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Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth Complete Collection Anime DVD Review

11 min read

When a young Japanese girl visits Paris in the late 1800’s, it’s a revelation for many people.

What They Say:
Revolutions always wreak mayhem and carnage, and the Industrial Revolution is no different as it engulfs Europe, leaving outmoded businesses and millions stripped of their traditional ways of life forever as its casualties. Cultural Revolutions are no less devastating, and as the 19th century comes to an end, young Yune has seen her native Japan shaken to its very core as the walls separating it from the western world have finally crumbled, sending an entire nation on a quest for a new identity.

Like the phoenix, the new is inevitably born from the ashes of the old. When Yune decides to accompany her new acquaintance, Oscar, to Paris, where his family’s metal declining shop is barely making ends meet in the face of its new competition, she may just be setting a new wave of changes into motion. Could Yune be the critical spark needed to rekindle the fires in both the hearts and minds of the Enseignes du Roy? As old worlds come to an end, new beginnings will be forged!

Contains episodes 1-12 plus a soundtrack CD.

The Review:
The audio presentation here is simple as we get the original Japanese language in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The show is one that has very little to work with in a way because it’s not an action piece and even on a moody level it’s not one that highlights things in a big way. It goes for the softer and more ambient feeling to the music with pieces spread throughout that add accents, but they’re not standing out. That keeps the mix simple and in the background, allowing the dialogue to be front and center. Which it pretty much is as there aren’t even all that many raised voices, so it has a center channel feeling to it where it works well by being clean and problem free, but it doesn’t really do much. That said, it serves the material well and keeps the whole slice of life angle working right.

Originally airing in the summer of 2011, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show is spread across three discs with six on the first, five on the second and two on the third. The third also has a good deal of extras to help use up a lot of that extra space. The series from Satelight has a really strong look to it in terms of backgrounds and detail as well as the characters themselves as there’s a fluidity to movement that’s engaging to watch. The transfer captures the look of Paris well, especially the coolness of it in this time period but also the detail and beauty of architecture. The colors range throughout here with Yune being the warmest because of her kimonos and general look, but there are some other strong areas as well at times. It has a colder look because of the galerie most of it takes place in, but it feels true to the time without going dank and disturbing.

The packaging for this release is good as we get a single sized keepcase that holds the four discs, as we get the three show discs and the CD as well. The cover art is really nice as it has a very cute image of Yune as she runs as best as she can towards the viewer while the background gives us a long shot of the main cast of characters, for the most aprt at least, that spend their time in the galerie. It has a good illustration style feeling to it and really drives home the cuteness factor in a good way. The back cover builds on Yune’s happiness and fun with a cute image of her and Alice together that catches the eye before you go to some of the shots from the show. The oval holding the discs features and what it includes is well placed as there’s a lot of extra material on here that makes this very worthwhile. The plot concept has a lot to it as well, probably more than it needs, but it does the job well. No show inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for the release is simple, elegant and fits in with the theme of the show well. The left side has the large oval wherein we get the episode numers and titles with some good designs inside that come across like some of the signs that Claude gets to make. The right side features the character artwork which looks really adorable at itmes with some good colors. The logo is kept above it and the background has a simple structure to it that speaks of something older and refined that works well for the show. The layout is straightforward and easy to use, especially as there’s no language setup here, but it’s a bit more involved when you get to the extras as there’s a fair bit to move around in there. It’s all handled well and is problem free.

The extras for this release are all on the third disc and there’s a fair bit here to dig into and enjoy. There’s a lot here in the basics that are very welcome, from the clean opening and closing sequences to a dose of original promos and commercials. The picture dramas included are about six minutes in length and there are six of them that give us different views of the show as Alice and Yune just have a heck of a lot of fun in a simple form. Picture dramas tend to be enjoyable and these are no exception. Taking cute up a few notches are the SD Alice and Yune movies, which are little two minute pieces that are done in CG form and traditional animation that are just adorable and utterly cute and charming as they showcase other aspects of the characters and the series. It’s a creative way of doing picture galleries in essence while making it fun.

What really shocked me was the porting over of the radio dramas. I love these kinds of things and they’re rare to come over. Originally being released on CDs, the four dramas are on the DVDs here fully subtitled, giving us a listen to the original program. The background is kept to a very simple piece that fits the general elegance of the show. It’s just such a treat to have these and immerse yourself in them. They run on average of about 25 minutes each so there’s a lot of content. There’s also a Club ATX-R “Galaxy Report” that runs just under nine minutes as it brings in the voice cast and has some fun letting them talk about the show and why it’s just worth watching.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the very slow moving manga by Hinata Akeda, which has only a pair of volumes since it began in 2006, Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth is a twelve episode series with a bonus OVA that gives us a slice of life show set in the late 19th century Paris. The series definitely fits into a mold of similar shows in a way, from Victorian Romance Emma to Antique Bakery where it revels in the simplicity of life and enjoying the small moments around you in a way that feels very Japanese. As the lead character of Yune goes on at one point about the various ways words interpret sounds in her language, it’s about the details and connecting with them in a natural way.

