OP: 「Sincerely」 by TRUE
「「あなたが、良き自動手記人形になりますように」」 (‘Anata ga, Yoki Jidou Shuki Ningyou ni Narimasu You ni)
“‘May You Be an Exemplary Auto-Memoir Doll’”
Violet is a robot. Sure, she’s not entirely mechanical but for our purposes there is little difference between a robot made of steel and oil one made of flesh and blood. We’re talking about intelligence here, human versus artificial, and Violet is certainly more of the latter than the former. She has, from appearances, the barest functional programming for her to masquerade in human society and little of the extra trimmings that can constitute what we might call a personality. If that’s all Violet is ever going to be, that would be boring. Dumb robots don’t make for much of a protagonist — the drink dispenser at your local train station makes for a perfectly functional robot but nobody is going to make an anime about it. We’re three episodes in and Violet still basically has one routine (receive orders from the major or his proxy => execute) so it’s high time that character development (i.e. the development of any character at all) took root and she graduated from being a dumb robot to being a thinking robot.
Thus, Prussian education, a comfortable fit for an ex-soldier like Violet. Or it would have been if this was just a class on speed-typing, but if it was then Violet wouldn’t need to be there in the first place. It goes entirely as one might predict: Violet has all the mechanics of the job mastered, but lacks any sort of social skill and that should rightfully be a failing grade. Perhaps such a telegraphed line of plot is a minus to some, but I don’t think this episode was ever intended to be shocking schoolhouse drama. Rather, it marks a transition in Violet Evergarden. As I noted last week, the series has been in something of a prologue-mode thus far, but the introduction of the OP and ED marks a turning point. The central motif of Violet Evergarden is letters and the story cannot be said to have truly begun until Violet begins to write them in earnest. Thus this rite-of-passage, bridging that gap between Violet the dumb robot and Violet the professional Auto-Memoir Doll.
This is a transition not just in theme but also in form. You may remember my discussions about the structure of the light novel, about how it was more of an episodic format with each chapter a short story. Harken back, if you will, to Shigofumi. It was a episodic anime about delivering letters, in this case for the dead, and more of a thriller than Violet Evergarden will ever attempt to be, but the parallels are obvious. In particular, it was strongest when it pulled away from the central character, telling stories around her rather than about her, and you’ll find that many other episodic anime are like that too. Here is where I ritually plug Mushishi: the tale of the titular mushi-shi is told through the world and the people he interacts with, and so shall it be, I suspect, with Violet Evergarden. Already, this episode shifts focus to a secondary character, one Lucuria (Tadokoro Azusa). With Violet still emotionally stunted, it is through Lucuria’s love and loss that she learns, much more than she does in a classroom. Here I reference Mushishi again, an anime that aimed to inspired through beauty, and Violet Evergarden attempts it to; there is a certain beauty to the unconditional love shown to the deadbeat brother no matter how far he fell. Art makes us ‘feel’ with that kind of inspiration, and that’s what moves Violet as well: a certain ephemeral beauty that gives her memories emotional texture.
Her task, though, is to distil all those feelings into words which is, pardon the pun, easier said than done. Has that not been the eternal struggle of even the most fluent poets from since language was still young? Ever more the barrier for someone like Violet, and I’m glad she managed find her own, personal solution to her problem. If she lacks tact and nuance, then her strength is in being honest and direct. People are
complicated. Emotions are turgid. So while Violet is incapable of florid prose, to be able to draw out the singular truth behind
all the tears is a powerful thing.
And that’s how I see Violet Evergarden will be going from now on, with the titular Auto-Memoir Doll performing these services for a variety of clients. Violet Evergarden has been taking things fairly slowly thus far — a deliberate choice, probably, considering that there’s not really all that much light novel to adapt — but I think we’re coming upon its true form. If you saw the thematic potential in Shigufumi, or enjoyed the by-the-episode contemplation of Mushishi, then I think Violet Evergarden is a keeper. Or maybe the taste of drama this episode hit the right notes for you. Or maybe you just want to admire the production values. At the very least, the first three episodes definitely makes a solid case for Violet Evergarden deserving a few more. It took some time to get here, but I can finally say: we’re off to a good start.
ED: 「みちしるべ」 (MIchisurube) by 茅原実里 (Chihara Minori)