While Ikoku Meiro no Croisée is obviously fiction, since it is based on real life Paris in the late 19th century, I decided to try to pinpoint a certain timeframe that would be possible for the anime to take place in based on real life incidents and what was shown in the anime. Right off the bat, we know that Ikoku takes places in the 19th century (as shown on the picture above), meaning that it should take place within 1800-1899. With that, we will increase the lower bound first (currently at 1800).
Proposition 1: Ikoku Meiro no Croisée cannot happen before 1886
One the biggest premise is that Yune, a Japanese, moved to France under the guidance of Osacar Claudel, a Frenchman that have gone to Japan more than once. This is only possible if the certain citeria are met:
- The French masses actually know about the existence of the Japanese. This is related to the two points below, since it would be rather hard for Japanese culture to be known if traveling to Japan is impossible and/or official, let alone passenger, entry to Japan is impossible.
- Passenger travel from France to Japan is possible. According to Wikipedia’s article about ocean liner, it was the main mode of transportation from “mid-19th century”. Unless there are other mode of transportation that is accessible to the masses before the existence of ocean liner, it is safe to assume that Osacar cannot travel to Japan unless the plot takes places around or after mid-19th century (aka around 1850s).
- That the Japanese government allows foreign entry. For the early half of the century, Japan was under the policy of Sakoku, which prohibited foreign entry, and it wasn’t until 1854 when Matthew C. Perry (Commodore Perry, you should have seen a parody of him in Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) forced the Japanese to sign the Convention of Kanagawa, which effectively opened up Japan for foreign trade. For France specifically, diplomatic relations didn’t start until 1858 when the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between France and Japan was signed.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that France to Japan travel is not possible until 1858. Now going back to the Wikipedia article of Sakoku, it states that while it is a policy that prevented foreign entry, Japan was not entirely isolated from foreign countries, in particular, Nagasaki (the place where Yune originated from) still had trade with the Dutch, and hence residents in Nagasaki had still minor access to the western society. Yet, despite that, it seems that most interaction that Nagasaki had was to the Dutch (for historical reasons), as fact that Osacar doesn’t seem to be an important exporter, Osacar wouldn’t have the chance to interact with Yune before the opening of Japan. While for Yune, as she is a resident in Nagasaki, which was a port city with minor trades with the Dutch (and other countries) during the Sakoku, it wouldn’t be surprising for her to actually know quite a bit of western knowledge when she was living in Japan (she does know French in the anime).
Now going to episode 9, we are given a flashback between Claude Claudel and Camille Blanche, of the list of things that Camille shows Claude, two of them can really help to show the time at which Ikoku can take place.
- The novel which Camille was reading, Around the World in 80 Days, was first published in 1873, so obviously at scene must have taken place after 1873.
- Camille was talking about her dad buying a car, pointing to the car shown above. In the scene, the book had a line that read “Benz Patent Motorw”. A quick search on Wikipedia shows that it most likely to be referring to the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, a car which not only matches the description (runs on gasoline, which I don’t think was common around that time), but also the picture that was shown (compare above). Therefore, I conclude that Camille’s family was planning to get a Benz Patent-Motorwagen, which was first shown to public on July 3, 1886. Hence, since that car is already known to public around that time, that scene must have happened at or after July 3, 1886 (and since they didn’t have internet then, it is safe to assume that they didn’t get the news until after July 3, 1886).
Therefore, Ikoku Meiro no Croisée cannot happen before 1886 (or July 3, 1886).
Also the anime is highly likely to happen several years after 1886, as that scene involving the Benz Patent-Motorwagen happened in a flashback, when Claudel and Camille were still adolescences, which is obviously several years before Yune’s arrival. So while it is highly that Ikoku happens after 1890 (4 years after 1886), I did not state that in the proposition since I do not have solid data/evidence on what the time lapse between current time in anime and the flashback was.
Well, now that we have gotten the timeframe down to 1886-1899 (span of 14 years) or 1890-1899 (a decade). So can we decrease the upper bound (now 1899), so that we have an even narrower timeframe of when Ikoku was possible? A bit harder. The following are some points that I thought might help in decreasing the upper bound:
- The non-existence of the Eiffel Tower. The Tower started construction at 1887 and was completed on 1889. So while I can use that to support the timeframe of 1886-1889. Two problems arise from this. One is that I’m ignoring the possibility that the Eiffel Tower already exist during the span of the series, but Yune and co. just never had the chance to see the Tower, and two, it limits the time lapse between Yune’s arrival and when Claudel and Camille were still adolescences at max of 3 years (Eifel Tower was completed at March 31, 1889, less than 3 years after July 3, 1886).
- Public transportation. Interestingly, we only see horse carriages and horse operated omnibus on the roads (and the roads being really clean) within the series. Around 1886, trams already existed in Paris, but we never got to see them in the anime. Again with the logic with Eiffel Tower, we can’t just assume it’s non-existence just because it did not appear within the anime.
- Fashion – I don’t really know much about fashion. For female pedistrants, some of them was wearing what was described in the Wikipedia article as fashion in 1890′s. For example, having the extended rear only (bustle) as opposed to having the dome shape dress below waist (crinoline). Yet, for the two girls in the Blanche family, they were both wearing crinoline, something which was supposed to be outdated by the 1880′s,1890′s. So are we back in the 1860′s where crinoline was all the fame, of was is just that the rich still rather wear something that is overly fancy (and outdated) to set themselves apart from the middle class. I don’t know what to conclude with this point…
So I guess I can conclude here now and say that the Ikoku Meiro no Croisée must have happened around 1886-1899, with high certainty of it being in the 1890′s