by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Violet Evergarden ?
If one of the trailers didn't show characters from later chapters of the Violet Evergarden novel, I'd wonder if this adaptation was going to be entirely original. This fourth episode was yet another anime-original story, and at this point, I think I've resigned myself to the idea that the anime is taking its sweet time to develop Violet as a character.
Once again, the main issue is not that it's an anime-original story, the issue is the sheer repetitiveness of the script. Violet has been making clear progress when it comes to communicating what she is thinking, but this is the fourth episode in a row where Violet explains her reason for becoming an Auto Memories Doll in the climax. This is also the fourth episode in a row where everyone reacts with amazement when Violet takes off her gloves to reveal her mechanical hand. This anime is increasingly giving off the impression of following a formula instead of putting Violet (and the audience) outside of their comfort zone.
It probably doesn't help that Iris's story feels more trivial compared to Luculia's from last week. Although Iris recounts some of her own family's connection to the war at the start of the episode, the war never affected her directly. Instead, her problems are purely personal. I have to admit that Iris comes across as immature more than anything when she throws a fit halfway through her birthday party upon seeing her old crush there. For someone so keen on proving her maturity and independence to her family, she took very little responsibility for her own actions. She never even clears the air with her old crush by the end, despite him being a major factor in her motivations.
Instead of fleshing out Iris's story, the anime puts a weird amount of emphasis on unrelated scenes. For example, the scene where Violet bows is beautifully animated and shot, but it also drags on too long and feels out of tempo with the rest of the episode. Evan Call's soundtrack is majestic, but when a stirring trumpet fanfare plays as Violet talks about the tragedy in her past, the result is more than a little distracting in context. This feels like a case where the script and directing style are out of step with each other. The script tries to establish low-key slice-of-life details while the visual and sound direction tries to elevate minor events into grandiose statements.
Again, the problems do not lie with the vignettes themselves. Violet Evergarden's slow and measured approach to storytelling could work, and Kyoto Animation has consistently pulled off these kinds of stories in the past. Sound Euphonium's anime-original material, for instance, was perfectly in tune with the source material, and the direction mostly suited the down-to-earth nature of the story. On the other hand, it feels to me that the staff of Violet Evergarden has been struggling to adapt the breathlessly melodramatic tone of the original story, where every chapter had a strikingly different feel. By attempting to rewrite the story into a more grounded and consistent narrative, the anime has encountered its own troubles in developing a cohesive voice.
I probably sound more negative about the episode than I actually feel. It may not have worked on the macro level, but I really did enjoy this episode quite a bit. So far, I am enjoying the Violet Evergarden anime not as a straight adaptation of the novels but as a companion piece to them. I particularly enjoyed seeing the setting shift to what looked like pseudo-Thailand, as the novels only focused on the European side of the setting. There were other small touches that I enjoyed too, like Violet matter-of-factly telling Iris's mother that she won't write letters for clients who use pseudonyms, or when she says “I will hand you an invoice later” after Iris thanks her sincerely for writing the letters.
So far so good. There's a lot of potential still left untapped in this narrative, so let's hope Violet Evergarden digs into that in the episodes it has left.
Violet Evergarden is currently streaming on Netflix in select territories.
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