Violet Evergarden Ep. 2: Why do we write?

Violet needs to be cared for. She needs to be told what to do. She needs to be given “orders” because she cannot yet live for herself. There’s a lot about the world that she has yet to understand. Love, for instance, is an emotion she cannot currently comprehend. What did the Major mean when he told her that he loved her? This mystery gnaws away at the her, driving Violet to make her first autonomous decision and become an Auto Memoir Doll. She believes that by listening to other people’s words, she might one day come to understand Gilbert’s last words. But instead of gaining any sort of clarity, the meaning of words just got a whole lot more complicated. Why do people say things that they do not mean? Why did that woman play hard to get with someone she truly loved? Why did Erica end up defending Violet after calling her unqualified?

“There are two sides to words. What’s spoken isn’t necessarily all there is to it. It’s a human weakness. We tend to test others to reaffirm our worth. How contrary, right?”

Not only is Violet still just a child, she has known only war. Normal social interactions are completely new to her. She’s never had to look for subtle cues or nuances in everyday conversations. All her life, she’s been given clear and direct orders, and she responded with clear and direct affirmations. Words were never supposed to be weapons. Words were just tools — communication tools that assisted her in carrying out whatever mission she was assigned to. As an Auto Memoir Doll, however, the script has been flipped upside-down. Words are now a battlefield. Words can heal, but they can also hurt. Words do not always mean what we want them to mean.

As a result, I can’t help but pity Violet. This must all be terribly confusing to her, especially if — after everything she’s just witness and experienced in this week’s episode — her mind can’t resist drawing the most tempting conclusion: if there are two sides to words, then were there also two sides to Gilbert’s last words? I don’t think so. You probably don’t think so either. Knowing what we know — and granted, we don’t know much — Gilbert likely did genuinely love Violet. But how would she know?

“How odd I can have all this inside me and to you it’s just words.” — David Foster Wallace

There’s also the fact that Violet can’t understand her own feelings. At least not the complex ones. She’s never really had to. During the war, her feelings weren’t mission critical. As long as she had Gilbert by her side, she could express her feelings for him through her actions without even realizing that she was doing so. But it isn’t wartime anymore. And Gilbert isn’t around anymore. All Violet has now are her feelings, and they have nowhere to go. She has so much to say, and no way to put those thoughts into words. There are limits to Violet’s forms of expression. At best, she can only debrief Gilbert on her current “mission”: “I wish to report to him that I’ve assumed a ghostwriting post and have begun training for it.” That’s not all she wants to say, but it’s all she can say. Her letter, which will forever be unsent, is the extent of what she can process. The rest of her feelings remain as raw and immalleable emotions all tangled up within her. They will ache inside her, and with each passing day, that pain will grow and grow until something gives.

“You could say it’s a weapon that lets us working women fight in the wider society.”

Writing is freedom. Writing is intimate. Through our words, readers can enter our mental world and know what we know, feel what we feel. Most of all, we are in control. Readers can only read the words that we’ve written. No more, no less. They say that those like Violet are nothing more than tools without a mind of their own. What better way to prove them wrong than with their own words?

Violet Evergarden‘s time period is no coincidence. There’s a certain sense of nostalgia for what we might call “the good ol’ days,” but lest we forget, women were essentially second-class citizens back then. Women could not even vote. Dolls merely serve as a metaphorical device to bring forth and highlight this inherent social inequality. With postwar reconstruction as the backdrop, these heroines provide the emotional labor necessary to help mend society’s fractured psyche. And yet, those like Violet are seen as nothing more than tools not even worthy of second-class citizenship. You might ask why we feel the need to dredge up issues from the past, but even now, there are those who can’t help but feel that women’s suffrage was a mistake.

Misc. notes & observations:

Interesting architecture. The staircase forms an eye, which gazes down at Gilbert. It’s a panopticon. I get the sense that the Bougainvillea is (was?) a very important and influential family, and as a result, all eyes are on Gilbert.

— Gilbert’s brother Dietfried sure feels slimy. Well, there’s also the fact that he gifts his brother a lost and destitute child, doll or not. Who knows what Violet has been through up until this point in her life. A living thing is seen as nothing than a “wonderful gift… to celebrate [Gilbert’s] promotion.”

— Cattleya’s design is a bit… much.

