Having heard it was the first light novel that had actually won Kyoani’s Grand Prize, I had very high hopes for Violet Evergarden. It is a two part novel consisting of short stories about a young woman traveling from one place to another assisting people with different things.
When you read through the first 5 chapters, which are basically short stories, you will notice that the author describes Violet - the main character in a way that makes her feel like a Mary Sue character. She is unrealistically strong, smart and fucking great looking. In fact she is so beautiful that the author can’t stop themself from describing how beautiful Violet is in every chance they get. Every character in the story will bring up how beautiful she is, everyone from a young girl to a man old enough to have a daughter her age. To add to that, her delicate features are described in great detail.
Here is an example from chapter 1 :
“What was reflected in Oscar’s eyes was a sight more bewitchingly beautiful than any naked woman. Dripping golden hair. Beautiful blue orbs of a deepness that would not soften even within a painting and the finely-shaped lips just below them. A flesh body with a slender neck, an outstanding collarbone, plump breasts, and feminine curves.”
Here is an example from chapter 2 :
“‘It’ was a bewitchingly beautiful doll. Golden hair shining as though ‘it’ had been born out of moonlight. Blue orbs that glowed like gems. Bright rouge-colored lips so plump as to seem they had been pressed hard. A Prussian blue jacket under a ribbon-tie snow white dress that bore a mismatched emerald brooch. ”
Here is an example from chapter 3 :
“She was like a white rose blooming within the night. Even with his vision slightly distorted by tears, Aiden could tell how stunning she was. Her blue irises reminded him of the far-off southern seas, her lips as red as the moonrise in a desert. Her facial features would have made his heart race were that a normal day, but in such circumstances, he felt nothing but fright. Her golden hair shone brightly even in the blackness, making the burgundy ribbon decorating it stand out.”
I can keep going, but you see my point. And to further add to that the author uses a ‘purple prose’ whenever they describe Violet. And of course, being beautiful doesn’t make you a Mary Sue, and in fact I am not sure I would say Violet is a Mary Sue character after finishing the story. In the first 5 chapters you see Violet adventure, make people fall in love with her, show unrealistic strength for a kid. And yes, Violet is definitely a kid, and her strength is definitely unrealistic. In those chapters Violet felt like an idealistic figure created by the author which they can adventure through. This is further supported by the fact those 5 chapters aren’t really related; it is just Violet adventuring and assisting people. Of course one could argue that Violet is learning how to become a human through those adventures, but I have hard time believing that she actually learned something from those experiences rather than just make people flabbergasted. Her origins, why she has this inhuman strength and beauty is never explained. Well, there was that chapter which could be seen as a way to suggest that Violet is a demigod, but I don’t want to take that as a confirmation…
And while most people would say that those chapters were really well written, I just don’t agree. In my opinion those chapters, all had very little actual story. They were cheap ways to make the readers emotional. But when it is about characters that have had no development, they are just there to serve the author in writing an emotional story, I couldn’t care less for them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike episodic stories, I dislike the ones that are pretentious. And the fact that the only thing Violet doesn’t do in those chapters is to turn gay dudes straight tells a lot about them, I think. I mean come on, she made a misogynist fall in love with her. That is not to say all of those 7 short stories from volume 1 and 2 were bad, some of them did carry a good message, and would perhaps had been more impactful if not for the author making everyone fall in love with Violet, and describe how beautiful she is countless times. The characters in those were also, of course, barely developed. Especially the characters that became a part of the “main cast” in volume 2.
The POV change in the last short story chapter felt very unnecessary. I felt like the author just used it to describe Violet in purple prose once more.
Well, enough about that, chapter 6 is where the actual story starts, and Violet’s past and along with it, her flaws are presented. And if the story had started here and moved on to the other chapters, I probably wouldn’t have had the same issues with it, and Violet would have felt like an actual character rather than a tool for author’s self-insertion. Even in these chapters, Violet’s beauty is mentioned very often. She also displays her unrealistic power. From here on though, I would say the story is more connected, and it is more clear where the author is trying to take the story. And I liked where it was led. Although I will say that I somewhat disliked the last chapter of volume 2. Not the ending, but the whole conflict, or rather “side conflict”. The solution to the problem they were facing almost made me facepalm. But then I remembered, this wasn’t a military action novel after all. Although almost a third of it actually was. As a such novel, Violet Evergarden would fail miserably in my opinion.
I somewhat enjoyed Violet Evergarden’s story as a whole. It was about a “doll” learning how to become a human. That aspect of it, I really did like. And I will give the story a score of 7/10.
I didn’t like how Violet herself was presented by the author in the beginning, but I did come to like her over the course of the story. She felt more than an OP character with no personality by the end of the story. The other most developed character was the “Major”. His actions were understandable; his feelings were portrayed well. Although, I will say that, I am sick and tired of this fucking "grown up men falling in love with their adopted daughter" trope. Move on to something else Japan. This is getting fucking old.
The writing of Violet Evergarden is pretty easy to follow. It is a LIGHT novel in every sense of the word. It doesn’t require one to think much; it gives you all the answers. This was something I liked about Violet Evergarden. I also liked the repetition of the sentences the author used. Well, I liked most of them, as they had something to offer to the story. The others felt like author had a word limit to pass.
The setting of the story felt a bit weird to me. It was surreal in a way. I know this is a “fantasy-like” setting but futuristic technology just didn’t sit well with the imagery the author portrayed through words. The illustrations were pretty good. They were very detailed, although most of them just showed Violet’s face in different situations. But although she was in horrible state in some of them, the artist still drew her in a way that draws out her beauty, which I didn’t like.
As a whole, Violet Evergarden did not meet my expectations, but that is not to say I did not like it. Although I do wonder how bad the other contestants were that Violet Evergarden won the grand prize… But then anybody who knows about Kyoani's LN label would know that it is no accomplishment to get your book published there, rather, it is the exact opposite.