Violet Evergarden is an anime based on a light novel of the same name, written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase. It won the hearts of many quickly after its initial release and has often appeared as a favorite in its genre on many public anime lists. Even though this story features 2 characters who share a strong bond and seek to be reunited, the question we are asking is whether Violet Evergarden is a romance anime. We could try and simply characterize a romance as a story focused on the protagonists overcoming obstacles and progressing into a stage where they can finally have their happily ever after that the fanbase has been rooting for throughout the show. It will focus on their interaction and build the storyline around these characters in a way that best showcases how their lives are starting to spin a common tale.
Violet Evergarden is a fantasy, slice-of-life anime that focuses on the premise “What does ‘love’ mean?”, which then extends over 14 episodes, 2 side stories, and a finale, “Violet Evergarden the Movie”. This heartfelt anime brings forth life stories of various side characters in each episode and touches upon the meaning of “love” in different contexts. It is almost presented as “a guide to human emotions”, since the protagonist herself is dedicated to the cause of learning what it means to love another. While the theme may hint at a romance, Violet Evergarden is not strictly a romance anime.
Its tranquility and aesthetic could easily leave an impression of a tragic, almost Shakespearean romance at first glance, but the central focus diverges from the story about Violet’s love interest and continues to pursue a much greater idea. Therefore, while romance is a plot point in the anime, it is not the key point in this drama. If you disagree with us, or simply want to know why we came to our conclusion, keep reading!
The essence of Violet Evergarden
To briefly review the plot of Violet Evergarden, Violet is a young woman who started working as a “doll”. Her job is to write letters in other people’s names, through which they would convey their sentiments to those dearest to them. Her past, however, reflects a picture very different from the tender and caring notion of conveying one’s feelings to a loved one in form of a letter.
As a child, she was trained and made into a weapon of war that never got to experience anything other than the violence and destruction of a battlefield. The cold-heartedness and horror which surrounded her turned her into an empty shell that could only obey and execute the orders she was given.
It was then, when the war was reaching its climax, that she was brought to the Major; another soul trapped in the desolation of war whose obligations and duties drove him to the battlefield (as we learn later on in the show through his brother’s depiction of their childhood).
The Major (Gilbert) was the first person who saw in her something other than a tool. In this horrific image of desolation and bloodshed, he sought to protect this fragment of innocence – this child. Hence, he took her under his wing and strived to enable her the smallest things an ordinary girl her age would have.
We see their connection intensifying through fragments of her past which are more frequent near the end of the 1st season, and then culminate in the final Violet Evergarden movie, but the essence of the show is not their romance.
It is certain that the catalyst is his sentiment towards her, the love he has shown her which she wasn’t capable of understanding at the time. This new feeling had such an effect on her that she became dedicated to the Major for reasons she couldn’t put into words. She wanted to protect him, she wanted to be around him and she wanted to understand.
Remembering the last words he uttered before she lost track of him during the final battle of the war, she began her new life by using all she held close to her heart as a drive to keep her going forward. This opened the door to all the stories that were told in these episodes and movies, stories about mothers and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and families, and relations of all kinds that can exist between people through which she experienced the sentiments and the meaning behind the word “love”.
The journey toward an understanding of love
Similarly to sympathizing with a character in a book, movie, or anything we’re viewing, writing letters to all the people she crossed paths with and learning about their lives enabled her to have insight into more memories and events than one person would experience in a single lifetime. Her journey is about getting to know the world she was raised away from, the one she was used to fighting for, and ultimately, finally understanding that which has the power to reach people, even though it isn’t seen.
For as she wrote in Letter, a song sung by the character Irma in the special 14th episode of the anime, “love will always be with us”, even if it remains unseen and unspoken.
The movie that gave us closure followed the same pattern, as a little boy named Ulysse who asked for Violet’s assistance with his final letter to his family was introduced.
While the underlying plot centered around Violet finally discovering that the Major was still alive and reuniting with him was finally reaching its climax, the anime stayed truthful to its storytelling and guided us through that little boy’s final days before his untimely death.
Is there a romance in Violet Evergarden?
Comparing Violet Evergarden to shows such as Plastic Memories, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso (Your Lie in April), and other poignant, emotional romance shows, displays a clear distinction in a shift of focus. While we are given insight into her past and the relationship she has with Gilbert, the central focus lies on the drama and slice-of-life characteristics.
Their bond is a starting point in the plot which ultimately presents life in all its beauty and showcases the meaning and importance of love in people’s lives. It isn’t a story that would be stripped of its plot points and deprived of meaning and purpose if we never got to see what happens between the 2 characters, but getting to witness the finale of their story as well grants the fulfillment and completes the warmth radiating from this beautifully animated drama.
It is rightfully one of the most loved drama/slice of life shows aired in recent years.