Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – 01

Categories: First Impressions | July 6th, 2011 | No Comment

Out of all the new series I’ve seen so far, this one looks the most promising. It has this laid back slice of life setting I always love to see so this series has to deeply mess up things to make me stop watching it.

Its premise of a cute Japanese girl becoming a poster girl/ employee in a French sign shop in Paris is simple enough but has enough possibilities to tell heartwarming and even little dramatic stories of a constant culture clash. Funnily enough the first episode is a mixture of just those ingredients, setting the tone for the rest to come.

Yune as the perfect poster child is almost too cute for her own good but the episode managed to walk this thin line almost perfectly. Yune was adorably cute but never to the point of becoming an annoying character. Thankfully Ikoku doesn’t rely on fanservice to bring us closer to the characters. In this regard you could say that whereas Ro-Kyu-Bu! is the most childish series of the 2011 summer season (at least judging from the series I’ve seen thus far), Ikoku is the most mature. It relies on subtle characterizations and where the “Master” in the aforementioned series was nerve wrecking, here it makes absolutely sense.

The other important character of Claude is mixed result in my eyes, though, because despite being not generic he’s a little bit too much on the soft side for someone who suddenly has to live with a foreign child he’s never seen before, while having not that much money to begin with. So despite the laid back attitude a little bit spice from him would’ve been a great addition. But I can live with the results so it’s nothing dramatic.

The animation is quite well done. It’s not flashy but is done well enough to bring everyone to life. You just have to compare Ikoku to Blood-C to see the vast difference in quality. The backgrounds created for this series can only be described as gorgeous. It doesn’t even take one second for the episode to hammer this fact into your brain because the first shot is painted with so much care for detail it’s criminal. It’s been some time since I watched a series that put that much effort in its background and for that reason alone Ikoku is worth the watch.

Gorgeous. Simply gorgeous.

The only thing I consider wasting a big chance is the lack of the language barrier. Almost the whole episode made me wonder how and why things are as they are and how the characters can somehow interact. It’s only near the end where it becomes clear that Yune is well versed in French. Again, I can live with that but it would have brought Ikoku to a whole new level if the studio would’ve decided to let the characters really speak French without any translations. It would have added so much to the fish out of the water feeling. I still remember the one movie with Antonio Banderas (The 13th Knight) where this language barrier plays an important role. At first Bandera’s character and we the viewers understand nothing, but he slowly learn the Nordic language by listening to them.

Of course this setup would have been quite challenging for the studio but it could have heightened the point that you don’t need to speak the same language or cultural background to understand each other on a deep level. Well, at least the studio decided to use speakers fluent in French (perhaps even true French guys) for the title cards. This gives the series a nice touch nonetheless.

I’m definitely looking forward to the next episodes and hope it will continue to deliver more of the laid back slice of life.

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