Reviews

Apr 4, 2018
Stark700 (All reviews)
Waking up one day and discovering Violet Evergarden getting an anime adaptation by Kyoto Animation should be a blessing. At least that’s what it looked like on the surface. The light novel series earned the grand prize from the Fifth Kyoto Animation in the novel category. Even with two volumes, my expectations going into this anime was high. In particular, the sheer visual quality is a sight to feast on. However, Violet Evergarden isn’t exactly just known for that but does that mean it’s something to be praised?

Written by Kana Akatsuki, the light novel series is a story about Auto Memory Dolls. They are dolls are made by Dr. Orland, a scientist who used them to assist his wife in writing novels. However, these dolls were also rented out to others for service. The main plot revolves around an Auto Memory Doll named Violet Evergarden as she tries to discover her purpose in life.

As someone who came into this series half prepared (I have read parts of the light novel), I felt I was ready enough. The first few episodes came in as anime originals and that left me with some mixed reception. However, I will say that the pilot episode was a terrific picture. Beyond the lush quality and the visual magnificence, Violet Evergarden presented a story with heavy emotions. It synchronizes with the drama and melancholy of what I had anticipated. However, the main selling point of the show is titular character Violet Evergarden herself. The story feels like a character study that puts over her above the rest of the cast. Every episode focuses on Violet in some way through her role in the story, her interactions with others, and how she develops as a character. The conflicts she experiences tests her feelings and how she responds to them by trying to understand others. It draws viewers into asking questions about how she can develop as a character and in a lot of ways, I think the show did do that quite well. For instance, Violet displays a lot of human characteristics and tries to understand others. The most prominent scenes features her desperately trying to learn what “love” is and to me, this series chronicles her experience like a life journey of discovery. Unfortunately, I can’t really say that the first few episodes were well thought out in characterizing Violet as a memorable character. Beyond her expressions and role, it seems the show repeats a lot of the same things over and over. The example includes Violet expressing why she is an Auto Memory Doll and it gets tedious fast. It also doesn’t help much that the other side characters seemingly react in similar ways to Violet. My main concern for the first few episodes were mainly how this can keep viewers interested with such a way of storytelling.

Fortunately, the series does get better and puts emphasis in some of the side characters. While the plot feels non-linear at times, some of the other characters do get spotlight through effective background storytelling. For instance, one of the episodes featured a 14 year old princess who gets engaged to a prince and while this seemed like a cheesy love tale at first, it resolved in a very emotional way. It gave me the impression that certain side characters are worth investing time into. In the meantime, the series does eventually step into the light novel adaptation territory as we learn more about Violet’s past and connection with someone very important to her. That person would be Gilbert Bougainvillea, a major in the Leidenschaftlich Army and someone that influenced Violet a lot since she met him. As we look at Violet’s past, we learn how they met and how much he treasure her like a person rather than a doll. It’s also important to note that Violet feels comfort whenever she is around him and not lonely. The anime in the present timeline portrays Violet as a very lonely character and doesn’t have someone to depend on. In doing so, it establishes Violet as a character that has a hard time understanding others. This is especially true for her after she heard Gilbert’s final words. The show dedicates time to explore Violet’s change since the past and how she reflects her experiences in the present. As I mentioned before, the series takes a lot of time into examining Violet as a character and getting viewers to understand her. The side characters play important roles in later episodes to make Violet reflect on her past deeds. To me, it’s effective storytelling as it really made me understand her behavior. The more I understood her, the more compelling her character became. I don’t know if this was the creator’s intention from the start but honestly, it does come together as a well delivered plan.

Now you’re probably thinking of the story contains too much drama for its own good. In some ways, it does but in other ways, it’s also important for the main story. You have to remember that the timeline takes place after a war that Violet was previously involved in. Stories about war often involves pain, tragic memories, and even death. For Violet, she experienced the realities of war. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot of drama and its effect on the storytelling can be received with mixed receptions. I had some mixed feelings in general about Violet’s past as while it can definitely evoke emotions, it doesn’t feel unique enough to be memorable. In other words, I’m more interested in how she develops as a character in the present rather than focusing on her past. Even if it’s significant for her characterization, the drama presented in the background stories doesn’t always feel too impactful. I get it though. Some people will probably point fingers and say that it’s necessary. Others may agree with what I mentioned here. To me, I’m still more interested in Violet’s development in the present than who she is in the past. Otherwise, Violet’s role in the show feels more than just a protagonist. She is the character.

Anyone watching this series will easily recognize the powerful production of the show. This is perhaps one of Kyoto Animation’s best work yet in terms of technical quality. The world setting has natural and lush landscapes with European style architecture detailed with vivid colors. Every camera shot feels impactful and there’s no drop in quality in any episode. Body movements are also timed precisely well to highlight every fine detail such as Violet’s character expressions and role as a doll. Speaking of which, Violet’s character design makes her look very elegant. If you haven’t known about her background story, it’s hard to recognize her as a former soldier. Her signature hand is also a trademark animated with impressive features. It communicates the message to viewers as what she is. Other characters in the show also stand out with their human characteristics. While there’s no fan service in the show, there are characters such as Cattelya that can be very pleasing to the naked eyes. It’s clear to me that Kyoto Animation and the creative team poured a sheer amount of effort into making this series as a whole. The theme songs also highlights a sensitive feeling of melancholy to match the series’ tone while character voice mannerism for the majority of the cast are able to keep up with their momentum. The music and OST also hits the mark to deliver what's intended especially for the emotional drama.

It’s definitely a series that felt different to me compared to some of other Kyoto Animation’s recent works. This one was an emotional storyteller that gave us a reason why we should care about Violet Evergarden; not just the story but Violet’s own journey of discovery. While I can’t say it’s always an effective tearjerker, it’s still a show that’s worth investing time into. Well done, Kyoto Animation. You gave me a better hope for your future.