended up not caring more times than outright thinking that the show could be better. It’s nothing terribly objectionable, but I wouldn’t laud IkoMeiro for it either. The episodes that center on Yune’s culture shock fall flat as a result, especially the one where she’s told not to talk to strangers. She runs in a panicked fury in an attempt to find her way back to Claude’s shop, ignoring the people who have been nothing but friendly to her in the past.
However, one thing I will praise it for is the occasional, subtle nod toward class differences at the time. The fashions, the meals, the more insular nature of the top crust of the Parisian citizenry, all of these are touched on at some point, proving that the wealthy of the time had their own urgent sort of problems to deal with. While it isn’t dwelled on, it’s made well known that money hasn’t bought the children of the rich happiness in any way. Yet, rather than cast pity on them, the series opts to show them in their daily life to be normal people, not so different from the common folk.
The characters are nothing special, Claude being your standard jerk with a heart of gold and Yune assuming the role of poster child of both the smithy and the show. Alice and Oscar are given their fair share of screen time, but all of them pale in comparison to Yune. None of them are particularly interesting, but the relationship between Alice and Yune is quite the treat at times.
Ugh… what else… The city is well animated, I suppose, but it comes across as more of a lifeless prop than a living, breathing city. The music is alright, the character designs are certainly distinctive and almost storybook-like… I think that’s all I can say.
When taking into consideration whether you’ll enjoy this, ask yourself what drew you in: The vague plot synopsis, peer recommendations, or that cute girl in the kimono that everyone keeps raving about. The people in the third camp are much more likely to sit through it than those in the first two. With that said, despite my criticism, I had no problem watching Ikoku Meiro no Croisee. It’s somewhat entertaining, relaxing fluff I likely won’t remember much a year from now, but sometimes that’s all a show needs to do in order to be enjoyed.