Adaptation Notes: Violet Evergarden — Episode 7

Welcome back for another Adaptation Notes. There isn’t much to say in the introduction except I’m doing my best to catch up on the anime. May God protect me from Chinese relatives.

That picture seems familiar?

If you’ve read my review on the novels, the cover picture should be damn familiar.

Hey, this episode is adapting the first chapter of the first volume. As a seventh episode, even! Let’s actually talk why this is the seventh episode and not the first episode. I find this to be quite an interesting move.

Violet then, Violet now

Let’s recap how Violet is presented in the novels and the anime.

In the novel, Violet is a mysterious figure to the reader. She seems perfect in every way and helps the supporting characters realize their dreams and inner feelings, though she is rarely proactive in the sense we like to use it. Her position as an Auto Memories Doll is more like a counselor. The story of the Violet Evergarden novels might be encapsulated as the story of a therapist who listens, but she also has some dark past behind her that explains why she has this experience.

In the anime, she is a child soldier who knows nothing but duty. Her affection toward Gilbert is confused because she assumes that comes out of duty. But when Gilbert tells her he loves her, she doesn’t understand what this love thing is. She joins the post office to experience love — and feelings — in people’s everyday life. We know why she is like this in the first place and that’s why we see her trying to learn what emotions are. Her confidence comes from her obligations to duty as a soldier, not experience in people’s lives. If anything, this may be her first real encounter with the world outside.

The former is a story about depersonalization, the latter learning what humans are.

I want to know love

And so, the context for the first chapter is wildly different in each scenario. In the novel, this is our first introduction to Violet and she intentionally becomes the playwright’s muse. In the anime, her actions come out of curiosity. While both Violets are interested in the play, anime Violet is genuinely interested in learning about these feelings she got from the play.

You could in fact say the two Violets are saying different things when they say, “I want to know love”:

  • Anime Violet is learning to love for the first time.
  • Book Violet doesn’t understand what the concept of loving someone is, hence her interest.

Her motivations to help the playwright depends on how she approaches love, either with the partial knowledge she has acquired or a blank slate.

Because we’re stuck with Violet as a character in the anime, the latter is required and she begins to be childish — this works well when the playwright based his character on his daughter — and innocent about the matters of life and death.

As for the former, she is merely reiterating her experiences on love and that’s why I see Book Violet as a muse as opposed to Anime Violet who has accidentally inspired the playwright with her childish behavior.

The experience

From this episode, we can also talk about why the show is different from the novels. The reader and the watcher experience different things altogether. For one, the cheesiness is far more spectacular in the anime; the episode hams up the formulaic episodic structure and makes it quite apparent on the repetition. The novels don’t because each chapter, while following a basic formula, does everything differently.

We can see this with the pictures of Violet stepping on water like Jesus Christ. In the novels, she is wearing casual clothes — it implies she knows more about the world and the playwright’s feelings. In the anime, she is wearing her professional attire, which shows she is still learning and accumulating the experience needed.

It’s probably why some novel fans do not like the adaptation at all. It doesn’t feel like an “adaptation” for better or worse, even with the episodes that do get adapted. I’m a bigger fan of what the show is doing, even if it means going through the cliched path of a coming-of-age story.

It may be the only way for the anime to actually work. Seeing her rise to be a professional Auto Memories Doll and learning to love is a more engaging story than the story of someone who already knows it all but doesn’t know how to love.

That’s at least my impression. I’m sure people might see it a bit differently if they enjoy the novels more.

I’m quite curious what I would think of the show if I had not read the novels. I’d probably think it’s just an average show that looks really pretty, but the script is kinda a bore. My enjoyment of the show primarily comes from the different adaptation decisions Takemoto’s team made as well as the cleverly inserted anime original episodes that don’t feel like unnatural; I can’t say I enjoy it outside of technicality though.

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