Paris Haute Croisée: Culture Fascination and Identity in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

claude claudel ikoku meiro no croisee kimono takeda hinata yune

Heading into the summer season, a number of people had correctly told me that I would absolutely love Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, an anime set in the latter half of the nineteenth century about a little Japanese girl in the bustling fashion capital, Paris. Yes, I fell in love immediately. But who would not? The dresses, kimono, and rich cultures exuberant in the series are wonderful to behold.

Ikoku Meiro Croisee Alice kimono

The characters in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée are similarly enchanted by the other, unknown side of the world. For example, Yune takes an interest in some of the most mundane items at a market: mushroom, artichoke, and bacon. Claude is having wild, fun imagination of what Japan must be like. And Alice loves the fabric and style of her newly purchased kimono.

Ikoku Meiro Croisee Claude Yune Kanji inspired design

In particular, Claude’s creation of a new design inspired the calligraphy of Yune’s kanji name highlights a very interesting and telling interaction between Western and Eastern cultures.

Dior Paris SS07 Haute Couture Magdelena Frackoqiak

Christian Dior Haute Couture SS07 show, Paris

Ikoku Meiro no Croisée may be set in the latter half of nineteenth century, but Claude’s fascination with Eastern cultures is still exceedingly relevant today even in this global age (or maybe because of it). A while ago, I mentioned in a post on Tamayura, as an afterthought, that fusion cuisine was the new cool of 2010. This trend of blending and inspiration is even more evident and longstanding in fashion. Orientalism as a fashion sense has been around since the early nineteenth century, and maybe even earlier, often drawing influences from the Middle East to the Far East. The beginning of modern fashion saw the likes of Paul Poiret. Most of today’s designers have dabbled in kimono and other Japanese inspired designs. And, take for example, very recently—only about a week ago—Armani Prive’s Fall 2011 Haute Couture show in Paris.

In this collection, modern, western cuts and form are combined with obi-like belts, origami folds, and Eastern artwork to evoke a distinctively old Japan mood.

Ikoku Meiro Croisee Claude Yune Kanji name inspired design

This combination of styles is exactly what Claude’s does in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée. He is a pioneer in that respect. But as cultures collide and take from each other, what of cultural identity?

Ikoku Meiro Croisee Yune bowing

In face of increasing international exchange, Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is making a strong stand for its idea of Japanese culture—not just the fashion, styles, and foods, but the attitudes and mind frames. Paris, in this context, is merely a mirror for Yune to showcase her cultural identity. It is especially noteworthy that the focus on French culture in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is mostly on the material things: cheese, coffee, arts… etc. On the other hand, Yune’s emphasis is on her being a perfect little Yamato Nadeshiko.

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Notes:

  • Cultural identity part of the post taken from a short discussion with @treeofjessie over Twitter. If you have an account, follow her. She is awesome!
  • Forgive the consecutive fashion-related posts. Last week was a pretty good fashion weekend, and this season of anime has been so fabulous; I have had a lot of ideas in mind.

About Yi

''lol...you're either sleeping or eating'' ''oh and watching anime'' ''and indulge in fashion.'' ... Ahh the busy life~
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63 Responses to Paris Haute Croisée: Culture Fascination and Identity in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée

  1. Overlord-G says:

    If I were to compare GOSICK and this show in terms of content, then GOSICK has a more exciting plot…that’s it. Ikouku Meiro is all about enjoying the simpler things in life and watching a show that’s meant to relax your spirits after a hard day’s work. It’s a show that portrays 1920’s France very well in both animation and style where you get to hear some cool French narration every now and then. It’s not a Shounen, it’s not a save the world cliche, it’s not an award winning comedy, it’s not a tear jerker, it’s not an epiphany inducing mindblower, (Jeez do ALL shows need to be funny, sad or action packed to be entertaining? Goh.) It’s just a feel good show starring an omega kawaii plushie. Oh and it has a much more accurate description of clashing nationalities and emphasis on understanding European traditions from a foreigner’s viewpoint and vice versa for locals.

    We have two awesome Alices this season (This show’s and the one from “Kami-Memo”), the sequel to American Mcgee’s Alice AND Mawaru Penguin Drum that has an alice in Wonderland feel to it. Am I the only one noticing an Alice appreciation Summer here?

    • Yi says:

      Agreed sort of. Gosick has a more action-y plot, but I don’t know if it’s more exciting. Croisee, from the first three episodes, seems like it will be about Yune and Claude keeping the store alive and getting Yune’s kimono back. I think that can be just as exciting, if not more.

      “Oh and it has a much more accurate description of clashing nationalities and emphasis on understanding European traditions from a foreigner’s viewpoint and vice versa for locals.”

