In an age of emails, texting apps, and video calls, writing letters that take days or weeks to reach the recipient may seem a strange and old-fashioned practice. After all, why write down your thoughts on a piece of paper when you can call up your partner right away? But letter writing is more than just about communication. Perhaps the medium can express one’s true emotions in a way other forms of communication cannot.
That’s a premise which the anime Violet Evergarden explores in just 13 episodes.
The anime tells the story of Violet, a child soldier who is rehabilitated into society, where she begins a new life as an Auto Memory Doll. She is haunted by war flashbacks and Major Gilbert’s last words to her- “I love you.” She joins a company as a ghost-writer, where she slowly learns to write letters for clients, finding the right words and sentences for the complex feelings within people’s hearts.
In the beginning, Violet has trouble understanding what others feel since people often say one thing and mean another. But gradually, her letters help to reconcile bereaved family members and friends. She even writes love letters for royalty, bringing about a beneficial political marriage and averting war. An ailing mother requests her help to write letters for her young daughter, to be delivered after she’s gone, and the prolific Violet writes over 50 letters so that the child has something to look forward to each year. It’s a beautiful testament to the fact that handwriting letters is a whole love language in itself.
But letters may not always have a recipient. Often, writing a letter can be a cathartic exercise, one that offers a closure that real-life circumstances cannot. For example, one of Violet’s clients includes an alcoholic playwright who struggles to complete his last play after the untimely passing of his daughter. In another instance, Violet, after repeated tries, writes the lyrics to an opera singer’s love song that powerfully resonates with the entire audience.
Writing letters gives Violet’s life meaning and structure, allowing her to come to terms with her grief. The plaintive soundtrack and the soft color palette further evoke a quaint world, where a traumatized character slowly finds acceptance, healing, and community.
At its heart, Violet Evergarden reminds viewers that letters are deeply personal, crafted with effort and time, a labor of love reminding someone somewhere that they are important and that their stories matter.
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