Yune finds herself entranced with a bohemian girl named Anne who sings Japanese songs. With significant interest, Alice invites her over to perform at one of her parties including Yune in the performance.
I got interested in Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth from watching HIDIVE and noticed the entry episode 4.5 "Concert" and thought it odd for such an early recap in a 12-episode season. On watching it, I learned that I had watched the Original Video Animation, a special animation project not directly connected to the storyline of the other twelve. The episode was so intense that I had to watch it twice to let all the significance sink in. Croisee is a case of culture shock meets culture change. The original series (or at least the first four episodes) introduce to us the character of Yune, a Japanese girl (and possibly the cutest thing anime has produced in their campaign to offer cute characters) who has been given an opportunity to visit the City of Lights, Paris, near the end of the nineteenth century. She is brought to France by Oscar Claudel, an artisan who spent years in Nagasaki to hone and widen his skills. He returns to the shop now run by his grandson Claude, a worker in iron and glass to manufacture the signs used by the merchants of the local galleria, the Galleries du Roy. Here's where culture change kicks in. The times they are a'changin in the world of commerce. The small stores and shops of the Galleries are losing customers to the rising juggernaut called the 'department store,' a colossus owned by the fabulously wealthy Blanche family. The Galleries is technically in the hands of the youngest daughter Alice, a girl detested by Claude. Claude also has to take time to warm up to Yune, who struggles to adapt to her new French culture (though it breaks my Wisconsin heart, cheese is not Yune's thing, though she tries hard to acquire the taste ... soy sauce helps). All this lends a hand to ready us for the OVA. In this episode, Yune is charmed by the guitar stylings of a girl named Anne who plays in the Galleries (think 'mall,' people). Anne's repertoire seems to be heavy into Japanese melodies. Yune would love to listen, but Claude labels her a 'bohemian.' Yune tries to stay clear of her, but soon sees Anne as a kindred spirit. Yune is foreign to the culture in which she finds herself; Anne as a gypsy has rejected it. She has reasons. Alice Blanche, a fanatic for all things Japanese, invites Anne to her estate to play her melodies, and asks Yune to sing the lyrics. As they entertain the Blanche daughters, Yune learns that Anne's grandfather had lived for a time in Japan, married, and then was forced out, separated from his wife, all due to an intolerant society which could not see a Westerner as part of their culture. Hence Anne's resentment for the dictates of society. But it is not the only time when young love was forced to separate. It appears that young Camille Blanche and Claude were the closest of friends until it was determined by Camille's parents that Claude was working-class and not an appropriate acquaintance for an aristocratic girl as she. And now we know of Claude's resentment. If not for these matters, this episode becomes no more than a song-fest arranged for two spoiled girls, Alice and her older sister Camille. Anne and Yune learn to understand each other, and Anne's concept of croise les droigts (crossed-fingers) to give Yune confidence to sing is met with Yune's concept of 'pinky promise.' A pledge for a deepening friendship between two who feel caught in their cultural backgrounds. The animation is outstanding with its interplay of the darken Galleries to the sunny gazebo where the Blanche family is entertained. And Yune's gorgeous dark eyes flecked in green, polite mannerisms, and shy smile make for a most memorable character. The music in chiefly Japanese, ornate and lively as lyrics are translated as the piece is subbed, from the traditional Seito Sakura to a piece which Yune's sister possibly learned from Anne's grandmother. The OVA makes me ready to take on the final eight episodes of Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth with the dignity the story deserves. It may move forward slowly, but it moves to the delicate pattering of Yune's wooden sandals. That too is a pleasant sound which enriches the whole endeavor.
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