Rachael started this blog as an anime review blog in 2010. It has since branched out into other topics.
What is love? Many people have a hard time understanding this emotion. In Violet Evergarden, Violet is an orphan and child soldier. She doesn't feel like she has a purpose after the war ends. Her commander, whom she looked up to, is now gone. Before dying, Violet heard him say that he loved her. But she was confused about what this meant, having never heard the word 'love.'
In search of the meaning of love, she begins to work as a typist for a small company that composes letters of sentimental value for clients. Through learning how the "Automatic Memory Dolls," the name for the typists, make letters that express clients' feelings, she hopes to learn to understand feelings.
At first, Violet doesn't seem qualified to be a Memory Doll. She's a whiz at typing, but it takes more than that to write letters that express feeling. It's hard for Violet to "read between the lines"—she interprets things very literally. She also begins with a soldier-like mentality in her approach to her job. She's used to thinking in terms of direct orders, and not used to doing things because she wants to. This helps as well as harms her. On the one hand, it makes her a diligent worker, but she also lacks many of the soft skills necessary for work that is emotionally sensitive in nature.
She goes to a school for "Automatic Memory Dolls," and while she's an excellent transcriptionist, she realizes that's not enough to make her a great Doll. A Doll's job involves understanding nuances of expressing emotion. At the school, Violet helps her friend write a letter that will get through to the friend's brother. That's how Violet writes her first letter that can express a person's feelings.
A few more episodes proceed as Violet becomes a more confident Doll. One episode is devoted to Iris, a coworker of Violet's. We get to see Iris return to her family home in the country for her birthday, and Violet helps her convey her feelings to her family more honestly. But the series going forward focuses on Violet and once-an-episode side characters she helps as clients.
The series explores Violet's haunting memories of the war. Her past trauma interferes with her desire for happiness in the present. The series culminates with Violet defending peace from a terrorist faction that wants to revive the war. By the end of the series, Violet has not only learned to understand other people's emotions, but also her own. She has also become more confident and made peace with her violent past.
Light Novel by Kana Akatsuki, illustrated by Akiko Takase
Movie in 2020, OVA Episode
Violet Evergarden is a sweet anime that sometimes gets boring. Certain specific episodes are much stronger than others. Overall, it's a good series, but it's mainly best for people who already like historical romance. The alternate history setting is a little awkward. For no reason, an imaginary alphabet is used instead of Roman letters. But everything otherwise resembles Germany around World War One, similar to the setting of Fullmetal Alchemist. In the absence of magic, one wonders why the author even bothered creating a fantasy world. You're not going to see elves or magical swords. It comes across as odd worldbuilding, like it should have been set in Europe after either of two World Wars, but was not.
Women's roles are an important theme in the story. The country is on the cusp of modernization. Many women wear traditional, formal, Victorian-style dresses and have the formal manners to match. Women are not seen as equal to men, as painfully evidenced by the episode in which some Automatic Memory Dolls are hired to assist some schoolboys, but they have to show deference to their male colleagues.
Women like Cattleya, their boss, a former dancer turned Memory Doll and manager of other Dolls, represents a more modern, libertine sense of womanhood. But her being the only woman wearing sexually provocative clothing, while also being the only non-white woman, is a bit problematic.
This series is sweet, romantic, and emotionally evocative. I hope that the second season, which has been confirmed, gives us more back story for more of the side characters.
Rating for Violet Evergarden: 7/10
Questions & Answers
Question: Is Gilbert alive at the end of Violet Evergarden?
Answer: I don't remember that well, but TV Tropes said in the novels, he was alive but only allowed Violet to think he was dead. In the anime he is M.I.A. and assumed to be dead, but Violet believes he is alive somewhere. And the anime implies he is the client she meets at the end, but it's not as clear as the novels.
Question: Why do you assume that Cattleya from Violet Evergarden is non-white? If anything, I would have said Iris is, together with one of the students attending the course for Dolls who seems to be Asian (a blink and you'll miss the character, I admit) and Leon's mother, who might have some kind of "Romany" heritage.
Answer: It's mostly her accessories and overly sexualized depiction, which is similar to how gypsies are depicted in other anime, like Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa. Violet Evergarden takes place in a setting similar to early 20th century Germany following WWI, just like that movie. Iris might have a tan, but she doesn't resemble any ethnic stereotypical representation I've noticed from other anime in a similar setting. That's the main difference.
© 2018 Rachael Lefler