The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Gilbert Bougainvillea

Violet Evergarden: The Movie- An Anime Film Review, Reflection and Full Recommendation, On Kyoto Animation and Resilience

“Well I’ve made up my mind, anyway. I want to see mountains again, Gandalf – mountains; and then find somewhere where I can rest. In peace and quiet, without a lot of relatives prying around, and string of confounded visitors hanging on the bell. I might find somewhere where I can finish my book. I have thought of a nice ending for it: and he lived happily ever after to the end of his days.” –Bilbo Baggins, The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring

Violet Evergarden has become renowned as an Auto-Memory Doll of prodigious skill, writing letters for royalty and drafting plays for screenwriters on top of her usual duties. After meeting Leiden’s mayor and his wife, Violet declines an offer to hang out with CH Postal’s staff at a local festival, and instead, returns to her quarters, where she writes a letter addressed to Gilbert. The next day, Violet heads over to the cemetery and pays respects to Gilbert and Dietfried Bougainvillea’s mother – her presence there surprises him, and after Violet drops her ribbon, he hastens to return it. Violet, meanwhile, returns to CH Postal’s office and arrives in time to answer a call from Yuris, a young boy suffering from cachexia. Knowing his time is limited, Yuris requests that Violet write letters to his parents and younger brother, hoping that they’ll continue to live a full life after his passing. Despite her initial surprise, Violet consents to the assignment and pinky-promises Yuris to complete her assignment. However, when Violet learns that Yuris’ refused to see his best friend, Ryuka, she implores him to speak with him in person, but gives him her word that she’ll return to write the final letter for Ryuka, as well. One evening, Claudia and Benedict find a letter in their mail room from Ekarte Island bearing handwriting resembling Gilbert’s. Upon confirming it with Dietfried, Claudia breaks the news to Violet, who becomes conflicted about the possibility of being able to meet Gilbert anew. Despite her worries, Cattleya and Iris assure Violet they’ll be able to hold down the fort back home even as the introduction of the telephone will someday render the Auto-Memory Dolls obsolete – Claudia and Violet thus head to Ekarte Island. Upon arrival, the pair set off for the school where Gilbert is working, and while Claudia tries to convince Gilbert to meet with Violet, he refuses. Violet encounters several of Gilbert’s students and is relieved that he is doing well, but is consumed with sorrow when he declines to meet her. Violet decides that she’s satisfied knowing that Gilbert is well, and prepares to head back home with Claudia. That evening, a rainstorm hits Ekarte, and Violet learns that Yuris’ condition has worsened. Unable to return home to fulfil her promise to him and get a letter written for Ryuka, Violet instead asks Benedict and Iris to step in, but Yuirth’s weakened to the point where even speaking becomes a labouring task for him. In the end, Iris decides to bet the farm on the new-fangled telephone, and in his final moments, allows Yuris to have a conversation with Ryuka, where he apologises to him and thanks him for having been there all this time.

Although Yuris dies, his parents and brother are immensely grateful to learn that Yuris had been happy in his final moments. Back on Ekarte, Violet drafts a letter for Gilbert and asks one of his students to pass it to him. That evening, she prepares to leave as the islanders test out a new cable car Gilbert had devised for transporting grapes. To his surprise, he finds a letter from Violet and comes face-to-face with Dietfried, who apologises for having burdened Gilbert with so much. Dietfried implores Gilbert to live life on his own terms, and that he will bear responsibility for the Bougainvillea name from here on out. Freed from his burden, Gilbert chases after Violet, who’s already boarded her boat, but when Violet hears his shouts, she dives into the ocean and swims ashore. Overwhelmed with emotion and seeing Gilbert for the first time, Violet is unable to form an articulate sentence, and tearfully embraces him instead. Gilbert assures her they’ll be able to be together from here on out. Violet subsequently resigns from her post and lives with Gilbert to the end of her days, while CH Postal becomes merged with another communications company as technology advances. Half a century later, Ann Magnolia’s granddaughter, Daisy, comes across the letters that Violet had written for her and become curious to know more about her story. She travels to Leiden and discovers that CH Postal’s old headquarters is now a museum, and from one of the museum’s curators, a former clerk at CH Postal, Violet ended up moving to an island to find her happiness. Inspired by the powers letters possess, she writes to her parents, thanking them for everything they’d done for her up until now – Daisy had been disappointed that her parents seemed to be more concerned with their occupations than spending time with her, but now, her adventure shows her the importance of taking a step back and appreciating the people closest to oneself. Even though technology has now advanced to the point where voices and thoughts can be transmitted instantaneously, letters remain unmatched for capturing the writers’ emotions, and Daisy’s parents immediately realise that contrary to her words, Daisy still loves them very much, much as how Gilbert and Violet loved one another: they make a pinky promise to always be there for one another. This is Violet Evergarden: The Movie, sequel to 2018’s Violet Evergarden and 2019’s Violet Evergarden Side Story: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll – the film premièred in September 2020 after several delays, but over its two hour and twenty minute run, Violet Evergarden: The Movie presents a multi-faceted and detailed film that acts as a stunning finale to Violet Evergarden.

Major Themes

From the very first moment Violet was introduced to viewers, her quest had always entailed properly understanding what 愛してる (Hepburn aishiteru) meant. In Japanese, this is the ultimate way of saying “I love you”, a phrase that entails a willingness to wholly commit oneself to another unto eternity. Before he passes out, Gilbert’s words to Violet suggest that he’d come to see her as more than a tool, and even more than a subordinate: she is a peer, a beacon of hope and optimism in a world where everything worth fighting form had seemingly vanished. However, Violet’s own background meant she is unable to comprehend fully what Gilbert had meant. As an Auto-Memory Doll, Violet would come to see other people expressing love for one another, whether it be familial love, love for the irreplaceable bonds that friendship brings with it, or even romantic love. As she begins putting into words these feelings, Violet begins to understand the relationships that different people shared with one another. However, in many cases, Violet finds herself needing to coax these words out of her clients, who struggle to honestly and openly express how they feel. Whether it is a sense of duty, their own honour or a misunderstanding, Violet’s clients each wonder if they deserve the love they’re given. By the events of Violet Evergarden: The Movie, it is Violet and Gilbert who come to this intersection. Violet desperately wants to know that Gilbert is well and ascertain what he’d meant, and now, having seen so much love, Violet begins to wonder if her undying desire to be by his side, to accompany him through the tough times and share happiness together, is what love is. However, Violet also is aware that she’d caused Gilbert no shortage of trouble. On the flipside, Gilbert believes that he should’ve kept Violet off the battlefield so she could pursue beautiful things, and feels himself unfit to meet Violet again. Both Violet and Gilbert second-guess their feelings, trying to convince themselves that it is for the better that they shan’t meet again. However, long-repressed emotions soon overflow after Violet pours her heart into one final letter for Gilbert – letters are a symbol of honesty, and the courage of being able to express what can be very hard to say. In the end, the truth has its day, propelling Gilbert and Violet to meet again, although this time, both are so overcome with emotion that neither are quite able to articulate themselves. Where words fail, silence speaks, and even though their fated meeting was a moment of few words, nothing more needed to be said as Violet and Gilbert share a tender embrace on the shores of a peaceful island far removed from the world’s troubles. In the end, aishiteru is the single most powerful expression of honesty: the courage to be forward about one’s desire to share the future together with someone of great significance and be better together.

In order to have reached this point, however, Violet Evergarden: The Movie shows Violet’s path to Gilbert as being fraught with setbacks and uncertainty. Similarly, Gilbert himself initially expresses a wish not to see Violet, worried that he’d already caused her enough trouble. While it is the case that the two were placed into extraordinary and horrific circumstances from the war, the two are only able to reconcile and set their pasts behind because they are able to forgive themselves. Forgiveness is a core part of Violet Evergarden: The Movie – Yuris’ wish to write letters to his parents and brother to express his gratitude indicates, that however dissatisfied he’d been with his illness and their pitying him, he’s forgiven them. Ryuka forgives Yuris for not wanting them to meet after he’d been hospitalised, citing their friendship together. The villages on Ekarte similarly forgive Leidenschaftlich after the war. Although it is true that Leidenschaftlich resulted in the death of their men, Ekarte’s villagers see for themselves that today, Leidenschaftlich’s citizens are a courteous and civilised people. Instead of hating them, they choose to forgive, holding a memorial every year to commemorate those who had fallen in battle. Violet Evergarden: The Movie shows that how past wounds are healed is through forgiveness: the people of the current generation did not commit the atrocities that their ancestors suffered for, and this acceptance is how longstanding grievances slowly fade away, as former enemies are now recognised as fellow human beings, and even allies. Seeing Gilbert find peace on Ekarte and the sanctuary afforded by their forgiveness is what reassures Violet. Gilbert is doing well, and seeing that her past has no bearing on his future, Violet is able to come to terms with what had happened. Similarly, through Dietfried’s impassioned pleas for Gilbert to seize his future and live life on his terms, Gilbert understands that what’s done is done, and presented with the chance to find happiness with Violet, it’s now or never. Coupled with Violet’s unerring finesse with the written word, both are able to make peace with their past and step forwards together; however tragic the past is, Violet Evergarden: The Movie consistently indicates to viewers that it is never too late to make the most of one’s future. For their troubles, Violet and Gilbert are finally able to move on together, living happily ever after to the end of their days.

Violet Evergarden has never strayed far from presenting the world as unfixed, mutable and ever-changing: the future holds uncertainty, but also possibility, and although one can never be absolutely confident in what unfolds until they take those vital steps forward, the future offers tantalising hints as to what can happen. Violet is presented glimpses of what could happen if she were honest with herself and pursued Gilbert more whole-heartedly, but at the same time, the society around her is ceaselessly marching towards the future. Communications technology becomes ever-advanced, and when the telecom runs cables to CH Postal, giving them a telephone, Iris is initially disgusted that such a contraption could replace something as reliable and ubiquitous as letters. However, she turns around after seeing the telephone connect Yuris and Ryuka together prior to Yuris’ death: the speed at which voices and emotions are conveyed is swifter than that of a letter, and every tone is passed along with flawless accuracy. In order to keep Violet and Claudia appraised of the situation, Benedict and Iris send updates using a telegraph, allowing messages to be sent nearly instantaneously. Leiden has capitalised on the power of faster communication by constructing a massive radio tower at the heart of town, and while Dolls like Iris lament the day they go obsolete, seeing what the new technology is capable of also inspires them to work harder. In the end, CH Postal is bought out by another company and presumably enters the age of electronic communications, attesting to their willingness to adapt. While the world is constantly changing, with tried-and-true methods growing obsolete as up-and-coming technologies supplant them, Violet Evergarden: The Movie indicates that this inevitability isn’t a bad thing, and technology does not so easily sweep away those with the tenacity to learn about it. Moreover, just because a new method displaces an old one does not mean that the former modes are so easily forgotten – Daisy discovers the power of writing through letters, which can endure where digital signals vanish, and upon arriving in Leiden, she finds a museum that faithfully preserves the methods and techniques Violet and her team utilised when letter-writing was still at its height. The past endures, much as how old experiences linger within the mind, but in the end, with the ceaseless march of progress, one’s decisions must always be made to account for the future. CH Postal adopts the new technology while respecting their origins, and while Violet and Gilbert both see tragedy in their lives, they also embrace the fact that there is indeed a future ahead for them, as well.

Remarks on Technical Excellence

Kyoto Animation’s works have long excelled conveying certain emotions, whether it be great joy or great sorrow. A combination of unparalleled facial animations, scene composition, build up and usage of audio-visual cues all contribute to characters taking on a remarkably life-like visage. Violet Evergarden: The Movie, being the culmination of their craft, unsurprisingly manages to take a hold of the viewers’ hearts from the very moment it begins – the story retreads Violet Evergarden‘s most powerful story, about Ann Magnolia and her hiring Violet to write a letter every year to her daughter after she’d learned that she was doomed to die. This single story was particularly moving because it spoke to the perceptible power of emotions given tangible form through letters, and so, acted as a balance against the idea that things in a given society constantly change. Through the use of sight and sound, Kyoto Animation is able to craft a powerful experience by immersing viewers completely into Violet’s world – the way the voice actors and actresses inflect their dialogue, and the choice of incidental music, together with the viewer’s own experiences within the previous instalments allows the film to fully convey the emotional tenour of a given moment. Silence is similarly used to create pauses, allowing viewers to take a moment in. In particular, Violet’s characterisation within the film is noteworthy because of her learnings and discoveries: while she’d previously saw herself as an automaton whose existence was to carry out orders, seeing the full spectrum of emotions had led her to open up and become more human. Violet thus begins to develop more agency by the film’s events – she now makes her own decisions, is able to spot when someone is making a joke and is more expressive. The Violet at the series’ beginning would not have been able to express herself so earnestly as the Violet within the film, and with Violet Evergarden: The Movie, it is clear that the path to “I love you” is a complex one, but above all, a path that asks of those whom tread it, a measure of patience. Violet simply could not have made these discoveries overnight. As such, when viewers enter Violet Evergarden: The Movie having seen all of this, her desire to do what she can for Yuris and meet becomes tangible; the tears are never too far away because the film actively reminds viewers of how far Violet’s come, how the world can take everything back in an instant, but despite this, the human spirit and resolve continue to endure in the choice of words we have for those around us. Between the writing and Evan Call’s excellent music, Violet Evergarden: The Movie creates an immeasurably deep feeling of catharsis, an environment that indicates to viewers that it is okay to be in touch with our emotions, and to cry out our stresses before picking ourselves up and preparing for whatever lies ahead.

Besides their masterful ability to render tangible the emotions within Violet Evergarden: The Movie, Kyoto Animation also excels in the film’s visual presentation. Lighting, timing and spacing are fully utilised to convey what dialogue and sound alone cannot. The fluidity and acuity of facial expressions speak volumes about how Violet and the others feel even where words fail. Attention is paid to every detail, from the glint of light off a typewriter’s keys, to the rippling of water as a torrential rain drenches the island. The diverse colour palette captures the warmth of the lighthouse, excitement at Leiden during a fireworks show, to the cool air of a morning following the storm, giving viewers the sense they are physically present. By this point in time, Kyoto Animation has only managed to surpass their own craft – their films are now comparable to the likes of Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s works, which are renowned for their visual quality. The sheer detail in Violet Evergarden: The Movie similarly contributes to the film’s incredible ability to create emotions in the viewers; highly detailed environments and visual clutter can be overwhelming to the mind, resulting in the mind filtering things out to focus on cues within the scene. In this way, the characters’ movements and dialogue, and the emotions behind them, become amplified. It is evident that Violet Evergarden: The Movie capitalises on this fully – although Violet’s world is vividly portrayed, the fact there’s so much in the environment, from books sitting on the shelf to the small reflections on surfaces, means that viewers are naturally inclined to pay full attention to Violet and those she converses with. While anime are often watched purely for the visual spectacle of über-detailed environments and feats of animation alone, clever use of visuals allows a given work to do a lot more with a given scene. The high visual quality typical of Kyoto Animation’s works also serve to enhance immersion in the world and suggest to viewers that whatever world being presented could very much be real. This similarly displaces any disbelief in the mind; if the world is a plausible one, then so are the emotions that the characters experience throughout a given story. The technical excellence in Violet Evergarden: The Movie bring Violet’s story to life in a way that is unparalleled, and as a send-off to a wonderful series, there is no greater praise in saying that Kyoto Animation’s best exceeds expectations, giving the Violet Evergarden series a powerful feeling of closure as Violet and Gilbert manage to move forwards into the future together, having made peace with their pasts.

