Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – The Cat on the Roof (Final)I

(Note to self: okay, okay, you can do this, stop crying for five minutes and write the review…)

Hey minna *sniff*,
back for a review of the last episode of the Summer 2011 series, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee.   A final episode that doesn’t disappoint this teary-eyed otaku, plenty of metaphor, plot development, and good story telling to satisfy anyone.  I’m almost too emotionally wracked up to properly do this, but, let’s go…*sniff*…for Yune!

The finale to this great series begins unusually, as it doesn’t open with a small segment of the story then proceed into the opening theme.  It opens up on Yune and Claude going out for groceries, when they pass a shop with a metal sign made by Claude’s father, featuring a cat with a bell on it.  Yune, as we already should know, is quite fond of cats, so this sign and its accompanying story of a real cat with a bell on it that disappeared sticks with her throughout the episode.

[Spoiler, stop reading now if you haven't seen the final episode yet]

After returning to the shop with groceries, Claude proceeds to go to work in the forge.  Ever sweet Yune offers to help Claude in his work, claiming that she is strong enough to carry tools (in it’s last episode, the comedy stays good).  When this is shown to not be 100% true, Yune sees some rather small gloves hanging on the glove rack, and moves to put them on to help Claude with the forge.  This sets Claude off, who snatches the gloves away from Yune and tells her leave, in not so polite language (How dare he!).

Yune feels a little jilted, but doesn’t take it too hard once Oscar explains that those were Claude’s father’s gloves, and that he never takes them off the rack.  Yune understands what these must mean to Claude, so she quietly forgives him, and proceeds to watch over the shop.  Until she hears the phantom chingling of the bell from the story of the cat she heard earlier.  She ventures outside of the store to investigate….

A short while later, Claude can’t find Yune in the store, so he frantically runs around the gallery, searching for her.  He eventually has Alice and the other shop owners turning the gallery upside down in pursuit of her, until Claude remembers Yune’s fascination with the belled cat from earlier, and asks the shop owner if he’d seen her. He traces her back to the sign and also follows the phantom chingling until he spots Yune on the roof of the gallery through the windows of the atrium.

[Extreme Spoiler, if you haven't seen the final episode yet, it is highly, highly, almost demandingly recommended that you stop reading now, and finish the episode before continuing]

Claude rushes to the roof to save Yune from the same fate that befell his father.  The final piece of the puzzle that is “Claude Claudel” finally falls into place. His father, while working on the roof of the Grand Magisin, fell to his death, while young Claude could sit helplessly as his father perished.  This is the reason he seems to have been overly-protective of Yune and very closed off when it came to his true feelings.  The metaphor of the cat with a bell was very strong here, as it turns out, the cat left because it hated wearing the bell. While those who liked seeing the cat could now easily find it, this meant the cat couldn’t catch mice, therefore survive. This is symbolic of Claude and Yune, Yune felt she couldn’t do anything for anyone while being so protected by Claude. And, while it was good intentions of keeping Yune safe, Claude realizes how much his own selfishness has affected those around him.  This is when the two make a new start, so to speak, as they look over the gallery from the rooftop, Claude and Yune reach a new understanding of one another.

Because Yune lost her shoes on the rooftop of the gallery, Claude had to carry her back in his arms (I thought it looked a lot like a big brother-little sister moment, very sweet).  Then, a great pose-off started as everyone in the gallery looked, with smiles on their faces, as Yune returned unharmed.  This is when Yune finally comes to understand that she too is a part of this family in the gallery, even Alice seems moved by this touching moment.

By far, my favorite episode, though very bittersweet to admit that this ending doesn’t leave the series very open for a second season, as everything seems to be generally wrapped up with no concrete inkling to a continuation of the story.  It’s sad to see Yune go (but she’ll always be in my heart!).  The animations, backgrounds, and characters stayed beautiful throughout the entire series. The music (sampled here) is very soothing and I enjoyed it very much, not your typically J-pop or rock themed music.

