Title: Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth
Alternate Title: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée
Encompasses: Complete Series
Published by: Sentai Filmworks (North America)
Based on: Manga Series by Hinata Takeda
Genre: Historical, Slice of Life
Audio: Japanese Dub
Runtime: 325 Minutes
Classification: This series has been classified as TV PG
Cost: $49.98 on DVD
A copy of this title was purchased out of my own pocket
Revolutions always wreak mayhem and carnage, and the Industrial Revolution is no different as it engulfs Europe, leaving outmoded businesses and millions stripped of their traditional ways of life forever as its casualties. Cultural Revolutions are no less devastating, and as the 19th century comes to an end, young Yune has seen her native Japan shaken to its very core as the walls separating it from the western world have finally crumbled, sending an entire nation on a quest for a new identity.
Like the phoenix, the new is inevitably born from the ashes of the old. When Yune decides to accompany her new acquaintance, Oscar, to Paris, where his family’s metal declining shop is barely making ends meet in the face of its new competition, she may just be setting a new wave of changes into motion. Could Yune be the critical spark needed to rekindle the fires in both the hearts and minds of the Enseignes du Roy? As old worlds come to an end, new beginnings will be forged!
As their release of Kurenai was a couple of months back, Sentai Filmworks acquisition of Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth was a pleasant surprise. After having watched a couple of episodes last year the title walked away with third place in my selections for the AniBloggers Choice Anime Awards 2011 and “Most Underrated” overall (Where bloggers either loved or ignored the series). Of course, now that I have had the opportunity to watch the entire show you might be wondering if my choice was the right one? Read on to find out in my review of this hidden gem.
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth follows Yune, a young Japanese girl living in the late 19th Century who under the support of Oscar moved to France in order to learn a trade only to find herself in a world culturally different than her own. Oscar employs her to work at his metal crafts shop Enseignes du Roy under the care and guidance of his more serious grandson Claude. While initially hesitant about taking on Yume, as the episodes progress he begins to care for her and aid her integration into French society while learning about Japanese cultures himself. Or in other words, this is a storyline about a young Japanese girl and others helping her adapt to and learn about French culture.
The plot involves many references to the social and cultural differences between the Japanese and French, as well as some misconceptions the characters hold about each other. While there are many heart-warming and light-hearted moments to view from the characters reacting to different mannerisms to Yune and Claude reacting to each others preferred foods and often enjoyable… there are a number of plotlines which go down the more serious track. The series tackles perception towards certain persons, economic downturn / class division and children who are forced to steal to avoid starving to name a few. Given the length of the series only a few of these are actually fully focused upon, but instead have the opinions and perspectives of Yune and/or Claude voiced about them and add considerably to the world building.
The main characters are pretty interesting themselves, with Yune and Claude complementing each other quite well with their own backstories, mysteries and overall purpose in the plot. A few episodes in, we are introduced to Alice and Camille, sisters who belong to a rich family and generally serve to introduce a new perspective of French society while providing some childhood backstory for Claude through Camille. While Camille is more refined and leans towards the proper French culture for the time, Alice tests the boundaries while holding an obsession towards anything Japan including Yune. In several episodes she plots means of convincing Yune to live with them only to be knocked back by Claude while contributing some interesting storylines herself – especially in the middle of the series.
The one issue with Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is that the story remains mostly incomplete with no conclusion and many plots remaining open. This is not a major issue and was better than them adding some hastily written plotline to warrant ending a series like others have in the past. But in the end, I felt like they had much more to offer and felt they could have added much more either in the form of another season or extending the series a bit. In addition, the series may turn some off by not having much of an overall plot after the first couple of episodes, instead delving into different issues every episode or two. While not taking away from the experience in my opinion, it may differ in reception between viewers.
Where the team at Studio Satelight have excelled is in the design and animation department. While I am not all too familiar with 19th Century France, from what I would expect from the era and location they have managed to capture the time period well in their designs from the elaborate designs of the Galerie to the apparel and vehicles to even the intricate nicknacks of the Enseignes du Roy the quality is of a great standard and helps draw you into the world they are attempting to deliver.
Moving on from the design of Yune who obviously brings an endearingly cute factor to the series, the character designs are also of a high standard, pretty well detailed, offer more than a single clothing option per character (Even Claude changes his pants colour occasionally according to a video in the Extras menu) and well suited for the portrayed time-period. The quality does dip down occasionally, but other than that I found no noticeable issues whilst watching.
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth features a single primary opening and a single primary ending sequence/theme, although for both include different songs or versions for single episodes. The opening theme Sekai wa Odoru yo, Kimi to by Youmou to Ohana is an enjoyable song and featured simple animation involving a walk around France and some landmarks. The ending theme Koko Kara Hajimaru Monogatari by Nao Touyama was a much softer song coupled with solid animation and was overall very cute. The rest of the series had an effective musical score that worked well with the time period and coupled the series well.
To get the obvious stated, despite this series taking place in France and a particular scene where Claude questions if Yune can understand French – every character asides from the narrator (at the beginning of each episode) speaks in Japanese. Overall the Japanese dub was of a pretty good quality with Nao Touyama (Kanon Nakagawa – The World God Only Knows) and Takashi Kondo (Train Heartnet – Black Cat) providing great voices for Yune and Claude respectively.
In my personal experience when it comes to Sentai Filmworks releases (Especially with subtitled only releases), extra content on the disc is pretty hit or miss. I say this because the amount of content and evidently effort they have put into the extras included on-disc is easily an A-Standard and is what I would hope to see in future releases from the company. What is included in this release is as follows:
The Picture Dramas are six five-minute video clips focusing on a particular topic from a Croisee-themed Little Red Riding Hood to Yune teaching Alice and Camille how to cook Japanese dishes. As the title suggests these are simply animated clips but are more comical in nature – even delivering some enjoyable credits sequences.
SD Yune and Alice Special Movies
Similar in comical nature to the Picture Dramas, these focus on chibified Yune and Alice discussing different aspects of the show, locales and other bits and pieces. These also include clips from the show so I assume some of them were used in some promotional aspect.
While you occasionally see commentary included in English anime releases (A practice I would like to see more as they are usually quite interesting to listen to), as this is a Japanese subtitled release Sentai Filmworks chose to do the unusual and translate four radio dramas for the show – each of which come in at around 25-30 minutes in length.
Club AT-X Double R Video
A nine minute video featuring the series voice cast. Pretty interesting.
In addition, they have included translated promotional videos and trailers, clean opening and closing animations, a bonus OVA episode which they include in chronological order as well as trailers for a number of their other titles including Allison & Lillia, Psychic Squad, Cluster Edge, Heaven’s Memo Pad, This Boy Can Fight Aliens and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia (For readers in Australia – current number of these released in Australia as of this post… 0).
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth in the end is not a mainstream anime series and when coupled with a storyline without much of an overall plot and leaves many plots open may not be on everyone’s shopping list. But what this set does bring to the table is great design quality, a slightly slow but pleasant/enjoyable watch and a great number of extra on-disc goodies for a subtitled release. I however thoroughly enjoyed watching Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth and I hope that there is more to come in the future.
Storyline / Character Development: B
Music/Voice Acting: A
Extra Content: A
Personal Preference: A-
Overall Score: A