One of the things I've loved about this series from the beginning - and there's an awful lot of them - is the wonderful way it gets at the cultural differences between Europeans and Japanese without demeaning either. When Claude said, "It would be so much easier if she could think of herself instead of others" that really captured the essence of the point for me.
My earlier suspicions about Claude being something of an ideologue appear to have some merit. His resentment towards Alice and her family have some very practical and understandable causes, but his dismissal of her as a "money-grubbing bourgeoisie" are classic buzzwords of the French intellectual movement of the time. I've really come to love Claude as a character - he's a bit of a tsun-dude, true, but he carries an innate decency and dignity around like a shield of honor. It's hard on him, seeing his way of life under threat by a world that refuses to play by the same rules he does. Inflexibility is not a trait to be praised, I admit, but I think he does show flexibility about the really important stuff - and always does the right thing when the chips are down. Like taking her to the public baths, though the idea of doing so unless absolutely necessary makes little sense to him.
Into the picture full-force comes Alice, and I'll confess I'm not completely sold that it's a positive development. I was thrilled with the first three eps of this show, even with no conventional plot - simply watching the three protagonists interact was a complete pleasure. Alice feels like the most cliched element of the series by far. By first impressions she's an utterly derivative character we've seen a thousand times before, and comes off as something of a one-dimensional villain. She very stereotypically plays the Ojou-sama role, treating Yune as if she owned her and Claude as if he were trash. What gives me hope is both the obvious skill the writer Takeda Hinata has shown and the fact that the talented Aoi Yuuki is voicing Alice. This is an interesting change for her, and I hope the character develops into something subtler and more effective than we saw this week. Big sister Camille (Yahagi Sayuri) looks as if she will provide a moderating influence.
Yes, I was certainly angry at the way Alice tried to bribe Yune away from Oscar and Claude, most especially when she tried to use Yune's mother's kimono as both carrot and stick. It's even more galling, given that it was Yune's courtesy that compelled her to hear Alice out at all. I wasn't really worried, though, because Yune has already proved herself both trustworthy and immensely loyal. I'm not sure of her wisdom in refusing to take the kimono no strings attached (a sign, perhaps, that Alice isn't so bad at heart), though her reasons make sense. She's dedicated to promises, Yune is - both given and received - and there was never any question of her returning home to cook her sukiyaki. When she said "Both Oscar and Claude have showed me a lot of affection. I need to return the affection to them." that was probably the most emotionally profound moment of any series so far this Summer.
There's no question, Yune is absolutely one of the cutest things ever. She's ridiculous. But it totally works, because she's actually got an iron will inside that tiny little body. It's beyond me how any human could resist loving her, so I guess I don't blame Alice for that. Even if this wasn't my favorite episode and she's the main reason why, it was still an important ep in developing Yune's relationship with Claude and Oscar, and if it's handled as well as I hope, offers a lot of very interesting possibilities for future complications (as if the ending could leave any doubt of that). Next week brings as an adorable manga story "Lost Child", where the urchin from the first episode enters into the story.