Management: This essay is meant to be less of a review and more of analysis of the show being examined. It contains plot spoilers for Violet Evergarden anime.
So there’s this one movie quote from this one movie critic about how there’s no such thing as an anti-war movie. However critical a war film’s themes happen to be about conflict of war, if the anti-war movie in question features some violent spectacle, the anti-war messaging is undermined out-of-hand. If only for those moments of cinematic violence, there will those audience members that will instinctually enjoy them because the violence itself is enthralling to watch. The anti-war film that includes warfare becomes a thematic paradox at best and cinema-narrative dissonance at worst. I would like to believe that I’m self-aware enough to appreciate the messages in an anti-war media while taking in exciting moments of warfare. However, I also think it’s a legitimate complaint to accuse certain shows that highlight the tragedy of war that they are betraying their own themes of how awful war is by including scenes that celebrate fighting of any kind and for any side. In Code Geass, for example, massacring unarmed civilians is bad, and yet fighting in giant robots is awesome. In Hellsing: Ultimate, on the other hand, the show makes no bones about its characters loving war holistically, characters basking in both the spectacle of civilians dying in droves and their own men being torn to shreds.
While there are few, if any, anti-war media that would get around the near-impossible encirclement set by this quote, Violet Evergarden is a decent attempt at breaking out. The show mainly focuses on the lives of characters affected by the war, after the war. The few times that the show illustrates past war moments are mostly spent on soldiers being contemplative, frightened, or desperate… hardly empowering stuff. The notable and understandable exception to this trend of omitting violent spectacle is Violet herself, the blood-streaked, barely-teen soldier maiden of the battlefield. Similarly, while Violet Evergarden doesn’t fully overcome the well-worn and somewhat exploitative anime trope of the beautiful fighting girl, the Kyoto Animation adaptation does make a decision in regards to its female heroine that admirably tries to circumvent the worst of that stereotype. In their original conceptions, the beautiful fighting girls (also known as the bishoujo fighting girls) were those female characters who were both badasses in combat and unambiguously feminine. Violet, our female character here, is depicted during her tour of “duty” less as a cutesy warrior and as more a feral animal.