I jot down notes as I watch every show, and usually, I’ll turn those notes into an essay. Unfortunately, I’m feeling a little under the weather at the moment (God, I hope it’s not the early stages of the flu), so all I’ve got for you tonight are my notes. There are plenty of them, though; I’ll hope they’ll do for now. Happy Valentine’s Day, fellow weebs.
— Huh, why are we here? What happened with Dietfried at the end of last week’s episode? Why am I listening to some bitter guy trash Auto Memoir Dolls? We find ourselves high up in the mountains at an observatory. Some character by the name of Leon rants about how ghostwriters are all opportunistic gold diggers. Who hurt you, my man? Well, we’ll find out soon enough.
— Oh hey, look who’s back. I don’t mind Luculia.
— I still don’t get why ghostwriters in this universe have to be all women. If this is an attempt at social commentary, then you could argue that women bear the brunt of the emotional labor in our society. In Violet Evergarden’s alternate universe, we take this idea to its logical extremes. The most heartfelt letters are expected to be written by only women. That’s a bit silly, though.
— Basically, they need to transcribe some old books before said books disintegrate. They’ll tackle this problem by having the Doll’s partner dictate the book to her. Naturally, the partner is necessarily a guy. I feel like there must be a better way to accomplish this task, but nothing’s coming to mind.
— Leon tries to give Violet some attitude about how she’s useless if she can’t keep up with his dictation. Ooh, look at me, I’m a big shot who can read fast.
— Ah yes, Alley’s Comet… Halley’s Comet’s annoying cousin who always has to one-up people at parties. Oh, you show up every 74 years? Well, I only show up every 200 years!
— Watching Violet’s mechanical fingers in action, I am reminded of that concert scene in Haruhi. Remember when people creamed their pants over it? They were like “OMG, they animated the guitar fingering!” Nah, the best part about that concert was that it didn’t have worst girl Mikuru. But yeah, gotta give credit where credit’s due: this scene was nuts back in 2006. Man, those were the days. What ever happened to Aya Hirano, anyways?
— I know Violet can type really well and her spelling is top-notch too, but she can’t possibly know how to spell every single proper noun, can she?
— What are you guys going to do about the pictures in the book? In any case, Leon ends up reading 144 pages out loud in a single day. I feel sorry for that boy’s throat.
— Finally, ten minutes into the episode, we see signs of Violet’s counter with Gilbert’s bitterly antagonistic brother. She’s grown to love and appreciate her role as an Auto Memoir Doll. It’s no longer just a mission for her. At the same time, however, she wonders, “Am I really fit to have such a wonderful job?” We know she’s taken many lives as a child soldier (hell, she still is a child), but nowadays, she seems rather harmless. This sort of duality is present in a lot of works, and I’ve covered it before. I’ll just copy what I wrote back then:
I’m reminded of an important existential theme: personhood is the combination of one’s history, memory, experiences and one’s free will. There is a way of looking at the self which reveals two components of every person. Sartre calls these components one’s facticity (“I have done bad things in the past…”) and one’s transcendent self (“…but I am free to stop, and I will.”).
If you go to a serial killer who is utterly repentant, you can ask, “Are you the type of person who kills people?” and he can truthfully answer you twice, “Yes, I am” and “No, I am not.” Why? Because examining one half of his identity, his facticity, describes him as a person who does bad things. Examining the other aspect of his identity, his transcendent free will, which has committed itself to not harm another living thing, describes him as someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
What does this all mean? To put it simply, there’s always a chance at redemption.
— I think we can all admit that Violet has grown as a person over the past few episodes. She can now smile, she can now appreciate her job, she can now understand people’s feelings, so on and so forth. So I naturally have to wonder… when she was defending Leon against those classist bullies — was she really just “stating the facts?” I mean, how can you be a great Doll if you can’t sympathize or empathize with your clients? She’s using examples about her own past and character in order to defend Leon. What is this if not empathy? When Leon returns to Violet, she astutely asks if he’s upset. Would she ask that if she could not at the very least sympathize with him?
— These boys fall in love so easily. Then again, it seems like they rarely get to hang out with members of the opposite sex up here on these mountains. They’re practically monks, ecclesiastically devoted to the stars.
— Violet says she has a habit of not eating. Why? Because you are at your most defenseless when you are eating or sleeping. Kinda reminds me of Dwight Schrute.
— Leon hasn’t been around girls much if he truly believes this. I’m being snarky, but in all seriousness, this does play into the duality of personhood that we were just talking about. She can answer truthfully that she’s done bad things, but at the same time, she’s now an ordinary girl who enjoys writing and feeding birds during her free time.
— That poor baguette. Leon’s getting a little too excited just talking to a girl.
— But it’s too bad that Violet Evergarden is such an episodic anime series, so even if we do see Leon again after this week’s episode, he probably won’t have much of a role to play. I mean, just look at Luculia. We saw her for about five seconds, and she’s practically disappeared from the episode. It would be nice to get a story that spans several episodes — an arc, if you will — just so we can have more to chew on, but KyoAni decided that episodic would be best for whatever reason(s).
— Look at this guy daydreaming about the girl every single day just because she was nice to him. It’s okay; I’m the same way.
— Hmm, looks kinda underwhelming in anime form…
— And now, it’s time for Leon to reveal his life story to Violet. They always try to be so dramatic when they tell these stories: “And then, she fell in love with a man of this town and had a child with him… THAT CHILD WAS ME!” Of course it is. Who else would it be? Plot twist: it wasn’t me!
— He just had to get a pack of smokes. He’ll be back.
— But seriously though, no matter how much you love your husband, I can’t believe you’d leave your child (and a very young one, too). Some things are just more important, and I say that as a person who has no plans to have kids. Once you cross that line, you have to accept your duty as a parent.
— Violet claims that she understands the concept of loneliness, but she can’t tell if she’s feeling or has ever felt it. Leon then helps her realize that she has felt the emotion before through two simple questions. Can we really say that she understood it before this very moment, then?
— Violet: “I would rather die than lose [Gilbert].” Well…
— Sucks for Leon, though. Violet’s the first girl he has ever felt comfortable talking to, but she’s completely devoted to a dead man. Well, maybe now he won’t hold such toxic views about Auto Memoir Dolls anymore.
— Leon wonders if Violet would drop everything and go to Gilbert’s side if the latter was in danger. The girl wouldn’t even hesitate. Nevertheless, she says, “My only thought would be how to apologize to you.” Maybe now he can now understand his mom a little better. That doesn’t mean it was right for her to abandon him, but love does make us bumbling fools.
That’s okay, though. Love’s ability to destroy us all is what makes it so beautifully tragic.
“What do you want to do? Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.”
“Good,” I said. “That’s what I want too.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
— Oh hey, now it looks a little more awesome… and yes, Violet clearly loves Gilbert.
— Leon: “I don’t know what the odds are of seeing [Violet] again on my travels.” Here, lemme help you: add Leiden to your travel plans. Done.
— Right before she departs from him (maybe for good), Leon confesses that he’s always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he stayed at the observatory in the hopes that his mother would return one day. But luckily, a single heart-to-heart talk with our socially stunted Violet is enough to clear away years of doubts and anxieties. Look, Violet Evergarden is a very sweet show. It’s a very feelgood and wholesome anime. But at the moment, it is also incredibly unchallenging. I continue to enjoy each week’s episode, but it feels as though the story has plateaued. KyoAni is playing it too safe.