Violet Evergarden takes place on the continent of Telesis where a civil war was fought for years. There is practically no one that you will meet in this series who wasn't impacted by the war in some way or another. The first episode begins in a quiet hospital where a blonde girl is recuperating from injuries she sustained in one of the final battles of the war. She expects her direct commander to be waiting for her when she is finally discharged but instead she is greeted by a different officer.
This new officer (who actually isn't an officer anymore since the war is over) takes her to his business and that's where Violet first sees the Auto Memories Dolls whose job it is to take the feelings of ordinary people and convert them into letters which are then delivered. Thinking that this would be a good place to figure out the meaning behind the final words that the major spoke to her, Violet becomes an auto memories doll and attempts to figure out different feelings based on the people who request her services.
The Good and the Bad
I might be totally wrong about this but in my imagination, I like to think that Netflix just backed a dump truck full of money to the doorstep of Kyoto Animation and said, “Go nuts.” Because that's honestly what it felt like as I watching this series.
Violet Evergarden is arguably one of the most beautiful series that Kyoto Animation has ever produced. And I'm not just talking about the animation but also the character designs, the backgrounds, the music (oh, we are so going to get into that later). Everything about this series projects an aura of beauty that you can't help but be drawn into the series and become so very attached to the main character.
While the first couple of episodes move a little slowly (it takes a while before Violet actually becomes an auto memories doll and it takes even longer than that for her to actually become good enough at it that people start to request her services), the overall pace of the show is strong and tells the story at a very steady pace throughout.
If you want to strip this series down to its nuts and bolts, this is a love story. This is a story about an officer who was given an orphan girl, ordered to make her into a weapon, and then discard her when she was too scarred to be of any more use in battle. Instead, the officer nurtures her, teaches her how to read and write, and even loves her. The problem is that Violet doesn't understand what love is and that is her overall journey throughout this series: to interact with as many people as possible and learn via their feelings what “I love you” means.
Now, it's easy to dismiss this theme as saccharine drivel. However, master writer Reiko Yoshida (whom you might recall from her work on Aria the Animation, Bakuman, K-ON, and many others) dives into this theme and delivers a script that is powerful and poignant. As each episode passes, Violet learns that people express love in so many different ways, using so many different words but they all mean essentially the same thing.
However, the storytelling does run into problems in the final third as the last four episodes feel very disjointed. Without giving away too much about what actually happens, I will say that the conclusion to the major romantic storyline was wrapped up way too quickly. When I saw the ending to this story happening at the end of episode nine, I was instantly confused and checked to see if that was the end of the series. Nope! Instead, we get that incredibly emotional and powerful climax only for it to be followed by a one-off story about a dying mother which is followed by a mini story arc which is filled with lots of fight scenes. It felt very out of order and took away from what had up to that point been a very sweet and emotional series.
Before I saw this series, I had never heard of composer Evan Call before. Apparently, though he's done quite a few soundtracks including Big Order and Kamigami no Asobi. Matching the lush animation that is placed against, I couldn't imagine the soundtrack for this series to be any more perfectly matched. Made up mostly of piano melodies, the soundtrack is light and airy which matches the gentleness of the artwork perfectly.
The opening and closing themes aren't nearly as memorable, sadly, but the soundtrack will stick with you for days after you're done with this series and should be added to your portable music device of choice just for good measure.
According to Netflix, people in the US prefer to binge watch their series which is why just about everyone in the freaking world got this series before we did. As much as I hate to admit it, though, I don't think I would've enjoyed this series nearly as much if I had been watching it weekly. Being able to take in three or four episodes at a time was perfect for me and I think that many others are going to find that their experience with this series is much the same.
Violet Evergarden is a series that is best taken in something that would equal a bit more than a bite full at a time. Any less than that and you won't be satisfied but any more than that and you risk being overwhelmed by everything that this series attempts to deliver into your brain.
As I stated before, the series does suffer a bit in the final third so be wary of that hiccup but other than that this is a series that is going to be talked about towards the end of the year when it's time to discuss which series was the best of the best. Fans of beautiful production quality and slice of life programs should go out of their way to watch this one.