018: Violet Evergarden
Aired: Winter 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Drama, Coming of Age, Slice of Life, War
Date watched: Dec 16 2018 – Dec 17 2018
Series watched: Violet Evergarden (13 ep x 23 mins + 1 ep x 34 mins)
Why I started watching: I had now tried several shows that were away from my usual hardcore SoL/CGDCT genres, and I wanted to continue doing so. This one was one I had read good things about on Reddit. Also, it’s a KyoAni show and I’ve liked all the shows from them that I’ve tried, both visually and plot-wise.
Boy, this show turned out reeeeally dark, and yet, really heartwarming at the same time. It centers around a girl, a child soldier named Violet, struggling to return to society after the war ended. She’s inflicted with deep scars, both physically and psychologically, yet she does not even know they are there since all that she has ever known is her life as a soldier. Around her, as well, the nations of the world are trying to recover from the war that had ravaged the land, and seething discontent still simmers between certain factions. It all sets up a fascinating story of a broken individual who has to try to come to terms with her own deeds, losses, and inability to fit with in with society. Survivor’s guilt and PTSD plague her as she clings on to the one goal she has, without understanding what it even means. The show looks at death from all angles, making Violet deal with people who had lost their parents or lost their kids, who were going to die or were dying, people who were angry or sad or indifferent, and so on. Every encounter ends up being a different look at how to deal with death and grief.
The anime has a mix of episodic, flashback, and plot advancement episodes, and for the most part it strikes a pretty good balance, although there are some weird spots. The flashback sequence in the middle of the show, for example, ran a bit long, and was awkwardly split between two episodes. The end of the show also veers toward full-on action and drama for a bit, which was slightly jarring for me considering the tone of the rest of the anime, but also made sense in the context of the world-building, so I was fine with that, even if the climactic scenes were really unrealistic. Seeing Violet’s growth from the first episode to the last one was pretty glorious, though, and I liked how they used the episodic stories with her clients to display her coming to new understandings about herself, without needing to resort to much inner monologue to do so. Showing rather than telling, as the saying goes.
Violet Evergarden’s Episode 10 also frequently comes up on “what are your saddest episodes” lists, although I didn’t realise that until the episode hit me like a truck. I am not a very good guesser of plot twists, and as part of my Personal Rules of Enjoyment, I also do not try too hard. I actually managed to misinterpret the ending of that episode at first, thinking that Violet was being a good penpal, until about halfway through the reveal, at which point it hit me, and then kept on punching me. The extremely touching scene afterwards also highlighted Violet’s significant character growth through this episode and through the show, especially considering what she had nearly done in the previous episode. Episode 10 performed some herculean work to tie the previous flashback chapters together with the next few action-oriented ones, and I think the show would have been far worse if that episode was not done as well as it were. Seven shows had made me weep up till this point, but the ending of episode 10 just flattened me, and the epilogue then rubbed my flat form into the road for good measure. It was far and away more emotional than even Angel Beats! episode 10, which was the champion up till that point for me.
Music-wise, the ending song really stood out for me, Michishirube by Minori Chihara. I was also concurrently watching Haruhi Suzumiya with friends, and her character there, Yuki Nagato, was my favourite character. Her character here, Erica, definitely reminded me of Yuki as well both in terms of personality (generally quiet and soft-spoken) and looks (glasses!). I think the song is the Major’s theme song, sombre yet hopeful, singing about Violet, though you could also probably interpret it as Violet singing about herself and the Major. The piano and Chihara’s hymnal voice lend a very haunting feel to it, especially in the episodes where they overlay the song with the ending scene or epilogue for dramatic emotional effect, like a longing voice crying out in the night for salvation.
Final Score: 10/10