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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
- 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.