  • An interview with director Taichi Ishidate indicates that Violet Evergarden: The Movie is indeed the finale for the series – while Kyoto Animation’s interpretation of Violet Evergarden was quite different than the original novels, and from what I’ve seen, the adaptation looks like it is superior in every way, focusing in Violet’s story after the war and completely dispensing with the battle axe, Witchcraft, that the novels had featured prominently. The end result is a story that is very moving, and for this, I am very glad to have managed to avoid all spoilers for it.

  • Thanks to screenings outside of Japan, a sufficiently large number of people have watched Violet Evergarden: The Movie, and as such, spoilers can be found in all corners of the internet. In spite of this, I was able to avoid all spoilers to have the best possible experience, and having had a look around, I can say confidently that this is the first and only discussion of the film online to come with screenshots. Violet Evergarden: The Movie opens with Daisy, who is quite unhappy that her parents seem more concerned with their work than spending family time with her. When her grandmother, Ann, dies, Daisy comes upon the letters that Clara had requested Violet write on her behalf for her daughter. Realising how much her great-grandmother had loved her grandmother, Daisy becomes intent on learning more about the Auto-Memory Doll, Violet, who’d written the letters.

  • Violet Evergarden: The Movie was a film whose journey to the finish line was fraught with challenges – announced back in July 2018, the film’s production was impacted by the arson incident at their studio. Thus, the original première date of January 2020 was pushed back to April, and then the pandemic resulted in the film opening in September 2020. The home release was originally scheduled for this month but has since been delayed to October. Overseas fans hoping for a means of seeing this film have been out of luck so far, but on the plus side, knowing the BD will be available in October means having a concrete date to look forwards to.

  • To go any further in this post would constitute spoilers, so folks looking to optimise their experience of Violet Evergarden: The Movie would do well to stop here and close this tab (or perhaps bookmark this post for a later date). I do hope readers have a chance to see this movie for themselves if they’ve not done so; as the finale to Violet Evergarden, Violet Evergarden: The Movie hits all of the right notes. Right out of the gates, the film revisits the story I most enjoyed from the original TV series, and with the tears never too far away, I knew that this film was going to be an emotional powerhouse.

  • After the story changes focus from Daisy to Violet, Violet’s composed a hymn that Irma’s set to read as a part of the memorial event marking the end of the great war. By now, Violet’s become a very proficient writer capable of expressing very complex and abstract thoughts in a highly articulate manner. The service is successful, and in the aftermath, Violet receives praise from those around her for having successfully taken on a highly demanding assignment and even has a chance to meet Leiden’s mayor and his wife after the ceremonial reading.

  • Even though the war is long over, scars linger, and it is through ceremonies such as these that the sacrifices of the fallen are not forgotten. However, being a survivor of the war, Violet herself is a testament to the fact that people are capable of committing acts of great terror, but in spite of the horrors, people are also capable of regaining their humanity. Indeed, Violet’s terse remarks bring to mind the likes of Halo‘s Master Chief, whose unfamiliarity with civilian convention is offset by a singular desire to protect humanity – while Violet is constantly striving to learn what love is, there are some conventions that she remains unfamiliar with.

  • Because of this, Violet herself is very modest and humble to a fault – she expresses that she’s merely the intermediary between the thoughts in a sender’s mind and the words that ultimately are used. Violet’s bluntness comes from a combination of still being unaccustomed to closeness with people she doesn’t know, and she speaks very candidly at times, understating her own achievements.

  • This particular aspect of Violet’s character is meant to make her as more endearing to viewers, but also serves to show the intricacies behind Violet. An optimist will view Violet’s modesty as as sign that she’s now familiar enough with emotions and social convention so as to read the mood of a given situation and react accordingly, whereas someone a little more pessimistic might see this as Violet being blunt about her goals: helping others is a consequence of her trying to reach her own objectives.

  • At the festival in town, Violet and the rest of CH Postal’s staff meet an aspiring playwright who’s managed to land a job writing at a local theatre. It becomes clear that through their work, CH Postal has left a powerful positive impression on their clients, helping them convey their thoughts in written word. Violet’s first job had been to help the sister of a struggling playwright, and through her words, Violet is able to help convince this playwright to get his game together. Since then, he’s regained his footing and now has people, including the aspiring writer, look up to him, and Violet herself also gained a new friend for her efforts.

  • Every evening, Violet regroups and calms her nerves by typing out letters to Gilbert. Although she writes with the knowledge that the letters will never reach Gilbert, that she continues to do so indicates that he’s always on her mind. While typing one evening, her mechanical fingers jam, and Violet attempts to clear the jam up, allowing Kyoto Animation to really show their craft. Everything in Violet Evergarden: The Movie is beautifully animated, and it speaks volumes to the film’s quality that this is merely one of the many things that Kyoto Animation nailed down in their feature-length presentation.

  • In keeping with the times, CH Postal’s purchased a brand-spanking-new telephone: Violet Evergarden‘s world also had their equivalent of Alexander Graham Bell, a Scottish inventor who is credited with the world’s first operational telephone in 1876 (although inventor Antonio Meucci had a working phone as early as 1854). The earliest phones needed an operator to change the switches, and they proved somewhat impractical, but by the 20th century, phones had become quite sophisticated; the model that CH Postal uses is a wall-mounted unit, and while it is powerful, Iris considers it a nuisance.

  • Both Cattleya and Claudia are aware that the Auto-Memory Doll programme is a dying one: with the ability to instantaneously transmit one’s voice over a wire in real time, the need for letters is lessened. Iris promises to work hard and make the most of her career while the phone is in its infancy – it’s an admirable spirit from her, indicative of someone who is aware her career is headed for its twilight, but nonetheless doesn’t wish to call it quits just yet.

  • It turns out that in her spare time, Violet visits the cemetery to pay her respects to Dietfried and Gilbert’s mother – she does so of her own volition. This is significant because Violet previously had little agency, but her experiences throughout the course of Violet Evergarden has allowed her to be more in tune with her own desires and wishes. It’s a very subtle, and clever, way of showing how Violet’s changed as the series progressed. While her words and manner might be that of someone who is utterly dedicated to her craft, Violet’s actions outside of her duties indicate that there are things that she wishes for, even if she doesn’t speak her mind openly to others.

  • Violet ends up taking on an assignment from a young boy named Yuris, who is afflicted with a terminal illness. His family clearly loves him, but he’s grown weary of their concern for him and wishes that with the time he has left, they’d treat him normally. To this end, he calls CH Postal with the hope that someone would be able to write letters for him conveying how he feels about everyone, hoping to leave a positive memory behind for his family. While Violet is forced to hide when Yuris’ family unexpectedly shows up, she is able to gain a measure of what Yuris wants.

  • Speaking to Violet’s own development as a person, when Yuris asks Violet how much the assignment would cost and shows her the funds he’d saved, Violet flatly notes that she’d be able to write a few characters at best, and seeing the shock on Yuris’ face, appends the idea that there’s also a youth discount available: it just so happens he has the precise amount needed. In reality, Violet’s just told her equivalent of a joke here – Violet’s empathy means that she’d been quite prepared to do this assignment for free, and her humour flies over Yuris’ head, once the terms are settled, Violet promises to return and get his letters done.

  • Back at CH Postal, Violet is shocked to see Dietfried at the gates – it’s clear he’s not welcome here, from Claudia and Benedict’s reactions. Violet herself immediately makes to subdue Dietfried in an arm lock from muscle memory before catching herself and remembering the war is long over. It turns out Dietfriend had found Violet’s hair ribbon and merely sought to return it to her. In addition, he also has plans to dispose of Gilbert’s old boat, and was thinking that some of Gilbert’s possessions might be of interest to her. Violet immediately accepts the invitation to see Gilbert’s boat.

  • While Claudia is openly disapproving of Dietfried, a conversation with Cattleya leads her to suggest that that both Violet and Dietfried are leaning on one another to handle their grief at Gilbert’s passing. Indeed, when Dietfried and Violet meet, Dietfried’s words to Violet suggest that he is sorry about what had happened and wishes to at least make amends with Violet – it had been on his suggestion that Violet was assigned to serve under Gilbert, and to Dietfried, he supposes that had he not made the call for this assignment, Gilbert might still be alive.

  • Conversely, Violet believes that Gilbert’s death falls on her shoulders: in that fateful battle, she’d been unable to save him and was forced to leave him behind. Gilbert’s death weighs heavily on both Dietfried and Violet’s minds. The chance to converse with one another offers a brief bit of understanding for both, and while neither are changed by this conversation, both Violet and Dietfried are able to understand what Gilbert meant to one another more clearly. In particular, Dietfried had always regarded his younger brother coldly, and while he’d been arrogant and unfeeling as a soldier, after the war ended, the deaths of those around him fill him with remorse. A part of his concern for Violet comes from wishing she’d be able to be at peace with herself, too.

  • When they were younger, Dietfried had express distain at the prospect of having to join the army, very nearly earning himself a physical beating from his father, a military hero and proud man who’d served the army. To defuse the situation, Gilbert offered to take up this responsibility instead to save his brother, and subsequently joined the army per his word, leaving Dietfried to become a renowned naval captain. It had been Dietfried who found Violet, but his old thirst for glory meant that he was unsure of how to best handle Violet. Dietfried’s competence and leadership notwithstanding, he’d spent the whole of Violet Evergarden a spiteful and proud individual.

  • As such, Claudia does not exactly regard Dietfried warmly, but his actions in Violet Evergarden: The Movie indicate that he is trying to make amends for his past actions. Similarly, whereas Violet once saw Dietfried as a hostile individual, that she now gives him the benefit of the doubt and hears him out indicates that she’s also doing her best to live and let live. I believe that this film is set a year after the events of Violet Evergarden Side Story: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, which suggests that around three to four years have passed since the Great War of their time.

  • Yuris and Violet finish their letters for his parents, and turn to the letter for his younger brother. Despite rebuking him earlier, it is not surprising that Yuris cares greatly for him, as well. Violet is able to deduce this, surprising him with how well she knows the feeling. With their letters done, Violet is introduced to the pinky promise: Yuris indicates that it’s a gesture with deep meaning, and Violet herself commits, promising to deliver the letters to his family. The practise’s origins are contested; in Japan, it’s known as the yubikiri (指切り, “finger cut-off”), and stems from the idea that failing to keep one’s word will result in the loss of one’s smallest digit. In North America, the practise is suggested as dating back to 1860 from a rhyme that suggests misfortune befalling those who cannot keep their promise. Whatever the origins are, it’s a gesture of trust, and with this, Violet demonstrates her commitment to whatever her word is.

  • Violet Evergarden: The Movie progresses like the TV series does up until the moment Claudia and Benedict find an undelivered letter in their mail room. This is the disruption to the status quo that really sets the story in motion. In every work of fiction, an agent of change is what propels the narrative forward, and until this letter was found, Violet Evergarden: The Movie felt like another episode. However, with the revelation that Gilbert is potentially alive, the possibility to something much larger opens up. The first two fifths of the movie thus end up feeling a bit slower, but this pacing serves an important purpose: to establish how Violet and Dietfried have dealt with Gilbert’s absence in the past several years.

  • Before informing Violet, who had been thinking about Gilbert every day since the war ended, Claudia decides to check things with Dietfried first. His reaction to the undelivered letter confirms that the handwriting is indeed that of Gilbert’s, and while his words many not show it, he also cares enough such that when Claudia makes a request of him, to investigate the mailing address on the letter, he is able to turn up something and passes it along back to Claudia. With concrete evidence that Gilbert is indeed alive Claudia lets Violet know of the news.

  • When Violet learns that Gilbert living on a distant island known as Ekarte, her thoughts overwhelm her. She is unable to string a coherent sentence together and retreats to the rooftop overlooking Leiden. Previously, Violet had also come up here in Eternity and The Auto-Memory Doll with Taylor, after the latter had been inundated by her crash course in the fundamentals of literacy. Besides showing that Violet knows how to manage her stress, Violet Evergarden also takes the effort to show viewers that Violet cares for those around her, even if her body language and choice of words don’t always indicate this is the case.

  • Shortly before Violet and Claudia head off to meet Gilbert on Ekarte, Violet suffers from nerves. A wave of questions pour from her, and she wonders if Gilbert is doing well, whether he would recognise her after all this time, and, whether not she’s ready to convey to Gilbert she returns his feelings. Violet’s doubts are yet another sign that she’s developed a great deal of agency, to be able to spot her own worries and desires. Cattleya reassures Violet it’ll be find, and that since the trip is going to take a few days, she’ll at least have some time to gather her thoughts and figure out what she ought to say first.

  • Evan Call returns to score Violet Evergarden: The Movie‘s soundtrack, and with his finesse, creates a score that captures the full scope and scale of the emotional tenour within the film. The use of horns and strings create a compelling sense of warmth, and I imagine that this causes the mind to relax, with the gentle tones conveying an air of comfort and wistfulness. The use of music, in short, causes viewers to let their guard down and opens them up so that emotional moments in the movie are amplified tenfold. Knowing the essentials doesn’t mean the soundtrack is any less effective, and this is probably the reason why I always felt a stone’s throw away from tears throughout Violet Evergarden: The Movie.

  • As it was, I picked up the soundtrack a few weeks after the Japanese screenings began, and in what was a masterful bit of work from Call, the soundtrack betrayed nothing about the movie itself. The track names are all in English, and music often has a way of telling listeners an aural story that can lead some folks to guess at what’s happening in the movie, but here in Violet Evergarden: The Movie, the songs flush visuals from the mind and compel listeners to immerse themselves wholly in the sound of music. Compared to the anime, the film’s incidental pieces have a decidedly movie-like feel to them: everything sounds bigger.

  • After finding Violet’s letters for her grandmother, Daisy is sufficiently moved that she ends up travelling to Leiden to learn more about the Auto-Memory Doll who’d transformed her grandmother’s world so dramatically. Upon arriving at CH Postal’s location, she finds that it’s been transformed into a museum detailing the modes of communication from a half-century earlier. However, the curator there was a former member of CH Postal and is happy to walk Daisy through things. Through conversation, Daisy comes to learn that Violet had stepped back from her duties one day after travelling to Ekarte.

