Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth: The Animation
Yune is a small Japanese girl in 19th century France apprenticing under a blacksmith named Claude Claudel in the shop Enseignes du Roy. The cultural barrier at first is large between Yune and Claude, and the two will have to put aside their different customs/ideals if they want to attract customers in the declining Galerie.
Welcome to Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth's version of 19th century France, where all the French people are blonde and the Japanese girls are petite and have purple hair.
Joking aside, Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is a cute little fish-out-of-water story seen through the big eyes of its female lead, the petite, Japanese Yune. Not only is she in a country where at first she can barely understand what people are saying, but her Japanese customs clash greatly with the French civilians as well. In the first couple of episodes Claude and his grandfather Oscar can barely understand Yune at all, and Yune herself knows very little French. But this gap is quickly figured out, though since everyone speaks Japanese anyway it's a little hard to tell..
Soon enough, though, we're introduced to a young, pampered French girl named Alice. Unlike the quiet, mature, green-haired girl from Aria, this series' Alice is a loud, energetic blonde obsessed with anything Japanese, like a 19th century otaku. This does lead itself to a couple of funny jokes now and again (like thinking a Japanese paintbrush is used as a makeup brush), though she tends to be more clingy towards Yune than Lum was to Ataru in Urusei Yatsura. She also tends to be a bit pushy at times towards Claude, which is how nearly every scene of them together goes down. Her voice, provided by a squeaky Aoi Yuuki (Victorique, GOSICK), can get grating after a while, too.
Not that Claude is Mr. Happy himself, mind you. A good chunk of the drama in the series, both involving himself and with Yune, comes from his not-so-good relationship with his dead father. We also have the standard heart-of-gold moments with him and Yune after he yells at her for something, and he does eventually warm up to her antics somewhat (though not fully). Still, though, I can't say I liked him all that much, and the attempts at flashing back to his childhood to redeem his grouchy demeanor come off as really rushed character development. (Yune's past with her older sister is touched upon at roughly the same time, though it flows much better.)
Focusing back on Yune - her adventures in France aren't exactly mind-blowing. One of the biggest happenings early on is a young boy who steals from Claude's family's shop, and one episode is about Yune stomaching French cheese. But they probably aren't meant to be; the series' strength lies within its likable heroine and the world around her as she grows to learn the customs of French life. Even when she gets past the language barrier, Yune still has much to learn about French life - food, greetings, etc. Eventually her own Japanese customs/food rub off on the townsfolk..even Claude. It's rather unfortunate that Yune's adventures are very confined, seeing how France is a big country with lots of sights and sounds. On the plus side, the at least the time period is preserved very well, what with houses lit up with candles, puppet shows, animation wheels, and the townsfolk's wardrobe.
Visually, Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is quite a nice series. Satelight aren't exactly known for their high-caliber art, but here they pull off a very nice-looking series. The art is also always consistent, a tremendous feat considering that characters like Yune and Alice dress in outfits that lesser animation studios would screw up quite often on. The music by ko-ko-ya (Risorante Paradiso) is quite good, with appropriate mixtures of piano, violins, and accordions throughout that really give the series an European feeling to it.
So what's the verdict on Croisee in the Foregin Labyrinth? It's a good series, though its cute heroine and sweet slice-of-life moments (such as Yune mistaking the sound of a bell for a French god, having a picnic, and Yune and Alice making animation circles) are hampered by drama that seems overused more than it should. It's definitely not as good as Aria, that's for sure, even though quite a few people from that series (including series director Junichi Sato) worked on this. Regardless there's a lot to like about this series, and you can watch it for free on Anime Network, so you have nothing to lose except time.
A three star anime that tries to be Aria, but can't measure up. Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is mostly a pretty, fun series with an adorable female lead, but the jarring switch to drama at times hampers the series' typically lighthearted attitude. Those who don't mind drama as much as me can upgrade it to a strong four star. — Tim Jones
Recommended Audience: Fine for kids, for the most part. There are a few swears in the subtitles, but any kid who's watched PG movies from the 1980's have seen much, much worse.
Version(s) Viewed: Anime Network stream, Japanese with English subtitles
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth: The Animation © 2011 Hinata Takeda / Fujimishobo / Project Croisee
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