by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Violet Evergarden ?
I've been looking forward to this episode ever since I first read the light novels. If I had to point to one story that best encapsulates the theme and appeal of Violet Evergarden, this episode would be it. It's a story about war, but Violet's not the one fighting in it. For her, this is a post-war story. Even so, she cannot leave the misery of war behind her. Her job as a scribe takes her even to the front lines of a battlefield. But even if she cannot save lives or stop the fighting, her letters bring comfort to the grieving in their own small yet significant ways.
Last episode, I commented that Violet has yet to wield a gun in the anime, and that rule continues here. Even when Violet has to fight with the enemy soldiers to reach her client, she faces them unarmed and takes care not to kill them. All the while, her eyes express her sadness and discomfort with the situation. If there's one thing that this episode brings home, it's that Violet has learned her lesson about war.
This story was originally the third chapter of the first volume, but it makes so much sense to place it near the end of the anime, after Violet has become aware of the horrors of war. Violet's regret over not saving Aidan is especially poignant now that we know she's only ever been responsible for killing people instead of saving them. Poor Violet. This is the second episode in a row where her client dies through no fault of her own.
Unlike last episode's emotional rollercoaster, this episode also explicitly leans into the narrative's post-war theme by bringing up the pro-war insurgency that was first mentioned in episode 9. I had predicted that they would reappear in the plot eventually, but I also think that their main act is yet to come. One of the insurgents seems to recognize Violet during a short yet tense conflict, which obviously implies that they'll clash again at some point.
For now at least, we get a glimpse of what kind of people these “anti-peace” folk are. They seem to be nasty, malicious types who would literally kick a man while he's down. Honestly, I think that this portrayal is counterproductive to the “war is hell” theme. It doesn't help that the antagonists are defined solely by their opposition to peace, as if they seek war just for war's sake. More than anything, this feels like a waste; it would have added a layer of depth to the narrative's post-war theme if the “anti-peace” faction was opposed to the terms of peace rather than the concept of peace itself. When the antagonists are portrayed unilaterally as sadistic murderers with shallow motivations, it cheapens Violet's own struggle to find redemption for participating in the war. If anything, this episode makes me want to see Violet get back into the fighting and beat up those anti-peace guys.
The anime's handling of the anti-peace faction is certainly a misstep, but fortunately the rest of the episode hit the right notes. Aidan's story about failing to tell his childhood friend that he loves her before it was too late is pretty typical for a war story, but these beats still made a strong impact on me because of the stream-of-consciousness storytelling. This worked a little better in prose form, but the anime still manages to capture how Aidan's dreams of home blend with his harsh reality. His final moments in particular hit hard, as he dreams of telling Maria to kiss him, and Violet kisses his forehead.
The part that sticks out to me most is when he calls Violet's mechanical hands “beautiful”, and she holds her hand in his. Aidan's the first person to compliment Violet's hands in such a way, because for everyone else, including Violet herself, those hands are a mark of death. But for Aidan, Violet's hands provide human warmth. The final words he uttered were not voiced for the viewer, but they were surely “I love you.” By being there for Aidan in his final moments and witnessing his raw emotions, Violet has surely come one step closer to understanding the meaning of “I love you.”
I was feeling lukewarm toward this anime during its first half, but it seems that the story has been saving its heaviest content for the latter end of its run. I may not have cried as much this time as I did last episode, but I did get a little teary-eyed at the end of this episode. This was my favorite chapter in the original light novels, and I'm so happy to see the anime do justice to this story.
Violet Evergarden is currently streaming on Netflix in select territories.
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