Key Visual

Source: Anime Lab

The dead parent is something of a recurring trope in anime, partly because it gets the inconvenient adults out of the way of the story that the writers want to tell.

But sometimes it’s more than that. Sometimes it is the story, or a large part of it.

And, rarely, communication from beyond the grave in a mundane manner is that story.

For those that haven’t seen Violet Evergarden[1] episode 10 A Loved One Will Always Watch Over You, it is possibly the most gut-wrenching episode in the series. No matter how many times I see it, A Loved One Will Always Watch Over You hits me in the feels like a freight train.

It starts innocently enough.

Violet arrives to write letters for a week for a sick woman with a 7 year old daughter Ann. Who the letters are for is never stated, albeit obvious, and Ann is to begin with deeply resentful of Violet monopolising her mother’s time.

I won’t go into too many more details but the resolution when the annual letters start arriving for Ann on her birthdays after her mother has died bring tears to my eyes just writing about it. The final emotional punch is then Violet, back at the office, admitting that she had to hold back her own tears the entire time she was there[2].

This really is one of those all too rare episodes of anime that possibly get better, deeper, every time you watch it[3].

Then there’s Kakushigoto.

As I wrote in my first episode impressions Kakushigoto is for the most part a quite charming comedy about an “adult” manga artist desperately trying to keep his adorable daughter Hime from finding out what it is he does for a living.

But Hime’s mother isn’t in the picture, and from about the 2nd episode onwards we start seeing these boxes in their house labelled with numbers.

Boxes left by Hime’s late mother for Hime to open on the relevant birthday. Boxes filled with things that her mother thought would be appropriate to Hime at that age, like a hand written cookbook with simple recipes at age 10.

It’s gotten a bit more complicated since then, especially as of the latest couple of episodes, but that’s the gist of it.

What Kakushigoto doesn’t have, yet[4], is anything like the emotional resonance that Violet Evergarden achieved in that one episode.

On the other hand, it’s perhaps the thing that makes Kakushigoto work on more than just the sketch comedy level. Yes, sure, the individual sketches/scenes have been consistently funny[5], but that poignant undertone of the death of Hime’s mother matters in this show. It’s clearly a strong part of Kakushi’s own motivations, and those little scenes at the end of each episode with the high school version of Hime are building to something[6].

This isn’t really a plot device I’ve seen often, and it’s intriguing to see how it’s been managed in both shows.

Violet Evergarden often achieved emotional resonance through the reactions of others; that was intrinsic to the nature of Violet’s slowly developing character. In Kakushigoto’s case, the resonance from any resolution will come directly from Hime.

I really hope that they stick the landing. If they do there’s potential there for a resolution that matches the superb A Place Further Than The Universe[7].

Question of the Post: Where else have you seen this plot device? Was it used effectively or did it bomb?

[1] Yes, I know I haven’t reviewed Violet Evergarden yet. I do keep meaning to though. In the meantime just go watch it.

[2] One of the reasons this is so effective is because crying like that is such a key marker in Violet’s spiritual and emotional journey.

[3] Random side note: I do wonder if the existence of A Loved One Will Always Watch Over You is why the movie Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll had such mixed reviews. Eternity is a decent film, but by Violet Evergarden standards is far, far, short of A Loved One.

[4] Obvious Disclaimer is Obvious. Kakushigoto is very much a slow burn series for the more serious elements so it may take some time to get there.

[5] Which strengthens the comparisons to Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun, another comedy show that rarely put a foot wrong.

[6] Most of each episode is set around the time Hime is 10, but there are these, well, epilogues are as good a way to describe them as any with Hime in high school.

[7] Which in some respects features an inversion of this trope: the living daughter sending emails to a dead mother because she can’t accept it or move on from it (yet).