Violet Evergarden is a slow and methodical journey following the eponymous character as she performs her job as an Auto Memoir Doll touching people's hearts and having her own heart revealed in the process. A slow show which on the large scale tries to deal with war and its aftermaths and on a small or personal scale deals with the pain of saying farewell, Violet Evergarden exceeds in delivering small but focused stories and engaging one with its world.
Personally, I wasn't on the hype train for this show nor was I really feeling it for the first couple of episodes. Well, after a four month break and somewhat of a marathon of the last eleven episodes the show had to offer I can definitely say I am on board with it.
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Violet Evergarden is a show that is polished to a mirror sheen. It is stunningly beautiful in basically every way possible. From the fluid animation to the amazing quality of the art right down to the music and folly there's narry a fault in presentation.
This all serves quite an important purpose: immersion. One of the things I noticed really soon after starting to watch the series again is how easy it was to lose myself in the world. How quickly I would get wrapped up and how hard it was to let go.
The score supports each and every scene very well while also being subtle. The animations are fluid and lifelike, faces are expressive and seem real and the work on the folly makes every movement of Violet's metal arms, every step, every action have weight. Every aspect of the presentation interweaves seemlessly to create a realistic and lifelike, yet at times otherworldy experience from which it was quite hard to dettach myself sometimes.
But does Violet Evergarden use all of this in its favour? Or perhaps does it squander it all? Oh why am I playing coy? By the score I'm sure you can figure it out. It does a great job using the presentation to its advantage in telling its stories. Yes, stories. Violet Evergarden does have a more overarching story, one where Violet has to find her heart and say goodbye to her past, but this story is told through lots of smaller ones where Violet helps others be at peace with their goodbyes.
Violet Evergarden is a story all about these goodbyes whether from a loved one passing or having to move away into a foreign home, the anime daftly crafts these twenty minute stories in such a way that you not only have time to get to know the characters, but also to get to feel for them when the climax is finally reached.
Now it's arguable that it does manage to do this by relying on some tropes and cliches, but I didn't find it to be an issue. Generally you'll find familiar setups to stories, but the resolution and the path to that resolution is mostly brand new.
In all of these stories there's a quite reverie on the part of the show. It doesn't reject the painful parts of life, but rather would have you embrace them and look to the future. A lot of the episodes in the series have this kind of message. Remembering the past and having an appreciation for how fleeting the time spent with loved ones is is an important theme in Violet Evergarden. It embraces the passing of time, the passing of people as a natural part of life to be held dear just as much as any other event in ones life.
This message resonated with me quite a bit and it is one of my favourite themes in media. For one who often finds himself contemplating the passing of time and the baggage that comes with it like me, Violet Evergarden is really good because of its slow and reverent approach to the subject.
I've talked a lot about Violet Evergaden (the show) up until now, but just as important of a component to what makes it good is Violet Evergarden (the character). See, the show is one of those where a character has to piece themselves together after a life-shattering event. Violet is our initially emotionless protagonist that by the end of the story should find her feelings. Being that she is a weapon of war without a war to fight in, thrust in a new peaceful world the show takes the opportunity to have us experience and discover this world together with her. As she slowly heals the wounds of the war during her journey we get to experience this healing in close intimacy. The fact that she is a frank, no nonsense, and honest girl also means that there's little need for cumbersome inner monologue which might work well in a book, but in my opinion detracts from the immersion in an audiovisual medium like anime.
Violet's arc in the show is subtle. Most of the time. She goes from not understanding others' emotions to being a star Doll in just one episode, but we'll let that slide since otherwise the show would entirely be about her becoming a decent Doll rather than the her journeys as one. Each episode is presented as another client asking for Violet's help. And each episode concludes with Violet having affected the life of a client in a profound way, but also having the wall around her heart slowly chipped away.
By the end of the show I felt as if I had spent a whole lot of time with this girl and had come to known her really well and she undertook this journey with me. She didn't know herself at the beginning either so her journey was not only impactful for her, but since I undertook it alongside her it had a much bigger impact on me as well.
Now as much as I praise the characterisation of Violet and how impactful the small stories are, I would like to point out that in the grand scheme of things none of the characters besides Violet are more really more than one-off characters. Sure, some are recurring, but they rarely matter beyond their first appearance. And this may be a fault for some.
It also can feel like the show is quite aimless. There's no real set-in-stone goal for Violet. The show is about her aimlessly wandering through life and only by happenstance does the journey actually help her. She doesn't actively search for anything for most of the show which again may be a detriment.
It can also at times feel like the drama is laid on thick and combined with the show being rather aimless it makes it so that the thick drama is also kind of pointless. I didn't personally feel this way since I got immersed enough and attached enough to even the episodic characters that I did care for their plight, but I can see how for some it may not be this way.
The faults of Violet Evergarden I feel are overshadowed by just how much it does right. From impeccable presentation to an impeccable philosophy this show gripped me like not many others have. It might not be your cup of tea if you don't like episodic shows, and it might not be your cup of tea if you hate having excessive amounts of drama in your shows. But if you like a more pensive look at life, if you have an appreciation for shows which try to say something about life, or maybe even if you've been forced to say goodbye to anyone in your life then maybe Violet Evergarden is for you.