Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth was mostly overlooked last season due to it's overlapping qualities with the third season of Natsume and the Book of Friends. If you were watching Natsume, then you already know that they are two very different anime despite them sharing similar pacing and atmosphere. Natsume on one hand received tons of praise, but Croisée mostly ended up getting flack. I was quite upset when I was reading through reviews that quickly disregard Croisée as "moe-trash" and simple pandering. Yes, the show does have a little girl in it, and yes she is adorable. That does not mean the show is moe, and more importantly it does not mean the show is trash. I hope this review clarifies some points on the show, and in turn convinces you to pick up this anime. It is well worth your time for many reasons.
The setting is late nineteenth century, France. If you're interested in European art, then I strongly recommend this anime, as the backgrounds and clothing are all very realistic. Many times, I was captured by the scenery and it is a very strong suit Croisée has that many anime simply leave out.
Immediately, the characters are what will jump out at you. There's an old man, a boy in his late teens, and a young girl. Now this set up could have gone horribly wrong and turned into something perverse and offensive, but it did not. The old man, Oscar, was one of my favorite characters in the show. He's an important father figure to both Claude and Yune, and he brings interesting wisdom, making the show worthwhile to think on even after finishing. Claude Claudel is the protagonist of the series alongside the small Japonaise, Yune. The show is about how Yune adapts to her new environment and how Claude adapts to a foreigner living with him in his deceased father's failing sign shop. The characters work off of each other very interestingly, and I felt it was very easy to sympathize with both of them as their problems were more mundane than extreme. This may lead some to think that the show is very melodramatic, but it is in fact the opposite. The execution here is done very well , and all problems are solved in a way that develops the characters in a believable manner.
There are two other characters that are very much the opposite of our protagonists though, Alice and Camille. They are part of one of the richest families in Paris at this time, and they both have unique relationships with Yune and Claude respectively. Alice is very obsessive with the Japanese culture, which at the time, was highly intriguing to the people of Paris. Her relationship with Yune is somewhat one-sided but very interesting and even complex as the show completely unfolds. Camille's relationship with Claude was very interesting as well, but I do not wish to spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet.
I digress but I must include this. Alice supplies an anachronism - the only one in the show - and whilst it was unnecessary, I don't think it should soil the reputation of the show. Alice says "moe" despite the show being set more than one-hundred years before the word came into history. This joke is used more as a 4th wall joke in my opinion, so it shouldn't be too heavily stressed upon.
The sound contributes greatly to the setting and I found it adding to an already wonderful experience. Even the opening is an instrumental piece. The show could have abused the setting and sound to create a very pop soundtrack to sell to the masses, but it didn't and I have great respect for that. The one thing I regret this anime did not do, was include more French words into the script. Though that is understandable, as there is a large challenge in overcoming linguistic barriers. Luckily, as a side-effect, choking strange words down the audiences throat is not what happens either.
Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth is a piece resistant to much of the failings that can be found in both historical and slice-of-life anime. There's not an over-abundance of fanservice yet it is still incredibly enjoyable to watch. Yune is not sold as sexual, and unlike many shows focusing around little girls, she has great characterization, as does the rest of the cast.
The show is slow, but if you're willing to try out a new experience then this may be a good place to start. If you're hesitant to pick this anime up, then I hope this review has encouraged you to do so. I was too, hesitant to continue this show beyond it's first episode, but I am glad that I did, as it became a very memorable anime. It is certainly worth watching, especially since it is very short.
If you enjoyed any of these anime, then you might also enjoy Croisée in a Foreign Labyrinth: Victorian Romance Emma, Usagi Drop, and Aria the Animation.