  • Ekarte is a remote island located between Leidenschaftlich and the Galdarik Empire. Their proximity to Galdarik Empire meant that the island’s men were drafted to fight against Leidenschaftlich, and in the years after the war, the island’s demographics shifted to consist of only women, children and the elderly, as a large number of men perished in the fighting. The islander’s hymn to the ocean, originally to thank the ocean for its bounty and mercy, evolved into a memorial service, as well. The large cliffs here overlooking the ocean bring to mind the likes of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

  • It turns out that Gilbert had survived the war, and after his injuries were healed, he ended up travelling here to escape the horrors lingering from the war. He’s now a teacher, providing instruction to the youth on the island, and in his spare time, lends a hand to the people in their farming: Ekarte’s main crop appears to be grapes, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think the island was one large vineyard, supplying the grapes needed for winemaking elsewhere. The viewers’ first impressions of Ekarte is that the island is very peaceful, the perfect place to retreat to after a brutal and gruelling war.

  • Weather has always played an integral role in Kyoto Animation’s productions, and Violet Evergarden: The Movie is no exception to this – Violet and Claudia’s journey to Ekarte is set under moody, overcast skies. Grey, cloudy days like these are almost always followed by rain in anime, which is used to set the atmosphere for dramatic moments. As it was, that this trip was taken on a cloudy day meant to me that meeting Gilbert would not be a straightforward matter of knocking on his front door and expecting him to invite Violet and Claudia inside for a spot of tea.

  • The grey skies would also suggest cooler weather, which lacks the warmth and colour typically seen in Leiden. A long time ago, I detested overcast days and preferred it when sunshine allowed a land to showcase colours at its best. However, following my watching Sora no Woto, I came to appreciate the aesthetic that cloudy skies can bring. On the trip to Ekarte Island, Violet is a little pensive and restless, leading Claudia to suggest that she put her own thoughts to paper. This exercise helps to calm Violet, but on the deck of the ship taking them to Ekarte, a gust of wind strips Violet of her letter. The symbolism here is plain enough – carefully prepared words may fall apart, and some situations require that one play things by ear.

  • Upon touching down at Ekarte, the islanders note that Violet and Claudia are unexpectedly polite and quite contrary to their impressions of Leidenschaftlich’s people: since the war had killed so many men from their island, the remaining residents saw Leidenschaftlich’s citizens as arrogant and callous monsters. However, seeing Claudia and Violet provide a concrete reminder that Leidenschaftlich’s citizens themselves didn’t wish for war any more than they did, nor were they directly responsible for the fact that Ekarte’s men never came back home. Ekarte’s residents thus treat Claudia and Violet with respect and help them with their search for Gilbert.

  • Conversation with the islanders lead Violet and Claudia to a school, where class has ended for the day. After consideration, Claudia feels it might be easier on Gilbert if he were to meet him alone first – Violet had meant a great deal to Gilbert, and the shock of seeing her again after many years would also make things tricky for Violet. While Violet would like nothing more than to see Gilbert right away, she sets aside her own feelings, feeling that she’d waited this long to meet him, so a few more minutes wouldn’t hurt.

  • After entering the school grounds, Claudia runs into several of Gilbert’s students. A brief conversation with them confirms that Gilbert is indeed here, and after they surprise him with a dead praying mantis, the students prepare to head home, leaving Claudia to have his first conversation with Gilbert in several years. The energy that these students convey, coupled with their neat appearance, shows that the standard of living on Ekarte isn’t bad, and moreover, that Gilbert’s been looking after his students well.

  • Thus, when Violet runs into the same three boys, she smiles warmly after hearing their praises for him as a teacher; it is clear to her that Gilbert’s managed to find a new path in life following the war. Relief and joy is written all over her face here – this was one of my favourite moments in the whole of Violet Evergarden: The Movie, as Violet smiling is a particularly rare sight to behold.

  • Encouraged by what she’s hearing, Violet becomes curious to know what kind of teacher Gilbert is, and the students are happy to oblige. For Violet, even simply knowing Gilbert is fine puts her heart at ease – Gilbert had disappeared without a trace, and for the longest time, Violet had no idea if Gilbert was even alive. Admittedly, as Violet Evergarden portrayed things, his fate was left ambiguous, and after he’d been heavily wounded, he ordered Violet to live on in his stead. One wonders if this ambiguity had been deliberate, planned from the start – had the series been direct about Gilbert’s fate, a movie would either be impossible or inevitable.

  • In contrast with his student’s spirit and energy, Gilbert himself is less than pleased to meet with Claudia; his choice of words suggest that he’d long regretted what happened to Violet, and even now, Gilbert wonders if Violet would even face him after all of the sins he’d committed. However, for Claudia, Gilbert spares some time to explain how he’d survived and found his way to Ekarte Island. It turns out that after he lost consciousness, he was taken to a monastic hospital run by nuns – his dog tags had been destroyed (normally, they’d survive and allow for identification). While his injuries were great (Gilbert lost his right arm and eye), he managed to survive and recover.

  • However, while the body might heal over time, wounds in the hearts do not close so easily. Consumed with grief and regret over the war, Gilbert ended up wandering about before deciding to travel a remote island, Ekarte. Because Gilbert is literate, he started writing letters for the island’s residents, and over time, ended up becoming a teacher of sorts. Gilbert came to believe that his greatest mistake was sending Violet into combat alongside the rest of his men, and as a result, caused her misery, as well. There is thus an interesting parallel: both Violet and Gilbert think of themselves as unworthy of the other, believing that they would only cause trouble for the other.

  • Love, however, entails being able to care greatly for someone and strive for their happiness, in conjunction with accepting that one will occasionally hurt and be hurt by the other in some way, and in spite of this, accepting this to forge a path into the future together anyways. Both Violet and Gilbert are stubborn in their beliefs because they are unable to forgive themselves for what had happened. Consequently, the island of Ekarte becomes the perfect setting for this conflict to reach its resolution: the island itself represents the idea that Gilbert had closed himself from the world, and it takes someone from the outside (Violet) to help him to find his recovery.

  • However, merely reaching the island is not enough, and by the time Violet decides she wants to meet Gilbert whether he wishes for it or not, he’s already headed home. Undeterred, Violet and Claudia head on over to his home, intent on having Gilbert at least give Violet a chance to speak with him for the first time in several years. The overcast skies give way to a heavy rainfall as the storm finally breaks and hits the island: Kyoto Animation’s stories always make extensive use of the weather to accentuate the tenour of a moment, removing any doubt as to what the moment was supposed to feel like.

  • In this regard, Kyoto Animation has never been subtle, and shortly after their arrival, both Violet and Claudia implore Gilbert to open up. While neither are able to convince Gilbert otherwise, with the door separating them, and hearing Violet’s voice, Gilbert begs Violet to leave – seeing Violet would be to remind himself of every failure he’d ever had, but Violet takes this to confirm that she had indeed caused Gilbert great pain. The parallels between how Gilbert and Violet feel are striking; both love one another enough to be willing to fully bear the burden of taking responsibility for what had happened, but in this moment, emotion overpowers rationality. Feeling the distance insurmountable, Violet runs off, only to fall into the muddy road.

  • The play of lighting and water effects in this scene were phenomenal: the flow of rainwater through cracks in a dirt path, and rippling as they strike the saturated ground exhibits real-time reflections. I would imagine that Kyoto Animation utilised computer software to render this water effect – the results look as convincing as they would in some of the best games of today, and other studios, most notably, Comix Wave Films and Studio Ghibli, produce water effects that look quite different when they’re hand-drawn.

  • As the storm rages, Claudia and Violet end up taking refuge in the lighthouse, where they are afforded some warmth and a chance to dry their clothes. Claudia reassures Violet they’ll try again the next day once the storm’s passed, and Violet suggests that if they do manage to succeed in seeing Gilbert face-to-face, she’d like nothing more than to punch his lights out. This moment speaks to the fact that Violet’s got a strong grasp of emotions now – even though she’s unhappy with Gilbert’s state and holds herself accountable, this joke subtle hints at the idea that she also holds him responsible for his actions here and now, as well as the fact that Violet herself is able to understand how to use humour to handle a difficult situation.

  • However, things become trickier when the lighthouse operator receives a telegraph from a hospital back in Leiden – it turns out Yuris is dying, and because news of Gilbert had come so suddenly, Violet realises that she’d forgotten to help Yuris with one final request. Not wanting to see how frail he’d become, Yuris had angrily asked his best friend, Ryuka, not to see him at all, but Violet mentioned it took strength to see someone dear to oneself in such a state and suggests that Yuris make amends with Ryuka in the time he had left. With his death imminent, Yuris wished to reconcile with Ryuka, but Violet herself is now several days away, unable to return in time.

  • Realising what this assignment had meant to Violet, Claudia sends back a reply, asking Iris and Benedict to do whatever it took to connect Yuris to Ryuka. In the end, it is determined that the new-fangled telephone would be their best bet: Iris fetches the device itself, while Benedict heads off to the operator with the aim of convincing him to link their telephone to Ryuka’s residence. This connection is successful, and for the first time since Yuris had asked Ryuka not to visit him, the two friends are able to speak.

  • Speaking to how new the telephone is, Ryuka initially has trouble with the apparatus. The march of technology is inevitable, and details within Violet Evergarden: The Movie capture these nuances very well. Even for someone like myself, whose career is in technology, I’m still bewildered at how new programming languages, libraries, frameworks, SDKs and APIs continue to change the way things are done. The field is constantly evolving, and with it, the way people do things constantly shifts, as well. When the technology is in its infancy, even folks in tech have trouble with it – when Apple introduced Swift 2.0, I was completely frustrated with the idea of optional unwrapping, but these days, they’re an essential part of my work, and in fact, I feel that forced unwrapping is actually a poor practise, since it can result in crashes.

  • Back in Violet Evergarden: The Movie, Yuris and Ryuka are able to connect; unlike letters, their voices convey precisely how they are feeling, and Yuris is able to apologise to Ryuka, who in turn replies that he was never angry with Yuris to begin with. Whereas Violet Evergarden had letters fulfilling this role previously, the telephone demonstrates its ability to carry ideas and feelings in a manner that is far swifter than any letter. This technology thus allows Yuris and Ryuka to reconcile their feelings, and subsequently, Yuris dies, knowing he’d been able to get his true feelings out to the most important people in his life.

  • For Iris, watching this unfold would’ve been very difficult; being with a family as they watch their son die was hard enough on her, and she did what she can to help Yuris and his family in Violet’s place, but having spent the film with a kind of bravado about doing her best despite knowing her occupation’s twilight had come, Iris realises here that the technology she had doubted was actually capable of doing the very thing she’d long held to be limited to the realm of letters.  Aside from telephones, the telegraph also begins rising to prominence by the events of Violet Evergarden: The Movie; utilising radio waves, it is able to send messages over great distances at haste.

  • I imagine that in Violet Evergarden, they’re probably using some form of Morse Code, adapted for their own alphabet – closeups of letters find that Kyoto Animation had gone to the lengths of creating a constructed written language for the series utilising Tamil as the basis for phonology. Thanks to voice-overs, viewers can spot patterns in the letters and associate the characters with meaning (similarly to how Alan Turing’s team of codebreakers cracked Enigma after determining that all Nazi messages ended by addressing the Führer), and since patterns can be spotted in the letters, it becomes clear that, while the written language in Violet Evergarden is not as sophisticated as Quenya or Sindarin, an impressive level of work went into making the language realistic.

  • Since there is a finite set of characters, it stands to reason that whatever equivalent of Morse in Violet Evergarden is similar to its real world counterpart, allowing for swift communications. The telegraph thus lets Violet learn that her coworkers have managed to help Yuris out to the best of their ability: with no more regrets or lingering thoughts troubling him, Yuris dies peacefully surrounded by those who love him greatly. Yuris’ parents are greatly saddened by his death, but also find solace in learning that he’d appreciated them greatly for everything they’d done for him. For his younger brother, Yuris expresses the wish that he will live life fully and bring his parents joy where he could not.

  • With Yuris’ story ending, Violet Evergarden: The Movie returns focus to the main storyline – Yuris prima facie feels secondary to the central, as did Daisy’s story, but their inclusion serves an important purpose in giving context to Violet’s character. Yuris provides an instance of how far Violet has come since her first days at CH Postal, and Daisy indicates how Violet’s letters continue to have an impact even long after Violet’s era has passed. In other words, these secondary stories show that by this point in time, Violet’s got the empathy to understand others and is finally ready to deal with her toughest assignment: herself.

  • In the end, Violet is relieved to know that she’d completed her assignment successfully – Yuris passes on, at peace with having been able to properly express himself for his family. Her smile stands in contrast with her woebegone appearance, a consequence of having tripped earlier. I imagine that, seeing the power letters still hold in their ability to convey emotions and thoughts where spoken language is inadequate, Violet decides that it’s time to write another letter to Gilbert; she decides that it’s fine if Gilbert won’t meet her, and that her experiences with letters have found that through words, she might be able to convey her feelings to him despite his reluctance to meet.

  • From the largest landscapes to the dewdrops glistening on individual blades of grass, Kyoto Animation’s care towards bringing every scene to life is apparent in this film. After the tragedy that struck their studio two years earlier, an outpouring of domestic and international support allowed the studio to continue operating, and it was decided to continue running a training programme for prospective animators. While some of Kyoto Animation’s works were delayed, ultimately, the act of unspeakable evil did not prevail, and the studio continues to demonstrate that their staff are ready to continue on with their exceptional work.

  • This shot of Ekarte Island reiterates to the idea that the island is a peaceful sanctuary far removed from the worries of the world, and seeing the inhabitant’s livelihoods does hint to viewers that for Gilbert, having a quiet home removed from the world’s troubles is something he definitely needed. The idea of tragedy sending people to remote places to re-evaluate their outlooks is not new, and one of my favourite examples is Jet Li’s Fearless, where Huo Yuanjia is portrayed as wandering the countryside after losing his family to his arrogance, and after he reaches a village, learns humility and compassion there. When Yuanjia returns to Tianjin years later a changed man, he apologises to those whom he had wronged and makes amends, before fighting to defend the integrity of Chinese martial arts.

  • However, while the intention of using journeys begins the same, Violet Evergarden: The Movie and Fearless are radically different, each with their own merits. Back in this film, as the day draws to a close, Violet is finally ready to send her letter to Gilbert. Gilbert, meanwhile, had been helping the islanders with a small gondola system that makes it easier to transport grapes up the mountain. Even in a place as remote as Ekarte, technological progress is inevitable, showing humanity’s inextinguishable spirit for progress and improvement.

  • Violet is doubtlessly disappointed that did not have a chance to see Gilbert in person and express her feelings properly, but the knowledge that he’s alive and well, coupled with the fact that she is able to at least leave a letter, means that Violet is okay with heading back to Leiden and resuming her duties. At least, this is what Violet tells herself, and in reality, people often set aside their own desires to pursue a more practical path. There is no right or wrong way to approach this, and for me, what matters is whether or not one is able to take ownership of their choices.