      Hm… I’m not exactly sure how much of this has been and will be delved into. There’s some nice looks into French stuff, but for the most part, the anime is very focused on Yune’s Japanese identity compared to its parts on French attitudes/society. It’s nice to see the little bits of Japonism and French things though. We’ll see how this goes.

      Also, I’m pretty sure this is actually set far from the 1920s… As I said in the post, it should be around the second half of the nineteenth century, fairly far from that era.

      • Overlord-G says:

        I suppose a people’s views on excitement differs just as much as their sense of humor.We’ll see how you respond after seeing GOSICK’s final chapters…eventually.

        I’m not much of a historian but I do predict this will be much more accurate than GOSICK was in terms of its depiction of European agriculture and fashion sense. As you can tell I’m neither an art critic or have a sense of fashion like you do so these things aren’t a heavy focus for me. I’m more interested in what direction the characters will follow.

        • Yi says:

          Yes, we all have our differences. It’s what makes having an opinion so fun!
          As for Gosick, yea… Still have two more episodes to go. I’m a bit preoccupied with the new season right now, but I’ll finish it eventually (hopefully that means this weekend).

          Anyway, for me, as important as the world is, story and characters still matter, too. ^ ^

  2. tomphile says:

    Cultural exchange is inevitable, I’d have to say. And fascination with the unknown and the exotic has always been around for as long as tales about a different side of the world have existed.

    • Yi says:

      It is, especially in this age when communication and mobility is sooo easy. I find it extremely interesting how everything is adopting influences from various sources around the world, not just in fashion, cuisine, but in almost everything.

      At the same time, the search for a culture/ nationalistic identity becomes that much more important for some.

  3. Ryo_kun says:

    This show never fails to deliver a heartwarming episode. The way Claude envision how Japan is like sure was hilarious. Throwing salt to one another with dumplings on their head? That’s just weird XD. I like how they’re fascinated to one another’s culture and the way the show portrays the cultural differences which makes it a lot different from other shows this season.

    • Yi says:

      Agreed. Claude’s idea of Japan is sooo funny and so cute. A country of tiny Yune~ ♥

      The cultural differences are nice, but I would like to see a little more of the “French” attitude of the time, rather than just the material things, although those things are gorgeous.

  4. The note on French material is interesting. Part of me thinks that it isn’t entirely intended, but rather unavoidable. Likewise it’s not easy for us to imagine the people of a 19th century Japan, although some of us might have an easier time because we’re very much into the culture produced by the native residents, but it’s undoubtedly hard to emulate even with proper research. In this sense, it didn’t have to be Paris. It’s the icon of culture and always seems to serve as a point of interest for Asians.

    Of course, this might change over the course of the episodes. But it doesn’t necessarily have to.

    For me, the real cake in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée are the backgrounds, something that’s very researchable. I appreciate the small touches on the architecture, the rooms and little items decorating them, the grittiness of Paris. The fact that our setting takes place at the home of an artisan makes it all the better.

    • Yi says:

      It’s probably not intended either, but simply a result of the type of story Croisee wanted to give us. The research is there. The fashion, the foods, and the arts are all spot-on as far as I know. However, the French “attitude” is not as apparent as that shown by Yune. I think it’s just boils down to the series focusing heavily on Yune. This is her journey in a foreign land. That she’s in Paris is less of an importance as her simply being in a completely unknown world.

      “In this sense, it didn’t have to be Paris. It’s the icon of culture and always seems to serve as a point of interest for Asians.”
      Exactly!!

      The backgrounds and the details of everything (from the metal work to the clothes) are stunning. It’s so so beautifully done. Totally agreed that it’s the best part of the show. I love it!!

      Thanks for the comment. ^ ^

      • Kuuki says:

        Excuse me while the French girl butts in, but not everything is spot on, so far I have nothing to say against the fashion or the arts but the foods are not exactly “right” (if you could talk of right and wrong when it comes to this, after all, there’s a ton of different recipes for everything)
        Just know that most people from this era, especially the poor, didn’t eat cheese for breakfeast, and this is the first time ever I heard of a pot au feu made with bacon.
        And the original Galerie du Roy is not in France either but that I can accept, it’s just a gallery for the sake of being a gallery, there are a few others in Paris as well.

        Which doesn’t keep me from enjoying this anime immensely.

        On the other hand the focus on the material things you speak of, I think it’s more a matter of focus on the tools needed for daily life, which are all foreign to Yune, I guess that’s why it’s so important.