This series was very well done, one of my favorites of all time.  I recommend to anyone who likes more slow-paced, character-driven stories or to someone who enjoys beautifully created artwork as this is a masterpiece if only in visuals.

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Ikoku Meiro no Croisee….Yune….

Until next time,
- BeldenOtaku

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – Prayer

Hey minna,
sad to say this is the third to last review of Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, and our precious Yune, that meaning one more episode review, and then a series review.  This one was a tear-jerker to say the least, chock full of plot and backstory.  A lot is starting to wrap up, including Claude’s distancing himself from other people.

Episode 11 opens up with Alice inviting Yune to the Grand Magisin, but Yune refuses to go until she has received Claude’s permission. Being that the Grand Magisin is the rival of the Gallery, Claude flatly refuses. But this isn’t a big part of the episode, as it opens up the opportunity for the trio of Yune, Claude, and Oscar (the Magician!) to go on a tour of Paris and a picnic in the park. Yune tries to convince Claude that she no longer wishes to go to the Grand Magisin, though she’s easy to read when you know she’s trying to appease someone else. Being as sharp as she is, Yune picks up that Claude’s aversion has something to do with his father, this will probably be picked up and developed in the final episode.

Yune enjoys a picturesque trip around town and a picnic in the park, until she gets drunk thanks to Oscar (the magician…).  In her haze, Yune begins to reminisce about her sister in Japan, this is when Oscar goes to get some water to sober her up.  Yune later wakes up out of her daze to the sound of church bells, and begins to pray. This confounds Claude, who’s never seen the Japanese traditional prayer, then asks Yune what she prayed for…

Yune prayed for her sister in Japan, and for her health.  This brings up difficult feelings for poor Yune, who believes she wished for her sister’s illness.  Yune’s sister, Shione, spent the early years of Yune’s life caring for her in her sickness, but, as Yune grew stronger, Shione confided in Yune that she no longer wanted to see people, because her eye color scared others, and made their smiles disappear. Yune was the only one Shione saw smile.  Yune proposed that this come true, and said that she should only look at Yune, then she could see her smile and not be sad. This began a funny charade of Shioine pretending to be blind in public, and only seeing Yune smile. Unfortunately, as Yune grew healthier, Shione progressed into true blindness. Yune blames herself and begins to break down in tears at the thought of doing such a thing to her sister.

Oscar (the magician) reappears to find Yune in tears, and tells her what Shione said to him in Japan, that Yune’s wish was the everlasting light in her life, and that she shouldn’t cry because Yune has actually made her sister quite happy. Oscar (the Magician!), what a big softy.

More than just backstory, Oscar also delves into Claude’s problems, defining his fear of getting close to Yune, because Claude is scared of what would happen when the time came for her to leave…

The preview for the final episode is actually taken from a earlier chapter in the manga, but I suspect there’ll be more to see. It’s bittersweet to see a series like this end, but I need to know what happens, and, more importantly, how cute is Yune going to be in the final episode? She was adorable as she ventured the park in this episode, more than one tear will be shed when it ends.

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(A lot of pics this time, my desktop was a mess after I finished watching and taking screenshots, this is actually about half the total amount I took, Yune is just too adorable!)

Until next time,
- BeldenOtaku

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – Phantasmagoria

Hey minna,
back to relish what little time we have left with sweet Yune. If you’re like me, you had to look up what “Phantasmagoria” meant, it’s quite fitting: “a series of real or imaginary images like that seen in a dream”.  This episode, on the surface, may not seem to have much in the way of plot development, but I see some beneath the surface. We get a deeper look into Claude’s past, specifically, his father.

The episode begins casually, with Claude at work designing new signs, as Yune stumbles upon him looking through some of his father’s work from his portfolio.  This begins a series of flashbacks centered around Claude and his father, who, while a diligent worker, didn’t seem to be a kind teacher to Claude, at one point even brushing Claude aside from his own work and doing it himself.  Claude spends much of the episode internally contesting with his father in a way.