— Iris seems rather insecure. “This job ain’t that easy!” she exclaims. She seems to fear the idea of a hotshot coming in and ultimately displacing her. Still, I can understand where Iris is coming from. Cattleya gets all the good requests, so Iris and Erica are mostly stuck typing up addresses or boring, emotionless requests. In other words, none of the stuff that requires empathy. If you just need someone to get the job done, Violet’s probably the best at it. In that case, what would Iris have left to do?

— On the other hand, Erica is meek and unassertive. She’s the sort to mumble her feelings rather than voicing her concerns out loud.

— Cattleya teaches Violet how to use the typewriter, and I can’t help but be reminded of a kid learning to drive for the first time. After all, cars tend to represent physical freedom, and in this episode, writing represents a kind of mental freedom.

— Hm, it appears Violet can calibrate her arms for finer manual dexterity. This seems to further intimidate the other employees.

— Violet starts off by typing incredibly loudly, but she doesn’t appear to mind the noise, though. You can look at it in a couple of different ways. On the one hand, it seems as though she is less responsive to stimuli than her peers, so does that mean she’s less human than them? On the other hand, she’s so determined to succeed that I doubt she would let something as trivial as the repetitive mechanical noises of a typewriter distract her. Maybe it does bother her, but as a soldier, she’s been through a whole lot worse.

— I wonder why Benedict got such a cold reception from those girls. Well, he seems bitter about it, which doesn’t help. He also likes to stick his foot in his mouth.

— People keep bringing up the fact that Violet’s still just a kid. This implies that dolls can age. They’re certainly man-made, but how biological are they?

— Iris rants about Violet, but judging by Erica’s expression, she seems to take each word personally.

— So Cattleya pretends to flirt with Claudia just to get Benedict to understand that the company is in dire straits financially? I wonder what her intentions are. Does she want Benedict to pity Claudia? Does she want to motivate him to work harder?

— Every lie has an expiration date. Eventually, Violet will figure out that Claudia has been deceiving her, and that moment will be heartbreaking. He has good intentions, but she will lose trust in him. One day, she’s going to realize that Santa isn’t real.

— Violet begins to offend not only the company’s clients but even her own coworkers when she can’t help but point out their mistakes. Nobody’s told her otherwise, though. She needs proper boundaries and instructions. I put the blame on Cattleya. By her own admission, Iris is still only a rookie, and any manager worth her salt would know that Erica isn’t up to the task of mentoring anyone. Erica doesn’t even protest when Violet apprehends a belligerent customer. Neither of those two can provide Violet the proper direction that she needs. Cattleya should’ve provided clear and concise instructions on how Violet’s second day of training is supposed to proceed.

— So a woman comes in and she wants someone to ghostwrite a romantic letter for her. Unfortunately, Cattleya isn’t in, and Violet’s all to eager to volunteer her services. To nobody’s surprise, our heroine’s letter is total bomb. Again, the blame falls squarely on Cattleya’s shoulders. She did not provide her team with directions on what to do if they get a job request that they cannot handle. This is probably why Cattleya doesn’t scold anyone when she returns. Instead, she takes it upon herself to fix the situation. Nevertheless, I’m interested in seeing how she is initially characterized. Will she have a character arc? Will she eventually develop into a capable leader for her team?

— When Violet reads out loud her “romantic” letter, Erica looks surprised as if this is the first time she’s heard its content. This part stretches credulity. Nobody bothered to check Violet’s letter before it got sent? Erica didn’t check it? The client didn’t check it? Hey, write me a romantic letter! Oh, you’re finished? Okay, send it! Nah, you don’t need to tell me what you wrote! Sorry, but I find that ridiculous.

— I guess I’m supposed to feel for the poor woman because it turns out she truly loved her man. But if she loved him, she should’ve been honest with him. At least, that’s what I think.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

— Plus, why would you ever expect strangers to read between the lines when you outright say something like this?

— Benedict bumps into Violet and confesses that he too should start thinking about looking for something else to do. Hm.

— Like I said on Twitter, Violet cracks me up: 1, 2, 3.

— Yeah, dealing with someone like her on a day-to-day basis would get old real quick, but from a distance, her complete and direct honesty is refreshing.