        • Yi says:

          Thank you so much for the input! It’s nice to learn about all these things from someone much more knowledgeable than me. ^ ^

          I’m kind of an idiot when it comes to cuisine, especially French cuisine, so yea, I just assumed it’s spot-on. Well, am I wrong about that! With Galerie du Roy, I didn’t realize it was referencing a specific gallery, but yea, again, thanks for pointing this out.

          Also, yes I agree, it’s important that Croisee needed to focus on the tools needed for daily life. Hopefully, as more episodes pass, we’ll get a little more Victorian era European attitudes toward things as well.

          Anyway, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before. Thank you so so much for visiting, and it’s lovely to hear your insights! Cheers. ^ ^

  5. Marina says:

    I really don’t think you need to apologize for writing consecutive fashion entries; I always find your take on fashion in anime fascinating. When I started watching this particular one, I immediately wondered that you would have to say about Yune’s colorful kimono and the clash of East and West. I was amused by Alice’s version of wearing the kimono over her dress, incorrect, but surprisingly pretty.

    Also, thank you for posting the picture and video of Parisian couture–it helps the connections you make become much more relevant to both Yune’s era and to our present one.

    • Yi says:

      Glad you’re enjoying the fashion posts. I had a lot of fun watching Alice wearing her kimono. It’s also a lot lot of fun imagining all the possibilities of the introduction of such fine fabric and style into nineteenth century Paris. Alice sure put her own spin on Japanese couture, didn’t she? ^ ^

      Anyway, I really do hope we’ll get to see more Japonsim, not just in metalwork, but also in fashion as well.

      Super happy you liked the video and pictures too! I loved it as well. Paris Haute Couture week was last week, and it just really made me so excited to go through all these videos and pictures.

      Thanks for the comment. It really makes me happy to see these fashion posts are appreciated. ^ ^

      Truth be told, I always have some reservations about posting in this area. The recent fashion posts just haven’t been quite getting the same attention from the readers based on the comment counts and stats. Actually, in general, the fashion posts fall slightly below in hits, which might make sense because a good number of my readers are male anime fans looking for yuri sex. Still I really enjoy the lovely “girl talk” with you all~

  6. kluxorious says:

    I thought the show was meh but the only reason I continue watching the show is because of the kimonos. They are pretty and Yune looks absolutely adorable in it ♥

    • Yi says:

      Absolutely! Yune wears the kimono sooooo well. They’re all so gorgeous, and she pulls them off beautifully.

      The show is interesting enough for me so far though, and I do enjoy watching Yune being so cute in everything she does.

  7. 2DT says:

    There was this Mary-Kate and Ashley movie once… I know that’s a very bad way to begin, but please, stay with me for a moment. :)

    There was this Mary-Kate and Ashley movie once, and in that movie they go to Paris. We know this because they see the Eiffel Tower, and they get to try berets and eat baguettes, and they fall in love with cute guys with French accents. But for the most part, it was a movie about two American girls having fun, because that’s what American girls do. More importantly, that’s what the American public pays to see (at least within that particular segment that will pay to see the Olsen Twins– you know what I mean).

    So I think you’re very right. It’s less about Paris and Yune learning from each other, and more about Paris being charmed by Yune, and Yune being Yune.

    • Yi says:

      Oh yes, haha, great example! I think there’s a similar movie more recently about an American girl in London. I’m blanking out on who the teen actress is though. And yes, again, it’s like the Olsen Twins in Paris and it’s like Yune in Paris. Girls showcasing their own identity in the backdrop of a gorgeous historical, cultural city.

      Anyway, perfect, lovely parallel! Thanks. ^ ^

  8. Ah, Alice. It’s great to see weeaboos were around back in the 19th century. :)

    I’m afraid I don’t have to say about the fashion element of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, as that really isn’t a strong point of mine; however, the mixing of cultures in general really fascinates me.

    As you’ve mentioned there is a somewhat one-way approach to this exchange; Claude, and Paris itself provide Yune with many great sights and material treasures, while she in turn charms people with the quiet dignity that the Japanese are known for. In itself I have no problem with this approach; it works brilliantly in the story. Still, the more shows I watch; the more I’ve notice it’s always the same exchange; material and wealth from the west, heart and soul from the east.

    The way western characters are presented in anime, is often somewhat negative; you know the type; brash, loud and arrogant (and maybe with twin-drills) with an inflated sense of entitlement. Their actions are disapproved of in the show, either bluntly (such as Misato chastising Asuka that the Japanese have no locks on their doors because they put themselves before others in Evangelion), or passively, such as an initially snobbish character slowly coming around to the lead’s modest charms, e.g. Infinite Stratus, Ladies vs. Butlers and countless other series. I’m guessing Alice will turn out like that too, barging in and forcing her presence onto Yume before being given a valuable lesson in humility.

