Ikoku Meiro no Croisée – Episodes 7-9

We get to see lots of Camille and Claude and of childhood moments. 

Episode 7. Skylight

Skylights. Not sure why the episode is titled after them…

 Summary: In the first half random things happen; Yune wants to cook Japanese food with rise and dried plums but Claude doesn’t seem excited. Later we see Yune giving part of her bread to the little thief of episode 5 and she gets scolded for her behaviour by Claude. Yune can’t understand really Claude’s harshness and she gets teary only to get ‘rescued’ by Alice, who makes a sudden entry into the shop to show Yune new japanese items she bought – to her dismay, Alice uses them all wrong.She leaves after giving to the Japonais a kiss on the cheek.

The second half of Skylights focuses on Yune’s cold. She lays down on her bed with fever and that causes a lot of worries to Grandpa and Claude, who actually lowered his pride and pleaded for a doctor from the Blanches. Fortunately it’s nothing serious and Yune gets better soon. Claude prepared for her porridge and the little boy left at the entrance of the store some wild flowers. Alice arrives latter with a whole tub filled with ice as a cure to her fever, though Yune refuses to get in water that is not hot.

France vs Japan :

  • Kisses : In Japan even until today -though at a smaller degree- proximity between two people is seen as normal only if they are family or couple. Public display of affection is frowned upon. It’s no wonder why Yune almost fainted from embarrasment when Alice kissed her cheek. (See Physical Contact in Multicultural Manners p.13) She gave her a bise. Bise is a greeting kiss that progressively came to be for everyone, even people you don’t know that well. In the 19th century France though a bise was kept for friends and special people to you. Bise is very different from bisou, as the latter has romantic and sexual nuances. ( Wanna take a look at a kiss map of France?)
  • Conceptions about the nature of children : It’s remarkable how innocent and completely free of guilt and nasty thoughts children until the age of 5 are concidered (see p.8).Perhaps this associates with the belief that children were close to the god’s world. You can see this very well in kindergartens in Japan where sharp tools aren’t kept out of kids’ reach. There is no way that a child would hurt in purpose another one – this is the Japanese logic. Even if a child is ready to throw a stone, the teacher is going to ask from him/her to ‘borrow’ the stone, explain what the dangers are, then give it back to the child, ignoring possible maliciousness hidden. On the other hand, French and Europeans think of the child less generously. Claude puts it quite blant: “Children are wild animals with no cognitive abilities”. He’s harsh yet this is the thinking behind discipline and pedagogical tactics of the West. Of course such thinking was more vivid back in 19th century than now.
  • Treating a cold : In France a good treatment to a cold is cold water under the armpits or a cold bath and hot wine. In Japan they take hot baths to help them sweat and thus the temperature falls. Ginger tea is another ailment they prefer.

Anime vs Manga :

The anime adapts here chapters 4 and 4.1. There aren’t huge differences apart from the utensils Alice mentions and some extended scenes. In the manga we see more of her weak health and it is linked to the previous chapter where she tried taking a bath in the kitchen and got drenched after she got ‘caught’ in action. We also get more thoughts of sympathy from Claude for Yune after realising his cold treatment.

Recommendation : Good comments on fever and the white sheets in this episode by aloe, dream.

———-
Episode 8. Nursery and Episode 9. Secret Garden
I’ll treat these two episodes as one, since they narrate the events of a whole day and the place and people don’t change. There are some shared themes, too.

Summary : Alice has called Yune over at her mansion for tea party and at the same time Yune finds the opportunity to thank her for sending over a doctor for her. Claude comes with her and that way he meets with Camille. He really can’t handle the discussion well and he is proven a fool and an ignorant one at that. He doesn’t know much about Yune and Camille picks on him due to this fact. She says he is cruel when he’s talking without realising it but his silence hurts her as well- although she put on a beautiful dress, he didn’t compliment her or even mention anything about her being beautiful.

