Violet Evergarden Episode 5
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Violet Evergarden ?
You can't possibly expect me to believe that Violet is fourteen.
Jokes aside, this was easily the best anime-original episode of Violet Evergarden so far. Not only did it avoid reinforcing the same repetitive plot points from earlier episodes, the story about Charlotte and her marriage with the prince was quite cute and played into the overall themes of the series in clever ways. This was also the first episode where Violet is more of a supporting character than a protagonist, which made everything feel fresher.
If I have any complaint about this episode, it's that it feels out of place continuity-wise. Months have passed since the last episode, and Violet is already experienced enough to work as a Doll for royalty. After struggling to read between the lines last episode, Violet is already competent enough to take independent action based purely on Charlotte's emotions. The time skip feels jarring after the anime took so much time to establish Violet's early problems and the baby steps she had to take to overcome them. At the same time, I don't mind this at all, because I was frankly getting tired of seeing variations of the same conflict recycled every week.
This was the first episode that felt true to the style and tone of the original novels. When Violet performs her role as a Doll in the books, the focus of the story lies squarely on the people she helps. Although episode 3 attempted to depict Violet through another character's point of view, this was the first episode that felt truly grounded in the client's point of view. Charlotte was not a mere stepping stone for Violet's character development, even if Violet did grow from the experience. Charlotte did some growing up of her own, and by the end of the episode, I felt more attached to her than any of the other supporting characters so far.
Part of what makes Charlotte so compelling is the way she's depicted visually. I got the impression from her unkempt hair that she's a bit bratty and awkward about her femininity, despite her natural good looks. The anime's focus on her hair and all of its individual movements reinforced her girlishness. Violet Evergarden has always had detailed animation, but this time it was paired with strong storyboards and direction. The penultimate scene with Charlotte and her maid was beautifully framed, with the intimacy between the two characters showing clearly in their body language. It is worth noting that Naoko Yamada (the director of Tamako Love Story and A Silent Voice) drew the storyboards for this episode, and her ability to convey understated warmth and intimacy between characters was very much on display here.
The other thing that made this episode so strong was the script, which was a significant step up from previous episodes. The writing finally lives up to its own theme of “the power of words” by conveying the romantic feelings between Charlotte and Damian with just a few short letter exchanges. Their initial letters make grand romantic statements because they are diplomatic tools made more for the public eye than personal correspondence. By convincing the two characters to write what they really mean in their own voices, Violet sets the scene for their courtship. She might not do as much writing this episode, but conveying true feelings between people is what an Auto Memories Doll is actually meant to do.
One potential thorny issue that's worth noting is how this series deals with age-gap relationships. Violet says, “Age is not a barrier to love,” and this is affirmed in the episode when a fourteen-year-old princess marries a twenty-four-year-old prince. (They first developed an attraction when she was ten.) I think that this is foreshadowing for the relationship between Violet and the Major, especially when Violet explicitly says that Gilbert thought she was fourteen, the same age as Charlotte. Thus far in the series, Gilbert's love for Violet could be read as paternal, but my gut says that it's more likely to be framed as romantic by the end, given how overtly romantic this episode was. I don't want to see Violet and Gilbert's relationship framed that way for reasons beyond even the age gap, but it certainly doesn't help either. It's not a deal breaker for me, but I can understand it being an issue for others.
Age-gap issues aside, this was a really enjoyable episode. I especially loved how everyone in both countries seemed to get invested in Charlotte and Damian's relationship, to the extent that they'd yell love advice at the newspapers as they read the published letters. And it was a really powerful moment to see Violet finally pull off a genuine smile, especially after her failed attempt earlier in the episode.
Also, if the episode's ending is anything to go by, it looks like subsequent episodes will delve further into the darker aspects of Violet's past. Violet's encounter with Diethard looked like it was inspired by a scene from volume 2 of the novels, but the context behind their meeting is very different, so it remains to be seen if it will play out the same way. At any rate, this is the first episode that lives up to the dramatic spectacle of the premiere, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves from here.
Violet Evergarden is currently streaming on Netflix in select territories.
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