    Again, I have no issue with that, and I won’t try and claim extent perceived notions on materialism in the west are necessarily false. Still, there does seem at best reluctance and at worst a xenophobic attitude when it comes to a balanced exchange. I find that a real shame, after all no culture is perfect. Personally I love to see a series that has a Japanese person take something from the west which isn’t materialistic, e.g. being more inclined to speak their mind. The closest I can currently think of that happening are from characters that are more open because they’ve travelled abroad, such as Mugi from K-on!!

    At least Ikoku Meiro no Croisée portrays the clash in ideologies more subtly than many shows (at least yet) with only a particular family coming across as your typical greedy elites, rather than Paris in general. Claude and his grandfather have been treated fairly and respectfully. That bodes well for the rest of the series.

    Apologies this post was somewhat different to the artistic clash of cultures you were referring to.

    Ps. I really wish the Japan that Claude imagines really exists; I would be booking my flight there as we speak, lol.

    • Yi says:

      Loll, Alice as a weeaboo. ^ ^

      Very good points! It certainly does feel like there’s a stereotype with different cultures in anime, especially anime that deal with diversity. Yune’s “quiet dignity” is a very common personality and ideal in anime, and I think part of it stems from the historical admiration for the yamato nadeshiko women.

      As for western cultures, agreed as well, they’re often portrayed as just kind of cocky, and certainly that with a sense of entitlement. I hesitate to go too deeply into where this image of westerners come from, but yea… Anyway, it’s a stark contrast to the subtlety of the image of Japanese women in a lot of anime.

      I can already see exactly what you’re talking about with Yune and Alice. It’s set up perfectly. Yune a gentle soul “loses” her valuable thing to the snobbish little girl, but with her kind Japanese ideals, Yune will win back the kimono and the hearts of French people.

      Anyway, again, I’d hesitate to draw anything deeper about cultural ideals, stereotypes, and what anime’s representation of the Japanese and other people might say about Japanese culture. Over-generalization becomes slightly touchy with these questions. It is a shame, though, that many, maybe too many, anime do this sort of generalizing.

      With that said, I’m still enjoying Croisee immensely (vying for my favorite of the season). I think a lot of it is because of Claude. He’s the balancing factor. He undercuts Yune when she acts too submissively, and he speaks against the forceful materialism of the department store. By the way, the materialistic department store vs. artisan based shops is in some ways, a super fun parallel to the cultural clash between the Japanese Yune and France.

      “Personally I love to see a series that has a Japanese person take something from the west which isn’t materialistic, e.g. being more inclined to speak their mind. “
      I found Taisho Yakyuu Musume to have approached this topic perfectly. The baseball is a western influence, and the girls’ team is coached by an American. The series showcases some of westernization’s best influences.

      Anyway, no apologies! The cultural clash is definitely the point I was driving at by approaching with a fashion angle. As always, love your comments!!!

      p.s. I would totally get on a plane right away too if Japan’s a country full of tiny adorable Yune.

  9. Mushyrulez says:

    Yes, that last paragraph totally blew my mind.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Claude’s identity will change as Croisée continues. Perhaps it’s not really that the portrayal of French culture in Croisée is more material than the portrayal of Japanese culture, but just that we, as people in a Western culture, are so used to the styles of French culture that we don’t even notice it. I’m sure a 19th century Japonaise thrown into France would be much more shocked at their attitudes than we would :v

    Though, to be fair, Japan is becoming a Western country too. Perhaps if their ideals were more 19th-century-Japan and they produced this anime, they would focus more on the strangeness of French culture.

    • Yi says:

      Yes definitely. I’m really looking forward to how Claude’s identity will be shaped, but also how he will change Yune.

      “as people in a Western culture, are so used to the styles of French culture that we don’t even notice it.
      Maybe. I’m sure Yune’s character is shocked too. Note however, that for us in the 21st century, both the general attitudes of the French and the Japanese should be foreign to most of us. Yet, Yune’s identity stands a lot more than Victorian Claude’s. I’m merely pointing out that there is a lot more deliberate attempt on the script’s part to display these Japanese ideals, and not nearly as much for the French attitudes of the time.

  10. Ryan says:

    It is especially noteworthy that the focus on French culture in Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is mostly on the material things: cheese, coffee, arts… etc.

    It is indeed, and there are less apparent focuses on mannerism, such as the French notion of breakfast. Though, one of the other interesting aspects to the cultural differences are the cultural translations (the way similar items may be held with more/less regard); in episode two I noticed Yune catching onto the value of items, particularly the stationary. One might research the history of paper in Japan, in relation to the West. For instance this quote from wiki: “In its modern sense of (often personalized) writing materials, stationery has been an important part of good social etiquette, particularly since the Victorian era.” Can the same be said for Japan, and how does this alter Yune’s idea of paper? Fascinating to ponder.

