*Violet Evergarden consists of the 13 episode show, a half hour special episode, and a movie. This review takes all three into account with the most emphasis placed on the show.*
Violet Evergarden was raised to be a weapon. A child soldier given to an army major by his brother, Violet took orders, killed, and never had a second thought about it. That is, until the war ended and her major died. With his dying breath, he tells her to live and be happy. Violet must now learn to understand the words that she was given and chooses to become an Auto Memory Doll.
Violet Evergarden is the only character that I am going to talk about in this review. Why may you ask? What about Gilbert, the major? What about Cattleya, or Benedict, or Luculia? Nope, in the grand scheme of things, Violet is the one that matters. Violet is a doll in almost every sense of the word. But not a Barbie, more like those porcelain dolls that your grandmother has at random places in the house that inspired twenty years of horror films. She is fair skinned, thin, immaculately dressed, and fairly emotionless. But this last part is where the beginning and the end diverge. Violet’s adventures take her all over the country as she learns about people and their feelings through writing letters for them. My favorite part of Violet is the constant self reflection that she puts herself through. She is constantly met with people who reject her or confront a part of her that is drastically different from them. Instead of defending who she is, she considers them and looks internally. While the interactions in the show are mostly positive, she makes the best out of them and brings the viewer on a heartfelt trip of change.
That said, the cast was fun but rarely developed in the way that Violet is. She is clearly the focus and the show has a big uphill battle getting a viewer to empathize with an emotionally muted character. I would have loved to learn more about a cast that showed a lot of potential. For that reason, I’m out. Not really, but I took two points.
This was not my first time watching Violet Evergarden. Normally I prefer to review shows that I have not seen before so I can walk into the review with a clear mind and no prior thoughts. The first time I watched Violet Evergarden, it was lost on me. Some of it was a little sad but it was what it was. Visually impressive but not impressive in any other way. My second take was very needed. While I still felt like Violet was largely emotionless, I now see how that was used to make the supporting cast feel more human. The show does a phenomenal job at putting you in the shoes of the characters. The disgust of the major in Violet’s flashbacks are clear. Violet’s need to understand the emotions she has never been taught pulls on your heartstrings. The franchise doesn’t dip into a wide variety of emotions because they have a focus. The war is over, but the people are scarred. The world is luxurious and broken at the same time. Tension that hung in the air between people wanting to rebuild and being happy that the war is over and a searing pain was left in the hearts of everyone.
I read a lot of classic books. I went to a non-traditional high school so we did not read the normal classics that most kids in high school did. So when I heard my university friends talking about this book or that book, I didn’t want to be left behind. In my experience, one of two things makes a book a classic. The first is making me want to rip my eyes out by being so ungodly boring that I can’t stand it. Thank you, Grapes of Wrath. The second thing is universal human experiences. Violet Evergarden falls in the second category. Not everyone will understand what it is like to have war trauma, but most people know what it is like to struggle to convey the feelings they have.
Violet Evergarden is centered around this idea of struggling to say your feelings. I am not talking about you being mad at your roommate for leaving dishes in the sink and not knowing how to tell them. That is relatively easy and my roommate does it on a weekly basis. I am talking about the feelings of telling a loved one that their addiction is killing you too. Expressing the feeling of regret over hurting someone for years because you can’t get past your own emotional barriers. The emotions that we even struggle to understand until we are talking to someone and find ourselves wiping tears from our eyes. This is, and likely will be, the struggle of humanity for all time. We hold writers and artists and scientists so highly because they solve just a little bit of this. They say the things and convey the feelings that we struggle to convey in our own lives.
All over TikTok I see videos about trauma. Maybe TikTok is trying to tell me something? The line that stands out from the show goes something like this, “Violet, you don’t know it yet but you are burning up.” People are suffering silently with what they did and what has been done to them. While this is explained in a niche way through Violet being a vetran of war, I can see this applying to most people. I wish that the show had explored this in more people than just Violet, but the show was very insistent that the development is going to be about her. Had they chosen to pursue this idea more than they did, I think they would make a contention for a perfect score.
I want you to think about a busy two lane street, you know, back when people used to drive to work. You know those really annoying motorcycle drivers who drive in between the lanes? Violet Evergarden is one of those motorcycle drivers. It drives the fine line of being slammed by someone’s open door and crashing into a boring episodic cadence while developing the emotional journey Violet goes through with amazing efficiency by slipping past conventional methods. Violet is the show’s diver and when she isn’t developing, the show stalls. The show does a great job at pushing the story of Violet along at a slow burn pace that I really enjoy. I did not feel that the special or the movie were particularly needed but they were fun additional pieces that added to the world more than anything.
Someday when anime is taught at every university as a humanities class, Violet Evergarden will be played for the classes like some kind of classic film. They will study the way that the water glitters. They will write papers about the lighting as the characters walk from dark areas into the light. Perhaps they will analyze the reflections in Violet’s metal arms? Debates will take place on what episode makes the most effective use of color and they will all be right because the franchise is that good with animation. I do not know if I could sing praises much higher than this because the franchise is the real deal. Watch it, love it, then be sad it is over.
At some point in my life, I was a young boy who found himself in an honors english class. I had a young and bright eyed teacher who knew how to make the curriculum whatever the heck he wanted. So my mind was injected with copious amounts of love for Victorian Era England. I don’t often wish that I could exist in another time, but between the dimly lit lamp lined streets, ruffled dresses, and the chivalry, it makes me long for another day. As someone who lives next to a highway, the sounds of that era are so alive. The shoes click on the cobblestones. The merchants are chattering with customers. Everything happens person to person. The letters delivered by Violet’s company matter to the people who get them and are delivered by people in the community. The only thing our post office delivers is spam, late payment notices, and taxes. Not very chivalrous of them. Life seems smaller but grander in almost every sense and the show captures that feeling without making it an obvious emphasis.
As I am writing this section I am listening to Nick Mo. talk about arpeggios, math rock, and more, I can’t help but feel a wee bit underqualified to write this section given I failed to identify that the instrument I liked was an oboe. But what else is new? Violet Evergarden’s music was as beautiful as the animation. Most of the music is slow and wandering. It feels like music that could be played while walking down a lamp lit cobblestone street as the city quiets down, but never sleeps. Other times it feels like that same street in the day with crowds flowing like water. My favorite song has an oboe that cuts through all the music like when you make eye contact with someone walking the other way and suddenly it feels like the other people melt away for a moment. I take my quiet nights seriously and Violet Evergarden’s music will be added to my quiet night playlist with my Your Lie in April music.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||4||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||2||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||3||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
Let’s say that for some reason you want to watch a visual masterpiece that explores an innate part of being human. You know, for some reason. Violet Evergarden is the anime for you. Breathtaking visuals, a solid story that could have used some more developed characters, and a heartbreaking story of growth.