Note: The Violet Evergarden OVA is now available on Netflix.
I know it’s only been a few months since Violet Evergarden ended but it did feel a little weird watching it again. I feel that way about OVAs and specials in general. The show aired and reached its conclusion so watching a new, unaired episode set earlier in the story felt awkward. Still, I was also happy to come back to Violet Evergarden. I did get pretty critical on its last two episodes but the show overall was a great time and it could still rank as one of my favorite anime of 2018. Really, more of this anime is a good thing to me. There is a movie currently in production but that’s slated for 2020 so this extra episode will suffice in the meantime.
What we have here is an anime-original scenario set between Episodes 4 and 5 and it actually addresses something that originally bugged me. I liked Episode 5 a lot but it was weird having that timeskip from Episode 4 where Violet’s suddenly a pro and can now ghostwrite for a stinking political marriage. Since KyoAni restructured the light novel’s story to be a more personal narrative, it seemed odd of them to skip an apparent step in Violet’s growth. With the OVA, I must now eat my words since this was apparently the missing link. How did Violet get so good? Simple: she got asked by an actress, Irma, and a composer, Ardo, to write lyrics for the last song in their musical! Now that is definitely something that’ll push this protagonist to her limits.
Clumsiness has always been a characteristic I associated with Violet Evergarden, be it in text or in animation, and it still stands here. You would think that Violet would’ve learned everything about her job from the start but somehow both Irma and Ardo neglected to mention the lyrical part until much later. I know Violet got recommended but surely people in this world know a ghostwriter working at a post office does not necessarily equate to a songwriter. Hodgins might be more scatterbrained though. I mean, what boss doesn’t check what job he’s handing out to his employees? The guy needs to read the fine print more often.
Still, it was great seeing Violet persevere through this job even when she admits it’s too “advanced” for her. Something worth pointing out is that this OVA runs at about 34 minutes, much longer than your average episode. I’m not sure if KyoAni added scenes for the disc release or just left stuff they were going to cut out. Whatever the case may be, this episode felt naturally developed and paced thanks to its longer running time. You really get a sense that Violet is putting a lot of effort into her job. Studying romance at a library, asking her friends to help write lyrics, learning more about Irma and Ardo, and visiting a storage full of dead letters from the war. By the end of the episode, you really believe that Violet has come a long way in trying empathize with other people.
On top of that, this episode might offer some of the tightest commentary in Violet Evergarden. Its story encompasses all three of the anime’s major motifs: war, letters, and love.
Up until now, you’ve only had two instances where the show explores the effects of war on people besides Violet. There’s Luculia’s story, there’s Aiden’s but that’s largely it. Mind you, that’s not a detriment to the show. Violet’s arc alone fits the bill and plenty of episodes proved to be great without even mentioning war. It is, however, nice to see another episode about how others deal with the postwar. There’s a powerful intention behind Irma and Ardo’s play. It’s a contemporary production about the war, motivated by the loss of Irma’s boyfriend and Ardo’s son, Hugo. The aim is that it’ll resonate with thousands of others who are in mourning. It’s a really strong plot of artists using their craft to help their audience process through a tough time and it possess a sense of scope that you don’t see very often in Violet Evergarden.
Also powerful is the song Violet ultimately writes for Irma and Ardo, “Letter”. There’s sadly no official English translation so I can’t go into too much detail about the lyrics. What I can tell though is that the song is an acknowledgment of the dead letters people such as Irma have sent and a validation of the love they poured into them. It’s very bold thing for Violet Evergarden to say. After all, the main plot is Violet ensuring that people’s feelings will reach one another in writing. Mentioning letters that never got delivered or returned should be a thematic risk but it works thanks to how Violet connects it to the feeling of love. Just because a letter “flew away like feathers and disappeared”, it doesn’t mean that the love it carried is invalid. Love is always present and “Letter” aims to remind its audience of this in this difficult time. It’s a remarkably mature statement, one willing to acknowledge the limitations of letters but also reassure that love is a emotion felt with or without them.
I’ll admit that nothing will ever top Episode 10 for ugliest cry ever but the ending of this OVA was very close for me. You couldn’t have asked for a more poignant conclusion. Irma’s performance of “Letter”, everyone’s stunned reaction, the occasional cuts to memorial sites. It’s a truly stunning scene to watch. Having TRUE, who also sings “Sincerely” (the show’s OP), provide Irma’s singing voice was also a great touch.
What strikes me most about the ending though is Violet’s own reaction. At the beginning of the episode, Violet is unaffected emotionally by the opera song performed by Irma. Even after hearing lyrics she herself wrote, she still acts this way. While the song is a clear triumph for her, both in regards to her writing and sense of empathy, it’s clear that she has a long way to go before understanding her own humanity. Ardo, however, seems hopeful that Violet will one day get there and while I already know how this show ends, I think what Ardo said would have come true no matter what.
It’s a crime that this episode got shoved to DVD bonus feature territory. Not only is this one of Violet Evergarden‘s best episodes, it’s also the best original scenario conceived by this show’s staff. The main story ultimately works fine without it but I think it really does add so much to its themes and its protagonist’s character development. I would’ve loved to have it aired between episodes 4 and 5 like it was supposed to. I could maybe let things slide if the episode ends up on Netflix but right now, it’s nowhere to be seen there. If you have watched Violet Evergarden or do plan on watching it, do yourself a favor and make sure you watch this episode for a more complete experience.
Thanks for reading!
Violet Evergarden is officially available on Netflix.
For more Violet Evergarden posts, check out the show’s archive page!
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