    Really delighted to see Armani’s Couture show to be so relevant to Croisee. It’s a spectacular fusion which leads me to wonder how we attribute various pieces to an overall composition to different cultures. Yes, culture is globalizing, but I don’t feel it’s being lost in the typical sense. Instead, I find it simply becoming more subtle in our everyday world, and those who study the expansion and integration of cultures (or a certain aspect, such as fashion) may be the sole keepers of origin. I am more optimistic about another scenario: the integral knowledge of culture through homage; similar to the way we see Armani’s designs and have an exact realization of the Japanese influence (obi, folds, patterns).

    If that is the case, I find culture falling into the realm of silent understanding, in ways akin to language or symbolism. In the manner a linguist may understand the Latin or Anglo history of an English term, or a historian the implication of the colour purple in Roman fashion as influences by the Greek, we are now seeing cultural memes as pieces to a larger puzzle. Personally, I would consider culture a form of language, but on a global level of integration, it is evolving with an unprecedented vigor.

    (Okay, not as clear as I had hoped, but I’m still at work … orz)

    Cheers.

    • Yi says:

      Great point on the breakfast and the stationary. Croisee does show elements of French mannerism and etiquette, but the focus is so much on Yune’s representation of Japanese ideals. The French character’s roles seem only to respond to it. (e.g. Claude’s rejection of a totally submissive Yune.)

      Still, the main draw for this anime is, as you said, those cultural translations and differences. Yes, stationary, food, paper… etc. This also reminds me of that scene with the umbrella; another item that exists in both France and Japan, but are slightly different in both design and daily importance. And it’s so fascinating to see Yune adopting the foreign ways, even if it’s just in the smallest sense. By the way, you’ve totally gotten me interested in Japanese paper and Victorian stationary. ^ ^

      Isn’t Armani’s collection remarkable? I think my favorite element of this collection is definitely the use of the obi. It perfectly adopts a part of the kimono to modern wear, without being overly blatant about the inspiration. The waist is so interesting to look at and the designs are very fashion forward.

      This is probably my favorite from this show:

      armani prive paris couture fall 2011

      The oriental inspiration is subtle, but definitely there, exactly as you said. ^ ^

      Anyway, the last paragraph of your comment… Yes!! Can’t add anything else there, but agreed!

      Cheers, Ry. Always always incredible to hear from you.

      • Ryan A says:

        Thank you Yi for writing posts that stimulate a solid internal response.

        Totally remarkable collection. I know the fashion world has seen culture infusing, but that obi-style, whooo~

        • Yi says:

          Thank you for being so nice. ^ ^

          There was also one I shared either on Twitter or G+ sometime ago worth checking out. It’s a Japanese designer who gives traditional kimonos a modern edge.

  11. hoshiko says:

    “The dresses, kimono, and rich cultures exuberant in the series are wonderful to behold.” <- Agreed! I watch Ikoku Meiro only for this. Of course, Yune too.

    Cultural identity. I’d say in today’s world, cultural identity leans more towards individuals and less of a group. It’s very likely that when individuals are exposed to cultures other than their own, they'll absorb some of it and make it theirs, depending on their mindsets. So it's no longer French culture for French or Japanese culture for Japanese.Ever evolving. A bit of this, a bit of that. It’s an interesting subject to study.

    • Yi says:

      That’s a really good point. It’s very true, I think, in certain places, especially with the high mobility and communication of today. I live in California, where a lot of people are first, second, third generation immigrants from all over the world. And many are of mixed heritage. So a lot of cultural identity is indeed individual, and everyone has a fairly unique culture/ blends of culture.

      Ever evolving indeed.

  12. Persocom says:

    I’m loving Ikoku, even if the story isn’t an epic one, the culture exchanges in the show make it a very interesting watch. Having studied French in school and being obsessed with Japan I find it a nice mixture and it introduces things from both cultures. It feels like this would be a good starter anime for someone wanting to learn about Japanese culture. Yune is too cute, and of course her seiyuu voices a Busou Shinki that I also adore XD Ikoku has rekindled my flames of love for Japanese fashion and french food.

    • Yi says:

      You studied French? That’s awesome! I kind of wish I took French in school too when I had a chance. Anyway, Yune is totally cute. I love her!! I didn’t know her seiyuu also did Busou Shinki. I guess that would make her even more endearing for you, haha. ^ ^

  13. akinari-kun says:

    I just love your fashion x anime posts, they’re truly one-of-a-kind and an absolute joy to read.

