Ikoku Meiro no Croisée- episodes 1-2

…but a different language and the lack of communication in a common code can become a source of misunderstandings…

F: So here we are late as always… I kinda forced myself to go for this. I’m a bit lazy lately and without doing much, time passes away so quickly. It’s not that I don’t want to do it.It’s that I always get carried away with screencaping and I struggle to keep posts short and unique. I convinced myself to go on, because having a series blogged you notice so much more and you remember more things from the series. I decided I won’t do seperate episodes but bunches of them per 2. After some contemplation, I thought that just summarizing the series won’t do. This is done by all blogs out there. What I’ll do is after giving a short summary, I’ll pinpoint the differences between the french and the japanese culture as shown from the episodes and I’ll post images of situations not mentioned in the manga or only mentioned in it. 

Episode 1. Entrance

Summary: Grandpa Oscar has been to a trip to Japan and with his return he has brought along with miscellaneous japanese ‘souvenirs’ a poster/sign girl, Yune. She had wanted to work in Paris, so Gramps granted her wish. Claude, his grandson, doesn’t receive the news very happily. He is a bit rude at the beginning, especially after being a bit shocked about the way Yune greets him and pays respect to him. Claude speaks with a kind of hostility about the totally different mindset of Japan without thinking much because he and his grandpa believe that Yune can’t speak French.

Claude also doesn’t agree using her as a poster girl and thus Yune starts cleaning the shop thoroughly. Problem occurs when Yune’s long sleeves make the freshly repaired sign to fall of the table and its glass pieces to shatter. Claude gets very angry, making Yune feel deeply guilty, so she offers as an apology her best kimono. Claude sells it at a high price only to learn from Oscar that the kimono was a gift from Yune’s mother. He feels awful and goes to talk about this with Yune and finds out Yune knew to speak French from the very beginning. He apologizes and promises that he will manage to buy the kimono back one day. The episode ends with Yune reading the ‘first french book’ Claude had bought her, even though she doesn’t needs it. She made a promise to Claude that she will take care of her precious things and that’s what she does 🙂

France vs Japan:

  • Greetings: Yune performs a formal and a very formal bow to introduce herself and show her respect to her new employee (master). Of course in Europe of 19th century bows were known but they were restricted inside the court and for people with a title, not for everyday use. Bowing with your forehead touching the ground was something only a slave would do. Hand-shaking and a nod was the norm in France. See Etiquette in Japan_Bowing
  • Clothes: the colourful kimono Yune wears is one that unmarried women wore and their unmarried state was denoted by the swinging sleeves. This is a furisode. In the manga we also see Claude amazed by the colourful fabrics. We see people in France wearing less vibrant colours. Still we shouldn’t forget Yune’s family’s wealth. Such kimonos were and are very expensive and everyday people wore yukata (casual cotton kimono) with more mundane colours. See Kimono
  • Silence as a way to show respect (chinmoku): Yune lets them have the illusion that she can’t comprehend French, most probably because to her it’d be rude to say straight forward that she has this kind of capability. This associates easily with amae, the japanese concept of dependence, where people value the harmony within the group and respect greatly their elders and the ones higher in hierarchy than them. Speaking the truth about her knowledge would break the harmony, she’d be rude to her master as she would show mistrust towards him (that he can’t understand her) and she would stand out – there’s a proverb: the nails that stands out, gets hammered down. See amae_japanese dependencecommunicating through silence , the use of silence in Japan
  • apologising: is also done with a bow.It’s done quiet often by Yune. It’s Japanese politeness. Claude remarks that (in France) an apology can’t fix everything.
  • Importance of signs in Japan- they show credence

Manga vs Anime: 

Not much differences in this episode. In the manga (ch. 0) we get Claude getting surprised by the colourfulness of Yune’s clothes as well as the bedsheets on the floor. Oscar also explains more Yune’s desire to become part of Claude’s and Oscar’s family: in Japan people at work are seen as another family. This connects with amae again.

In the anime we get informed that these lanterns are called Chochin and function as signs. Also we get a detailed glimpse at Claude’s workplace.

————–


Episode 2. Cheese

Summary: This episode is mostly about food and to be more precise about what kind of foods Japanese and French have for breakfast. Claude and Yune go to buy fresh bread to get the table ready. The rest of the day is a tour to the market, they buy what they need and return to the shop to cook. The rival of Galerie de Roy has also appeared: a huge department store. Claude is resentful, as he feels it takes their jobs and the shops in the galerie close down.

France vs Japan:

  • Eating customs: In France people eat bread with butter, cheese and perhaps some cold cuts accompanied by coffee (with or without milk). It’s a cold breakfast. On the other hand Japanese eat hot miso soup, rice and grilled fish (traditionally). They don’t eat any diairy product due to their lactose intolerance. Left over food is stored and it’s not often because it means ingratitude or that you didn’t like the food, that is also rude. Before eating Japanese fold their hands like in  pray and say ‘itadakimasu’ that roughly translates to ‘thanks for the food’ or ‘I accept’. It is also said till now and youngsters use it in the sense of ‘let’s dig in’. Japanese don’t use spoon and slurp from the plate. Yune is quite funny while she tries to learn using a spoon.
  • Cleanliness: Japanese are cleaning freaks. Outside is dirty, inside is clean and must be kept clean. Cleanliness is associated with purity and harmony. We saw a bit of it in the previous episode as well. In episode 2 we see Yune taking off her sandals when she is in the kitchen peeling off vegetables. We also see her prepare for cleaning and using straps to hold back her sleeves.
  • Gambari: it’s the japanese patience and determination. Japanese culture is one that stands on the cultural assumption that only effort takes you to the top. Failing isn’t an option in a hard-working, striving for success society. Yune doesn’t like cheese or coffee but still tries hard to get used to it. She doesn’t want to ‘disappoint’ them. She feels the need to do what the others do. And we are back to the collectist spirit, we were talking in epiosde 1.

Manga vs Anime:

Things start to stray from how the manga was written. This episode is constructed from chapter 1.1 and the first half of chapter 2.1.

In the manga there’s a part about the french coin and of it showing the head of goddess  of liberty, Marianne, a symbol of France. There’s also a more extensive explanation by Oscar of the reason why Yune tagged along Claude while working. The concept of freedom and individuality that is spread in Europe is a strange one for Japanese. She doesn’t want to do anything alone. She wants to feel part of the group. ( see ep. 5)

The anime thrives with details about cuisine and the market. Many jobs appear to parade. And before that, Claude shows Yune the mall and well, the introduction isn’t a friendly one. Seems that the anime offers so much more than the manga. 🙂

from the opening

In the end, the post is big again =.=’

N: When I first saw Ikoku screenshots, I must confess that I was not sure whether or not I would enjoy this show. Yes, there is detail in the backgrounds, yes the characters look… cute, and yes the idea of an anime showing the “clash” of civilizations in a way that does not include thousand of men dying, evil kings and collapsing empires sounds splendid. But the issue is, can practice live up to the ideal?

Judging from the two first episodes, the answer is… I do not yet know. There was too much sweetness, sugar like cuteness, in a way and to a point that is not of my taste. I felt that the characters were truly likable -besides Claude, the number one candidate to earn the award of “most disturbing character of the year.” The animation looked good, the music was not bad at all. On the other hand, there is hardly any truly memorable scene, anything that could make this show special. We are still in the beginning, so there is still time for Ikoku bla bla to make up for its slow start. It remains to be seen what it will accomplish.

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