Ikoku Meiro no Croisée 8 ~ that freedom is her specialty
August 23, 2011
Cats, prostitutes, and lovers. Episode 8 of Ikoku Meiro no Croisée (Crossings in the foreign labyrinth) seems to be a turning point in the series. As usual, the plot itself is minimal, and some time is spent on the difference between Japanese and French cultures, but there is an extraordinary development of character — both Camille’s and that of her sister, Alice. This was easily my favorite episode so far, and not just because we get to see Camille at three different ages.
Apparently Claude and Camille had an extremely warm relationship as children. One of the strangest parts of this episode was the way the notion of extra-marital lovers was raised several times. Alice introduces the French term amant, meaning a (male) lover, which is used also by Camille. In the same scene shown in the screenshot above, Camille asks Claude to continue to “play with her” even if she gets married. One can argue that these were the words of an innocent child, but they also, with all of the talk in this episode of lovers, seem like foreshadowing of some sort. Claude and Camille might not become lovers, but, as I’ll get into below, their relationship seems to have lasting significance. And you don’t have to take my word for it; both Alice and Oscar give Camille and Claude (respectively) a hard time about their lasting affections. Oscar’s poorly concealed hints about a cat that Claude loved that ran away and lives at the Blanche house, only it isn’t a cat, were particularly hilarious.
While Yune and Alice talk over tea in the garden, Camille meets Claude in a parlor upstairs. The thing that really impressed me here was that Camille asked a series of questions that have been nagging me (such as how old she is, and why she travelled to America). This was a brilliantly perceptive string of questions, and for a moment, I thought I was going to get some answers. When Claude said he didn’t know and didn’t care, it occurred to me that Camille knew that he would respond thus. Camille also likens Yune to herself as a young girl, and insinuates that Yune is in love with Claude. Note: the further implication is that, at the least, Camille was in love with Claude as a young girl. There was a lot of tension in this scene, and Claude’s attitude (which we have seen on display all through the series so far) eventually causes Camille to leave him. This was one of those scenes that give you the feeling, that if one person just made the extra effort to say something, a far different outcome might have been reached. The next time we see Camille she actually looks kind of pissed (well, for her).
The culture clash portion was limited to Alice and Yune’s comparison of fairytales. Interestingly it, too raises the issue of women being allowed to select those to whom they shall give their love. Alice perhaps makes too much of the tale of Kaguya-hime, because women in Japan at the time were not accorded many liberties, but her outlook and value system is made clear, and she makes some valid points in comparing the relative passivity of Sleeping Beauty. This also feeds into the development of Alice’s character in this episode. Later in the episode there are flashbacks to Alice writing her own fairytale, which by itself shows individuality and imagination.
Camille tells Yune of Alice’s youthful indiscretions. Instead of staying inside the playroom and studying, as Camille had done, Alice tied ropes to the chairs and escaped out the window. As can be seen, she indulged her imagination, by not only inventing stories, but painting a dragon on the ceiling without permission. Camille makes it clear that she envies her younger sister’s free spirit. As she said in an earlier episode, Camille feels trapped like a bird in a cage, or perhaps as in this episode like a pet cat that isn’t allowed out of the house. She encourages Yune to continue as a friend to Alice so that Alice’s free spirit won’t end up trapped in the house.
But there is another, darker, side to the scene during which Camille talks with Yune in the playroom that fascinates me. Alone with Yune, Camille seems moodier: sterner, and angrier. Yune likens her to a beloved older sister, but Camille refuses to acknowledge Yune as a younger sister. Although she attempts to be nice, and clearly likes Yune for her sister Alice’s sake, she is critical of Yune’s mannerisms and behavior, and is quick to scowl when she realizes that Yune is selecting a dress to please Claude’s tastes.