  14. Shin says:

    Sorry I’m too much of a third world barbarian to appreciate your fashion themed posts. So instead I would like to reconfirm with you as to whether or not you actually experienced mild chest contractions and hnnnghs while watching Yune.

    • Yi says:

      Loll. Is this because of that thing I shared on G+? I’m a bummer on there too often, especially for those not getting the NSFW shares, so don’t pay too much attention. ^ ^

      And I’m super pretentious about fashion, haha.

      Anyway, yes. I hnnnghed in my chest everytime I see Yune (especially with her tiny flat chest under those heavy layers of fabric).

      Cheers, Shin~

  15. Shance says:

    I don’t really think there’s anything in the blending of different cultures. Cultural identity doesn’t really stem from simple mix-and-match behavior. However, just like you said, some of us do value it too much to the point where they question who did what, and on what inspiration. But I digress, because Croisee values individuality more than nationality.

    • Yi says:

      “I don’t really think there’s anything in the blending of different cultures.”
      How so? I think there’s plenty to be said about recognizing where our inspirations come from, and where our cultures will head in the future. It may be an academic exercise, but it is fascinating; and realizing these influences can help us be keen on future trends.

      I do agree culture’s not a simple mix-and-match behavior, although I’m not sure who would argue cultural identity is…

      “But I digress, because Croisee values individuality more than nationality.”
      Hm… That I’m not so sure about. Sure, the story focuses on Yune and Claude’s development, but I find Yune to be an idealist representation of the yamato nadeshiko. And in being one, Croisee is making a statement about her Japanese identity, where ever that’s heading in later episodes. Maybe by the end of the series, Croisee’s stance will indeed be that culture is about the individual, but for now (3 episodes in), we have a very stereotypical “Japanese” Yune. I can see–in fact, I expect–the story to take that turn actually.

      • Shance says:

        I think there’s plenty to be said about recognizing where our inspirations come from, and where our cultures will head in the future.

        This is a very powerful sentence. However, what I am saying is that cultures tend to stand out more alone than when mixed with other cultures. That’s because culture blending tends to result in culture crash or even alienation, and we can raise a number of factors as to why it happens or why it only works on rare occasions.

        Maybe by the end of the series, Croisee’s stance will indeed be that culture is about the individual, but for now (3 episodes in), we have a very stereotypical “Japanese” Yune. I can see–in fact, I expect–the story to take that turn actually.

        Actually it’s due to Yune’s own culture that we see her individuality. How she strongly holds onto others’ promises, how she sees the beauty of simple things, and how she amazes others by simply being herself, are just some of the ways that can showcase not only her culture, but also herself. We can change the setting back to Japan, and it wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

        • Yi says:

          “However, what I am saying is that cultures tend to stand out more alone than when mixed with other cultures.”

          Ahh I see what you’re saying. That’s actually kind of what I was going for in this post, although I don’t know if I believe that to be true. I see Croisee as a response to this sentiment. The overt “Japanese” ideals portrayed is a resistance to the internationalization and “loss” or alienation of culture.

          However, personally, I think I’m more on the side that culture can never quite be lost and will always stand out, even if it is incorporated and blended with other things.

          As for Yune. I disagree. I don’t see her individuality. Other than her super cuteness, she has no character flaws and she has very little personality. She is a totem for the ideal Japanese women. She feels like any other of the masses of yamato nadeshiko that’s been given to us in different media. Yes, we can change the setting back to Japan, or anywhere else, and it’s still a story about a yamato nadeshiko, not a story about a little girl braving France.

  16. Smithy says:

    Really like this anime so far and while for the French (Western) culture so far being less explored than the Japanese culture, think we may see more of that along the way as it is easier to start by showcasing the more plain material differences for Yune to be surprised by or fawn over than immediately let more cultural aspects of 19th century Europe loose on the viewer. Though the gallery being slowly put out of business by the department store was a first indication we may see more such historical culture elements later on.

    Perhaps we may not really pick up on some cultural elements of French/Western origin being showcased because they feel rather natural and are well known to us, whereas to the Japanese viewers these may be quite obvious. For instance the breakfast scene we may see as being more focused on Yune not being fond of cheese, an acquired taste, but digging deeper into it it could very well be seen as an example of how French/Western culture differs from Japanese by its lack of investing time and effort into breakfast rituals, some coffee, old bread and cheese is plenty. In contrast the Japanese are often ideally portrayed as having an elaborate breakfast and spending time making exquisite bento lunch sets. Is that purely material or doesn’t it also say something of the people and their culture? Mhhh… who knows?

    • Yi says:

      I do hope that we see much more of exploration of French Victorian era attitudes along the way. We’re only three episodes in, so it’s still too early to tell. Though I’m still fairly sure that the anime will be Yune/Japanese-centric, I don’t think Croisee will be able to balance it nicely to really show a coming together of cultures.

