Perhaps the most important episode of Violet Evergarden on a narrative sense since the premiere, as well as an interesting change in tone that also brings back the grandeur of the first episode. And beyond that, another chance to examine the production of the series and details some fans have asked us about, like which tools were used to create this series.
Key Animation: Tatsuya Sato, Minoru Ota, Maiko Hado, Yurika Ono
Ryohei Muta, Kayo Hikiyama, Seiya Kumano, Keita Nagahara, Tomomi Sato, Momoka Yoshizaki
─ Now this is more what I came to expect after the first episode: personal tragedies delivered with enough grandeur to justify the cheesiness of the whole affair. It’s definitely louder than episodes like Yasuhiro Takemoto’s and Naoko Yamada’s, but in a way I feel like it’s Violet Evergarden at its most cohesive: an opulent production that shamelessly yet sincerely wants to pull at your heartstrings in a grand way. This episode’s climax became the perfect encapsulation of that approach, as a ridiculously ambitious sequence triggered a heartbreaking flashback also handled by the studio’s flashiest character animator. I’ve said before that this isn’t really my style of choice, but this was an excellent execution of what they’re attempting to do. Between this show and Atsuko Ishizuka’s wonderful YoriMoi, anime is currently doing a good job at selling me the prospect of personal stories being screamed out loud.
─ The main responsible is none other than Takuya Yamamura. He was actually asked if he would contribute to this show at the studio’s event back in October, a question that he vaguely replied yes to since at that point he had already handled this episode. Not that his presence is much of a surprise, but this was clearly deemed a very important episode, so it’s easy to see why he decided to keep quiet. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it returned to the premiere’s tone the one week where the most important narrative developments so far happened, and even though the overarching story is still the point I’m less invested in, I have to say that Yamamura did an exceptional job with them. The scene with tormented Violet in particular is incredible: the cut from her bloodstained hands to their lifeless replacement, the complimentary layouts, that self-back and forth – I honestly wasn’t sure what it would take to get me invested in Violet’s character, but now that’s a good start. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with the series composition, I understand why it took so long for the show to reach that point, and I’m glad that it was executed peerlessly.
─ As a final, quick side-note about the episode itself that I might return to later since it’s shaping up to be one of this show’s best assets: I love how easy story has its own color. Not a single tone, but a very particular palette that gives it a unique identity. The greens, yellows, and reds of this tale are nothing like Violet’s previous adventures, as has been happening since the episodic content truly started. Making the best out of the format in this regard.
─ If you read the post about the previous episode of the show, you’ll recall that the main theme was that Kyoto Animation appeared to have changed their usual approach, which meant that this series has a very limited pool of creators at its disposal. Since this was the first episode produced at Animation Do, the Osaka branch of the studio, you’d think that maybe that issue would have been addressed – but that clearly wasn’t the case. Kyoto’s Chiyoko Ueno and Yuki Tsunoda returned yet again, having supervised the animation in 5 out of 7 episodes so far, even this one that wasn’t even made at their part of the studio. Animation director Miku Kadowaki being a bit busy is understandable as she’s likely preparing Tsurune’s anime adaptation, but the line-up is missing some Do animators even though their output on Violet Evergarden as a whole is going to be much lesser than usual. The staff in Osaka tend to animate 3-4 episodes per series, including some handled by Kyoto directors, which is obviously not going to happen in this case. Once again, it all leads to the conclusion that KyoAni’s staff has been segmented per projects this time around, and when it comes to Do that means some people should have started animating Free! S3 early.
─ There are some things to say about the animators who did contribute to the episode, though. It’s no surprise that ace Tatsuya Sato worked on the emotional climax as I previously mentioned, but I see traces of his animation even in the earlier outburst. His timing is more restrained than usual, but there’s still few people who can get across the violence of emotions like he does. Among the clean-up animators there are a couple of things worth noting too. The TV debut of Momoka Yoshizaki as a new key animator is of course good news, but the most interesting piece of information in the credits is the presence of Keita Nagahara, because he left the studio a while back. As a freelancer, this season he’s contributed to Darling in the Franxx #3, After the Rain’s opening and #3, and Slow Start #1/#5 – many interesting points of reference, because now we know for a fact that all of those were animated considerably after Violet Evergarden #7, despite all of them being earlier work in their respective shows. Again, this show’s schedule is extraordinary.
─ The studio put together a compilation of the snippets of production materials they had been sharing, which is a good excuse for me to address all the curious people who have been asking about the tools used to make this anime. Here’s each major step:
- Animation: From key animation to corrections and in-betweens, all analog still. KyoAni’s unusual circumstances mean that a switch to digital work would have to start with the studio buying tablets for all their employees, as Tatsunoko has been doing. I expect pressure from younger staff to eventually get them to start toying with the idea, but it hasn’t happened yet.
- Painting: RETAS STUDIO PaintMan HD, though Photoshop is gaining importance since they’ve embraced Adobe’s suit for many tasks. The main reason why the bulk of the work is done in PaintMan is because RETAS STUDIO also includes the TraceMan HD software to scan the clean in-betweens.
- Backgrounds: Digital backgrounds are drawn in Photoshop, traditional ones using poster paint. Though digital is the norm, chances are you’ve noticed a bunch of beautiful instances of the latter, which even gets separated credits during the ending roll.
- 3DCG: Mostly using AutoDesk’s 3DS MAX.
- Photography: The composite process is done in Adobe After Effects, which is industry standard.