Ikoku Meiro no Croisee 5-7

Itoku Meiro no Croisée 5 has the closest thing to a crisis we’ve had yet. Yune runs off from the store and gets lost. And this is after Claude has given her a lecture on how not to trust Parisians, especially if they smile at you. She didn’t listen and a little thief stole a candlestick. Then when she’s lost, she remembers the advice and so can’t ask anybody where she is, even when they offer to help. Add to this her mangled concept of freedom (she came to think all Parisians are untrustworthy, so she was not free, or something like that), and the idea that in Claude’s shop she is more important than the customers (says Claude). All of this messes with her little foreign mind to say the least. Part of it is unsolvable; who DO you trust? Adults struggle with that, never mind a little Japanese girl in Paris. But it is also the first time Yune’s culture shock is negative, rather than simply strange or interesting.

Alice attack.

Episode 6 brings Alice back into the picture (is Alice a name used in France?). I suppose we’re supposed to dislike her, but I find that hard. While she’s spoiled and willful, she takes such delight in Yune’s presence that you can’t help but enjoy it. It certainly helps that she’s voiced by Aoi Yuki, playing a role closer to Miya than Ichigo this time–all that’s missing is the laugh, who accents her squeals of delight with gasps and grunts depending on what she’s reacting to. And here’s it’s mostly Yune, possibly the only young girl around she’s allowed to play with. To further stress Alice’s position the show takes great pains to demonstrate that Alice is trapped in a cage of affluence, rather too many pains, as you couldn’t get five minutes without a reference to birdcages, either about her crinoline, or from older sister Camille, who makes wistful comments from time to time. Alice is too young to realize she’s trapped, but Camille isn’t, and to prove it we get glimpses of her and Claude noticing each other. Judging from the ep8 preview we might soon learn more about that. But is the comparison fair? Yune works diligently at Claude’s shop, and while you could make the point that she is free to, is she? She’s bound by her conceptions of honor and duty as much as Alice and Camille are by their wealth and status. Again, we’ll see if the show comes back to that.

Episode 7’s story goes along a predictable line. Yune and Claude have a little fight, Yune gets sick, Claude feels remorse, all is forgiven. Along the way the show again highlights differences between East and West, and again I wonder if the comparisons are fair.

No, scratch that. While the episode makes a lot of comparisons, most notably with two Alice visits (she’s used for comic relief this episode, and used well), the main “difference” it explores, the opinions Claude and Yune have about the little boy, begins as a culture clash but rises above it. It’s not really fair to even call it a culture clash. Claude (rightfully) mistrusts this one particular boy but in his anger winds up condemning all young French males. Yune cannot do this and continues to be kind to the kid. We’re led to believe that it’s a Japanese thing. Maybe it is. But after Yune falls ill all talk of culture vanishes. Claude desperately tries to find ways to cure her and reassure her that she’s not only welcome, she’s family. Meanwhile, the boy brings her a flower he pointedly did not steal. The point is made that Yune’s kindness was empathy for a person who also lives outside of society who needed help. Also, kindness is often reciprocated. This is not East or West, it is universal.

Frankly, the most interesting this episode is the idea that Yune might be hiding her true feelings behind her quiet facade. Maybe she WANTS to go home. After Claude mentions this I can’t look at her the same way. What IS she thinking?

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