"As human beings, we all mature physically from childhood to adolescence and then into adulthood, but our emotions lag behind." - Bernard Sumner
This is the most memorable quote that had gone through my mind whenever I watched Violet Evergarden, and led me to ask myself this question: how do you learn an emotion?
Experience? Knowing its definition? Or perhaps... By writing letters for others? Thus is VE's answer.
I liked the novel, so obviously I liked the story. They did make me get worried with those original episodes at the start but later on they managed to adapt most of the best chapters. There are quite a few which are standalone: 5,6,7,10,11. The rest involved Violet and her co-workers.
The first half didn't look that promising, but the second half improved a lot. I think it's because they put in a lot of her adventures in the second half, only involving Violet and the customer, which gave a lot more room for growth instead of being surrounded by the other workers. She's the type who learns fast when she's alone, you could say. Watching her change bit by bit a girl from emotionless and to some extent irritating to one who is able to experience emotions was very enjoyable.
The story is not unique in the sense that she's trying to find the meaning of "love", but as it unfolds she learns other feelings as well, and soon enough we don't get the "I want to know the meaning of "I love you"" line.
Pacing has sometimes been a problem, for example episode 6, where I barely got to know about Leon. They could've done more but I guess you have to expect that when you've got less than 20 minutes to cover an adventures. But in most cases they provided us with the right flashbacks and details to get to know the customers well.
The anime did remove parts of the novel which were pretty bad: I'll start with witchcraft, a giant battle axe almost twice the size of Violet. I just couldn't believe that she could maneuver the axe so well, before she even got those robotic arms. Glad they got rid of that. They also made Violet very pacifistic compared to the novel, which helped to emphasize her growth even more, but this was at the cost of making her fighting scenes towards the end of the series ridiculous, since she chose to go head on without weapons at all, but still managed to take them down.
Other reviews have pointed out the technological and cultural inaccuracies in VE, but personally it didn't affect me that much except maybe for those robotic arms which seem to be more advanced than one we have today... Rather, I was more annoyed by the battle scenes: a 14/15 year old girl fighting against trained soldiers, sometimes without weapons... I get that she is OP, but... the way her adventures unfold so conveniently at times was one of the main weaknesses of this show.
There were some parts of the novel I would've liked them to include, for example Hodgins was supposed to visit Violet quite a few times when she was in the hospital and that helped to develop a parent-child relationship. They kind of tried to fit it in in between the adventures, but I don't think it was sufficient. The other thing is Violet's origins. They didn't go deep enough on that, and made people think that she became emotionless because of her time in the army.
This is probably the best part and what made VE get such high expectations. The face expressions were great, the landscapes were great... If I was to point out the best ones, I'd say the scenes of the starry night (Ep 6), street lamps and the city of Leiden as a whole. I also liked the way they included flowers a lot throughout the series (especially Ep 5, you could see one almost very 5 seconds). The reason I'm mentioning this is because flowers are an important theme here: if you look at the names of most of the characters, they're all related to flowers.
"People’s names always have some sort of meaning." —Akatsuki Kana (author of VE)
If I was to point out a negative... Sometimes, maybe this was just once, they put too much emphasis on scenes which didn't really deserve it. In Episode 4, when Violet was first introduced to the villagers, they suddenly went all out with the animation, including sudden gusts of wind and leaves dancing everywhere. It was amazing, but not really worth it.
I liked the OP and ED, but that was about it. It didn't make me listen to it over and over again like Aimer's Ref:rain (best ED for me this season). The background music was alright, but they were often hit or miss: they would sometimes repeat it for too long and in other cases the music just didn't match the mood at all. But still enjoyable overall.
From the blind obedience to kill to the development of a conscience which can heal, Violet's growth was truly remarkable, with the difference between her past and present crystal clear. Her blunt and fearless character had often been an obstacle against her success as a doll, but as the series progressed she managed to use them in the right circumstances. Her military salutes, her formal language, her expressionless face... They all changed. This is what the novel couldn't provide, those subtle details that show signs of growth.
Only disappointment is the development of the other characters, especially Hodgins, Cattleya and Benedict. The novel lacked this as well, but I guess it was expected since so much was invested into Violet and her customers.
Good, but not a masterpiece.
Would I recommend you to read the novel? Give it a try unless you hated this. But there are going to be differences, both good and bad.
If you can't be bothered reading the novel but still want to know what happens, you can PM me.