As a child, Violet was used by the military as a weapon because of her combat prowess. Her one friend and protector was Major Gilbert, who named the girl, taught her how to speak and write, and cared for her. But after being seriously injured in the war, losing both arms in the process, Violet is brought to the Evergarden household to recuperate. There, she trains to become an Auto Memories Doll: a person who writes letters for others, deciphering their true feelings and expressing it on paper. As Violet travels the world, she helps her clients find love and comfort through the letters she writes; but more importantly, she slowly begins to understand emotions, so that she can finally cope with what she’s done, and what she’s lost.
Story: “What makes a good story?” Ask a thousand people, and you will undoubtedly receive a thousand and one different answers. This question has been asked since man first began the art of writing, and the answer is so fundamentally ingrained into human nature that it’s impossible to express in words. Good authors are able to tap into this inner intuition, alchemizing a concoction of sweat, tears, and time to piece together masterworks that objectively span the test of time. When parsing the "good" from the "great" authors, one of the most telling skills to appraise is the author's art of "telling-without-telling." To my point, a gripping story does not need to spoon-feed its audience with every minute detail, but should instead strike to balance the explicit with the imagined to let the viewer or reader animate the intricacies of the plot, its world, and its characters inside their own minds. Violet Evergarden is, quite unfortunately, a series which lacks the written talent to pull its story together into a singular, cohesive whole. On one hand, the script understands the above quite well – the opening arc of the show, for example, is a slice of life drama that parses out bits and pieces of the protagonist’s backstory with a certain reserve and delicacy. It focuses on Violet Evergarden, a badly-wounded soldier in a war who struggles enormously to adjust herself to a peacetime life in spite of tragedy and horror stripping her soul down to the bone. Violet’s tale is one of subtlety, nuance, and limited exposition – she foils the numerous sub-plot characters very well, acting as a sort of detached narrator who has just enough charisma to tap solidly into the emotional conflicts of her peers. For the first half of the show, the pacing is consistent and steady from episode to episode, and it’s written in such a way that the story and characters sink their hook into the viewer and keep them wanting to come back. Yet, just as the series sets itself on a stable path, Violet Evergarden’s authors decide to veer the story off in a completely different direction. A grander narrative is desired to be told – one of increasing detail regarding Violet’s past, and one of a deeper political drama beset with warring actors in the vein of Juuni Kokuki. Like a knife through the side of a tire, this shift of pace shreds though the previous subtlety and grace, and within a matter of episodes the beauty begins to leak away. The content in the story begins to lose its intrigue and strategic pacing, with each episode flailing flashback after flashback at the viewer in in an attempt to detail every intricacy of Violet’s backstory. This ends up wiping away her mystique and intrugue as the central character and, in doing so, the authors attempt to try to shape her into a tragic hero whose visage of perfection is chipped at through flaws and pain. Instead, however, they create an awkward Mary Sue, beset on all sides with one-dimensional half-villains acting in remarkably simple and mundane ways that starkly contrast with the series’ initial narrative style. The end result is a character-driven narrative with characters who seem shallow and flat Violet’s backstory is not believable or relatable, in particular, and the war that backdrops the events of the series is filled with events and people who make little to no sense outside of melodramatic plot devices. Had Violet Evergarden simply stuck to its template used for the first half of the show and left all these details unexplained, the end result might well have been a powerful and emotional slice-of-life drama in the vein of Kino no Tabi. The story simply tries to tell too much with its attempts to develop Violet as a character, and ultimately shoots itself in the foot. It fundamentally fails to grasp that its telling of so little is what made it good to begin with. Come its end, the story limps along to a mediocre and unfulfilling conclusion, and the viewer is left to wonder what might have occurred had the potential not been squandered. Animation: All flaws in the story and character writing aside, Violet Evergarden understands the fundamental concept of aesthetic in a manner that’s truly enrapturing for an animated work. It is difficult to separate the musical and artistic direction for independent evaluation, as the visual and the audible presentation flow together absolutely seamlessly. Violet’s animations capture all her intended thematic nuances exceptionally well, from the ever-so-subtle drifts of hair across her forehead to the dimming and glowing of her spectacular azure eyes as she struggles to understand her humanity. Backgrounds and settings change consistently throughout the series, from dark towers to starry skies to snow-laden mountains to bustling early-industrial cityscapes. Each and every one is breathtaking and gorgeous, alive with motion and ambience. Of all the anime series I have watched the past 20 years, I have little reservation of nominating this series as the crown jewel and pinnacle of what animation can achieve with the right talent and direction. Beautiful in every way. Sound: The musical score of Violet Evergarden is a spectacular complement to its animation, arrayed with emotional piano and violin pieces that stay on-point with the ebb and flow of the show. Tonally, the show is a somber and melancholic drama, and the music matches the sadness, buildup, and climax of each episode with finesse and grace. Each piece, compositionally, does not feel like generic background filler music, and easily stands alone listened to outside the setting of the series itself. The voice acting is solid, with many big names littering the Japanese cast who play their roles flawlessly. Violet’s seiyuu, particularly, captures the nuance of her character exceptionally