The show takes place in the late 1800’s in Paris as Yune, a small and young looking girl whose age is never given has come to Japan. She’s come there through the help of Oscar, an older man who has spent time in Japan and is fascinated by it, having taken in much of its culture and really found a lot to like there. For Yune, she’s come to apprentice with the business that his grandson runs as she wants to know more about the outside world as Western culture is making an impact in Japan, much as Japanese culture is growing in fascination among many of those in Europe. With her very diminutive look, Yune has the wide eyed innocence that makes her fun to watch but also has many looking her as the epitome of a Japanese doll.

Her arrival isn’t expected though by Oscar’s grandson, Claude Claudel. He’s not terribly enthused about this since their business is in tough shape at the time. He runs the sign making business in the Galerie du Roy, something his father had started years ago to very good results and which Claude has taken over while trying to separate his work from his fathers. What makes things difficult for the business is that it’s coming at a time when the Galerie faces the threat of a all in one shopping department store that’s in the area as it threatens the multitude of small business that operate out of the Galerie. There’s a lot of appeal in the place and that makes for less business and tighter margins, so another mouth to feed, one that can’t really apprentice in sign making, all the more problematic.

Of course, Yune ends up staying and the show spends the majority of its run dealing with the simplicity of events of life. Yune is an ideal worker, having essentially been a poster girl back in Nagasaki, and has some heritage in her family with the West so she’s a quick learner and knows a lot of French. While Oscar is affable and friendly, loving the delight that comes from Yune as she discovers new French things and just enjoys life itself, including cleaning, it’s balanced by the way Claude is dour and unhappy. The two do start to meet more towards the middle as her nature draws him out a little, but there’s never really this sense that there’s going to be more between the two besides friendship. Which is good since with her unstated age and very child-like appearance, it would be a bit uncomfortable until things were cleared up more.

What we do get is some good class based material out of this. While we see a lot of things between the main trio here as they live and work out of the shop. There’s also a connection to the Blanche family which is operating the new department store but also owns the Galerie itself. We never see the adults of the family, but there’s the elder sister Camille who secretly played with Claude when they were much younger. There’s some good back story here about how their relationship worked and why it became strained over the years, making the way they deal with each other in the present day interesting to watch. Camille looks over her younger sister Alice heavily though as she’s a huge Japan fanatic, taking in all of its culture and often getting much of it wrong. She takes instantly to Yune and pretty much wants her all for herself, making for some good comedy along the way since she’s the most outgoing and active of all the characters. She can grate a little bit at times, but she has so much passion and interest you just have to smile at her.

Written by Junichi Sato for the adaptation, it has a very charming and warming feeling about it, though it’s probably best to not marathon it like I did since it can be overkill. The approach of the show is one where it wants to show us an interesting facet of life in Paris from a couple of points of view where Japanese and other Asian cultures were gaining a lot of interest and vice versa. Bringing Yune to Paris is something that is kind of glossed over, but it really just wants to focus on the small moments and does so for the majority of it. When it gets more serious in the final two episodes, it never feels threatening. Dealing with the pain that Yune has in her past as well as that of Claude, it helps to expand them, but it does feel a bit forced by bringing it in so late and so close together.

In Summary:
Croisee in a Foreign Labyrinth was a series I missed during its simulcast run on The Anime Network but I really enjoyed it a heck of a lot here. Though some of my enthusiasm was muted by doing all thirteen episodes (12+OVA) over the course of a day, it’s a show that definitely appeals to a good segment of anime fandom that wants to simply enjoy the small moments. It does it very well here, showing how things are done by both Parisians and Japanese, similarities and differences, and the enjoyment and understanding that comes from each of them. Yune’s not an ideal character, just too much of a cute Japanese doll stereotype in some ways for me, but it provides a good counterpoint to the dour Claude and his seemingly happy go lucky grandfather and the pain that they share. I loved the look at this smaller and more controlled aspect of Paris while also bringing in some class issues in a good way and tying it all together smoothly without it dominating the show. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected going into it and Sentai has done a fantastic job in bringing over so many excellent extras that require a heck of a lot of effort to subtitle.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Picture Dramas, SD “Yune & Alice” Special Movies, Radio Dramas, Club AT-X Double R Video, Japanese Promos, Japanese Commercials

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A+

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: September 25th, 2012
MSRP: $49.98
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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