  • At the bottom of the hill, near the ocean’s edge, Gilbert resigns himself to the fact that it’s probably better if he didn’t meet with Violet as the sun casts the land in the glow of a dying day. In Kyoto Animation’s works, evenings always signify an ending of sorts, the conclusion of one chapter in preparation for the next chapter’s beginning. Under the oranges and reds of twilight, characters are most honest with themselves as the light begins fading, and in this way, evenings come to represent the time where runway runs out. Kyoto Animation shows that it is when people realise that the end is near, they tend to be the most truthful about how they feel. Ryōko Asakura confronts Kyon during the evening during The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, signifying the close of one milestone.

  • In CLANNAD and Kanon, different evening palettes similarly would show viewers whether or not the ending of a particular arc was meant to be rising action or falling action. Particularly sharp colours and hues of red indicate something is amiss (during the aforementioned scene in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and when Misae realises that the Katsuki she knows had died some years prior to his meeting her), whereas oranges and golds (such as during Tomoya’s kokuhaku to Nagisa, or in K-On!! following Yui and the others’ final concert) suggest a warmer ending. In Violet Evergarden: The Movie, the evening colours tend towards the former, with intense shades of orange hinting to viewers that things still need resolution.

  • While looking over the sea, Gilbert hears from an older man, whose words speak volumes to what the islanders believe in: although horrific things happened during the war, war treats its participants all the same. Ultimately, the islanders bear no grudge towards Leidenschaftlich’s people, since the brutality of war likely meant that a Leidenschaftlich similarly would’ve experienced what they did in terms of loss. The islanders therefore have forgiven Leidenschaftlich for the war and are moving on, but Gilbert is unable to forgive himself.

  • This is ultimately the impediment that keeps him from wanting to see Violet. While Gilbert’s stubborn insistence on leaving Violet be might seem foolish, Kyoto Animation takes the effort to show why characters make the decisions that they do. In a work of this level, the characters’ actions and decisions are backed by more than just their dialogue and internal thoughts: metaphors in their setting and visual elements like lighting also speak to how an individual is feeling. In Violet Evergarden: The Movie, environmental factors like weather and time of day speak largely to Gilbert and Violet’s emotions.

  • Dietfried, long considered a detestable character, finds his redemption in Violet Evergarden: The Movie when he shows up on Ekarte and apologises to Gilbert for foisting upon him a burden that Dietfried was originally responsible for. Being able to speak to Violet and understand what Violet meant to those around her leads Dietfried to an epiphany of sorts: Dietfried promises to uphold the Bougainvillea name and take on the duties Gilbert once shouldered, assuring Gilbert that the time has come for him to live on his own terms.

  • When Violet’s letter arrives on the very gondola he’d helped to build, Dietfried presses Gilbert to open the letter Violet had written for him. In this letter, Violet expresses gratitude to him: while it is true Violet had gone through very tough times even though she’d been in his care, Violet had nothing but appreciation for him. Seeing her feelings put into words is what turns Gilbert around:

Dear Major Gilbert,

Please forgive me for my sudden intrusion. This is the final letter I’ll write to you. The reason why I’m alive, and are able to think of others fondly, is all thanks to you. Thank you very much for taking me in, for reading books to me, and teaching me the alphabet. Thank you very much for buying the brooch for me. Thank you very much for always being by my side. Thank you for loving me. Because you said you loved me, those words became my way of life. Ever since I found out what love is, I’ve wanted to say those words back to you.

Major Gilbert, thank you very much for everything.

Violet Evergarden

  • Dietfried expresses the thought that was on my mind all film: that it incredibly hard for people to be truthful to others about how they feel. This is ultimately the basis for all love: being able to be sincere and honest about one’s feelings rather than holding them in, and trusting those around oneself. Dietfried realises this, and at long last, Gilbert finally decides the time has come to follow his heart. In doing this, Dietfried redeems himself: while Violet had suffered under him, she found solace with Gilbert, and giving Gilbert the push he needed to reunite with Violet is his way of making amends. No longer bound by his past, Gilbert rushes off for the pier, hoping to catch Violet before she’d left. Even after the boat departs, Violet hears Gilbert’s anguished shouts, and she jumps overboard.

  • Against all the odds, Violet and Gilbert are able to meet one another properly without doubts or regrets separating them. In moments like these, neither Violet nor Gilbert can find the words to express to one another how they feel. While the sun has set, indicating the end of one window, moonrise brings with it a new light, illuminating in the land with a gentle radiance. Kyoto Animation’s symbolism is spot on – just because one chapter has passed doesn’t mean things are over, and there is always new beauty that arises in the world. It is therefore unsurprising that it is here that Violet and Gilbert meet.

  • It is not without irony that Violet, despite having come so far in her understanding of human emotions and having attained a mastery of language that are the envy of manny, is reduced to a blubbering mess here. Some experiences and moments simply are beyond words, and all Violet can do is stammer out how happy she is to see Gilbert, who similarly is unable to express himself coherently. Kyoto Animation’s presentation here shows how love isn’t always the elegant declaration that fiction make it out to be, but even then, the feelings are genuine and sincere.

  • A tearful embrace therefore speaks volumes about the outcome; Violet Evergarden: The Movie‘s climax is here, the culmination of years of progress for Violet, and a lengthy three-year journey for fans of the series. Considering what it had cost to get here, I count the outcome to meet expectations – both Violet and Gilbert have experienced so much that it would stand completely contrary to the film (and series’) messages were they to go their separate ways. I appreciate that this sort of outcome only rarely happens in reality (love is fickle and desperately tricky to get right), but for the sake of a story, having a meaningful, worthwhile theme matters more than realism.

  • Signifying the end of the chapter, Gilbert lets go of the letter Violet had written for him – the pair now have their futures ahead of them, and the letter is a visceral, tangible piece of the past, one that is no longer relevant to either of them. Knowing that both Gilbert and Violet have found their footing at last sets a feeling of relief in viewers: the story chooses to offer the long-suffering couple a modicum of privacy, rather similarly to how Daniel Handler had opted to not record the quiet moment that Violet Baudelaire and Quigley Quagmire had shared while climbing the frozen waterfall in The Slippery Slope. Readers took this to mean Violet and Quigley express their feelings for one another here, so assuming this to hold true, Violet Evergarden: The Movie would similarly indicate that Gilbert and Violet do live happily ever after to the end of their days, as Bilbo had hoped after relinquishing the One Ring before his journey to Rivendell.

  • Claudia returns to Lieden, just in time to join Cattleya and the rest of CH Postal’s staff for a fireworks show unveiling the completion of the city’s new radio tower. This tower looks decidedly like the Eiffel Tower – the original Eiffel Tower had originally been constructed as a part of the 1889 Expo and was indeed use as a transmission tower for FM radio. When the permit for the tower expired in 1909, plans to dismantle the tower were abandoned owing to its valuable service, and today, the Eiffel Tower remains an iconic part of the Paris skyline. This final fireworks show in Violet Evergarden: The Movie serves as a finale of sorts for Violet’s era, bringing it to a definitive close.

  • It is no secret that I’ve enjoyed the movie thoroughly, and numerous others have similarly done so. Even Anime News Network provides a review that calls the movie “a fantastic film… [that] is an emotional experience with a deep insight into the human condition”; their reviewer only holds against the movie that it “can be hard to see the beauty on screen through all the tears”. Anime News Network may strike out with some of their reviews, but this is not one of those times, speaking to the incredible quality of writing within Violet Evergarden: The Movie. Anime News network did have another review for the film; it turns out that five and a half months earlier, another reviewer had travelled to Japan to watch the film shortly after it premièred in Japan.

  • This reviewer felt that Violet Evergarden: The Movie had a “heavy-handed approach to emotions” resulting in “the Violet and Gilbert plot [falling] flat” that ultimately resulted in “a messy experience overall”. This time around, I’m glad the reviewer left their textbook for gender roles and normative behaviours in 19th century Europe at the door to focus purely on their experiences with the movie. While the review suggests Violet Evergarden: The Movie tries a little too hard with their delivery of emotions, the reviewer also praises the technical excellence and indicates that they also had a passable experience overall. It was interesting to finally read a critical review from ANN that was actually fair and focused on their experiences over suggesting the lack of social relevance was to the work’s detriment.

  • That Violet Evergarden: The Movie was able capture the power of language and convey it even to some of the internet’s harshest critics, as well as finding ways of impressing particularly cynical viewers with its phenomenal visuals, speaks volumes to how well done the movie is. Violet Evergarden: The Movie ended up being an experience that, were the option available to me, I would consider travelling to Japan for the express purpose of watching the film. Were that to be the case, I’d probably just indicate that I was sightseeing at customs, and then take advantage of that to explore other parts of Japan (say, Yamanashi or Izu).

  • Since such a trip isn’t in the realm of possibility, at least for the present, I remain content to kick back in my favourite chair and watch the movie from the comfort of home. After the fireworks concludes in Violet Evergarden: The Movie, the story returns to Daisy, who learns that Violet ended up travelling to Ekarte Island. In retracing Violet’s steps, Daisy connects a little more with her grandmother, whose life was changed after Violet had written her those letters. The Ekarte of Daisy’s time doesn’t look like it’s changed too much from when Violet first arrived, and the people seem friendly enough.

  • As Daisy travels further into Ekarte, the islanders’ livelihoods look solid, and the people have flourished: she might be visiting during the winter on a cold, overcast, day, but the bright lighting suggests that the moment is peaceful. While Violet and Gilbert might no longer be around, they’ve left a tangible legacy on Ekarte. One imagines that the two would’ve run the school together, teaching students how to read and write to better prepare them for the demands of a changing world. While some of the students would leave the island to pursue their careers, a handful of people also chose to remain behind and keep the island’s services running.

  • This is best shown when Daisy stops by a local post office and learns that Ekarte had a very large number of letters bearing stamps from CH Postal; the officer running the post office is well aware of Violet’s legacy, indicating that after Violet moved to Ekarte, she continued to help people out in her own way. Having Daisy’s story within Violet Evergarden: The Movie thus becomes clear – the story was intended to implicitly present Violet and Gilbert’s ultimate fate. Ambiguity is used in Violet Evergarden to enhance the story’s impact –seeing Violet and Gilbert together would’ve diminished the mystery and provide a definitive ending, but showing the legacy the pair leave behind, and the fact they are remembered five decades later allows the film to really show just how much good Violet did for the world.

  • Violet had been quite confused by Yuris’ use of the thumbs-up gesture, but after understanding it to mean a sign of approval, came to appreciate that there was a plethora of ways of expressing happiness and agreement. I imagine that Violet Evergarden: The Movie meant to show that Violet’s impact on Ekarte is not trivial with this gesture, although I note that thumbs up have existed since the Roman Empire, and in the Middle Ages, was taken to mean “ready”. One might imagine that on Ekarte, the men leaving meant that the gesture was forgotten over time, and with Violet’s arrival, the notion of thumbs up returned to the island.

  • Despite the advent of the telephone and telegraph, Daisy thus realises that letters can still hold their power in telling a specific set of feelings where spoken words might be too tricky to wield. At a quiet café, she sets about writing a letter to her parents, thanking them for being there for her despite being so busy all the time. The courier delivering the letter is riding what looks like a Super Cub, although at this distance, it is quite difficult to tell. With this, the largest post I’ve written for 2021 comes to a close (final word count: 12762). It should go without saying that I enjoyed this movie enough to give it an A+, a 4.0 of 4.0 (or ten of ten), a strong recommendation (albeit one that requires a priori experience with the TV series).

  • I am glad to have had the Heritage Day long weekend to write about this movie – towards the end of the long weekend, the skies darkened and the air cooled, offering relief from the hot and muggy weather that dominated July. Besides an eleven kilometre walk under overcast, drizzling skies, I also had the chance to get further into DOOM: Eternal, and I finally set foot on Northrend in World of Warcraft. In addition, I’ve finally had the chance to hit the optometrist after two years of not going (being busy in 2019, and then last year, everything was closed) and get a haircut. A delicious homemade sirloin steak dinner rounded out the long weekend, and now, I’m ready to take on August.

  • Kyoto Animation pulls an MCU in Violet Evergarden: The Movie – after TRUE’s “Will” and “For people in the future” plays (both are excellent songs I cried to) play over the credits, there’s a post-credit scene of Violet and Gilbert sharing a pinky-promise. This simple gesture speaks volumes about their future, and after such a route to get here, the two have definitely earned their happily ever after, to the end of their days, several times over. Violet Evergarden: The Movie is an immensely satisfying conclusion to the series, and because this film is an essential experience for everyone who enjoyed Violet Evergarden, I hope that everyone who wishes to see this film will have the chance to do so.

Whole-movie reflection and closing remarks

With the grand finale to Violet Evergarden in the books, it is evident that Kyoto Animation has not only met, but surpassed expectations in their production of Violet Evergarden: The Movie. This film is a technical and thematic triumph, demonstrating that despite the tragedy that struck their studio two years earlier, the staff were able to overcome this adversity and produce a work that speaks to their values and virtues. The love and dedication Kyoto Animation’s staff demonstrate towards their craft is evident within Violet Evergarden: The Movie; every scene is crafted with an eye for detail, and the final product is a powerhouse of a performance. Kyoto Animation thus demonstrates that creativity and the human spirit can and will endure, even in the face of senseless acts of ignorance and violence. It is therefore encouraging to see Kyoto Animation continue on in their work, for their fans, themselves and those who were lost that day – Violet Evergarden: The Movie demonstrates that living well is the best revenge, and their conclusion to Violet Evergarden indicates the studio remains as resolute as ever to push the limits of creativity. As I saw it, Violet Evergarden: The Movie is the culmination of experience and devotion, combining story and character development together with superior visuals and sound to tell a compelling, emotionally-impactful tale of love, forgiveness and keeping an eye on the future. I thoroughly enjoyed Violet Evergarden: The Movie for tying in the strongest elements from the anime and bringing closure to the element that had doubtlessly lingered on viewers’ minds; being able to see Violet finally meet Gilbert brought with it a sense of catharsis and closure. Violet’s transformation from an emotionless killing machine to a sensitive and gentle individual intent on helping others while pursuing her own journey. By Violet Evergarden: The Movie, Violet’s come far enough to have her own agency, showing that she’s now ready to help herself to pursue the future she’d desired. The film is a send-off for the Violet Evergarden series as much as it is Kyoto Animation’s way of telling the world that they’re still here, and still making memorable, exceptional anime. Violet Evergarden: The Movie is a fitting conclusion that decisively wraps up the franchise, being the end point of Violet’s journey towards understanding love, and having already accomplished this with resounding success, the remaining elements within the film serve to remind viewers that Kyoto Animation’s craft is unparalleled. I therefore look forwards to seeing what lies ahead for Kyoto Animation; they’ve unequivocally shown their viewers they care very much, and this shows in all of their productions. Violet Evergarden: The Movie is no exception, and in fact, reinforces the idea that adversity is not going to stop Kyoto Animation, a studio that is always ready to go the extra mile for their fans.

