Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, otherwise known as La Croisée dans un Labyrinthe Étranger, Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth, or The Crossroads of a Foreign Maze, is a 12 episode (+1 OVA) anime that aired in Summer of 2011. it follows a young girl named Yune, as she starts a new life in Paris around the turn of the 20th century. bringing her to the new country is Japan-lover Oscar, who brought her there to work as a housekeeper for he and his grandson Claude in their sign shop. though at first Claude is annoyed with this short, black-haired intruder, he eventually grows to accept her as one of the family, as does the entire shopping district where their store is located. through culture clashes, hurt feelings, and the occasional accident, even people regarded as enemies become close friends.
|It takes some getting used to on all sides.|
following mostly the day-to-day life of the characters without much overarching plot, the story obviously moves slow. those looking for action need not apply, but for those who enjoy stopping to smell the animated roses, this series is akin to a cinnamony-sweet french pastry. the visuals seem to be tinted with just the slighest hint of sepia at times, giving it a warm, cozy, nostalgic feel. the visuals are breathtaking, as Paris is brought to life though the most grandoise of archetecture and the most humble of cobblestones. the characters all fit the bill spectacularly as well, with the only thing hinting that this ISN'T late-1800's Paris is that no one is speaking French!
|I wonder if sunsets in Paris still look like this...|
as mentioned, the characters fit this series like a fashionable glove. it is easy to tell what one's station is in life, and telling one character from another is for the most part easy, though the secondary characters occasionally run the risk of blending together. the main ones, though, are all fleshed out, with their own goals, motivations, and painful pasts. this is truly a shojo or josei series, and as such a great emphasis is put on the complex relationships between characters, particularly towards the middle parts involving Claude and a certain rich girl. Yune is exactly what you'd expect her to be: innocent, earnest, and sweet as pie.
|Mahou Shojo Yune-Chan!|
surely one of the most memorable things about this series is its music. composed by ko-ko-ya, every second is an earful of delight, from the sad scenes to the joyful ones. the accordion songs in particular really evoke the feeling of being in classic France, sweeping you up in a flurry of romantic notions without even having to show you anything. this might be the first series i've seen where the background music outshines the OP/ED, which is quite a feat given how seldom that happens. that's not to say, however, that the OP/ED are lacking, both describing the mood of the series quite nicely.
|There are so many cats in this series that they're almost part of the music, too.|
Croisee was more than an enjoyable watch. i was actually sad to see it end, and when you can say that honestly about a series, it shows how much you liked it. while this show will definitely NOT appeal to everyone (i'm looking at you, giant robot fans), those looking for an anime that doesn't fall into stereotypes will love this one. try showing this to your mom or grandma; i'm sure they'll like it.
|With any luck, you'll learn a few things about Japanese and French Culture along the way, too.|
Croisee is available from Ayako Subs, IB Subs, DmonHiro, Nemui Subs, Anacronico Fansubs (Spanish), and Seinagi Subs (Spanish). it is also licensed for distrobution in North America by Sentai Filmworks.