I must say, some of my favourite scenes in any given episode of Violet Evergarden are the travelling transitions. Violet Evergarden has some gorgeous backgrounds and beautiful music, and while it has turned out to be a dialogue heavy show I feel it is strongest when it indulges in quiet contemplation.
If course, there’s more to anime to art and sound, so let’s talk about theming. Starting from last week we’ve been moving away (though not completely) from anime original content and adapting more straight from the light novel. This episode is based on the first chapter of the LN. The chronological shuffling the anime adaptation has done, though, means that it can’t really be a 1:1 transliteration. In the LN, this first chapter was an introductory one, easing readers into the setting, the concept of Auto-Memoir Dolls, and what they do. Violet was a secondary presence compared to Oscar, he being the one with all the issues. In the anime, we’re now more than half-way through the season, and here Violet is a larger role. But the underlying themes should still be the same. You will no doubt have noticed that Violet Evergarden deals with parent/child relationships a lot, and the tale of Oscar is no different. And it also frequently deals with loss; last episode saw a child losing their mother, here it’s a father losing his daughter, and considering Violet’s circumstances we’ll see plenty more of loss in every form yet. But what sets this episode apart is that it is, for once, not about writing letters. Oscar is writing a play, fiction. Recall that this was the first chapter of the LN, and perhaps it was, in a self-indulgent way, trying to make a case for itself. After all, all fiction are but sets of well crafted lies. Before, the letters Violet helped write were an attempt to express a personal truth. But for Oscar, it is a search for a truth, an attempt to find some meaning in tragedy.
Consider this: why does Violet, and eventually Oscar, insist that the play have a happy ending? That its heroine returns to her father, while Oscar’s daughter did not? I know I sometimes rant satirical on happy endings, but this could be a time to seriously consider whether one is important. Oscar was writing a play for children, so perhaps it’s natural to assume that there will be a happy ending, but must it? I am reminded of one of the works of Maurice Sendak, the esteemed artist and author of Where the Wild Things Are. His dog was old and dying, and so he decided to write a book about her. In that book, the dog leaves the house on an adventure, gets lost, and dies. And, appropriately to our discussion of Violet Evergarden, the dog leaves behind nothing but a letter to her owner. It is not, by any measure, a happy ending, yet it was as much a children’s book as any other Maurice picture book. Are children incapable of understanding loss? Should they be sheltered from it? But fiction is how humans, creatures who have told stories before the dawn of civilisation, grapple with reality. It’s not like childhood is without fear, sadness, and uncertainty. Where better for children to confront these heavy issues than the safety of fiction?
Which brings us to Violet, who is very much mentally a child. In regards to the major, she has been sheltered from the truth. Was it right, to have hoped to spare her the pain as long as possible? Or should we confront the fact that, perhaps, her story is one where there can be no happy ending?