A Violet Evergarden Side Story: A Review and Full Recommendation on Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll

“Bender? Are you crying?”
“Uh, no! Never!”

–Fry and Bender, Futurama

When the Drossel Royal Family makes the request for Violet to help Isabella York, a student at a renowned boarding school, in preparation for a début, Violet spends three months at the academy. Isabella is initially cold towards Violet, and Violet observes that Isabella is distant from the other students, as well as appearing quite unfamiliar with the formalities and conventions of higher society. Violet’s patience and understanding allows her to assist Isabella, impressing her classmates, and over time, Isabella begins to open up to Violet. One evening, when Isabella suffers from a coughing fit, Violet spends the night by her side to ensure her well-being, and Isabella sees that Violet is someone who genuinely cares for her. Bit by bit, Isabella and Violet become friends, sharing their backgrounds with one another. It turns out that Isabella was born Amy Bartlett, an illegitimate child of an aristocratic family, but was sent off to live in poverty. Here, she took in a small child, Taylor, and cared for Taylor as her sister. When the war ended, the York family found her and invited her to join their family, as well as assuring Taylor’s well-being. Thus, the two became separated. After Violet takes Isabella to the debutante ball, Isabella asks Violet to write a letter to Taylor. With her work done, Violet returns to Leden, and Benedict delivers Isabella’s letter to Taylor, who is at an orphanage. Three years later, Taylor’s run away from her orphanage and heads to Leden, where she finds the CH Postal Company and asks to become a courier. Benedict is reluctant to take on Taylor as an apprentice, but Hodgins, recalling Violet’s starts with CH Postal, asks Benedict to give her a chance, and also has Violet teach Taylor the fundamentals of reading and writing. While out on a delivery route with Taylor, Violet learns that Taylor’s come to believe that a courier delivers happiness, and agrees to help Taylor write a letter to Isabella. Benedict agrees to find Isabella’s address and deliver this letter after acquiring a new motorcycle, and takes Taylor with him to deliver the letter. When Benedict reaches Isabella’s estate, he delivers the letter, but Taylor decides to meet her another time, once she’s become a full-fledged courier. Later, Taylor is adopted into the Evergarden family. This is Violet Evergarden‘s Side Story, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll; originally premièring in September 2019, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is a film that expands on Kyoto Animation’s portrayal of the Violet Evergarden universe, which follows the titular Violet Evergarden and her journey to understand the meaning of the phrase “I love you”.

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of Violet Evergarden differs from the themes of the original light novels: in choosing to focus exclusively in Violet’s growth as a person, from a war machine to someone with feelings and empathy acute enough to perform an excellent job as a ghost writer, the Violet Evergarden of Kyoto Animation is not subtle in its themes, which speak to the strength of words and how letters can carry feelings that transcend space and time. Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll continues on in this tradition, but appends to the theme that, through befriending Isabella, Violet’s become one step closer to understanding love. Through Violet’s time with Isabella, the latter comes to appreciate that Violet is always genuinely concerned for her, and moreover, because Violet’s experienced her own loss, both of Gilbert and her own arms, she is able to empathise with Isabella, who regrets her separation from Taylor every day. The Violet we see in Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is someone who’s made considerable strides in understanding others, having seen love in its many forms, and also how intangibles are communicated. With Isabella, her task might not involve ghost-writing, but similar skills in empathy and understanding the environment allow Violet to do her best; when Isabella wonders why Violet is so perfect (to the point that the academy’s other students praise her devotion and character), Violet responds that this is the job asked of her, and that Violet acts precisely as a girl from a background of privilege does exemplifies that she is very attuned to her surroundings. As such, when Isabella begins counting Violet as a friend, Violet feels the sincerity behind her actions and reciprocates; in being able to make friends without any external guidance, Violet has shown herself as being able to continuously form more meaningful connections with others, which in turn sets the groundwork for her to find a way towards the strongest kind of love of all.

While Violet Evergarden had typically focused on the magical ability of letters to convey complex emotions, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll also touches lightly on the ideas of technological progress, specifically, how the world around Violet is changing rapidly even as she continues to do her best each and every day. Throughout the film, characters comment on the changes in the world around them. From Taylor being impressed with electric lamps, which replace older gas lamps, to the inclusion of elevators in newer buildings and the construction of a radio tower, the world of Violet Evergarden is pushing forwards in the same manner the real world has. These changes create new conveniences for the world’s inhabitants, but they can also be a hindrance; upon using an elevator for the first time, Violet remarks that a lift would’ve been faster, and Benedict does not initially appear too fond of the radio tower in representing a new form of communication. However, as he succinctly puts it, progress waits for no one, and it’s a matter of adapting. The arrival of radio in the real world had far-reaching implications on how people communicated: from the personalised touch of words written onto paper and hand-delivered, to the ability to reach more people than was ever thought possible, radio fundamentally changed the way people communicated, increasing the speed and efficiency things could be done at the expense of a more human touch. In the present day, the advancements arising from these early steps have made it possible to carry out things like algorithmic management, in which complex subroutines can autonomously direct human workers. While efficient, such systems are also described as incredibly impersonal and cold, having their own sets of challenges for those they manage. The arrival of increasingly familiar technologies in Violet Evergarden, then, show that even Violet’s world is not immune to progress. However, although technology may one day render the courier an obsolete function, and similarly, letters an obsolete mode of communication, there remains a charm and romance in being able to convey one’s emotions by hand and then delivering feelings, having been captured onto a more tangible medium, to its intended recipient. In this way, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll makes a wonderful case in that, even if technology does render some forms of communication irrelevant, the older forms persist because there are some things that new technology cannot capture.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been about a year and a half since Violet grace this blog with her visage: the last time I wrote about Violet Evergarden, I was writing about the OVA where Violet was sent to help an opera singer write a song, and while she’d initially had her struggles, she rose to the occasion magnificently and succeeded. When I first heard of Violet Evergarden, it was 2016: I was a few weeks before starting my graduate defense, and a friend had shown me a trailer, asking if I’d known about the series. Aside from a cursory remark that Violet looked like Your Lie in April‘s Kaori Miyazono, I had nothing more to say.

  • By the time Violet Evergarden had come out, my friend had forgotten about the series, but I decided to pick it up, and I was not disappointed. Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll continues on in the same vein as its predecessor, featuring a moving story, stunning visuals and excellent voice work. Violet is voiced by Yui Ishikawa (Azur Lane‘s very own Enterprise, Eromanga Sensei‘s Tomoe Takasago and China Kousaka of Gundam Build Fighers), while Minako Kotobuki (K-On!‘s Tsumugi Kotobuki and Asuka Tanaka of Hibike! Euphonium) plays Isabella.

  • It would seem that Isabella is a relatively recent student of the girls’ academy: she’s shown as being quite unable to become comfortable with the customs and ways of the upper classes, and even eating with the right utensils comes as a challenge to her. Personally, I’m used to eating with chopsticks (which commands an entirely different set of etiquette), although I am familiar with more formal, multi-course dinners where forks and knives are laid out: the way is to eat using the utensils on the outside first and work one’s way inwards as courses are served. The scene brings to mind a moment from Titanic, where Jack Dawson is given a crash course on this when dining with the first class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukaterr.

  • Isabella’s feeling of isolation is apparent: compared to the other girls, she projects a different atmosphere and isn’t at home with putting on airs. This creates a bit of distance with her classmates, who, despite their backgrounds, seem friendly enough. However, when Violet demonstrates her patience and willingness to help Isabella out, the distance melts away, and slowly but surely, a friendship blossoms. One touch I particularly liked was that, after spending an entire night awake to ensure Isabella was tended to, Isabella wondered if Violet was tired, and Violet attempts to reassure Isabella she’s fine, having been accustomed to staying up at night, but then fails to stifle a yawn.

  • In flashbacks, Isabella’s previous life is shown. She lived in abject poverty and sold flowers for a meagre living, but her world changed after she met Taylor. Deciding to look after Taylor, Isabella resolved to make Taylor’s life as happy as possible. Even if it was tough, Taylor and Isabella, then Amy Bartlett, shared many a happy memory together. Taylor had been the one person Isabella had been close to, and it isn’t until Violet’s arrival that her outlook on the world begins to change.

  • After Violet does Isabella’s hair in preparation for the day ahead, Isabella returns the favour, and like Ena Saitou of Yuru Camp△, opens by messing with Violet’s hair before setting it in a style Violet is okay with. While Violet now is as human as everyone else, she still retrains traces of her old training and habits; she remarks that hair covering her eyes could be a hazard after Isabella styles her hair a certain way. Afterwards, Isabella attempts to convince Violet to skip class, but Violet remains steadfast that Isabella must remain true to her obligations.

  • Having long been plagued by dreams of Taylor, Isabella would often awaken with tears in her eyes. Violet’s presence helps her to relax a little, and reduces the intensity of the feelings of longing that Isabella has. Further helping her, Violet occasionally swaps stories with Isabella, which puts her own experiences in perspective and serves to show her that there are others with similar backgrounds.

  • Three months pass in the blink of an eye, and soon, it is the day of Isabella’s début. CH Postal also sends Violet a special suit for the occasion. With both Isabella and Violet sporting a brooch of different colours, this is a subtle way of juxtaposing the similarities and differences between the two.

  • The formal ball is a great success, and aside from capturing the admiration of all those in attendance, Isabella also has a spectacular time, as well. It is here that Isabella’s progress is shown; despite struggling with activities and customs expected of society’s upper echelons, she makes strides with Violet’s help, and during the ball, dances with grace. Because social dancing is a part of the upper class’ activities, and is a rather involved skill, that Isabella’s cultivated her skills to this level in three months shows that under Violet’s tutelage, she’s learned well.

  • Prior to her being asked to join the York family, Isabella had barely scratch a living off selling flowers. The user of winter imagery, and the warm lighting in Isabella’s old residence after she’d met Taylor, served to illustrate the stark contrast that she saw the world in: even though she remained quite poor after taking Taylor in, her world had changed. She now had someone to look after, someone whose happiness mattered, and this made everything worthwhile. Thus, when the York family arrived and promised both a better life, even though Isabella’s conditions have improved, she still sorely misses Taylor, who was her one light.

  • Because she’s now accepted Violet in full, Isabella has one final request for Violet – to write a letter to Taylor. Violet complies, and finishes the letter prior to leaving. She promises that this letter will be delivered to Taylor. As a side story rather than a continuation, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll does not have an all-new soundtrack. Instead, a selection of Evan Call’s best pieces from Violet Evergarden‘s soundtrack are used.

  • It speaks volumes to the original series’ soundtrack that the music, with a few minor adjustments to fit the scene, remain immensely effective in Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll. While Isabella is more than willing to pay for the letter, Violet waives this, saying that it was a favour between friends, and the two depart. Violet and Isabella will not cross paths again in this film, but the assignment, and the resulting experiences, leave a tangible impact on both Isabella and Violet.

  • To leave viewers on the note that Isabella is going to be alright, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll has another classmate approach her and expressing a desire to speak freely, to learn more about one another. The old Isabella would’ve been taken aback, but as she is now, Isabella is able to reply and begin opening up to her other classmates, as well. Thus, Isabella’s story has concluded for the present, and the film can shift its focus to Taylor.

  • Benedict arrives at the orphanage where Taylor currently lives to deliver her letter. Taylor is illiterate, having never learnt to read and write, and she asks Benedict to read her the letter. The contents of the letter are simple but moving: in times of difficulty, Taylor should recall Isabella’s old name, “Amy”, to find strength to endure and overcome. For Benedict, this was a simple enough delivery, but for Taylor, her world changes. She’d had fond memories of Isabella, and while her living conditions have improved since, she still desires to meet up with her once more.

  • Three years later, an older Taylor arrives at Leden and CH Postal’s headquarters with the sole intent of meeting Benedict, who’d delivered her letter. It turns out that Violet had also written a second letter, from her personally to Taylor, saying to find her if anything should happen. While Benedict is completely taken aback, having long forgotten the delivery, Hodgins decides to have Taylor shadow as an apprentice under Benedict and Violet, seeing the same determination in Taylor that he saw in Violet.

  • Taylor’s illiteracy initially proves to be a problem: she’s unable to read addresses, only knowing numbers. However, Benedict still has her help with deliveries, leaving her impressed with how well he knows Leden. This in turn inspires her further, and Violet takes on the task of helping Taylor learn the basics. The language of the Violet Evergarden universe is a fictional one, but because this is an anime, Taylor starts to learn Japanese hiragana. In an English dub, these would doubtlessly be switched out for the alphabet.

  • Violet also takes Taylor on a few deliveries, helping her to get used to routing and also give her field experience in reading the addresses from a letter, then matching that to a destination. While making a delivery to an apartment, Violet and Taylor enter an elevator, and Violet is initially confused at how it works: elevators have been around since ancient times, but powered elevators began appearing in the mid-1800s as a result of development in mining technology. With Elisha Otis’ developing a safety elevator in 1854, elevators became more popular, and automated elevators became commonplace by the 1900s, although like Violet, most customers found them cumbersome and were therefore unwilling to operate them.

  • Thus, dedicated staff were hired to operate elevators until 1945, when features of modern elevators began appearing, prompted by an elevator operator strike in the United States. Technology goes through similar phases, and phones were the same way, with users finding them convenient when they worked, but were otherwise complex systems that required staff to make the connection. Automation has since taken over, making phones an indispensable form of communication that, like a letter, can carry feelings and emotion over space and time to its recipient in the form of sound.

  • As time wears on, Taylor becomes better versed in written language, being able to read and write to a limited extent. One evening, Violet takes her to the CH Postal’s rooftop to stargaze after speaking with her, and the conversation turns towards Taylor’s wish to write a letter to Isabella. With assistance from Violet, Taylor writes out a letter, demonstrating her progress in learning how to write, but also showing her determination. There is, however, a caveat: after Isabella graduated, she married an aristocrat of sorts but never left an address at the behest of the York family. Thus, finding Isabella would be a challenge.

  • Between Benedict’s resourcefulness and determination, with a bit of luck, CH Postal does end up finding Isabella’s current address: it’s a stately stone mansion in the countryside. Knowing how much this means to Taylor, CH Postal decides to have her accompany Benedict on the delivery. Benedict agreed to the assignment on one condition: that CH Postal procure a new motorcycle to replace his aging one, which had been so ancient that neighbourhood kids poked fun at it. The new motorcycle puts a genuine smile on Benedict’s face, and after Violet wishes them a safe journey, they head off.

  • It turns out that Isabella’s been living a quieter life since she became married, and despite her husband, Count Neville, frequently hosting events at his estate, few people have seen Isabella. This is understandable, given that Isabella’s always been frail, but in spite of this, Count Neville also is shown to care about Isabella, constructing a beautiful garden in the estate’s back that overlooks an area of unspoiled natural beauty for Isabella to enjoy.

