Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth vs. Gosick

Croisée vs Gosick

Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth VS. Gosick

Watched via Hulu and Crunchyroll

WHITNEY

CRYSTAL

PLOT: Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth (crossroads of a foreign maze) explores the immersion of Japanese culture into Western countries, in particular France, in the late 1800s. As a lot of fans probably know by now, Japan was relatively cut off from foreign trade with Western countries until the mid-1800s when Commodore Perry was able to negotiate with Japan to open its borders to trade. In this series, Yune, a young Japanese girl, decides to accompany French traveler, Oscar Claudel, back to Paris to explore Western culture and customs by working at the family ironwork shop. Once there, she is put under the care of Oscar’s grandson, who runs the store after the passing of his father.

Most of the series explores Western and Eastern cultures through juxtaposition between Yune and Oscar’s grandson, Claude. Claude quickly makes it his mission to look after and protect Yune as she becomes accustomed to living in a scary and foreign location. Initially, France seems cold and unwelcoming to Yune, but throughout the series she befriends the neighbors in the shopping center, and it eventually becomes a second “home” to her.

For the most part, Croisée is a pleasant slice-of-life series. Audiences are treated to a glamorous view of late 1800s France, and in turn, Japan through the accounts of Yune. This series elaborates on the various levels of interactions between these two countries, and how France eagerly adopted Japanese fashions. In particular Yune’s Japanophile friend, Alice Blanche, demonstrates this cultural appropriation through her crazy antics. While it is a somewhat naïve and romantic version of what happened historically, it is charming to watch nonetheless.

My largest issue with the series’ plot and story was how abruptly the narrative resorted to emotional drama linked to events largely unreported throughout the series. Both Yune and Claude end up being angst-ridden about past family issues at the very last minute. This somehow culminates into a misunderstanding where everyone in the gallery has to search for Yune, who has “gone missing”. Then, as if to justify how ridiculous that sounds, the writers actually put her in danger, so Claude coming to her rescue doesn’t come across as too overbearing. My opinion of the cast plummeted in the last two episodes because of this.

Ah, I was wondering how Croisée would create any drama from the couple episodes I watched of it. Sounds like they have to force it in there quickly without giving it the proper time to develop naturally or believably.

PLOT: It’s 1924, and Kazuya Kujo is studying abroad in Saubure, a fictional country in Europe that’s located between France, Italy, and Switzerland. While there, he meets Victorique de Blois, a doll-like tsundere with a penchant for dressing in frilly clothing and solving mysteries while puffing on her ceramic pipe. (Notably, when Victorique solves a mystery, she calls it “reconstructing the fragments of chaos,” which just sounds goofy.) Together, with Victorique as master and Kazuya as servant, the two go on to solve the mysteries behind most of the urban legends at their school, as well as any murder cases her half-brother needs solved.

On its surface, Gosick seems like a simple enough story that romanticizes Europe, includes way too many urban legends, and has a lot of fan service elements to it. Surely the creators should know European girls aren’t tiny and doll-like like Victorique! And why is she so smart, anyway? And, finally, why the heck does her brother have a giant, anachronistic pompadour?!

Surprisingly, Gosick answers all of these questions, and with very good answers. Instead of being the light-hearted, fan service-laden romp I expected, Gosick is a quite serious historical drama that addresses the pressures exerted in Europe between the World Wars. Sure, Victorique may be a tsundere in frilly clothing, but she has good reason for being that way, mainly relating to her being a descendant of the mysterious “Gray Wolves” and having a truly terrible childhood. Beyond that, Gosick makes sure to connect all of its storylines into a cohesive, overarching plot, which not many anime bother to do. Even the little stand-alone episodes at the beginning tie together at the end, whether it’s by developing the characters or exploring historical tensions in Europe. Gosick could use better pacing towards the end, but overall, it does a solid job of connecting and forecasting its plot throughout the show. No last-minute finale decisions here!

It sounds like while visually and historically these two shows have a lot in common, Gosick did a better job of fashioning out a story as well as creating a believable world for the characters to exist within.

But Croisée wins in terms of moe, which counts for something! :’D Though…how old is Yune, anyway? She seems a tad young.

SETTING: As I mentioned above, Croisée takes place in Paris in a shopping center, aka the Galerie du Roy. Yune has moved from Japan to live with the Claudel family, who reside and work in the ironworks shop, the Ensignes du Roy. While the grandfather is known as a traveler, the grandson keeps the shop going by making signs and other various items on commission.

