by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Violet Evergarden ?
Holy cow. That was amazing.
This was the first episode of Violet Evergarden to deliver the same level of spectacle and emotional intensity as the premiere. The climax was especially impactful because the rest of the episode followed the anime's established template. The final moments came almost out of nowhere, even if they have been foreshadowed for a while.
Before I discuss the ending, I should mention that this episode adapted another light novel chapter - the very first story in volume one. However, it is markedly different in its focus and execution. Like the previous story about Leon, the light novel version presents Violet as a cipher, but her anime portrayal is much warmer and more intimate. The play that Oscar writes - and Violet's reaction to it - are anime-original inventions, which should give you an idea of how thin that plot was in the light novel. The anime version of the story is more fleshed out in its own right and ties into the overarching plot of the series more explicitly.
The parallels between Oscar and Violet are laid out in the episode's first scene, when a character from one of Oscar's plays kills someone and says, “I must live with my sin now for the rest of my life.” From the moment she's assigned to scribe for him, it's clear that Oscar's writing resonates with Violet. She gets emotionally invested in his latest story about a young girl who can't return home to her father and insists that Oscar must finish it when he seems ready to give up. When Violet says, “I feel like I'm going through the experience even though it never really happened,” Oscar tells her that she is experiencing empathy. This is a nod to one of the overarching themes of Violet Evergarden: the idea that we can experience the feelings of others through words.
But the main takeaway of this episode is the overwhelming weight of guilt on Violet's shoulders. Like the character in Oscar's play, Violet must live with her sin for the rest of her life. It is interesting that, as Violet gradually learns to empathize with others, she begins to realize the severity of her past deeds. She has killed other people before. It is not at all unusual for postwar stories to explore trauma and survivor's guilt, but there's something stark and compelling about the anime's handling of these themes. Violet's initial lack of guilt is the biggest sign of how thoroughly the war broke her as a person.
It now makes sense why Violet's encounter with Gilbert's brother took place so early in the anime's version of the story. His scorn toward her has triggered Violet to do some self-reflection, which was always necessary for her to truly learn to empathize. She may not have understood the full significance of his words then, but she does after seeing through Oscar how it feels to lose a loved one before their wish was fulfilled. Toward the end of the episode, she comes to a realization: “I've probably taken away so many ‘one day’ wishes.” As her emotional development continues, I expect that the focus of the story will shift more toward the war and its impact on her.
And yet somehow that wasn't even the most impactful moment of the episode. An incidental encounter with the Evergardens prompts them to let slip that Gilbert died on his last mission. I had speculated that Violet would only find out about his death when she realizes the true nature of love, but instead this happens at the anime's exact mid-point. Perhaps Violet's knowledge of Gilbert's death will lead her to re-examine her feelings for him in a different light. It feels far too bleak to let her character arc end with passive acceptance of a lost love, and the fact that Gilbert's body was never found does lend some credence to the possibility that he may have survived somehow.
At the moment, however, the narrative treats Gilbert as very much deceased. Hodgins admits that he was hiding this fact from Violet from the beginning. Violet is understandably devastated, which leads to one of the standout moments of voice acting from Yui Ishikawa. Ishikawa has always excelled at portraying Violet's sudden emotional outbursts, but this moment was especially pitch perfect. Her voice is subdued at first but when she insists that “He's alive!” her tone is terse and dripping with self-denial. The episode doesn't end with any words, just with Ishikawa's strained and panicked breathing, as the music and picture cut off. Violet's feelings in that moment are conveyed solely through her wordless gasps.
On the other hand, the animation was more restrained than it was in the first episode. The character animation was detailed and nuanced enough to convey precise emotions, but there were none of the grand set pieces like in the first episode. Animation-wise, this episode peaked earlier with Violet's attempt to leap across water. Even then, the anime doesn't linger on its most complex cuts, preferring to express the characters' emotions through close-ups of their faces.
As it turns out, Violet Evergarden never needed such extravagant displays to pack an emotional punch. Each key moment in this episode had a lot of careful buildup, and the detailed character animation made their emotions shine. On top of that, Evan Call's grandiose soundtrack finally feels completely in-tune with the story being told. Soaring strings are a typical musical choice for these sorts of scenes, but I cannot deny that they were used extremely well here. The combination of stellar voice acting, music, and direction made this one of Violet Evergarden's best episodes yet.
Violet Evergarden is currently streaming on Netflix in select territories.
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