「「愛する人は ずっと見守っている」」 (‘Aisuruhito wa Zutto Mimamotteiru’)
“Loved Ones Will Always Watch Over You”
I just finished writing about Fate/EXTRA Last Encore yesterday. It was something of a downer episode featuring a very unfortunate little girl. I just wrote a spiel about the anime industry milking its sad kids, and now comes Violet Evergarden, which obviously didn’t read a single word I wrote. Rude. As far as drama goes, I consider crying children to be taboo. It’s cheating. It’s entrapment. Mostly because it’s so effective. The episode director this week was Ogawa Taichi, bringing his experience in creating unhappy children while working on Koe no Katachi to inflict on us in Violet Evergarden. And oh, it stings. Children are more than the precocious shounen heroes or the innocent blobs of cute. They have it rough. They go through a lot very quickly relative to their age, and don’t yet have the life experience or cynical outer armour needed to rationalise their emotions. In drama children can be caricatured or overused, but when done well there is something raw about their tears. Commendations to Morohoshi Sumire, something of an expert on voicing little girls, for a powerful performance as Anne this episode. She really wrang the emotions out of this one.
More than crying children, though, I’m affected by crying mothers. I am fatally weak to stories of parental devotion (CLANNAD slew me, but I got better); there’s just something beautiful about unconditional love. When mothers actually show up in anime, they usually come in one of two flavours: either they’re of the wicked stepmother variety or they’re stalwart bastions of love and stability (that said, watch Mushishi). So when a mother breaks down, it’s usually a very big deal. As it was here. No doubt Anne’s mother wished to spend more of her remaining days with her child. Keeping her away must have been painful. Yet, in the way mothers do, she gives and she sacrifices for the future of her daughter. It’s powerful stuff.
This episode was based on what was perhaps my favourite chapter of the light novel. The anime has adapted it quite well, but you may have noticed that Violet does not play quite as large a role here as earlier episodes. This is faithful to the light novel, and in this episode we get a peek at its original form. In the novel, especially the earlier chapters, Violet was often not our point of view. Rather, she plays background (yet still important) parts in the stories of others. So we have this episode about Anne and her relationship with her mother, told from her perspective, with Violet playing a supporting role in more ways than one. While this is the base state of the novel, the anime does this now because as of last episode Violet’s character was essentially complete. We can pull back from her, have her enable other stories, and reflect. In that vein, two important changes from the novel: the positioning of this chapter later in the series as episode 10, and a small scene for Violet at the end. While in the novel we got this chapter early, but here Violet has already gone through a lot. Anne’s story is a reflection of her own; Violet, having been orphaned herself, can finally say that she understands love, both of Anne and her mother. And lo, empathy. Violet has come a long way from being a metaphorical robot. I think we can safely say that she is human after all.