well. For the many slice-of-life episodes that the series executes on-point, the emotional gravity of the scenes are captured phenomenally with the voice acting, and despite the content being shaky the vocal delivery was enough to tear me up several times. Characters: The characters in Violet Evergarden are quite difficult to rate properly. Violet is, without any contention, a strong lead with layers of depth and a well-written, central place in the events of the series. While I would not consider her to be a particularly original character, the execution of her archetype is exceptionally well done, and the delicate touch of her animation highlights the beauty, grace, and solemnity necessary to make her a successful lead. She captures an array of higher human virtues enormously well: purity-without-innocence, empathy-with-restraint, and healing-without-forgetting to name a few. Yet, while Violet herself stands out as exceptional, the rest of the cast is most assuredly not. The secondary supporting cast (everyone but Violet) tend to be flimsy, shallow, and one-dimensional. The war subplot, in particular, is littered by ridiculous characters who, despite the attempt to make them serious, come across as boisterously comical. Violet’s conflict with many of these characters seems entirely artificial and a rigid plot device, and as the series evolves she starts to be placed within many of her situations as some unstoppable action hero ala Black Lagoon’s Roberta. Given that Violet Evergarden is about as far from Black Lagoon as one would ever hope to get, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the series’ attempt to explore the drama and tragedy of life through the tertiary characters of the day, and further tries to create an awkward action corollary to the drama. Violet Evergarden ends up falling flat because of this. Violet’s potential as a phenomenal lead is teased at the start, but she simply cannot shine when she has an ocean’s worth of depth placed alongside the puddles of an afternoon shower. Despite several potent character development episodes, even the CH Company team ends mediocre, with handfuls of pseudo-conflicts that are never explained or explored. A cursory literally critique of the story could easily have recommended the writers ditch the war drama to instead focus on developing Violet’s interaction with the rest of her team and with the team amongst themselves. Overall: This is one of the few series I would recommend in spite of a lackluster cast of characters and a bumbling story that can’t close itself out properly. The animation and music carry the series’ many and numerous faults, and the beginning is executed well enough to keep it watchable for the fourteen episode duration. Taken as a whole, the aesthetic presentation of Violet Evergarden is stellar and worth experiencing of its own merit; watch a thousand series, and Violet Evergarden will undoubtedly class itself in this regard in the top ten. Just be wary that it’s a far-from-perfect series, and appreciate it for what it’s worth.
This could have been a great show, and it started off with a good premise, but it soon devolved into "melodrama of the week". With each episode, the eponymous character developed a little in some way until the obvious advancement of her own plot line came due. Unfortunately, by this time the forced, trite, and obnoxiously amateurish emotional manipulation had become gallingly apparent, and it frankly ruined the main plot line, even though it was still quite early in the lifetime of the series. Beyond that point it would have taken a near miraculous development of plot to make the show worth continuing, but instead it seems that the writers were each provided a retarding brain injury and thereafter compelled to throw themselves entirely into the process of insulting the viewer with increasingly shallow and frivolous melodrama. Beyond the point that the main plot arc was resolved all episodes can be summarized as follows: Show a new character who is unhappy and/or suffering some tragedy. Violet Evergarden, arrives, interrupting their quiet, pitiful navel gazing by means of that highest of virtues: being the main character. Violet writes letters with her mechanical hands and shares a few passing remarks with the week's sob story, thereby magically transmitting her magnificent, panacea-like wisdom which stuns them into moody silence while she walks off into the sunset. The afflicted character takes a new view on life and continues to suffer meaninglessly, but possibly smiles about it on occasion. [Optionally insert condescendingly shallow and transparent Aesop; preferably one that was obvious in the first five minutes of the episode.] And that's it. Just to make certain that I'm being clear, Violet Evergarden is a person who transitioned from lovelorn, autistic mass-murderer into depressed, paraplegic postal transcriptionist. She's only slightly more clever than her typewriter, and this is why I find it more than mildly dissatisfying that what could easily be interesting explorations of pathos are instead hand-wavingly anti-resolved just because there's a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl waifing around the place. The writers clearly don't care about the characters, and they try to conceal their contempt for their situations by piling on more and more ridiculous tragedy and violin music, long beyond the point that it's become meaningless. P.S. - If there's a manga or novel I really don't give half a damn about it. This is a review of the anime.
Violet Evergarden is a young girl who grew up on the battlefield treated as a weapon rather than a human/soldier. But the war is over and having been separated from her only important person Major Gilbert, Violet must now learn to live in a post-war world and Claudia, an old friend of Gilbert promised to take care and help Violet after the war, and after seeing Auto Memories Doll at work, she too wishes to become one to learn what "I love you" means. Story makes one smile, makes one cry and gives one hope, as Violet meets different kinds of people and through their interactions she grows as a person. Animation is amazing, beautiful style, vibrant colors. Sound is breathtaking, amplifies the emotions to the max. Characters are lovely and real, even when most of them are present for a single episode, they still shine brightly. Why can't all new anime be this good and this well made? (I know it's money, but still)
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