The gallery serves as an intersection that brings the cast together, hence why the title means “crossroads.” Alice, the owner of the gallery, loves everything Japanese and forces herself into Yune’s life when she finds out a young Japanese woman has moved there. Throughout the series, we find out that Claude already has close ties to the Blanche family from his childhood when he was friends with Alice’s older sister Camille Blanche. The two girls befriending each other cause these two families to be thrown together again, resulting in past memories resurfacing. Of course this does little to move the plot forward, and just creates hints of a love triangle. Really, it’s so subtle it hardly seems worth the energy it took to disclose.

Overall, the setting is rather essential to the plot. The gallery serves as a barometer for Yune’s comfort level of being in a foreign place, and her culminating experiences demonstrate her success at finding Paris a second home. The staff romanticized a lot of elements historically, but there are a lot of good examples of how Japan influenced art and culture back in the late 1800’s (such as printmaking, fabric, fashion, etc). It was pleasant seeing these explored naturally in the interactions between characters.

SETTING: I’m always skeptical when anime introduces a fictional country somewhere, because why can’t you just use a real country instead? Unlike other anime, though, Gosick develops its fictional setting of Saubure well. Saubure is a small, proud French-speaking country that’s struggling to find its direction after World War I. Saubure had been part of the Allies during World War I, but tensions are mounting again in Europe, and Victorique’s father thinks Saubure should join with Germany in order to be victorious in the next war, and he’ll stop at nothing to make this happen.

Even though Saubure’s a fictional country, I found this tack to be very interesting, and even helpful with explaining European inter-World War politics. I’m sure Gosick doesn’t portray events 100% accurately—it can’t because it has a fictional setting!—, but the basic ideas are there, presented in an approachable way. On top of that, Saubure’s been given the “Gray Wolves” to set it apart from other European countries, as this group is full of secretive, hyper-intelligent people who could change the destiny of a nation if they were drawn out of their city and persuaded to. Cue Victorique, daughter of a “Gray Wolf” and a Saubure’s Minister of the Occult, and cue the actual main plot of Gosick.

CHARACTERS: In comparison to Gosick’s well-rounded characters, the cast of Croisée seems to be somewhat lacking. Each character has some sort of explored backstory to give them an emotional draw, allowing audiences to better connect to their characters, but they are so subtle and procrastinated until the last minute that they remain superficial as a whole.

Claude Claudel, what a name, is a young French man (teenager) who has taken over his father’s ironworks shop after his death. He is reluctant to try new things and doesn’t seem to let things go easily. I liked his character more in the beginning. Once he develops and we see more into his relationship with his late father, he suddenly starts acting more controlling and thickheaded. I hated the ending and how he treated Yune like a child.

Yune is the epitome of what a foreigner would want in an Asian wife. Her selflessness and devotion is over-the-top and she essentially acts like Claude’s pet. Her relationship with Claude can be nice when they are discussing cultural differences, but otherwise he basically treated her like a small child. I don’t know if it’s to protect her, for historical accuracy, to be romantic, whatever. It became annoying to watch her be treated like an empty-headed doll.

Speaking of dolls, Alice, the young lady obsessed with Japanese culture, continuously attempts to capture Yune to be her friend…or should I say be part of her collection of artifacts? As weird as it sounds, I actually liked Alice’s relationship with Yune. It may seem silly, but watching the two eat or dress up in outfits together actually demonstrated a lot about the two learning more about each other. Alice has a strong appreciation for the arts and for learning, and her unconditional friendship towards Yune is refreshing after hearing Claude bark orders at everyone.

As for the grandfather and Camille, the former lacks any sort of personality. He’s the guy who tells everyone secrets so they don’t have to confront each other (or so we don’t have to hear them monologue). Camille is the random 3rd side to the love triangle that never gets used. She says about two lines and nothing of interest happens to her. She doesn’t even really do anything as a catalyst for anyone else to do anything either, so as a rival she fails too.

The main reason I dropped this show way back when was because the main characters’ relationship seemed too cliché. Yune seems so exaggeratedly Japanese, while Claude is just a jerk who doesn’t deserve her, that I had no desire to watch their quasi-relationship deepen. Looks like I made the right call.

