My first peek at the new season: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée and Kami-sama no Memo-chou

I have decided to break my silence and look at the new season, but this time I won’t stick them all in a single post. And I don’t plan to keep up with every episode of what I watched like I did last year, but maybe you’ll see more of me from now on. So let’s get started with the first two.

Awww ... look at the cute little exotic foreigner ...

I suspect that the rest of the new season won’t be as peaceful as Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, a show where bustling 19th-century Paris seems more like a quiet village except with larger buildings. We meet Claude, a metal sign builder who’s grandfather, Oscar, returns from a buying trip in Japan with a number of exotic oddities, including a little servant, Yune, an adorable little thing wrapped in a kimono. She’s so cute and subservient that Claude at first suspects that his grandfather has a hitherto undisclosed fetish.

The descriptions I read beforehand suggested a lot of culture shock, and we do get some of that, but we realize quickly on that they will be small. Yune is too passive to cause much trouble, and the one bit of trouble she does cause is an accident she quickly tries to amend. Plus, she’s young and able to absorb new things quickly. It’s Claude who has the adjusting to do. Oscar may have some adjustments to make, because though he dotes on Yune, he has, a bit cynically, brought her there to draw customers into the shop.

But it’s Claude who has the most work to do. You can see his side of it. All of a sudden he has an unwanted servant from a strange, exotic country, who can’t speak the language (well … watch the episode), and he’s expected to take care of her. You know how some of it will pan out, in fact, Yune’s diligence and sense of honor have already softened him. But there’s a whole city, quiet as it is, for Yune to explore, and plenty of opportunities for East meets West stories.

The episode flows placidly along. The art is lovely and sets the mood of a romanticized Paris well, all the better to contrast with Yune’s kimonos and clopping shoes. The music is gentle and serene. It’s no surprise to learn that some of the Aria talent is working on this. It’s always good to have a show like this in an anime season. I’m looking forward to more.

I turn to Kamisama no Memo-Chou, about as different as Ikoku as you can get, well, apart from having a diminutive central character. We meet our hero, Narumi, who is not diminutive in size but feels that he is, being, as he says, a single pixel. He’s gnawing at this metaphor when a half-dressed girl jumps out of a window and crashes at his feet. Then some weirdos show up, as they do in shows like this, and reinforce Narumi’s self-image.

Narumi then meets lots of people, all of them, apart from Miku, weird. There’s the three he meets early on, then Ayako, a weird girl who gives off a Ryuuko vibe (in fact, her conversations with Narumi remind me of those between Ryuuko and Makoto), who just happens to know the original three weirdos. Then it’s time to meet their boss, Alice, an adorable little loli NEET detective (who drinks something like Dr. Pepper, making TWO weirdos in currently-running anime who enjoy it as much as I do. I’m proud). Later, Narumi is sent off to get her stuffed bear repaired, and he encounters MORE weirdos, all of whom do Alice’s bidding without complaint. Also, they all know who he is. Narumi gives up even asking about this.

The stuffed animal repair guy.

There’s a case to be solved, something about a girl who is looking for another girl, along with the other girl’s boyfriend, complicated by both girls indulging in “compensated dating” for different reasons, and it all comes to a satisfactory conclusion. But it’s not really what episode 1 is all about. It’s about Narumi getting sucked into this world of oddballs. He’s against it at every step but does nothing to stop it. For the first time in his life he’s become involved in something, picking up more pixels for his worldview metaphor (while someone else talks about pieces of a puzzle). It’s also about the mystery of Alice. Why doesn’t she leave her room? Why do so many people blindly follow her? Where does that touch of melancholy come from? Since the episode ends with Narumi an official member of the team, his story is more or less over, and I suspect he’ll stick with narrator/outsider duties for the time being. Future episodes will probably present little mysteries and dig deeper into Alice’s larger one. As for whether it’ll be worth watching, we’ll just have to wait.

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