Mental Health in Anime: How 'Violet Evergarden' Portrayed Post-Traumatic Growth
CONTENT WARNING: This article contains discussions of conflict, struggle, and mental health issues. Viewer discretion is advised. SPOILERS AHEAD from the listed animes below.
Violet Evergarden is a young girl raised to be a "weapon" for the Leidenschaftlich Army. After countless years of conflict, the wars between nations have finally come to a halt. Being able to survive the bloodshed, she began to take a step to understand the words left to her by a person she held dear by reintegrating her life as a civilian working at a postal service office. As she works for the postal office, she was amazed by the works of an "Auto Memory Doll," where they transcribe people's thoughts and feelings into words on paper. Motivated to become one, Violet eventually trained and passed to become an Auto Memory Doll herself, a title that will take her for a journey, becoming the answer to reshaping the lives of people seeking her assistance while she seeks to understand the meaning of the words "I love you," which was said to her by her significant other before the war ended.
During the war, Violet has a sense of purpose, to be a tool to clear missions for military skirmishes. But, as the war ended, all of this was simply lost. Every second of her life, the life she had always known, has disappeared along with the one she held dear. Violet surviving the Great War may be seen as a promising start, but as the series goes through, it is uncovered that her journey focuses on dealing with her traumatic experience while finding her purpose and the meaning behind the words of love.
The Significant Other
Many treated Violet only as a tool for war, but Major Gilbert Bougainvillea treated her humanly. He gave her an identity and a reason for everything. But, at the final moments of the Great War, the narrative suggests that Gilbert died. Though, in the early episodes, it was unclear whether Gilbert did die until Dietfried revealed Gilbert's resting place. Gilbert was the only person that Violet ever knew as someone important. Realizing the truth devastated her greatly.
It was never mentioned in the anime series that Violet was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But the devastating loss of Major Gilbert Bougainvillea in the Great War and the countless violence that Violet has witnessed, several symptoms of PTSD were seen throughout the series.
American Psychiatric Association (2020) defines post-traumatic stress disorder as a mental health condition that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. The DSM-5 (2013) presents the symptoms of PTSD fall into four categories: intrusion, avoidance, alterations in mood and cognition, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.
Going through Traumatic Grief
The Stages of Grief is a theory developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and it suggests that we go through a variety of emotional experiences as we progress through the feelings of grief (Clarke, 2021). According to Clarke (2021), it is important to know that people experience and undergo the stages differently. Some may experience a stage, while some may not. The same goes for Violet as she struggles to understand her position while searching for Gilbert.
Denial: despite being the first stage of grief, it is the last stage seen from Violet. Ever since she recovered from the war, she progressed as an Auto Memory Doll under the assumption that Gilbert was alive. Her unwillingness to realize everyone was giving her hints is a form of denial.
Anger: The concept of anger is not seen in Violet despite all of the stressful situations. She treats outbursts of people with polite yet blank expressions and seems confused when anyone around her is angry, yet she responds to life-threatening conditions with tactical precision.
Bargaining: Unlike the conventional version of bargaining, Violet's bargaining sets into her motive of becoming an Auto Memory Doll by trying to understand what Gilbert meant before they got separated. Throughout the series, she believed that becoming learned as a Doll will help her meet Gilbert once she learns. At the very least, she wants to know the meaning of the words Gilbert told her before they can meet again.
Depression: Once she realizes Gilbert's passing, she retreats from the site where Gilbert was last seen and reminisces their moments together.
Acceptance: When Violet finally accepts Gilbert's death and her violent past, post-traumatic growth is seen within her as she strives to become better for her own.
Growth after trauma
Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a theory developed by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun (1996). PTG shows that individuals who endured a psychological struggle following unfortunate events can often see positive growth afterward. Examples of areas for growth include personal strength, appreciation for life, new possibilities in life, spiritual change, and relationships with others (Collier, 2016).
As for Violet, her journey for growth was long; she battled her traumas while trying to integrate herself into society while waiting for someone she admires the most. But as she accepted the truth, she achieved growth after trauma. She becomes of service to people that cannot put their thoughts and feelings into words. She moved on from her past military life into an Auto Memory Doll, where she now touches lives and helps to make a significant difference.
The War Narrative
Violet Evergarden has shown us a different perspective in a war narrative. It made us see that trauma is much more than being seen with symptoms, that it can also be a way of growing in life. The anime series has also shown the importance of recognizing the consequences of senseless conflict on each individual.
American Psychiatric Association. (2020). What is PTSD? Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd The DSM-5. (2013).
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders.. Retrieved from https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm07
Clarke, J. (2021). The Five Stages of Grief. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/five-stages-of-grief-4175361
Collier, L. (2016). Growth after trauma. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/11/growth-trauma
Fandom. (2021). Violet Evergarden Wikia. Retrieved from https://violet-evergarden.fandom.com/wiki/Violet_Evergarden_Wikia
Tedeschi, R.G., Calhoun, L.G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8827649/