CHARACTERS: For me, a large part of Gosick’s success comes from the relationship between its two leads. Victorique and Kazuya look like a standard pairing of a tsundere girl with a subservient boy, but there’s a lot more to them than that. Victorique comes to respect Kazuya on many levels, while Kazuya decides to protect Victorique as best he can. Their relationship has enough nuance and tension that, while you always know they’ll get together, it’s still exciting to see these events unfold, especially as each comes to see how much the other means to them.

Individually, the two main characters are also intriguing. Kazuya’s the third son of a high-ranking man in the Japanese army, so he constantly feels the need to prove himself, both in school and in terms of being manly enough. Victorique, on the other hand, has to grapple with her father’s many levels of abuse and the fact that she’s never had a friend before Kazuya, as well as her estrangement from her mother. Considering all of these elements, the characters definitely grow a lot, and there’s a lot of material to explore.

Victorique’s family are the most significant secondary characters, and each is interesting in their own way. Her half-brother seems pompous and ridiculous, but this is a façade to cover his sad past and his emotional stress from being his father’s pawn. Victorique’s parents have an almost-unbelievably awful history, and her mother grows leaps and bounds as a result, in a fascinating way, while her father is just the biggest bastard I think I’ve ever seen in anime. He’s a man who’s very easy to hate, and I just wanted his downfall for the whole second half of the series.

Beyond that, Gosick is populated by your standard cast for an anime that both has political and fan service elements. There are a variety of sleazy political goons, just as there are many nice moe girls running around. Ultimately, I think the show strikes a good balance and settles on a solid dramatic tone, but the goofier characters, like the teacher, just get obnoxious at times.

It sounds like this is another area where Gosick wins. While Claude and Yune are hinted at being romantically paired, there is never anything done about it. The relationships in Gosick, on the other hand, sound very layered and complex in ways that audiences will really be able to form a connection to them and desire to see things turn out for the best.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: I was very intrigued by the way the animators decided to draw Yune in comparison to her Parisian counterparts. While Japanese people tend to have narrower eyes, the artists created the same illusion by having the irises of Yune’s eyes larger with a smaller area of white space surrounding it. Therefore she was able to have the same child-like big eyes that so many are moe for, while looking more authentically Asian. On the other hand, her friends had small pupils and irises with larger white spaces around them, giving them proportionality eyes that were “wider” or more open. People might find it odd, but I say thumbs up on creativity.

Aside from Yune’s small frame and dark hair, her other noticeable features were her many beautifully-designed kimono. Her garments were lovely, and, while it’s totally fan service, the staff did an excellent job of exploring her and Alice’s clothes while tying it into sharing customs through normal girly conversation. Kudos on that as well.

Overall, the animation seemed up to par with this typical genre. The only time I really raised a brow was when the staff would suddenly shrink Yune to be incredibly tiny to fit into some sort of submissive-type role (ie: Claude carrying her, or her bowing down to him). While I get that she is small, she’d suddenly lose a foot or two of her total body height.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Gosick is all-around lovely to look at, from the art style to the details of the animation. Though the show has its moe elements, the art style isn’t overrun by these, meaning none of the girls have giant, dewy eyes that pull you out of the severity of the dramatic situations. Victorique’s about as moe as the characters get, and even then there’s a good reason for the way she looks, with her long hair and petite build. Generally, the show uses a standard anime style without lighting tricks or anything to set it apart, closely resembling the straightforward style of Emma more than anything. The opening animation does visually reference Art Nouveau, which is a nice touch given the time period of the setting.

The animation is solid enough to match the art style, and the animators seldom skimp on the details. Though Victorique’s always in frilly outfits, they change every episode, and they’re always very detailed, and I can’t remember the characters ever going off model. The show does save its budget for the big fight scenes, but it still looks good overall, which adds to the general pleasantness of the viewing experience.

OVERALL: Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is pretty straightforward and continues at a steady pace. There aren’t really any zingers or punches pulled. Chances are, if you liked the first episode, you’ll enjoy how this story slowly unfolds as you pass the time. I don’t think this series is doing anything new or exciting, but it was a very cute and charming show to watch. Also, from an artistic or cultural perspective it is neat to see France appropriating Japanese culture (even if it is totally unrealistic).

The weirdest part about this series is I couldn’t quite tell who it’s for. This seems to me to be a show made for Western audiences to dream about meeting an adorable devoted girl from Japan… Or I suppose it could be for Japanese men to dream about being Western, while still getting the Asian waifu? Either way, there are cute girls and cute conversations without a lot of annoyance that comes from the typical moe show. While it’s not great, I still think it is very approachable and a series that many could positively relate to. But man, that ending.

