I think that I won’t ever try blogging a series episode by episode. Always something happens: it gets busy, PC has problems, I face personal problems… and I’m not really fast at screencaping, deciding what to write etc. You get the picture. But since I started Ikoku and it has some things to offer, I’ll blog it to the end; changing the number of episodes reviewed per post- from 2 to 3.
Episode 4.5: Concert
Summary: A female wandering musician has made her appearance in the Gallerie and gains much attention. One reason for the crowd around her is her japanese repertoir. Yune hears the melodies and wants to go see and listen. She really gets nostalgic listening to something ‘home-made’ and thus Claude accompanies Yune to where the musician played in spite of his initial objections.
In Alice’s mansion the news about the musician got confirmed by her Butler and enthusiastic as Alice is over everything related to Japan invites the traveller to give a concert for her, Camille and Yune, before their parents return – they wouldn’t approve of such a person associating with them. So, a big part of this episode is indeed a concert of a sorts and we get to listen to some Japanese songs. The evening ends by the revelation that the traveller’s grandfather loved a Japanese woman and the latter stayed back in Japan and kept singing the song her lover had wrote for her. She must have met with Yune’s sister because Yune knew the song. They part with this bitterweet tale and the worried Claude comes to pick up Yune.
France vs Japan:
- Melodies and contents of songs : although we really don’t get to listen to a french song in comparison to the japanese ones, traditional japanese music is well-known for her slow pace and the appreciation of silence and pauses. When Claude asks about the meaning of a japanese song ( in the series was translated as ‘Grind, grind, topple’), Yune tries explaining the lyrics. We can understand that japanese traditional songs were more about simple procedures and the nature than love and human drama. See more about japanese traditional music here.
- Crossed fingers : when you cross your two digits in France it means good luck; crossing your pinky finger with another person’s pinky in Japan is used to seal a promise, mostly between kids and friends.
- Difference in status and ethnicity : this is actually the common point the two cultures are shown to share – two lovers that are of different social status and/or ethnicity can’t have a happy ending. Society dispoved of such mixes. Things were to stay separated. We can see this also by the luxurious breakfast Alice has, which includes croisant, marmelade, milk/tea, a variety of bread, and the usual ham, cheese, coffee, bread the Claudels have. Claude doesn’t have a good opinion of foreigners that start to multiply in Paris and the ‘bohemians’. ‘Bohemians’ are looked down by everyone. Although they simply don’t conform to social norms that dictate a stable residence and a fixed work, they are more care-free and are fond of music and literature, they are considered filthy and sneeky. “They don’t work at all. Instead they make music and then extort money from others.” says Claude. The butler refers to the wandering musician as a ‘gypsy’ – but that’s not the case. (The use of the term ‘bohemian’ came in use around 15th century in France and stems from the impression that those ‘gypsies’ came from Bohemia. See the definition in the Online Etymology Dictionary.) There was something similar in Japan but the wandering travelers who played the biwa and were dressed like monks were blind. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t enlighten us on the issue.
Anime vs Manga :
This episode was an anime omake (=extra) and wasn’t based on the manga at all.
The little kid who watched the items through the window is greeted by Yune later on, but he has no good intentions: he steals a candle base. Yune feels responsible and tails him only to be lost in the unknown paths of the gallery. After Claude’s warning about smiling people being suspicious everyone seems scary to her eyes. Claude has found out Yune was missing from the shop and started asking here and there about the black-haired girl. Alan finds her, but Yune thinks he’s suspicious and thus runs away. Claude finds her in the end and return to the shop together. He shows her the sign of the shop to remember it next time and dine together the two of them; grandpa didn’t leave in the end, but he still had some things left to do, namely go out with a lady. He brought with him though a new wick to light the old lamp, with which Yune identified (as something that will go out of use soon), to make a point to her that she should see herself as something warm and bright, bringing joy to their home.
- Social behaviour : Japanese are indeed people that are characterized by a group mentality. They feel good when they are with other people of their own, doing the same things without standing out. In West though individuality is much more treasured and a person who can’t take decisions for him/herself outside of what the family wants or the close circle of friends isn’t appreciated. Then, we also have the issue of smiling. Japanese even nowadays will most probably smile at you and that smile can hide their annoyance. It’s considered basic politeness to smile, even though you don’t mean it. In West smile is appreciated when it’s honest. But back then in France people didn’t get friendly that easy. A French blogger found this difference a lie, but I remember a professor of mine who spoke about his studies in France in the previous decade and underlined how it wasn’t easy to make friends and someone over-flirtious was ignored and considered rude.
Anime vs Manga :
Lost Child is a direct copy of the homonym chapter (chapter 2) from the manga except the end. In the manga the person who appeared in front of Yune was Alice’s butler, but since Alice is already introduced, we get a clown and Alan. The lamp scene wasn’t there in the manga, too. We, also, get a glimpse of the kid giving the candle base to another beggar and he gives him some coins to buy food.
This episode along with episode 4.5 and episodes 8 and 9 slowly fleshes out all the more Camille, the life of upcoming aristocrats and her relationship with Claude and her sister.
France vs Japan :
- Photography : Alice shows Yune ‘carte de visite’, photographs that are used in place of name cards when you meet somebody. ” It was usually made of an albumen print, which was a thin paper photograph mounted on a thicker paper card. The size of a carte de visite is 54.0 mm (2.125 in) × 89 mm (3.5 in) mounted on a card sized 64 mm (2.5 in) × 100 mm (4 in).” (Wikipedia entry). Yune says that photographs in Japan were different, but the series doesn’t make a straightforward comparison once again. Most probably she referred to the fact that they sometimes used to paint the photograph partially with colours. Searching some more a question of accuracy of Yune’s words arises. Carte de visite could be found in Japan, too.
- Female dress code and beauty standards : France with crinoline and corsets and narrow shoes; Japan with obi and layers of straight cloth and sandals. It’s understandable that the fashion of an era and a country mirrors the ideals of beauty. For the 19th century France beauty was found in curves and bodies creating the hourglass shape. For that reason people who desired to enter high society followed rules that constricted a lot their bodies and especially those of young women. Corset was to be worn tight three times a day, informs us Alice. This wasn’t without health implications, as we can talk for disforming of the internal organs like lungs and stomach. Crinoline was more innocent but didn’t allow free movement – one certainly can’t bend down to pick up something. Camille applauds its description as birdcage and talks metaphorically about unreachable things due to the application of crinoline. Most certainly those women didn’t have their freedom in any way. Her comment about the feeling of reassurance after a period of wearing such clothes is remarkable. As for the Japanese way of dressing, we only get Yune tying her kimono very quickly, some comments about the boots and the cold she feels under the french dress that imply much less body restriction in the japanese dress. This can be debated, since the long sleeves of young girl’s kimono and the close tube that the kimono creates don’t allow careless and fast running, either. Alice mentions having problems walking in the kimono, yet it is shown only briefly and the impression is created that she simply isn’t accustomed to it rather than being constrictive. “The beauty of the kimono is found in immobility and calm gestures” (A companion to anthropology of Japan, chapter 10 ) – let’s not forget that the series is made from Japanese. Something more: wearing a kimono no curves are highlighted. Instead simplicity in lines is promoted. The ideal is a cylinder. (Read more about kimono and the way it’s worn. Yune ties her obi in a taiko musubi that requires many knots and layers of fabric. )