  • Knowing this, Benedict manages to find Isabella while she’s on her afternoon walk. The scenery here is breathtaking, and the estate’s garden opens to a forested park beside a pond. The presence of nature conveys a sense of utter tranquility that suits Isabella. When she’s seen taken her stroll, she is at peace; Violet would be happy to know that her friend had made it and is doing well.

  • In Taylor’s letter, she expresses gratitude for all Isabella had done for her, and understanding towards why Isabella ended up making the choices that she did. Even after everything that’s happened, Taylor feels nothing but happiness and counts Isabella as her sister. The strength of these emotions reach Isabella, who dissolves in tears. At this time, Isabella has no idea just how close Taylor is, and a part of me had been hoping that Taylor would be seized with a desire to reveal herself.

  • Taylor, however, feels it to be more appropriate and reunite properly after she’s become a proper courier, to show Isabella that she’s made it. Thus, she decides to remain hidden for the present. With the letter delivered at the film’s climax, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll enters its denouement. During the six-and-a-half month gap between when the film was screened in Japan and when its home release became available, I’ve done my utmost to avoid spoilers for it. Now, with the movie in the books, looking back at the materials out there, it turns out discussion on this film’s been limited.

  • However, par the course for every anime movie, there were some who flew to Japan with the express purpose of watching Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll and then tear down the film to have their opinion of things be the established one. In the well-heeded Anime News Network review, it is argued that then film is disjointed and the themes are entirely with “classism and heteronormativity” but are explored in “a resigned way, as if they are obstacles that can never be overcome”. In a different series, were Violet not the protagonist of Violet Evergarden, such a remark may have some merit, but the reviewer here fails to understand that Violet Evergarden isn’t about class struggles or social issues. The series is about Violet and her discoveries, with the assignments she takes, and the people she encounter, being a part of her experiences, some of which give insight into a world with older values and customs.

  • It is evident that Anime News Network is ill-suited for writing about Kyoto Animation’s works: their review on Chikai no Finale and Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the individual perspective on things, and in general, folks looking to gain a better measure of things would find it much more meaningful to watch both movies for themselves: going in blind yields the superior experience to having any prior expectations or misconceptions that any review (including mine) have created. Back in Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, with the day over, Benedict and Taylor prepare to head back to Leden under a sunset that reminds me of the journey from Paris to Laval that I took four years ago for a conference.

  • Now adopted into the Evergarden family, Taylor and Violet are technically sisters, too. She’s seen studying writing and reading with ardour, pursing her dream of becoming a courier in earnest. One final remark I have as this talk draws to a close is the matter of literacy: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll gives a glimpse into how difficult illiteracy can make things for people, especially considering the prevalence of written communication in contemporary society is. It was therefore especially heartwarming to see Taylor take up her studies with such honest effort, which would in turn better her future. and help her in realising her aspirations.

  • Of course, the leftover turkey bones and meat that were not carved will be great in a turkey congee in the near future, and I return to Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll: as the film draws to a close, Violet sets off for her next assignment with a light smile on her face as she enjoys the beautiful country air. Smiles from Violet are about as rare as smiles from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi‘s Yuki Nagato and therefore, are moments to be enjoyed. While I’ve been calling it a film throughout this discussion, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is actually just a side story (albeit an incredibly well-done one); there is a continuation to Violet Evergarden that was originally set to release earlier this year, but the current world health crisis has understandably pushed the release date back. I still have plans to write about this continuation and will do so once the opportunity presents itself.

  • The film wraps up with Taylor smiling broadly, with a bright future to work towards. Because the film hits all of the emotional chords well, tears were never really too far off while I was watching Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, and recalling my modus operandi of awarding the masterpiece designation to anything that can make me cry (this explains the page quote, as well), Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll scores an A+ (4.0 of 4.0, ten of ten) for me. In retrospect, Violet Evergarden itself is a masterpiece because it so viscerally conveys emotions, and few other series (save CLANNAD and Angel Beats!) have so convincingly allowed me to feel what the characters were feeling.

Violet Evergarden‘s side story thus ends up being a technically and narratively excellent piece: as a standalone story given additional runtime to truly flesh out its messages, Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is a spectacular work where the sum of its components, from its natural but logical character growth, to the visual and aural aspects, all come together to deliver a work that captivates its viewers. Having come to see how far Violet’s come, viewers are inclined to follow her experiences and whole-heartedly support her actions, which are firmly established to be helping her client to the greatest extent possible. While viewers have no doubt that Violet will succeed, the meaning comes from watching how Violet accomplishes this. Through nurture, care and attention paid to detail, Violet’s stoic but meticulous methods yield definitive results, and watching both Isabella and Taylor find their paths again proves to be immensely rewarding. It typifies Kyoto Animation’s ability to bring out the emotions of every scene as effectively as they do, and their talents for compelling viewers to feel precisely what the characters feel. Kyoto Animation is a powerhouse studio that has honed their craft to mastery, and even in spite of last year’s unfortunate arson incident, that their works continue to remain of such a high calibre speaks volumes to the commitment and dedication of their staff. Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the arson attack in 2019, continues on Kyoto Animation’s best in their honour and shows that people, through resilience and support for one another, can endure crisis to come out stronger on the other side. Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll is therefore, a veritable masterpiece to watch; whether one has familiarity with Violet Evergarden or not is irrelevant, since this film is able to stand on its own merits and capture emotions in a way few others can.

Surely, Someday You Will Understand “Love”: Violet Evergarden OVA Review and Reflection

“Music is the greatest communication in the world. Even if people don’t understand the language that you’re singing in, they still know good music when they hear it.” –Lou Rawls

Violet is asked to help opera singer Irma Fliech write a love letter following a performance. What initially looked to be a simple assignment proves to be much more difficult than Violet had imagined, when Irma rejects every letter that she writes. Looking through books for inspiration and even asking her friends, Violet finds herself at a dead end, despite realising that Irma is looking for lyrics to a song. However, after speaking with Irma’s assistant, Ardo, Violet learns that Irma is working on a modern play, hoping to push people into the future. While sharing with Irma her background as a soldier, Violet also discovers that Irma’s boyfriend, Hugo, had perished in the war. She later runs into Roland, who shows her love letters; realising that love is a feeling to be conveyed, Violet pours her heart out into her next composition. When she shows her work to Irma, Irma is moved to tears and accepts the lyrics for her song. Violet and her friends watch Irma’s latest opera at the theatre, and when the performance concludes, Violet applauds with the audience, feeling that she’s come one step closer to understanding the meaning of aishiteru. Set between episodes four and five, the Violet Evergarden OVA illustrates one more step in Violet’s journey towards learning Gilbert’s final words to her, using music as the medium to help convey what love is to Violet. Long considered to be the form of expression transcending linguistics and cultural barriers, music is a powerful means of conveying emotion, and its use in Violet Evergarden suggests that by being involved in writing lyrics, Violet also comes to really appreciate the power that letters and words can carry: we recall that Violet really began embracing her role as a Auto Memory Doll after helping coworker Iris with her own troubles, and this OVA presents a compelling story as to why.

Through giving Violet a particularly difficult assignment, the Violet Evergarden OVA showcases Violet’s dedication and resourcefulness in completing her assignments. At this point, Violet is still very much a novice Auto Memory Doll, without the experience in capturing and expressing the clients’ emotions as quickly as would someone like Cattleya. When faced with Irma’s request, she begins by falling back on a concise, terse approach that she’d become familiar with in the military. Failing this, she consults various resources, in books and existing texts, to try and gain a better understanding of how to craft Irma’s letters. This is unsuccessful, so she accepts help from her coworkers, and gains a modicum of inspiration when learning Irma’s letter is really meant to be a song. This pragmatic approach, coupled with Violet’s eventual learning of Irma’s background and how the war had affected her, ultimately help to shape her ability to create a final product that meets Irma’s specifications. When she reads through the old letters with Roland, the sum of her experiences up until now give her the eureka moment, where she is able to finally understand how to best express Irma’s feelings in words. It was not any individual event, but the sum of the events, that allow Violet to succeed in her assignment. The same holds true in reality: while people may often think that success comes on a moment’s notice, through a stroke of inspiration, the truth is that behind the magic moment was hard work, commitment and dedication. Thus, when such a magic moment does materialise, one is able to recognise the pattern and then make the breakthrough. This is the theme that the Violet Evergarden OVA aims to convey – that eureka moments are the consequence of a substantial, honest effort.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • It’s been a while since I last wrote about Violet Evergarden, and one thing I noticed upon coming back into this series is the incredible detail in the visuals: from the clothing to interior shots, everything in this series is ornate, rich and above all, purposeful: while there may be a lot of stuff in a scene, none of it comes across as being clutter. Here, Violet meets with the opera singer and playwright Irma Fliech.

  • For this OVA post, I will be running with the standard of twenty screenshots. Violet’s task initially seems simple enough: write a letter that conveys feelings of love to a distant individual. While Violet has slowly become more proficient in conveying emotions for others, her letter for Irma is much more challenging because Irma herself seems uncertain of what she’s looking for in the letter, only knowing that it’ll work when she sees it, and as such, Violet initially stumbles in her task.

  • At the end of the day, however, it is the product for the customer, not the producer, that matters, and so, the mark of a good company is one which goes to great lengths in order to ensure that their customers are happy. Violet’s efforts and struggles show that she understands this; all too often, employees of some companies leave their customers in the dust and create PR disasters that tarnish a brand.

  • I’m certain that many in the audience will be familiar with the feeling of a request or assignment that is insurmountable. Whether it be an assignment that seems to involve material beyond what was covered in a course, or the struggles of scope creep, challenges can often be overwhelming. However, the same is true of anything worth doing: I turn again to the classic example of the Apollo program and its aim of putting man on the moon. It would have been frustrating to watch as the Soviets made strides in their space program while American rockets failed, but over time, perseverance (and a serious commitment of funds) resulted in the world’s first successful moon landing.

  • A natural reaction to adversity is the want to sink into the walls and disappear entirely. A part of the joy in Violet Evergarden was seeing such human reactions in the characters: Kyoto Animation is known for many things, but top in my books is their ability to capture human postures in a very fluid, life-like manner surpassing those of other studios. Even without words, Violet’s dejection is evident here, when she slumps against the bookshelf after coming up unsuccessful in finding inspiration.

  • While Violet may have gotten off to a rough start with her coworkers with her terse, blunt mannerisms, her time with them leads to an increased degree of cordiality amongst one another, to the extent that Iris and Erica become concerned for Violet when she struggles with this task. Here, I remark that the Violet Evergarden OVA came out precisely a month ago, being bundled with the fourth BD volume. However, other commitments meant that I’ve not had a chance to watch the OVA until now. Even with this delay, I believe that this post remains the only comprehensive discussion on the Violet Evergarden OVA at this point in time.

  • The first real bit of assistance comes when Violet encounters Ardo, Irma’s assistant, who shows her the format behind Irma’s request. It turns out that Irma intended for Violet to write the lyrics to a song, rather than a standard letter, and with this bit of information, Violet changes her approach. However, composing music is no easy feat; because music is such a powerful means of communication, getting everything right so it can convey a particular emotion or idea requires skill and a modicum of talent.

  • Even with her coworkers assisting, writing lyrics for Irma’s song is quite difficult. The fact that music can transcend linguistic and cultural barriers is one of the reasons I enjoy listening to music of all languages: I have a large collection of Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese songs that I frequently listen to. Even in the case of Cantonese music, my weak command of more poetic, formal Cantonese means that the meaning of most songs are lost on me: the only artist whose songs I understand without effort are those of Sam Hui’s. His music gained popularity precisely because common folk could understand the lyrics. By comparison, I have a very difficult time in discerning what is being said in the songs of other famous Cantopop artists (e.g. Alan Tam, Leslie Cheung, Danny Chan, Paula Tsui and Sally Yeh), although to be sure, I love 80s Cantopop.

  • After Ardo explains Irma’s motivation for creating a contemporary play to tell a relatable and moving story to spur audiences to find a world beyond the war, Violet insistently follows Irma with the aim of trying to learn more about her. This simple action is both endearing and telling – the best way to understand what someone is seeking is to understand that individual, to empathise with them, and Violet’s persistence results in Irma yielding; she tells Violet of her own connection to the war after Violet explains that she was once a soldier who’d lost a loved one of her own during the conflict.

  • As it turns out, Irma’s partner had been enlisted into the armed forces and despite his promise to come back to Irma, never did. The war’s consequences are very far-reaching, and a recurring theme in anime is that outside of politics, there are no winners when total wars are fought. This became the case when World War One was fought: advances in technology meant that slaughtering fellow humans could be done to the same scale as mass producing consumer goods. Much as how society has become increasingly sophisticated in our ways of communication, we have also devised increasingly lethal and devastating weapons to harm one another with.

  • The whole of the OVA really is about the path Violet takes on a challenging assignment, and it shows that the way to a solution, seemingly straightforwards in hindsight, can sometimes be long and convoluted. Cracking a particularly difficult function can be like this: one can spend hours and days wondering why a call is not behaving as it should, and then encounter a solution out of the blue either when another pair of eyes is brought in or stroke of inspiration is found. More so than any of the episodes, which come together to tell a story about discovering the meaning of love anew, the Violet Evergarden OVA is more about one of the snapshots in Violet’s journey towards becoming a capable Auto Memory Doll.

  • I’ve heard that there are substantial differences between the light novel and the anime adaptation, with stronger human aspects in the anime, and a more prevalent military component in the light novels. Given how Violet Evergarden‘s anime turned out, I am glad that the focus in the anime was about love and moving on without forgetting: the broader narrative of the light novels were distilled into a single cohesive message for the anime’s thirteen episode run. Looking back, I would tend to think that if there were more episodes, then additional stories from the light novels could have been adapted.

  • While I am very happy with how Violet Evergarden turned out, it would have been interesting to see Violet wield Stormbreaker Witchcraft, a custom battleaxe that grown men cannot lift. With this being said, now that the war is over, there would not have been much of a context to incorporate it, so unless there is another conflict brewing, I do not think it is strictly necessary to show the weapon. Having said this, there is a Violet Evergarden movie in the works, and while its precise contents are not known, it could give audiences a chance to see a side of the light novels not seen in the TV series.

  • The true turning point in Violet’s assignment is when Roland brings her to a warehouse where they find letters that never made it to their intended recipient. See all of the motions carried within the words in each letter, coupled with listening to Irma recount how her own boyfriend never returned from the war, gives Violet the inspiration to really write her song. I got a very similar feeling from watching this scene as I did when the anthropologists found the bag of letters in Letters from Iwo Jima, and upon pouring the letters out, the voices of the soldiers resounded. Letters are meant to capture and convey emotions and experiences; in a sense, it’s transferring one’s feelings onto paper, and this romanticism is lost with modern technologies, such as email and instant messaging.