Claude needs to leave for the day to meet with a client for a new sign (this client wanted Claude to do it because of his father’s work on his previous sign), and tells the client, if he wants one of his father’s signs, he’s out of luck.  A kind of “I’m not my father, I’m my own person” attitude hangs over him for most of the episode.  He even gets temporarily upset at Yune for suggesting that if his father were still alive, they could see who was better.

Meanwhile, Oscar keeps  Yune and Alice entertained with a slide projector found in the storage room.  They even invite the entire gallery at one point to enjoy a show, complete with drum roll.  These shows remind Yune (who was an adorable kid, if I may add) of playing shadow puppets with her sister in Japan. So it was a past-tense episode for more than just Claude. But the slide show also shows that Alice, who was once thought to be an enemy of the gallery (even I didn’t care for her much, and didn’t trust her until recently), was really becoming one of the family. This begins to tie into what I theorize will be the ultimate ending of the series, that a general “coming together thanks to a new friend” story is taking place.

I still can’t get enough of Yune. She’s too cute, if nothing else, if you’re not into plots or the warm and fuzzy storylines, the characters should at least keep anyone happy.  Yes, Ikoku Meiro no Croisee can be defined as a “cute” series, but it’s cute in its own way.  Yune will definitely be a moe-figure that’ll be hard to beat.

Episode 10 ends with Yune seeing a kind of ghost of Claude’s father, watching over him as he works on new signs.  Even though Claude may despise him a bit, he still wishes he were there, working alongside him, after all, every son just wants the approval and praise from his parents.

The next episode, “Prayer”, seems to follow a part from the manga where Claude, Yune, and Oscar tour Paris.  Definitely some comedy to found, trust me. But some character development also takes place. But unless something else gets added to the episode, I’m worried the ending will be crammed into the final episode…I hope not.

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Until next time,
- BeldenOtaku

Ikoku Meiro no Croisee – Secrets

Hey minna,
back to gush over Yune some more. Though, this episode seems to make another step away from the east-meets-west theme, using it only to provide some comedic relief and interesting in-betweeners.  The main focus shifts to the relationship of Claude and Camille, two childhood more-than-friends, who seem to be brought back together thanks to Yune. It seems that Camille carries a heavier burden than once thought, a burden that now is brought to light, thanks to our deeper-than-she-appears Japanese sweetheart.

Episode begins, once again, with an invitation to the Blanche house.  The cuteness begins and ends rather quickly with a tea ceremony between Yune and Alice, which ended after Alice got cramped from sitting in traditional Japanese position.  The comedy was very appealing, but the seriousness began with a flashback series of Claude and Camille in their early years. Camille, while she seems to hold a real sense of affection and love toward Claude, knows that the social class system in Paris prevented them from truly being together.  This puts an indelible sense of distance between the two, but Claude lives oblivious to this until he is continually turned down for a venture outside of Camille’s house. He then begins to see that something isn’t quite right.

The truth was that Camille was keeping the burden of a forbidden love (quite profound for her age) a secret; in an agreement with her nannies, Claude could visit, but she herself was not allowed to leave the house, and they wouldn’t reveal this to Camille’s mother.  In effect, Camille decides to shoulder the responsibility and punishment of the whole relationship, then feels jilted when Claude (who didn’t know this) keeps tempting Camille to leave the house with him and do various things (puppet show, see the Gallery, etc.).

At this point, it’s becoming clear how Yune plays into this relationship; Camille sees much of herself in Yune, they both admire Claude and have similar views of societal rules and standards, like corsets and crinolines being like a birdcage to those who wear them. So Camille is able to confide stories of her past to Yune, who is able to reach Claude and explain some of Camille’s inner feelings to him.   This is all very integral if the series is moving towards a general ending where everyone is brought to a mutual understanding thanks to a new character introduced into their lives.

It’s getting down to the wire with Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, the series has been going incredibly strong so far; great animation, beautiful designs, a plot with exceptional depth, and an adorable lead character.  I’m extremely hopeful and confident that this series has everything it needs to end strong, leave viewers warm in their hearts, and it’s all thanks to Yune.

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Until next time,
- BeldenOtaku