Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth

Croisée in a Foreign LabyrinthType: TV Series + Special
Episode Count: 12 + 1
Genre: Historical / Slice Of Life / Drama
Vintage: 2011

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 09 Nov 2012

Grade: A

The alternate French title for this series is La Croisée dans un Labyrinthe Étranger. The special episode takes place between episodes four and five of the TV series.

Plot Summary
In late 1800s Victorian Paris, a shopkeeper named Oscar has brought back with him from his trip to Japan a special visitor: a small girl named Yune. Yune has come to Paris from Nagasaki to work as an apprentice at the iron sign shop which Oscar owns, though it is now run by his grandson Claude. It’s culture shock from both sides as this little Japanese girl and her French mentor must learn to understand one another.

The Review
Tiny adorable Japanese girl discovers Paris. That is Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth in a nutshell. This is a laid-back series which is just pleasant to watch. There is a bit of a story, but it’s more incidental and helps to describe the characters rather than being the focus of the series. What Croisée does focus on is the day to day lives of Yune, Claude, Oscar, and the inhabitants of the Galerie du Roy, the covered shopping row where Oscar’s sign shop is located.

Speaking of the Galerie, that brings me to Croisée’s setting. The series feels like the late 1800s. Great care is taken in capturing all kinds of minute details in showing Paris just before the turn of the twentieth century. There is no technology from the future snuck in here, and the difference in wardrobe between the working class and bourgeoisie is on full display. I found that Croisée’s setting reminded me quite a bit of the film Hugo, though that film took place in a train station some forty years later, and this series is in a shopping district. Both titles take place in Paris and seem quite complementary in some ways.

Language in this series makes for an interesting paradox. Japanese is obviously the native language of the series, so that is what the characters speak. However, Croisée takes place in Paris, so the characters are actually speaking French, even though what we hear is Japanese. This is significant to the story in some ways, especially with Yune being a Japanese girl who has never been to France before. Yet somehow, this unusual linguistic Möbius strip gets sorted out, and hearing people speak Japanese in Paris doesn’t end up as strange as it might seem. Add to this that each episode has a spoken introduction in French (by a native speaker), and the title card is written in French, and you’ll find that linguistically, Croisée is definitely a French and Japanese blend.

Another note on language should be made regarding dialects and mannerisms. As with some other series which take place in the past, modern words and phrases show up in the translation which would never have been spoken in the time period of the series, as well as some character mannerisms. This is especially apparent with one character: a young girl who Yune befriends who can best be described as a Victorian otaku. In Croisée’s case though, even though it contradicts the historical setting, it’s not enough to completely pull you out of the time period.

Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is a fantastic glimpse into a fictional past. Watching Yune and Claude learn about each other’s native customs is very interesting from a cultural standpoint. The series is also very relaxing to watch without having to be too concerned about a greater story at play. The cast is fun, the soundtrack is appropriate and fits the setting well, and some clever humor is sprinkled in during various scenes to keep things light. So if you like, this is one trip to Victorian France which I can highly recommend.

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