  • Violet’s final submission unsurprisingly passes Irma’s requirements, and is powerful enough to move Irma to tears. Far more than any series I’ve seen, Violet Evergarden is able to evoke strong feelings in audiences. One of my criticisms in Violet Evergarden‘s original run was that most of Violet’s best moments stem from learning to understand sorrow, but looking back, Violet does undertake several assignments that see her grow in different ways, too.

  • Completing difficult assignments are all the more rewarding, and despite (or because of) my upbringing, I’ve always longed to take on the things that are difficult precisely because they are difficult. However, for the most part, the rest of the world never sees the journey, only the outcome. As a result, I am very satisfied with the path that the Violet Evergarden OVA ended up taking.

  • I’ve long been fond of OVAs that are set in-between the events of the main series, as they add a sense of depth to the characters beyond what we’ve seen in the main series proper. Traditionally, OVAs are usually bundled with home releases, but a new trend is that some of the longer OVAs are screened theatrically, akin to a smaller-scale movie: OVAs have always been a bit more difficult to watch, as they are not simulcasted on popular steaming platforms; like movies, some OVAs can take a considerable amount of time to become purchasable.

  • The song that Irma performs is LETTER, which is included in the Violet Evergarden vocal album, “Song Letters”. I’ve never been to an opera performance before, although in my time as a student, I’ve attended my share of live performances before. There’s a certain degree of magic and fun to watching a play compared to a movie: the performers on stage use all of their acting skills, the set and environment to convince their audience of an unreal reality. Lacking the editing trickery and special effects of films, the effectiveness of a stage play boils down entirely to the actors.

  • I believe that with this OVA in the books, Violet Evergarden really draws to a conclusion for now, at least until the film comes out in 2020. For the present, however, there is plenty of other anime films and OVAs on the table that merit a look: I definitely have plans to write about Flavours of Youth (Shikioriori), which came out earlier today, and Non Non Biyori Vacation will première later this month, along with I want to eat your placenta (no joke, that’s the real title) and Penguin HighwaySayonara no Asa ni Yakusoku no Hana o Kazarō (Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms), a PA Works film that released earlier this year, will be getting a BD release in less than three months, as well. There is no shortage of things to do in the interim, and one of the challenge I stare down will simply be to find time to enjoy all of these films and write about them on top of the other things that I do.

The Violet Evergarden OVA is a very powerful and well-written addition to the series – despite being a standalone story with a clear message, it fits in very well with the anime’s main narrative, showing one of the moments that allows Violet to grow and discover. Because Violet’s prowess as an Auto Memory Doll grows quite quickly in the anime, seeing her stumble, and get back up in the face of a difficult task shows that her improvement comes not from her existing skills alone, but also from her own determination and attitude. Seeing this OVA thus gives audience a chance to see an instance where Violet uses a variety of means to complete her task: she naturally grows into her role as an Auto Memory Doll over time. This accentuates the human elements of Violet Evergarden, which were finely presented during the televised run back in the winter season. At this point in time, the series has reached a conclusion, but there is word of a film that will release in 2020. Its precise contents are unknown, and speculation remains quite open because the anime ended on a very definitive note – what the movie entails is anyone’s guess, but the one commonality is the hope that the upcoming Violet Evergarden movie will not be a compilation film.

Violet Evergarden Review and Whole-Series Recommendation

“I will travel anywhere to provide service for a client; I am the Auto-Memories Doll, Violet Evergarden.” —Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden is a super soldier who lost both of her arms in a devastating war, and when she recovers, she learns that the war she fought in has ended. She subsequently desires to reunite with her commanding officier, Gilbert Bougainvillea, who has been marked missing in action, and longs to understand his final words to her. Colonel Claudia Hodgins arrives to pick up Violet, informing her that she is to be adopted by the Evergarden family, but when Violet is unable to adjust to civilian life, Hodgins arranges for her to work at CH, his postal company. She eventually joins the letter writing service, earns her Auto Memory Doll certification and become a letter writer. While she initially writes with a stiff, direct approach, her interactions with CH’s other writers, a princess, a young scholar, a playwright, a young girl living with her unwell mother and a soldier, Violet gradually begins to understand what love is. She is able to convey incredible emotions through her letters, and slowly, rediscovers just how much suffering that she’s also gone through, opening up and accepting the emotions she’s now experiencing. When peace talks are underway, Violet finds herself entangled in a plot to disrupt the talks and restart the war. She meets Gilbert’s older brother, Dietfried, and despite his hatred for Violet, comes to realise that Gilbert had imparted profound changes on her. He suggests that Violet meet their mother, during which Violet learns that their mother does not hold her accountable for Gilbert’s death; moreover, Gilbert will continue living on in their hearts as long as they remember him. Violet accepts Gilbert’s death and continues her work as a letter writer with the goal of understanding love more fully and meeting Gilbert again to express this for him.

Handling more similarly to a movie than a televised series, Violet Evergarden is a phenomenal, moving depiction of the notion that while the past cannot be undone, moving forwards is the singular way of atoning and honouring what was lost. Violet Evergarden follows Violet’s journey as an Auto Memory Doll; as she hones her craft at CH Postal. Things start roughly for her; while a highly competent typist, Violet’s background as a soldier leaves her unable to comprehend how people ordinarily live. After all, Violet had been trained purely for combat, knowing little more than following orders and quickly accomplishing her objectives, resorting to bloodshed when need be. As she gains her certification, travels with the other Auto Memory Dolls to help them write letters and eventually, begins accepting her own assignments, Violet sees with her own eyes what it means to be human. She watches as characters cry tears of joy, tears of sorrow, embrace and smile; these emotions are captured within the very words that she transcribes onto the paper, and though her journey, she realises the extent of emotions in the world around her. This helps her understand the actions she’d undertaken in the past; she accepts that the things she’s seen and done have hurt her, and through witnessing acts of kindness and love, Violet also begins to understand that, while the weights of her past are indelible, she has the power to now make a future for herself, one that is far removed from the violence that once defined her existence. Granted, Violet may have killed countless enemy soldiers previously, men that will never return home to their families, but with the knowledge that the present is what matters, Violet moves into the future, using the very same hands that once were an instrument of separation, and turns them into an instrument that brings people together.

The phrase “I love you” (more specifically, 愛してる, or aishiteru) is of a great significance in Violet Evergarden: the series continually reinforces the notion that this is of utmost importance to Violet’s journey, acting as her motivation to better herself as an Auto Memory Doll. In English, “love” is a very broad concept: it is difficult to encapsulate and characterise because it can take so many forms. However, in Japanese, aishiteru is a very specific phrase that is rarely used, and when used, is reserved for the most sincere confessions of romantic love. Violet lacks understanding of what love is, and so, this becomes a great enigma for her; Violet Evergarden places Violet into a variety of scenarios that show her what love may manifest as. Violet’s journeys occasionally see her dealing with romantic love, such as her assignment with Princes Charlotte and Prince Damien, but for the most part, Violet’s assignments give her insight on familial love. Even as early as her Auto Memory Doll training, where she meets Luculia Marlborough, she observes how love in a family is very powerful. By writing letters for Iris, Oscar Webster and Ann Magnolia, Violet witness first-hand the most fundamental of love, the bonds that parents and siblings share. This is a very logical progression: experiencing familial love in conjunction with work with others allows Violet to understand common human interactions to a much greater extent, and by the end of Violet Evergarden, Violet has indubitably surmised that aishiteru is the sort of attraction, desire to be with someone that arises from communication, as well as a desire to learn and protect. All of these are a part of the path that that eventually leads to the sort of love that she’s seen in a family. Violet thus resolves to live her life out in full, continuing to bring people together through words, and when the time is right, reunite with Gilbert so that she may convey this to him.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • This Violet Evergarden post is a longer one, with forty screenshots over the usual thirty. While a relatively large post, I encountered a bit of difficulty in making the post smaller, since there are so many moments to cover. Here, Violet meets Claudia for the first time, shortly after the events that saw Gilbert’s death. In the beginning, Violet Evergarden is a bit uncertain of its aims, and this was why I did not write about things after three episodes.

  • Kyoto Animation demonstrates their mastery of animation at all ranges: from close-ups of Violet’s brooch, mechanical fingers and food, to mid-range shots of the characters, and panoramic vistas, every scene in Violet Evergarden is done to a very high standard. I entered the series with no knowledge of what the premise was, only knowing that Violet looked (somewhat) like Your Lie in April‘s Kaori Miyazono. However, as Violet Evergarden progressed, the similarities evaporated very quickly. Violet’s military background means that she’s quite out of her element, and the first few episodes have her struggling to think freely.

  • While Violet is remarkably efficient with her tasks, her main shortcoming is that she does not know how to properly express herself, landing her in hot water with clients and co-workers alike. Iris and Erica initially do not get along with her to any extent, baffled by her direct, literal letters that create confusion and anger amongst clients. Despite being a drama, Violet Evergarden‘s initial episodes have their moments of comedy, primarily in Violet not being accustomed to doing things outside of the military. However, as Violet begins learning the fundaments to her new occupation, the anime firmly shifts back into the realm of drama.

  • Of all the Auto Memory Dolls at CH Postal, Cattleya Baudelaire is the most experienced and as such, sees the most assignments. She’s very accepting of Violet even when Erica and Iris are not, acting as a mentor of sorts for Violet until it is decided that Violet should be sent off to gain her credentials as an Auto Memory Doll. In Violet Evergarden, Auto Memory Dolls are essentially ghostwriters who write letters on behalf of others. In order to be successful in their duties, Auto Memory Dolls must be able to understand the emotions and feelings of those requesting the latter, and transcribe these into a letter, carefully picking their works to maximise the impact each letter has.

  • Initially, I figured that Violet was a sentient humanoid robot, and imagined that Violet Evergarden would be similar to Chobits. While I was excited to watch the anime, I had not been keeping up with news on what Violet Evergarden actually entailed, so I was a bit surprised to learn that it would be set in a world where technology is roughly at inter-war levels, save for Violet’s advanced prosthetics, which give her enough precision to type faster than her peers.

  • While taking a programme for her Auto Memory Doll certification, Violet encounters Luculia, a cheerful woman who takes her to a vantage point that offers a spectacular view of the town. The landscapes and scenery of Violet Evergarden are incrementally better than those of Hibike! Euphonium and similar to the visual fidelity of A Silent Voice: both of these are also Kyoto Animation’s works. I’ve long felt that this studio excels in creating highly immersive worlds with their visuals, and careful use of imagery has allowed many of the works to have a timeless feel to them – CLANNAD, for instance, has not aged a day.

  • Luculia’s brother was a former soldier, and since the war ended, fell into alcoholism after losing their parents. While Violet and Luculia share a conversation, the frame cuts to him being thrown out of a bar after a fist fight. Luculia is dismayed he’s in this state, but also loves him dearly; consequently, she looks after him as best as she can, knowing that he’s the only family she has left. Seeing the effects of the war on civilians and in particular, hearing Luculia talk about it with her and later, an encounter with her brother, leads Violet to write her first heartfelt letter from his behalf.

  • While Violet’s instructor initially believed that Violet’s seeming lack of emotions would prevent her from being an effective Auto Memory Doll in spite of her technical skill, Violet’s actions allow Luculia’s brother to properly thank Luculia, and having learned more about empathy, Violet begins to understand the complexities of human emotions. Seeing the potential in Violet, and as she’s passed her test, Violet’s instructor bestows upon her the title of a qualified Auto Memory Doll. From here on out, Violet will travel far and wide, learning about the many different kinds of love that exist in the world.

  • Violet Evergarden logically chooses to explore Iris’ story: a coworker of Violet’s, she aspires to be a top-tiered Auto Memory Doll at CH Postal, but when an assignment takes her back home, she learns that her parents are trying to find a partner for her and vehemently insists that one Emonn Snow not be invited. Violet hears of the story and realises that love confessions take an uncommon amount of courage, also understanding Iris in the process. She helps Iris make amends, and Iris leaves home on amicable terms with her parents, who share with Violet that Iris was named after blooming flowers in the area, similarly to how Gilbert named her after the Viola genus of flowers.

  • I can attest to how difficult love confessions are: my peers have remarked that asking someone out is more nerve-wracking than the toughest of exams, and while I’ve stared down my share of exams in my time as a student (from simple year-end finals and oral exams to thesis defenses and the MCAT), I do not believe anything was quite as terrifying and exhilarating as my failed attempt to ask someone out. At present, I’ve not made an active effort to meet someone and get to a point where I might attempt that again because my focus is getting my career to stablise first.

  • On her next assignment, Violet is sent to the nation of Drossel to write letters for Princess Charlotte: a wedding between her and the prince of Flugel, another nation, would facilitate the peace process. It turns out that Charlotte had met the prince previously and fell in love with him for regarding her as a peer but feared he does not see her in that way. After a few exchanges between the two, with Violet writing on Charlotte’s behalf, the prince meets with Charlotte, and the scope of their feelings come into the open. The two wed, marking the first successful major assignment we’ve seen Violet complete.

  • As it turns out, Cattleya was writing for the prince. Voiced by Aya Endō (Miyuki Takara of Lucky Star, Filicia Heideman in Sora no Woto and Gundam 00‘s Kinue Crossroad), Cattleya is presented as a capable fighter in her own right within the novel, but in the anime, I know her better for being a mentor figure for Violet, as well as being the most experienced Auto Memory Doll of CH Postal who’s occasionally seen sparring verbally with Benedict, one of her coworkers at CH Postal.

  • Gilbert’s older brother, Dietfried, is a captain of the navy (equivalent to a colonel in the army), and is very open about his contempt towards Violet for having murdered his subordinates. Unlike Gilbert, who is compassionate and understanding, Dietfried is much colder and distant, regarding Violet as a tool rather than a human being. He wonders how she can hope to write letters for people when her previous occupation was primarily to tear them apart. Had Violet Evergarden chosen to focus on the war section of things, the series would be more appropriately referred to as Violent Evergarden – this aspect of Violet Evergarden is primarily told in flashback.

  • Violet is later assigned to help transcribe texts at Shaher Observatory and is paired with Leon Stephanotis. While Leon initially is distant towards Violet, their time together changes Leon’s views on love, and she also learns a little more about the lengths that people in love might go to express it. I’ve referred to Violet Evergarden as being movie-like in this discussion; this comes from a conversation with one of my friends, during which I expressed a degree of frustration that the series was eluding my ability to discuss it. After all, the first few episodes had felt quite disjointed, and I could not really see where things were headed.

  • The use of scale and setting in Violet Evergarden, such as that of Shaher Observatory, brings to mind the architecture seen in Sora no Woto. Continuing from the point previously, it was actually on my friend’s remarks that led me to shelve Violet Evergarden after episode three. When all of the episodes had finished airing, I watched them all at once: it was this that led me to really understand where Violet Evergarden wanted to go with its narrative, and what was the anime equivalent of a tech demo transformed into a spectacular work that was well worth the time I spent watching it.