      I agree that the department stores vs. artisan dichotomy is a really nice touch (I think it’s another one of my favorite themes in Croisee). It’s also one angle to really show the history and culture of Europe beyond the materialistic things. It’d be really interesting to see how that continues, and what that does to Yune, Claude, and Alice.

      “Perhaps we may not really pick up on some cultural elements of French/Western origin being showcased because they feel rather natural and are well known to us, whereas to the Japanese viewers these may be quite obvious. “

      That may be true. But I think there are still a lot of mindsets of that time that should come very jarring to us. It is, after all, Victorian era, and the attitudes toward women, etiquette, and things are very different for modern day lenses. But yes, it’s definitely a valid point.

      Also, great example of Yune’s breakfast scene. I don’t disagree there. There are a lot of interpretations we can draw about Claude and the French, but I suppose I just feel like the emphasis is still very heavily on Yune acting as Yune.

      @treeofjessie puts it best when she said, “how many teachable moments about france have there been in comparison to ones about japan? for a japanese audience, no less.”

      Anyway, thanks for the comment! It really puts things in a different light for me. ^ ^

  17. Nopy says:

    Cultural identity does seem to get lost when you have a collision of different cultures. Where I live, I can look down any busy street and see people who have emigrated here from around the world so I’m more than familiar with fusion everything. Not only do I see fusion food and fashion, but I also see caucasians, blacks, and asians speaking chinese, french, and indian. People from china say I’m fake chinese because I know more french than I do mandarin. I think it’s all good and well though, why separate things into different cultures when you can have one global culture that has everything?

    • Yi says:

      Interesting. I live in an area where there are a lot of immigrants/ descendants of immigrants too, and it’s definitely fascinating to see how people define their cultural backgrounds and heritage.

      “People from china say I’m fake chinese because I know more french than I do mandarin.”
      I’ve gotten that before in Taiwan, where people said I’m not Taiwanese for a similar reason. It’s kind of weird to hear that though.

      Anyway, Hoshiko and Ryan A above both make some very good points on “loss” of culture in the modern day as well.

      I agree that there’s no need to separate things into different cultures per se; it’s enough to recognize where our ideas and inspirations come from without strictly labeling people. Great point! ^ ^

  18. jreding says:

    I agree that Ikoku Meiro so far has been more about Japanese culture seen through imagined foreign eyes than about Paris and French culture. However, it seems to me that the show is not accidentally set in Paris but due to the fact that this was the place where “Japonisme” took off in the 1880s with the Bing gallery and fused with western aesthetics to Art Nouveau.
    Not being French myself I am in no position to comment on the French national character. However, my (certainly biased) impression is that the cute and decorative side of Japanese aesthetics as illustrated in this show found a specific responsiveness in the French culture of that time.
    To illustrate my point, Japanese aesthetics also had a huge influence on modern architecture in the beginning of the 20th century (as a reference see for example this excellent book: http://bit.ly/oPx1Px ), but this concerns less the decorative and more the minimalist aspects of Japanese aesthetics . This may indicate that 1920s Berlin had a fundamentally different responsiveness to Japanese influences than 1880s Paris.
    On a sidenote, the character constellation of Ikoku Meiro reminds me of the adorable French/ Japanese live-action movie Yuki & Nina (see http://mubi.com/films/yuki-nina , which I can heartily recommend!
    On a second sidenote, Yi, my impression is that most bloggers focus more on the plot whereas I am usually at least equally interested in the aesthetic aspects of a show. Therefore I am really happy with your fashion posts and glad that your decision to move to Taiwan so far seems to have actually intensified your posting activity!

    • Yi says:

      Ooh so glad you mentioned Japonism. I actually tweeted something about it right after I published the post, where I lamented not being able to fit Japonism into this post, but the post was running long. I think 2DT mentioned he was going to say something it as well.

      Anyway, thanks for the info on Japonism. I’m going to have to look more into the Bing gallery. ^ ^ And it’s especially relevant to Claude’s work too. I think earlier, before he made the Yune design, he had mentioned a new style, and I’m pretty sure he was referring to art nouveau. So yea, Japonism and art nouveau are definitely things to look out for in Croisee.

      Also, great point on the different responses people have to Japanese influences. I think, however, the difference has less to do with perhaps the region (Paris vs. Berlin), but more to do with the times. 1920s marks the rise of art deco, valuing geometry and lines, whereas 1880s was mostly about art nouveau with its emphasis on decorative curves and embellishments.