I think this show probably most appeals to Western men wanting to find a new potential waifu in Yune, but then how did it get made in Japan? Maybe it brings in the exoticism of the West while having the comfort of home through Yune? Either way, this show panders too hard for me to get into, especially with how much they made Yune bend over backwards to please Claude. Blech.

OVERALL: Going into Gosick, I expected some lighthearted, fan service-y fare to idly pass the time, but it turned out to be a deeper, more exhilarating show than that. By and large, Gosick has everything I could want out of a historical drama: well-developed characters, an intriguing plot, and pleasant designs that don’t throw me out of the time period. Some elements seem to be trying a little too hard, and the finale is very rushed, but other than that, Gosick is an all-around solid anime that I would recommend to pretty much anyone, especially if you like a great romance. It might take a little while to get into, but it’s not swimming in moe or other gimmicks that might drive viewers away. Really, it’s too bad that Bandai went under before they could release the show, because I’d love to have it on my shelves. Maybe I’ll just have to import it, because it’s an anime where I just want to soak up the atmosphere and can’t wait to rewatch it.

The historical drama aspects of this series sound very interesting, especially the socio-politics of it. Despite that, I don’t think I could ever handle watching this show. I just can’t stand series with weird servant/master relationships. It just always comes across as too cheesy. With that said, it sounds like as far as historical anime dramas go, Gosick is the much better-rounded series.

FINAL SCORE: (7/10) FINAL SCORE: (9/10)
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4 thoughts on “Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth vs. Gosick

  1. You know, I just watched Spice and Wolf and I don’t understand why Gosick and Croisee beat it (respectively) after reading your reviews. I honestly think you guys might as well drop the numerical scores at this point because I see no consistency in them at all.

    • We base our scores off of the MAL rating scale. Everything gets scored on a 1-10 scale. 5 is average, 6 is fine, 7 is good, 8 is very good, etc. Both of our scores are based off of these classifications by the criteria we think is most important. As for the scores you mention, I don’t see any flaws in consistency, we rank shows considering the context of the scale as well as all of the series we’ve seen up until that point. By giving Spice and Wolf a 6 on my part, I’d say that’s a generous score considering 5 alone is average. The concept might be slightly “unique”, but the relationships seemed hollow and the quasi-economics failed to develop any real world building or believable storyline. Spice and Wolf over complicates itself and fails to utilize its full potential. Crystal gave that series an 8, which if you average it out, makes 7, which means it was good. I don’t see anything wrong with that judgement.

      As for Croisée, I again would say it is a good series. It is also fairly average, but it does bring a little more to the table by exploring cultural dynamics and the characters are more compelling and easier to relate to. I can’t speak for Crystal’s rating on Gosick, but reading her comments it sounds as if Gosick has put in a lot of detail to world building: creating a thriving socio-political world of warring nations, and constructing a believable space for the characters to co-exist. Not to mention, the characters themselves seem much better rounded out than being a sexy wolf god. I think that criteria alone makes it well deserving of being ranked higher than Spice and Wolf.

      You do not have to agree with our scores, but without any evidence on your part, I fail to see how our reviews are inconsistent. It’s not like we are randomly alternately rating them 1-5, A-f, 1-10, *****, etc. If you disagree with the scores, maybe instead of questioning our consistency, you should share what you think we didn’t consider, which you would have instead. -W

  2. For my part, I really enjoyed Spice and Wolf, but Gosick had a little more going for it for me. For one thing, I enjoy the mysteries and country-wide politics more than economics, in terms of subject matter. The big difference for me, though, is that we we reviewed season one of Spice and Wolf, not season two, which significantly ramps up the drama and further explores the characters’ relationships, bringing me to enjoy it a lot more. Unfortunately, Whitney refuses to watch the second season, so unless I can make her include it in a Versus review, I can’t really expound on how much I like it. It was definitely a better season, on par with Gosick, and I do wish they’d make more of the show because that season was so solid.

    On top of that, there are other factors that influence our scores. For my part, how much a show connected with my emotionally definitely impacts my score, which you can see with Gosick. Gosick is the first anime I watched with Jeffrey after moving back from library school, so I do have a bigger emotional investment to it than Spice and Wolf.

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