「「人を結ぶ手紙を書くのか？」」 (‘Hito o Musubu Tegami o Kaku no ka?’)
“You Write Letters That Brings People Together?”
To think: Violet is capable of the florid prose and vapid verse required of a love letter. How far she has come. Sure, she still can’t help but be a creepy Doll most of the time (are we plugging Darker than BLACK? We’re plugging Darker than BLACK), but she has enough professional experience to cover for that, at least. What do they say? Fake it until you make it? Sounds about right. The time-skip definitely did Violet a lot of good, and I’d say it did the show a lot of good as well. To be completely honest, of all the things to trust to carry a story, characters pack the least punch. Characters are the part of the story that both take the longest to develop and have the most subjective appeal. I keep beating this dead horse every week, but we don’t really want to focus on Violet that much. If we look at Mushishi, one of the giants of episodic anime, the titular mushi-shi starts from episode 01 as a fully developed character. Little time is spent on explaining his circumstances, and his strong presence is used to enable other stories that are not really about him. So too should it be with Violet Evergarden; with this time-skip she’s finally mostly grown into her job as an Auto-Memoir Doll, and so the anime can pull back from her a bit to show other interesting things, like the setting or some minor characters. I often refer to Violet as a robot as far as her narrative role goes, and the Isaac Asimov tradition of narrative robots is that they are mirrors held up to humanity, simplified versions of us that reveal something about how we are. That’s what Violet is good at; she is strongest when she has someone else to reflect. More the moon than the sun, so to speak.
So while this anime will always be about Violet (it’s got her name on it, after all), this episode gets to dabble around with a royal wedding. You may have heard that they’re going to have another one of those over in the UK soon, and those are always a gala of pageantry and excess. As they should be; if the royal family is good for one thing, it’s tourism dollars, and the more extravagant an arbitrary event is the better. But they always sell a very romanticised, Disney fairytale version of the royal engagement, perhaps brushing over the its more pragmatic historical purpose (and even today there are rules about who the royals are allowed to marry). Anyone who has played enough grand strategy games can tell you that princesses have one use: purely cynical political arrangements. Just ask Queen Victoria. And for a moment, I thought that would be the story of Charlotte as well, of a princess fed up with her lot in life, pining to run away and join the circus. But the twist, if you can it that: she pushed for the marriage, or at least the particular suitor, herself! It’s a rather pragmatic kind of empowerment, neither fully rejecting her social position nor fully bowing to it, and I like it. But no matter its practicality, it’s marketed as a fairytale romance, and the crux of the episode, I think, is about words as fiction. Violet, as Charlotte’s ghostwriter, composes all sorts of pretty love letters to create the fairytale even though the couple has met each other all but once. It’s a beautiful story, but entirely fictional, and the implication is that this isn’t quite right. But doesn’t Violet Evergarden spin a fairytale of its own? That being open and honest so naturally leads to love and respect? Perhaps that’s the point. There is worth in this fiction. Fiction may not be real, but there can be a visceral truth in it all the same. There is worth in how the world should be no matter how it actually is.
It all works out rather well, Violet did a great job, everything seems sunshine and lollipops and rainbows. Unfortunately, since Violet Evergarden wants an overarching narrative, though, we can’t leave that there, which means this is a good time for a crisis point! The first volume of the light novel actually had one like this (but rather milder) in one of its later chapters, right before it dove deep into Violet’s sordid past. I wonder if that’s what the anime is about to do? I hope Gilbert’s brother isn’t showing up just to tear Violet down after how far she’s come. Taking one step forward then two steps back is awfully frustrating.