— Erica empathizes with Violet because they both feel the same way about the job. Gilbert’s words touched Violet’s heart, and she wants to understand that feeling. We learn later that Erica was moved by a novel — the very novel written by the blind wife of the man who invented Auto Memoir Dolls — so she too wants to be able to move others with her own words. Nevertheless, they’re both equally unsuited for the job. So in that sense, she and Violet are not so different after all. The sun comes out once Erica comes to this realization. It’s as if the truth has dawned on her.

— Erica and Violet walk in on Iris badmouthing the latter to Claudia. She sure is rather aggressive for a rookie.

— I prefer Violet’s previous look over her new one. Plus, this won’t help all those Saber memes.

— Maybe the company isn’t in trouble after all. It turns out Claudia had spent his month’s pay on getting back Violet’s lost brooch. That’s rather generous of him. Sure, a large part of him cares for her. But another part of him must surely feel guilty. He’s lying to her about Gilbert, after all. I fear his actions might one day be misconstrued as favoritism by the other employees if he keeps this up.

11 thoughts on “Violet Evergarden Ep. 2: Why do we write?

  1. Anonymous

    I’m pretty sure there aren’t any actual robots in this story. It’s just a weird semi-ironic metaphor on the part of the author.

    1. sonicsenryaku

      The auto memory dolls are artificial beings; it literally states that the auto memory dolls were originally created by a doctor to help his blind wife turn voice into text. Later models of the auto memory dolls were eventually distributed for military use; sure doesn’t sound like just a metaphor to me as those descriptors indicates an artificial-ness to them. What i think is the metaphor here is actually violet. It’s sort of like the novel “do androids dream of electric sheep” where the main character’s lack of humanity is used as a metaphor for being an artificial being while they slowly come to relearn their humanity. While there’s a possibility Violet could be one of those military-type dolls, the fact that this adaptation mentions her having grown up as a child soldier leads me to believe that she’s actually a human whose been robbed of her many human traits as a result of war. It is because of this that she fits the bill for being the perfect metaphor for an auto memory’s doll having been in the military, but also becoming a ghostwriter as was the original intent of the dolls.

      1. sonicsenryaku

        What might be the case here is that eventually, the term “auto memories doll” came to represent a position born from the original directive of female manufactured androids who were created with the goal to assist with writing. So in this world, being labeled as an auto memories doll, like with Violet, doesn’t mean she’s not human; it’s just a title harkening back to a time were dolls were being created for writing and military use.

      2. Anonymous

        Subs where I watched said that Auto Memoir Doll was the name of the first typewriter named by the professor and that the term began being used to refer the industry of writing for others.

  2. Kougeru

    ” Every lie has an expiration date. Eventually, Violet will figure out that Claudia has been deceiving her, and that moment will be heartbreaking. He has good intentions, but she will lose trust in him. One day, she’s going to realize that Santa isn’t real.”

    Hm…What exactly is he lying about? I honestly never noticed. Are you referring how he won’t tell her what happened to the Major? If so, I don’t consider that lying. He’s just withholding information.

    ” Yeah, dealing with someone like her on a day-to-day basis would get old real quick, but from a distance, her complete and direct honesty is refreshing.”

    You would really hate me, and other people that have aspergers. Her personally is nearly a perfect match for aspergers syndrome. Not sure how intentional that is on the part of the author. It could very easily just be coincidence in that the author was just aiming for “robotic” and it ended up matching aspergers extremely well.

    1. Sean Post author

      Your mileage may vary. To some people — like myself — lying by omission is still lying.

      Her personally is nearly a perfect match for aspergers syndrome.

      Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I wrote this last week:

      “Obviously, she lacks social graces. If she weren’t a doll, one would wonder if she was somewhere on the autism spectrum. Still, not everyone wants to play that social game — the small talk, the back-and-forth repartee, the fake congeniality.”

  3. Pierre

    I can’t remember a more aesthetically beautiful anime show than Violet (although I found this episode a bit too luminous for my taste).
    Can you? I would love discovering any gem I might have missed!

    1. Sean Post author

      Eh, I think you’re asking the wrong guy. I just started watching anime last October after taking a year off from blogging. I wouldn’t know if any visual gems have come out recently.

    2. Kougeru

      Pretty much anything from KyoAni is goregeous. Closest stuff to this level would probably be Hibike! Euphonium (Sound! Euphonium)

  4. Pierre

    That’s interesting, I know most of their shows but a more complete research revealed a couple I am going to check out! Thanks both.


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