OP: 「世界は踊るよ、君と。」 (Sekai wa Odoru yo, Kimi to.) by 羊毛とおはな (Youmou to Ohana)
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「入口 “Entrée”」 (Iriguchi)
To most viewers, this will undoubtedly be the slowest and most uneventful new series of the season, and be quickly written off as “boring” or “dull”, but for Aria fans such as myself, it’s one of my most anticipated adaptations of the season, featuring a heartwarming 19th century story about a young Japanese girl named Yune (Tooyama Nao, Kanon in Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai), who travels to Paris, France to work. I’ll be quick to admit that I absolutely adore Yune. From her strict adherence to Japanese customs and her earnest desire to be helpful to Claude Claudel (Kondou Takashi), owner of the Enseignes du Roy ironworks shop, I don’t see how anyone could not fall in love with her. This premiere episode covered the early parts of the manga that completely sold me on the series, and was just as moving the second time through in its animated form. Having voices bring it all to life goes a long way, further emphasizing that Japanese customs may be strict, but very admirable at the same time. I was really moved by Yune giving up her mother’s kimono after accidentally breaking the store sign that Claude had just repaired, and Claude realizing that Yune understands more French than she originally let on yet never spoke up out of respect. Yune’s sincerity instantly won me over, just like it did with Claude at the very end.
If it isn’t apparent already, Yune is your token Yamato Nadeshiko — the personification of the ideal traditional Japanese woman. She works really hard and is respectful of her elders and those who take care of her, including Claude’s grandfather Oscar (Tanaka Hideyuki) who brought her to France, and is quick to apologize and do whatever she can to make up for anything mistakes she feels has shamed them. It’s a very commendable quality given that she’s only thirteen years old (or ten years old in Claude’s eyes), but at the same time, it makes me feel sorry for her since she can’t loosen up and enjoy being a kid. Claude feels the same, first seeing Yune as foreign kid who will just be a bother around his shop, yet quickly realizes how sincere she is about helping out and earning his trust. With Oscar around to act as a mediator when there’s a complete misunderstanding in cultural difference (e.g. the Japanese dogeza), we have a very sweet character dynamic between the two of them. Yune opens Claude’s eyes to how important respect is to the Japanese, and he returns the favor by encouraging her to loosen those strict customs and express how she truly feels. All the while, from a viewer perspective, it makes me want to be a better person and appreciate the little things in life, just like Mizunashi Akari did in Aria.
It’s hard to say whether director/screen writer Satou Junichi’s work the Aria series has had a huge impact on Ikoku Meiro, given that the manga already gave me an Aria-vibe, but his involvement surely won’t hurt in any way. Here, he’s only working as the screen writer, adapting the scenes from the original source material, while Shugo Chara director Yasuda Kenji helms Satelight’s latest production. Their work in this first episode speaks for itself, as it turned out to be everything I was hoping for. I dare say I’ve even fallen in love with the series all over again. I got pretty excited from just the first two minutes, so I can already say that this series will be an absolute pleasure to cover. It may not draw many readers, but it’s pretty easy to talk about why I love it so much.
* Note: The dialogue is in Japanese because of the audience, but the characters are presumed to be speaking in French.
ED: 「ここから始まる物語」 (Koko kara Hajimaru Monogatari) by 東山奈央 (Tooyama Nao)
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