  • Violet and Leon share a moment together under the brilliant night sky, accompanied by both a one-in-two-centuries comet and aurora. Leon’s opened up to Violet by this point, and while perhaps not openly in love with her, regards her much more cordially than he did before. As Violet Evergarden continues, Violet becomes more human as a result of her experiences, suggesting that kindness and compassion is stronger than the evils and malice our species is capable of. Considering the ills in our world, and the fact that we nonetheless find ways of remaining strong together and supporting one another, I find this an encouraging thought.

  • Precisely because I viewed Violet Evergarden as a movie, I was able to walk away from the series with a much broader perspective on the anime. Having taken a look around at other discussions on Violet Evergarden, particularly those of episodic reviews and reactions to individual episodes, I find them somewhat limited. In general, while I yield that quality of the components are important, it is how the components are assembled that are pertinent to whether or not I enjoyed an anime. It matters little, for instance, if one has an excellent engine, transmission system and all of the parts for a car if one does not know what the parts are to be used for.

  • The magic of Violet Evergarden is at its strongest when Violet is learning about different kinds of love: her work takes her to the company of renowned playwright Oscar Webster, and after managing to convince him to continue his work, she finds a great joy in reading his plays. When Violet finds a parasol belonging to Oscar’s late daughter, she learns that his play’s central character was inspired by his daughter, and that he’s deep in grief with her death. Violet’s time with Oscar allows her to understand empathy better – the ability to understand how others are feeling, empathy is one of the aspects of falling in love, but its importance is in allowing different individuals to appreciate how their partner is feeling and then respond appropriately to help them out.

  • Realising the dream that Oscar had of his daughter yearning to fly with her parasol, Violet decides to bring this moment to life for Oscar’s sake. A moment of bliss follows, and while Violet is soaked in the process, Oscar gains the inspiration needed to finish his play and accepts his daughter’s death. The scene also provides a moment for Kyoto Animation to show off their water effects in Violet Evergarden: except for maybe A Silent Voice and Your Name, no other anime has water as realistic-looking.

  • In spite of how far Violet’s come since joining CH Postal, memories of Gilbert continue to haunt her, and when she learns that he is dead, refuses to believe it. Consumed by anguish and grief, she confronts and learns from Dietfried that Gilbert was killed in action, leaving Violet in a state of catatonia. In the episodes following, Violet recounts her time with Gilbert, from when she was first transferred to his command to the fateful mission where he saved her from death at the cost of his own life.

  • An orphan, Violet had never known kindness until she met Gilbert; as the war drew to a close, Gilbert took Violet into a night market and explained to her that girls of her age were interested in clothing or accessories, after Violet expressed an interest in what others of her age might want. She eventually spots a brooch precisely the colour of Gilbert’s eyes, and after he buys it for Violet, the brooch comes to symbolise her connection with him. Despite being a brutally efficient soldier who might stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Master Chief John-117 and the Doom Slayer, Gilbert’s compassion and kindness allowed Violet to develop a sense of humanity that makes her more than a mere tool.

  • In the darkest hour, Violet loses it and attempts to commit suicide, but is unable to see it through: Benedict’s simple act of inviting her to help him deliver letters, and Violet’s subsequent realisation that her newfound purpose, in writing letters, can bring people happiness, is what brings her back from the brink. By this point in time, Violet’s coworkers have long accepted and embraced her as a member of their team, so when Violet begins withdrawing from the others, they express their concern for her by means of a letter. I’ve stated this countless times, but it’s worth reiterating that difficult times are overcome together, rather than alone, and Violet Evergarden reinforces this notion – Violet suffers alone, but when her coworkers enter the picture, she is able to recover.

  • Hodgins reminds Violet that her actions as an Auto Memory Doll are what’s important, even if she’s written letters by the same hands that carry the blood of countless soldiers on them. Violet later learns that Luculia’s brother was moved by Violet’s letters, and managed to turn things around completely. While we’ve become a world where communication is largely electronic, the emotions and meaning behind every word we write nonetheless continue to be quite powerful: being encouraged by the people we hold dear in writing is very moving, second only to hearing it from loved ones.

  • If I had to pick one of Violet’s assignments as my favourite, it would be when she takes on assignment for Clara Magnolia. Clara’s daughter, Ann, finds Violet to be very much like a doll, and while the two are off to a rough start, Ann spends a considerable amount of time with her outside of the stipulated work hours. Ann is frustrated that her mother is spending so little time with her, even though she takes a liking to Violet, who participates in a variety of activities with her.

  • Dolls figure predominantly as symbols in Violet Evergarden – Violet is often described as being doll like. Dolls are models of people, often counted as toys or tools, befitting of how the world views Violet and perhaps intentionally, how becoming an Auto Memory Doll allows her to become more human. It’s a very strange name, contributing to why I initially assumed Violet was an inorganic being, but in Violet Evergarden, it would appear that they are the result of author Kana Akatsuki picking an interesting name for the profession of ghost writing. Akatsuki’s names for her characters have a strong Western European influence, and while some of the names can sound a bit unusual, they generally are plausible.

  • The episode does not explicitly make it clear who Clara’s letters are for until the episode’s end. Ann supposes they’re for her father, who’s been noticeably absent from the proceedings. However, the letters are in fact, for her: Clara knows that her time is dying and pours her heart into each letter for her daughter, solidly illustrating the strength of the love between mother and daughter. As Ann matures and begins a family of her own, her mother’s letters accompany her, expressing pride and hope for Ann.

  • The most rewarding aspect about Violet Evergarden is watching Violet learn and mature as an individual: even though she’s spent most of her existence shredding armed soldiers, Violet’s exposure to compassion and kindness from both Gilbert and her coworkers at CH Postal play a significant role in changing her perspectives on what her existence is defined as. Being able to understand Ann’s feelings and reassure her accordingly demonstrates the extent of change that Violet’s undergone since the anime began.

  • As the story I enjoyed the most, Ann’s story was my magic moment in Violet Evergarden. The anime had held my interest up until now, but I felt it to be a bit disjointed. With Ann’s story and Violet’s learnings, I realised that I was staring down an anime where the individual snapshots were meant to illustrate milestones that have a profound impact on who Violet is. This is where the discussions stop: elsewhere, little or no consideration has been given towards why Violet’s growth is important. To overlook this is to overlook what the point of a story is, and the reason why fiction exists, beyond entertaining readers, is to deliver a message that the author desires the audience to pick up on and consider.

  • People will naturally draw different conclusions as to what this “why” is based on their own experiences, and mine is simple – Violet Evergarden boils down to the idea that love is a stronger force than hate. Even after all of the things Violet has done in the war, the love Gilbert had for her is strong enough to prompt her to understand this feeling more, and in this journey, Violet comes to truly experience and witness different forms of love, allowing her to move forwards. I find that in the absence of a conclusion such as this, discussions on what makes Violet Evergarden enjoyable feel incomplete.

  • I only have two criticisms about Violet Evergarden: with its intricate characters and complex world, Violet Evergarden would have benefitted from more episodes, and second, it would have been nice to see Violet see more forms of love than those that result in her crying. Our world is defined by so much more than just tears: love can result in emotions on both end of the spectrum, from happiness beyond measure to feelings of grief, anguish or even anger. The complexity of human emotions, some argue, is why even the most sophisticated of computer algorithms and artificial intelligence constructs cannot have them. For a machine, “emotions” are a finite set of states that impact its decision-making, but in humans, they’re the sum of interactions between billions of neurons, various hormones and external stimuli whose emergent properties remain beyond our comprehension for the present.

  • As Violet Evergarden draws closer to its conclusion, Violet accepts an assignment to write for a soldier in an unstable region. She is air-dropped into the area and finds her client, Aiden Field, under fire from hostile elements, manages to rescue him and realises that he is injured. Doing her best to look after him, Violet also learns that Aiden was looking to return home to his family and longtime friend, Maria, whom he is in love with. She manages to write the letters for Aiden’s parents and Maria before he succumbs to his injuries.

  • I’ve chosen not to show very many combat or landscape moments in Violet Evergarden because the anime is about people. With this in mind, during the combat scenes, a variety of weapons from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century can be seen. Gilbert and Dietfried carry the Luger P08, while Brigadier General Merkulov uses a Colt M1911. During the Battle of Intense, Gilbert uses the Webley & Scott No. 1 Mk. III* Signal Pistol (Battlefield 1‘s spotting flare gun) to signal the fortress’ capture. Violet herself carries the Gewehr 98 into battle, and also uses an SMLE Mk. III during the Battle of Intense. The Carcano Carbine is also seen in the twelfth episode.

  • The CH Postal staff react to the revelation that Violet is safe. One element about Violet Evergarden I’ve not mentioned until now is the soundtrack – composed by Evan Call, an American-born composer who currently lives in Japan, the music of Violet Evergarden is beautiful and moving beyond words. It is perfectly suited for the world of Violet Evergarden, having a classical style that is reminiscent of the early twentieth century and fully captures the emotions in each scene. The only other soundtrack I know of that is comparable is the music to Battlefield 1: the World War One-like setting means that Battlefield 1 has all of the gear I need to create the Violet Evergarden loadout.

  • Maria and Aiden’s parents dissolve in tears after learning that Aiden has died, and Violet herself begins crying: she is able to feel the same pain that Maria and Aiden’s parents feel, wishing that she was able to protect him and bring him back. Aiden’s story in Violet Evergarden is meant to show that behind every gunsight is a human being – the men in war are people with family and loved ones back home. That Violet is able to connect with people fuels her sadness at having killed so many before. While en route back to CH Postal, Violet observes that the rail track below is being sabotaged, and she finds herself entangled in a plot to reignite the war.

  • Violet thus joins the efforts to stop rogue forces from destabilising the peace process and finds herself face-to-face with Dietfried, fending off the attackers before he saves her from certain death. Although he rebuffs her, Violet insists that she will live on and manages to draw fire off Dietfried, sustaining damage to her prosthetics in the process. While her efforts to remove the bombs from a critical bridge cost her her remaining arm, Violet is able to help stop the plot to start a new war, saving an untold number of lives.

  • I do not believe I’ve seen anywhere else the comparisons between Violet Evergarden and Battlefield 1: some folks felt that the entire setup on the train was implausible, but those with a more substantial history background will find that the decisions and choices in Violet Evergarden are not entirely inconsistent military doctrine of the early twentieth century. During this time period, trains remained the more common choice of transport for long distances over air travel, so it is not unrealistic for enemy factions to target rail lines.

  • Cattleya is instrumental in the peace process, working on the written proceedings of the official end of the war here. Returning the train of thought to Battlefield 1, I remark that the Violet Evergarden loadout, with its Gewehr 98, P08, spotting flare gun and stick grenade, is both very similar to LevelCap’s all-German rifleman loadout. I’ve run with the infantry Gewehr 98 previously, and kills with the ironsights are highly satisfying, but in general, the weapon is impractical at close range. With a muzzle velocity of 880 m/s, the Battlefield 1 incarnation is best used with optics for long-range engagements. It was a bit tricky to use the gun with its iron sights, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the P08, either, because of its low damage model. As a scout, I tend to roll with the SMLE Mk. III or Ross Mk. III in conjunction with the M1911. In short, the Violet Evergarden loadout isn’t too effective when compared against the top-tier scout setups in Battlefield 1.

  • Dietfried invites Violet to visit his and Gilbert’s mother; in a moving conversation, she reassures Violet that she does not hold Violet accountable for Gilbert’s death, and that some memories will endure within. Dietfried seems to have also shifted his views on Violet; after realising the extent of Gilbert’s influence on Violet, he concludes that Violet has become more than a mere weapon of war, as she’s now able to make her own choices and pursue her own desires.

  • I’ve heard that Violet Evergarden‘s anime incarnation differs dramatically from the original light novels, which amongst other things, feature a supernatural weapon. I’m not too sure what to make of it, but given how strongly the anime’s turned out, I’m not at all salty that the creative differences were made. From what little I know of the light novels, they are a bit confusing and diverge from how characters were presented in the anime adaptation; if true, then I would likely have enjoyed the novels to a lesser extent than I did the anime. We’re reaching the end of this post, which means it’s time to wrap up my thoughts, which have been all over the place, and then getting some shut-eye so in a few hours’ time, I can try a poutine for Poutine Week that’s so over the top, I’m not sure what to expect.

  • Violet Evergarden is a rather polarising series: it seems that if there is any one thing viewers can agree on, it’s that for every bit of praise directed towards its works, Kyoto Animation tends to draw a flack in equal measure. As such, when I say that Violet Evergarden is an A (9 of 10, which is highly enjoyable, but not enough to be “best anime of the season” or capable of changing my worldview), I will naturally have some people tell me I’m being too stringent with my grading and that Violet Evergarden should’ve done better, and others yet will say I was excessively generous. With this being said, it appears that my thoughts on Violet Evergarden are consistent with what other learned folks make of the series, and if you don’t like this, by all means, let me know. Having a flame war or two here would liven up my day the way only getting my entire squad wiped in The Division‘s legendary missions could.

Long considered one of the winter’s most anticipated anime, and having delivered a very powerful narrative, Violet Evergarden also exhibits superior animation, artwork, voice acting and incidental music pieces. Given the masterful use of lighting, shots, music and sound, Violet Evergarden‘s exceptional technical quality succeeds in immersing viewers into the world that Violet inhabits. In fact, the techniques Kyoto Animation has utilised to produce Violet Evergarden is of a standard that the anime seems at least five years ahead of anything else available: only Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name and Kyoto Animation’s very own works, Hibike! Euphonium and A Silent Voice, can compare from a technical standpoint. The top-tier technical components serve to really bring Violet Evergarden to life so that, when taken into consideration with the moving story that Violet goes through, results in an anime that does live up to expectations as being a work worth watching. While Violet Evergarden is immensely enjoyable, however, it is not flawless: its short runtime precludes fleshing out Violet’s experiences more thoroughly, as well as delving into world-building to a greater extent, and there was also a greater emphasis on tears. While initially devoid of emotion, Violet’s experiences allow her to be more expressive, and the anime primarily shows her crying her eyes out. Moving this may be, human emotions are rather more than just sorrow and tears, so I would’ve liked to see Violet in situations of happiness, as well: she’s portrayed as having a nice smile, and it would’ve been fantastic to see this more often. Beyond this, I greatly enjoyed Violet Evergarden, and have no trouble giving the series a strong recommendation for all audiences. As per one of my friends’ remarks, I would further recommend watching Violet Evergarden all at once: its execution is rather similar to that of a movie, and the emotional impact of this series is the strongest when episodes are watched one after another. Violet Evergarden can come across as being a bit disjointed, and so, watching episodes one after another allows the series’ momentum to be maintained. With this series proper over, and given that the light novels have concluded, it’s reasonable to say that Violet Evergarden ends on a high note: there is an OVA that is releasing in July, but beyond this, a continuation is not likely.