After a series of relative simple yet heart-wrenching episodes, this week Violet Evergarden ramps into action mode. For only the second time in this entire enime there are no letters. Instead, now for something completely different: a train hijacking! Perhaps such a shift should not be too surprising. This is the finale arc, after all, and often to stories wish to go out with a bang and nothing highlights a climax like a genre shift. But this is not your typical action finales either. Whereas rising action is usually parallel to rising tension, with the audience increasingly excited about the prospect of the hero kicking arse and taking names, Violet Evergarden makes no attempt to fire up that particular hype machine. Yes, feel free to indulge in a moment of schadenfreude when a fist is served to a deserving face, but Violet Evergarden does not take much time to revel in it. Just listen to the score throughout the entire fight sequence. There is no hotblooded electric guitar, or the full blast of an orchestra. Instead we have a foreboding cello, a mournful trumpet, and a soldier’s dirge. I was sure how I was supposed to feel throughout the entire episode. Part of me did want to cheer Violet on, but I couldn’t get into it knowing that nobody was going to be happy about any of this.
Still, I just positively love steam trains, so any excuse to set an episode of anime in one is a winner in my book. Honestly, I was more excited about the train than anything else Violet Evergarden delivered this week. I wonder, though, if it is not more appropriate to think of this finale more in terms of theme than in terms of spectacle. Ever since had her epiphany moment back in episode 09 the only thing left to do was to test her new resolve, and this whole peace treaty thing will be her hardest test. Continuing on from last week, Violet had, with much difficulty and help from benefactors, managed to pull herself away from the battlefield. Others may look down on her, but she’s definitely come out better for it. But now she throws herself back in. It’s like watching a junkie descend once more into the underworld. Will Violet fall back into old habits? Or will her new self preservere? She’s apparently sworn to not kill again, but she’s not particularly effective. The same spectre as last week is raised. No matter how Violet’s past was, one had to admit that when she was a killing machine she was very good at it. And the ability to take a life is both to be feared and respected. But she who dealt in death now dealt in ink and paper. What good is writing letters compared to the full brutality of war? And that is Violet’s final test, not just to escape the battlefield, but to render it unnecessary, impotent. If she wants to protect her new peace, she can’t do it by fighting. She has a different way now, and with it she must end this war and maybe win Dietfried over in the process.
I just wish Violet Evergarden was more subtle about it. I know, it’s a story about the importance of communication, but I never really liked my anime spelling things out. When more than half the episode is shot in the same murky darkness as the flashbacks to Violet’s past, when the dialogue is all blunt confrontation, when all the characters wear their hearts on their sleeves, perhaps that’s a bit too direct. Oh, there’s no subtext here; everything is on the surface, loud and clear, and trebucheted directly into our faces. Still, subtlety has never been Violet Evergarden‘s strong suit, and probably not even its intention. At this point, perhaps it is best that it sticks to its guns. If Violet Evergarden intends to be the emotional steamroller to the very end, I hope it has a real kick prepared for us next week.