What does it mean to “love” someone? What does it mean to come to terms with loss? What does it mean to emote, feel, and grow? The answers to these questions may be subjective and hard to find, but there was a show last season that attempted to answer these questions in a beautifully rendered tale about a young war child. Loss, love, reconciliation and growth are the themes of the winter 2018 anime Violet Evergarden.
The story is set in a fictional Victorian era world at war. The aesthetic of the world has been beautifully mastered and assists the plot through and through. The somber harmony of the series is accompanied by a melody of discovery and introspection.
Violet Evergarden is an orphan who was raised by an army as a deadly killing machine. She seems to feel no emotion and treats orders as a way of life. Without spoiling anything, Violet Evergarden portrays the journey of Violet post-war. Violet finds a job as a letter-writer who puts another’s thoughts to words and discovers her internal wounds by helping other people come to terms with their own trauma. As a veteran of war, she ventures forth to understand emotion and find meaning in a new life. The story makes it obvious about what it is trying to achieve and achieves it near-perfectly. The brilliant character design allows every character encounter to add something new to Violet’s perspective and in turn, the viewer’s. The story and the characters are the primary reasons to watch this show.
Violet Evergarden is made by Kyoto Animation and the studio’s work is absolutely stunning. The animation is movie-scale and the attention to detail is such that the show tells you little self-contained stories in every frame. The visual direction is an apex of the “show, don’t tell” philosophy of storytelling. The characters make it so obvious through body language about the problems at hand. The show conveys more through action than through words but when the words do show up, they demand the viewer to let their guard down, eliciting the rawest kind of emotion. This show is a top contender for best visual direction and writing this year.
The audial direction is definitely above average, but not the best. The moments of silence in heated frames and the use of diegetic sounds is where the audio of the show shines the brightest. Even so, it is hard to notice these shortcomings because the show is executed so well.
Violet Evergarden is a roller coaster of feels. And it is a ride that has many well-designed loops and turns and drops that will surely catch the viewer on their touchy side. In a time when the industry is saturated with mediocre content, this show is an example of the glimmering possibilities that are ripe to explore. Everything from ideation, direction and execution has set new benchmarks for seasonal anime in the near future. It also helps that this anime is on Netflix, a sign of support from the western market promoting an industry in its tough times. This show is top quality content. Taking time after an episode to digest or even consuming an episode with attentive eyes could elevate the experience drastically. Don’t watch this when you’re half-asleep, don’t watch this while doing homework. Give it your time because it truly deserves it.