「「君は道具ではなく、その名が似合う人になるんだ」」 (‘Kimi wa Dougude wa Naku, Sono na ga Niau ni Narunda.’)
“You Won’t Be a Tool, but a Person Worthy of That Name.”
The character arc of the titular Violet Evergarden is not a complex one. Here’s a girl who doesn’t much understand emotions. She is forced to confront her problem in her line of work. She comes away with a new understanding of herself and the world. Simple, straightforward, and familiar. A story purely about Violet cannot sustain many episodes without getting repetitive, and so the secondary cast has to step up, with Violet herself shrinking back from the protagonist role and shining the spotlight on someone else. That’s the main form of Violet Evergarden, more or less a series of case studies that each shed some light on the human condition and polish Violet’s character one facet more as it does.
This week’s subject doesn’t stray far from Violet’s circle yet, though: fellow Doll Iris Cannary (Tomatsu Haruka). Iris has been the slowest to warm to Violet in the company, but is still close enough to her to fall within her comfort zone so she makes for a good second client for Violet. The two are also fitting foils for each other; while Violet is perfectly aloof at most times, Iris wears her heart on her sleeve (I know she doesn’t usually wear sleeves at all, not the point). But ironically Violet is actually easy to read, because she always says exactly what she’s thinking without censor, while Iris is the one who insists on hiding her feelings, in vain though it may be.
This episode is about dishonesty, but then so are, fundamentally, many kinds of stories. Think of how many dramas and comedies of errors would be non-starters if every character in them were always open about everything at all times. In fact, it’s sometimes even frustrating when characters just can’t be honest. Think of all the anime you have watched. Think of every awkward dad who doesn’t bother correcting a misunderstanding until he is killed by a resentful son. Think of every romantic lead who can’t work up the courage to confess her feelings and lets the relationship go nowhere for the entire season. Violet Evergarden also seems to imply that honesty is the best policy, but there are many reasons to tell a lie. Maybe it’s common courtesy. Maybe it’s to protect another. Maybe you’re a politician. Lies are the grease of society; sure, it’s a bit slimy, but it keeps things running smoothly. To continue the ‘Violet is a robot’ metaphor, one of the things robots in fiction often cannot do or are programmed not to do is lie. The social lie is a very human thing. Children learn how to lie from a very young age. Even a toddler will say to your face that they didn’t sneak any snacks with their face covered in cookie crumbs. Sure, they’re not very good at it, but as they grow older they learn to lie better, with more nuance. More importantly, they learn better reasons for lying, beyond just the self-serving fib. Iris lies about her success as a Doll for more reasons than just pride. Her family lies about their request for more than just a birthday party. Simply stating the facts, as Violet did, is not the same as truth. Truth is a more cerebral understanding between parties. And in this case, beneath everything there’s a fundamental bond between Iris and her family that they will always be able to fall back on in the end.
What does this mean for Violet? There is on clear parallel between her and Iris: they were both named after flowers. What’s in a name? Or so the Bard would ask, but a rose by any other name may not smell as sweet. A name contains the hopes and dreams parents have for their child. The Major was obviously in some parts a parental figure. He picks up a child soldier, takes her with him to war, and throws her head-first into violence and death. But he names her, ‘Violet‘.