“A Friend At A Time” – Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth (anime) – 8/10 Snowballs

It is not down in any map; true places never are.  ~Herman Melville

Genre: Historical/Slice-of-Life/Drama

Review Status: Complete (13 Episodes/13 Episodes)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in America.

Art/Animation: This is very historically accurate, with clothing and hairstyles kept true to the time. It looks really good, with bright and vibrant colors, and the animation is very nice for a slice of life series.

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub for this anime.

Summary: In the late 19th century, Yune, a young Japanese girl, travels to Paris with the help of a Frenchman named Oscar. Once she arrives, Yune takes a job in Oscar’s nephew’s metal shop. Claude is uneasy with hiring such a young girl and, at first, Yune has some trouble settling into her new surroundings. However, over time, these individuals find – in spite of their vastly different ages, cultures and pasts – a special common ground and understanding. (The Anime Network)

Review: One of the hardest things to do is to travel to another country, to someplace where the language is strange, as are the people and customs. It was even harder a hundred years ago, when this anime takes place, when the only way to communicate was via letters that took months to cross the ocean- if they managed to arrive at all. This anime takes a special look at how different things are in different countries, with Yune being surprised and dismayed at the differences between the nations. She isn’t the only one who is at a loss, though, with those around her often confused by her actions and customs. This gets in-depth into Japanese culture from a historically accurate Western point of view, where bathing every day is strange and wasteful, soy sauce is unheard of, and kowtowing is distasteful.

Yune slowly grows to know the family that she’s come to stay with, with Oscar as the diplomat between the gentle Japanese girl and his harsh and unyielding nephew Claude. Their interactions provide much of the drama in the show. They really don’t know how to deal with each other, because their cultures and histories shaped their personalities so much. Watching them come to understandings and expanding their worldviews can be a joy to watch.

As others join the cast and Yune’s world expands, she finds that there are commonalities between their cultures as well, and she finds allies and friends that are willing to understand her in turn. Each of the relationships grows in its own time, feeling natural and unhurried. Yune herself can feel a little too sweet and perfect at times, but this might be my on ignorance of cultural appearances. The supporting cast makes up for it most of the time, with characters that have other, more severe burdens on their shoulders that are shown- even if left unresolved at the end.

This is very much a slice of life series, but has an underlying plot that becomes apparent around halfway through the series. There is tension between Claude and the Blanche family, but what exactly caused it remains a mystery until later in the series. Soon after that, Yune and Claude must deal with the lingering effects of their families, the guilt they feel, the anger and sorrow that it’s left behind. This particular plot feels a bit rushed and leaves the anime with an ending that, while decent, doesn’t feel as complete or final as it could have been.

Overall, this is a sweet series that brings cultural differences and understanding to the forefront.

Recommended: 10+. There’s one swear, d-word, in the entire show. You see Yune’s bare shoulders at one point.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Aria (anime and manga)

Emma: A Victorian Romance (anime and manga)

Usagi Drop (anime)


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Anti-Social Geniuses Reference Resource Mondays « Organization Anti-Social Geniuses
  2. Trackback: Anti-Social Geniuses Reference Resource Mondays | Organization Anti-Social Geniuses

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