Alice drinks tea with Yune and is very eager to learn about Japanese fairy tales. A little later she takes Yune to the room where she and Camille were raised up. She talks about her sister and their memories, about the dragon she drawed on the ceiling and all of sudden she has an idea and leaves Yune alone in the room. Camille takes turn in talking with Yune, not to leave their guest alone. Although she’s abrupt with Yune, she just explains the etiquette in France. She reminisces their childhood and the story Alice made for her about an encounter with a Japanese. In that mood Camille encourages Yune to choose a dress she likes and she picked up the one her sister wore while narrating her that story. She helps her get in the dress and advices her to choose things she likes (not what Claude likes) and what suits her.

Alice returns and drags Yune in the garden again to show her a place she prepared for japanese tea ceremony. Alice does her best to please Yune, but since she doesn’t know the right way, she screws up again.

In the meantime, Claude has a major flashback to his childhood. He was playing secretly a lot with Camille yet it was always in her garden. He wanted to take her outside, to watch a puppet show together or to be her guide in the Gallerie, but she refused. One day, she run to the Gallerie without telling anyone and she later explains Claude that if they were caught together, she wouldn’t be allowed to see him ever again. And she needed him. Even as an amant. She didn’t want to lose him.

The hours passed quickly and dusk came, so Claude departs with Yune. Yune talks fondly of Camille and Claude seems to finally understand Camille’s words. Camille is on a carriage and adorns a melancholic face upon seeing the puppet show announcement tablet…

France vs Japan :
  • Fairy tales : fairy tales can represent some dominant cultural notions but they are also considered that they share common archetypes, themes and functions worldwide. Yune mentions Momotaro, Monkey and Crab Battle and Kaguya-hime, while Alice mentions Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and protests that western fairy tales put women in humiliating positions in contrast to eastern ones. We get an ambiguous look from Yune at that statement. Of course, what Alice claims isn’t right. The Japanese Cinderella is considered either Ochikubo or Sumiyoshi; the western Momotaro is Hop o’My Thumb and Thumberlina shares some themes with Kaguya-hime. Kaguya-hime as a character reminds us mythical women like Atalanta and Penelope.
  • Marriage : Did you know that marriage for all social classes is quite recent in the Japanese history? Find out more about Japanese marriages in this link. Arranged ‘marriages’ though weren’t a decision made by the woman most often. Like in France, those arrangements were meant to benefit two families.
  • Social behaviour : Apologizing and laughing are the focus this time. Camille lectures Yune about her constant apologies. Apologizing back then was admittance to your foolishness and so aristocrats were very careful about using apologetic words. Since Japanese put the community above themselves, it was more important to keep the bonds between the parts of the community unharmed and thus many words for sorry were developed. About laughing I couldn’t find much apart from the fact that Japanese women were expected to cover their mouths when they did so. But concidering the feelings of others before oneself’s wasn’t taught only in France of 19th century; Japan gaves and still gives emphasis on this value to the point of undecisiveness or passivity. So my guess is that Yune laughed on impulse as a child would.
  • Drinking tea : In West tea was at a first a luxury drink, served in porcelain teapot and cups with intricate designs painted on them. In Japan tea was honored with a ceremony that shone through its simplicity. Tea masters “taught that a sense of beauty should not be explicit, and their emphasis is reflected in the lack of ornamentation and austere simplicity found in the rituals of tea ceremony, in which the quality of wabi-sabi is often emphasized as an ideal form of beauty. […]it derives from religious ceremonies performed by Zen monks […]it is clear that this type of ceremony was held to enlighten people’s spirit.” (from the Japanese Mind – Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture). Something as a side note: the way Japanese sit is very akward. Poor Alice got a cramp from it. This is a synoptic history of tea in Japan and for the ones who want to try performing it, here’s a ‘tutorial‘ video.

Anime vs Manga :

Chapter 6 of the manga was the base for both episodes. The marriage discussion, the fairy tale talk the content of the story Alice narrated for Camille when they were children, the tea party and ceremony, the puppet show are all extras that enrich the story. Also the line “I won’t consider you my sister” is voiced by Camille in both cases but in the manga it’s told in a way that Camille guesses Yune’s thoughts.
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