Back during the summer round-up I said that I had seen the first episode of this series, thought it was cute, but was going to have to drop since there wasn't a legal stream for it. Lo and behold only a few days after I posted that one did appear, it had been licensed by Sentai/Section 23 and I quite happily watched a delayed stream of that all summer.
Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth (Ikoku Meiro No Croisee, Crossroads in a Foreign Labyrinth)
Summary: Claude is a young blacksmith in 1880s Paris who is trying to make a living in a mall made up of traditional stores while they lose more and more business to a new department store. So he’s obviously frustrated when his grandfather Oscar brings back Yune, a young girl, from Japan and suddenly has this new problem to deal with as well. But Yune really wants to learn about her new home and slowly Claude begins to open up to her as they both deal with culture shock.
The Good: With Tamayura~Hitose I complained that the show was trying too hard to be a sweet and “healing” show, it never felt like Croisée had to try to do either of those things but simply was a rather sweet show. From what I’ve heard the show expands a lot on the original manga but I wouldn’t have known otherwise, the story flowed well and, even though it’s an episodic show there is an overarching theme to it and it feels like the show both starts and ends at logical points. I was surprised at how much I liked Alice, a French girl who comes off as rather grating at first, by the end of the show. She gets more character development than I had expected and there were times when she sounded like an early feminist so I’d love to see how she grows up and who she grows into. Heck, I’d love to see more of all the characters, I feel like this was just Act One in their stories and there are still several more acts to go.
The Bad: That said, it sounds like there probably won’t be a sequel (sold badly, not a lot of manga material left since it comes out so slowly) which makes me rather sad. I’ve tried some of the manga but, much like Kamisama Dolls, there is something about the way the anime is directed that I find much more appealing than the source material. I also hope that Section 23 puts the extra episode (I believe it’s called 4.5) on their DVDs since it sounds like that added in some extra back story between Claude and Camille (Alice’s older sister), although I am curious why it wasn’t in the anime proper if it was as important as everyone has made it out to be. So while I do like the series quite a bit I feel that if it isn’t continued that it will feel a little weaker, it’s a good stopping point but obviously not the stopping point for the entire series.
The Audio: I was surprised at how well the opening and ending songs worked for the series. I didn’t think that a Japanese song in a French setting would work well but both of them managed to be cheerful songs without being overly bubbly and fit the show nicely (the opening music also sounded a little more European than normal which also helped). The voice acting was also good, Yune sounded sweet and young without that artificially cute voice you hear in so many places and everyone else's voices matched equally well. The first episode was a bit awkward (since you have to remember that every time Yune talks to Oscar they’re speaking Japanese but everyone else is speaking French) but after the first episode it’s no longer an issue, would be interesting to hear a French dub of the series but I don’t know if this series has even been licensed in France yet.
The Visuals: Appropriately enough Croisée had French animators working on parts of the show as well (you can see some of their work on the backgrounds here) and the backgrounds are beautifully detailed. All of the visual details seem to be era appropriate as well, from the props to the clothing, the color schemes worked well, and overall the series was just gorgeous to look at and I would love extras on the US DVD(/BR?) release that has a closer look at some of the work that went into making this.
I'm looking forward the US release for this series quite a bit, even if I do think that Sentai's sub-only, not many extras releases are priced a bit high. I suppose that's what sales and coupons are for, plus a release date hasn't been set yet so I have until at least next spring to save up which is also plenty of time for everyone else to check out the show streaming on TheAnimeNetwork (it's free to subscribers and it's free to sign up).