      Yuki & Nina looks really good. I’m definitely going to check it out. It looks quite adorable indeed~

      Thank you so much for the comment!! I loved it, and it’s a great great follow-up to the post.

      Cheers, jreding. ^ ^

      p.s. I’m really really glad you enjoy the fashion posts!
      p.p.s. Thanks for the links.

  19. bluedrakon says:

    I wanted to watch this before dropping a comment this time :)

    I love the fashion as well, especially the kimono which is vibrant. She really stands out in her daily outfit as the clothes of that time were not that colorful.
    I do find the interactions quite nice between the two cultures. You see this especially with Yune’s character when she is eating the food that is more common in France.

    Will I keep watching this series, not sure.

    • Yi says:

      The kimono is brilliant, although I think colors have been used very beautifully in Western fashion during the time. Gosick is actually a pretty good example of what some of the things people were wearing, although it’s set in the 1920s. Anyway, the duller looks of the side characters may be something that Croisee does to make Yune stand out.

      Love the interactions between the cultures though, so I’m sticking with the series. Also, love Yune!

  20. jreding says:

    Please excuse that my above comment appears three times! When I posted it the first time it did not show up at all. Therefore I tried again later and yet again without the links. Next time I will be more patient!

    • Yi says:

      No problems. I have to apologize for that… It must have been sooo frustrating to write out an incredibly well thought-out comment and see that it poofed. I’m so sorry you had to do that twice! And thank you for trying again. It would have been such a shame if the comment got lost in the spam folder.

      Anyway, again, sorry you had to go through that. :(

      p.s. I think Akismet automatically marks comments with multiple links as spam. I have no control over that… Still, sorry about it.

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  22. wieselhead says:

    A very nice post, personally Im not very interested in france culture nor would I say Paris is my favorite european city, but Im enjoying this show a lot. The part Im enjoying about this show is the cozy slice of life like flair it emits, It’s nearly as peaceful as in Aria the animation :)
    Of course Im not a complete ignoramus when it comes to french culture, I like the easygoing background music we hear in the show and the architecture with its beautiful sceneries.

    The cultural exchange in this anime is a funny part, especially when Claude learns something about japan, but gets the completely wrong idea.

    So far I haven’t understood why Yune wants to live alone with a young man and an old geezer instead of staying with her family. Is she a nidifugous bird or is Oskar a kidnapper, who knows XD

    • Yi says:

      I’m totally in love with the cozy slice-of-life feel too. It’s so relaxing to watch Yune and Claude go about their daily business. In fact, if every episode is simply Yune walking the gorgeous gorgeous streets in Kimono, spliced with shots of the beautiful architectures, food, and other stuff, I think I’d still love Croisee… and maybe even more so.

      Claude’s idea of Japan is both adorable, silly, and super funny!

      To be honest, when Yune showed up at Claude’s doorsteps with the old guy, I had a very iffy feeling… And in the back of my mind, I’m still kind of weirded out by this arrangement. But let’s just forget that for the moment. Haha. ^ ^

    • How dare you say that! ^^
      folks here in singapore, love french fashion and its fasion city .

      Im liking the change at last, its nice the see a bit of french involved, its something different, well anything that is not english or american if you know what i mean

      • Yi says:

        “How dare you say that! ^^
        Say what?

        Singapore is quite a fashion forward city indeed. I think there is going to be a fashion week at the end of October. I’m really looking forward to that! I’m enjoying the French stuff in Croisee too, even if it’s not all spot-on. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

        Anyway, thanks for visiting. ^ ^

  23. Swordwind says:

    We definitely have different tastes when it comes to fashion, Yi~

  24. Xine says:

    Ah, Ikoku Meiro no Croisée, I’ve seen lot of beautiful images from this series. Maybe I should give this a try. I’ve also seen a photo of Nendo puchi Yume which looks really cute but with the fancy kimono and perhaps a dynamic pose, I think Alter will do a better job with a 1/7 or 1/8 scale fig… ^^

    • Yi says:

      It is really gorgeous, so I’d highly recommend it.

      OMG, if there is a scaled figure of Yune in a kimono, I’d totally buy it in an instant. She’s too adorable not to have on my desk! Love her.

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  26. Cell says:

    While watching this lovely anime, there has always been one thought on my mind; are the Japanese praising themselves? This isn’t shown directly, but I had a feeling that the show emphasized on many positive aspects of Japanese culture. When the anime introduced some French culture, I felt that it was done somewhat half-heartily (although I may just be delusional).

    • Yi says:

      I think I kind of know what you mean. It does feel like there’s a very heavy pro-Japanese ideals at times. Thinking more deeply about it can lead to some awkward uncomfortable conclusions about Croisee.

      Spot-on, cell! ^ ^

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