I remember reading the chapter this episode is based on and I felt that nothing else in the light novel will be able to top it. I got that same feeling again when I watched its anime adaptation. Maybe one of the remaining three episodes will prove me wrong but I really do think Violet Evergarden has peaked at this story. Give KyoAni credit, at least they pushed it towards the end of the timeline. The literary equivalent is the second chapter of the light novel. Yeah, it peaked pretty damn early in my opinion.
In this episode, Violet is hired by a woman named Clara (Ayako Kawasumi) to write some letters for a week and her presence catches the attention of her client’s daughter, Ann (Sumire Morohoshi). Early on, it becomes evident that Clara is severely ill and even before it’s revealed the letters are for Ann in the future, you can infer that she’s trying to get them done before she dies. It’s a really poignant scenario, one that taps into the biggest fears about parenting: leaving your child behind in the event that you die too early in their life. One has to commend Clara for wanting to still be a part of Ann’s life in some way, even if it looks like the stress of getting the letters done is time is worsening her health even further.
I think where this episode (and chapter for that matter) succeeds though is the choice to focus more on the child rather than the parent. We see almost everything play out from Ann’s perspective. A couple of times, we see Ann peer from a window or a door to see what Violet and Clara are up to with some shots even being drawn in first person perspective. The music even plays a part in making us feel like we are in Ann’s shoes, playing what may be the soundtrack’s most whimsical compositions to accentuate Ann’s innocence and initial curiosity with the situation.
For the record, the equivalent chapter in the light novel was also told in third-person from Ann’s perspective. I’m actually shocked that KyoAni kept that particular aspect for this episode considering how they’ve adapted the light novel up until now. Much of the original text has been reconfigured to be about Violet first and foremost. It’s not like the light novel where our understanding of Violet is dictated from the observations of her clients. Some scenes in the anime aren’t necessarily from Violet’s perspective but not once are you ever mistaken that you’re witnessing Violet’s story. So imagine my surprise that Violet was kept as a secondary protagonist to Ann like in the original text. Not that I’m complaining though; for a story like this, I think it’s important to show things from the child’s perspective. It not only offers an atypical take on the Auto Memory Doll profession but also allows us to understand what this situation must be like for a child.
I find Ann’s relationship with Violet so engaging. Can anyone really blame her for mistaking Violet for an actual doll? When you consider Violet’s physical appearance, her static face, and her elaborate attire, she really does come across as doll-like. Even her prosthetic hands make her appear as though she isn’t actually a human but rather something emulating one. That kind of peculiarity plays into how Ann treats Violet – first as a curiosity and then later as something that attends to her needs (i.e. playing games and reading a book). One has to give Violet credit for how surprisingly well she handles someone that energetic and demanding. I especially love how she tries to inflect with more emotion when reading a book to Ann and when she asks the girl to prioritize what activity to do first. Who would’ve thought Violet would make for a good babysitter?
While all the adults in the household try to keep Ann in the dark about Clara’s plan, Ann does sense the gravity of the situation. Children can and do pick up on these kinds of things so that this kind of awareness is believable. Deep down, Ann knows that her mother will no longer be with her in some way and knowing that time is limited makes her confused and frustrated that her mother is spending time writing letters rather than with her. Even Violet’s presence bugs her because while Violet is at her house, her mother is pre-occupied. She even admits that she only plays games and activities with the Doll because she can’t do them with her mother.
It’s fitting that Violet is the one who ultimately helps Ann accept the fact that Clara needs the letters be written. Yes, she is getting paid to ghostwrite them all but when you think about it, Violet understands what Ann is going through. Considering her past with Gilbert, she knows what it’s like to lose someone you love dearly. I particularly find Violet’s line, “There is no such thing as a letter that doesn’t deserve to be delivered” especially fascinating. This far in her Doll career, Violet knows how powerful a letter can be. However, I think this line also harkens back to Violet’s relationship with Gilbert. She didn’t fully understand Gilbert’s love for her until after she got older. Perhaps part of why her words ring true to Ann is because Violet relates with the girl’s current confusion. And it’s true, Ann wouldn’t understand or appreciate Clara’s actions until much later in life.
I won’t lie: I cried at the ending of this episode. The fading effect used to inform the viewer of Clara’s passing and watching Ann read the letters as she gets older and becomes a mother herself destroyed me. I think that experience especially stands out to me because that was the first time I had ever cried throughout either version of Violet Evergarden. The light novel chapter was very emotional but I can’t deny that it had the usual problem of being overwritten from time to time. I think seeing it animated and acted not only fixes that issue but also made the scene move me even more.
That very last scene where Violet tells her friends about her time with Clara and Ann is the only scene that’s entirely anime-original. Personally, I think I think it fits in the story perfectly. When I consider the chronology of this anime, Violet has come a long way from her emotionless and dense beginnings. With that in mind, I love the idea that Violet acted taciturn in this episode not because she didn’t feel anything for Clara and Ann but because she did. It was her way of maintaining professionalism or else she’d break down herself (which she ultimately does).
I think what this story has above the others in Violet Evergarden canon is its message on how powerful letters can be. Both the light novel and anime have shown compelling examples of how a letter can be meaningful for the people sending them and the people receiving them. But I think the fifty years worth of letters Violet ghostwrote for Clara drives this point home even more. Even when Clara has long since passed away, Ann will still feel her mother’s love whenever and wherever she is in her life.
Thanks for reading!
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