Violet Evergarden continues to surprise me on several different levels, pulling out some of the biggest emotional gut-punches that I’ve seen from a single anime in a while. While other anime of Winter 2018 such as A Place Further Than the Universe have also had some huge emotional moments, I think Violet Evergarden has one over every show of the season, especially with some of the previous episodes and how they’ve ended. The show is still far from perfect though, and while I still love the show dearly, it’s obvious where some of its problems lie within these two episodes.
Starting with episode 11, the beginning of the episode already has a bit of a tonal change from the previous episodes, being more about Violet’s past and how she’s dealing with that more so than her figuring out her feelings about the past, or just her dealing with particular situations from her job as an Auto Memoir Doll. Episode 11 feels more like a bridge episode between these two “arcs”, having aspects of both but not really having the particular strengths of each. There doesn’t seem to be as strong of moments such as those displayed in episode 9 or 10 relating to how Violet deals with patrons by doing her job, although that aspect still has yet to have disappeared as she still does this, having to appear on near a battlefield to take down a soldier’s message back home to his loved ones.Of course, that’s not to say that this episode doesn’t have its strong points or that it’s completely not on the same level as some of the previous segmented one-episode stories that we’ve gotten in the past. The only real difference between the previous episodes and this one is how closely this relates to Violet’s past.
For this reason, Hodgins attempts to keep this job a secret from Violet, as he knows that if she finds out about it, then she’ll want to do it and attempt to find some way to stir up trouble with the rebelling army, either to serve as revenge for what happened to Gilbert or just to continue searching for him in the midst of enemy territory. Despite all this though, Violet ends up doing the job (not by force, but deciding to take matters into her own hands) of delivering this soldier’s message to his family. Hodgins’s attempt to keep the message away from Violet was unsuccessful, as expected when it comes to Violet and Gilbert, a slightly predictable and problematic aspect that the show can’t seem to let go.
While understanding perfectly well that it’s needed in order to allow Violet’s character development to take place, it’s a bit disappointing that this plot point has to be held onto until the last few episodes after the great revelations that Violet has had about herself in the previous episodes.
As Violet continues to do her job through these motivations though, she still learns about dealing with the aspect of loss though, as shortly after arriving at her intended location via being an almost literal old-style mail airdrop, the rebels put the soldier into a near death state if not for Violet’s militaristic combat skills saving him. While the soldier does still want to write to his family and respond to his childhood friend’s confession, it will be the last thing he does before he departs from this world. As with some of the previous episodes, and perhaps more so in this one due to Violet’s past history with these rebels in the war, this is something that’s difficult for her to handle.
As she does try and tend to the soldier’s final wishes in as many ways as possible, there’s no way to save him from his near-death state, reminding Violet of the painful losses that the war has caused her and also reminding us as the audience of how the brutality of war can really change your life in an instant.
Episode 11, while I personally didn’t feel was as strong as, say, Episode 10, I could easily see how you could consider this as one of the final episodic “Auto Memoir job” episodes that packs a very strong emotional punch and allows Violet to develop as a character, while also leading us into the final arc of Violet coming to terms with Gilbert being gone forever, which leads us into Episode 12.
Without going into extraordinary detail, many parts of Episode 12 is partially what I dislike about these sorts of fantasy historical shows and I’m not exactly a fan of the sort of episode that it was, but that doesn’t mean that every aspect of it was a loss. While I do think that many parts of this episode sort of “set back” the anime in some ways, I also do think that the stronger points of animation were allowed to be showcased within this episode, as it does feature more action than many of the other episodes do. With that said, that also means that these action sequences replaced many of the more enjoyable aspects of the show for myself, but could easily be what someone else enjoys from a show of this kind. Depending on what you’re attempting to get out of Violet Evergarden, this will either be the strongest episode or the episode you think is the weakest.
It’s pretty apparent from the beginning that it will be an action-filled episode, as mentions of explosions, political ventures, and both armies being ready for combat in order to protect a peace ambassador to finally end the war once and for all, which allows Violet Evergarden to mix up its content a bit, and I can respect that in many ways.
However, what I didn’t exactly appreciate was that many of the scenes felt like they were unnecessary in a way, as aspects were either just filled with plot points that were just in there to sort of cater to making a statement that Violet may actually revert all the character development she’s undergone thus far, as being put into some tough combat situations and belittled into thinking that she didn’t deserve to feel the way she did. I’m not a huge fan of these sorts of scenes that revert character development as is, mostly because they seem to go nowhere as it’s unlikely that an entire series focused around developing one character will make the choice to negate all the time they’ve put into the series doing that just to cancel it all out at the last second. Especially with this being a one cour series, I couldn’t see that being a realistic possibility.
Particularly, the one scene that really made me dislike episode 12 though was the duel upon the train top, for a few nuanced reasons, and while I understand there’s multiple ways to interpret the scene, combined with the reasoning above, I personally didn’t care for what they were going for here. While Violet is being harassed on top of the train by the rebelling army, there’s plenty of symbolic imagery thrown around by use of her pendant that she’s referred to as “being like Gilbert’s eyes”, as they’ve mentioned a few times in the show up to this point.
The train top duel made particular points through their framing and cinematographic timing to the dialogue to use the pendant as a point of leverage in order to get her to admit that she wasn’t “human” or wasn’t allowed to feel these emotions that we’ve seen her grown to feel in the last few episodes. This could imply two different points of view, both of which seemed like perfectly valid viewpoints as I watched this scene.
The first interpretation being that the pendant represents Gilbert and how Violet is still tied to him in many ways, using the idea that his possible existence still drives her forward into discovering new aspects of herself and living the life that he wanted her to live after his death. The second being that the pendant is more of a metaphor for the emotional roller coaster she’s been through the entire series, along with her past and history being battered and thrown around like the pendant itself in this scene, struggling to survive in the midst of all the war.
While both interpretations are very good in their own right, and also how the visual aspects also work out being two equally plausible metaphors (props to the director/writer on that one) is impressive, although the first interpretation can still undermine the character development in some ways in showing that Violet still needs Gilbert’s existence to develop while the second interpretation isn’t nearly as inventive as it appears to be.
It’s definitely clear that episode 12 is one of Violet Evergarden’s more creative and artistic episodes, but still has yet something to be desired compared to the rest of the series. It’s not a deal-breaker in terms of the show’s quality level or anything, as it’s still very well-produced and is still at the top of the Winter 2018 season’s charts in terms of that, but there’s still aspects that are lacking the polish needed in order to make the series a stand-out above other KyoAni works. Episode 13 will be the determining factor for me if the series will stay at its current level or pushes itself to the top above the rest.