So Very Beautiful
The stunningly depicted and long-awaited anime, Violet Evergarden: The Movie (2021) has finally made it to UK cinemas, passing through so quickly you may miss it if you pause.
If you haven’t yet caught the series and subsequent movies (all Netflix) you absolutely should. For a taste, see the 2018 write-up on Violet Evergarden, where we gave it a highly rare 10/10! But you don’t need to have watched it to enjoy the movie. It opens with a short, sharp synopsis, taking you into the heart of the story.
In case it’s your first time with our heroine, Violet Evergarden follows the story of a child solider who starts with nothing and by war’s end, has even less. She loses both her arms, her revered leader Major Gilbert, and her sense of self.
The series launches with Violet in recovery and takes us through her return to the living. She’s helped by Claudia, a friend of the Major – arranged before the final battle. She takes the job of Auto Memory Doll, a ghost letter writer in an era when many aren’t able to write. Her role, endlessly fascinating to her, is to translate her client’s innermost feelings into written form.
The movie picks up the storyline covering strands of present and past. The shadowed present starts with the familiar theme of grief. The great-granddaughter of one of Violet’s clients finds a box of old letters. Daisy, agonized over losing her grandmother, embarks on a journey to find out about the famed Auto Memory Doll who penned those letters from great-grandmother to grandmother.
She becomes captivated by Violet’s story, discovering that her achievements had been awarded during a festival. As the view shifts from Daisy’s Auto Memory Doll tour to Violet, we find her right where we left her. A number one Doll striving to understand human sentiment – her own included – and render it through mere words.
As we’re absorbed into Violet’s world, she sticks to type, unaffected by the glorious celebrations. Instead, she reverts to the comfort zone of her work schedule. We re-meet her friends from the series who are well aware of her continued anguish over losing the Major.
They worry about her inability to move on and what that means for her future. Claudia, a default father to Violet, struggles between both wanting to guide her and respect her privacy.
While many of the previous stories focus on Violet learning about emotion through her clients, this movie intensely zeros-in on her own experience. Here, she attempts to articulate her feelings in the form of letters to the deceased Major. If you’ve been following, you’ll be gratified to see she applies what she’s picked up.
She continues to honour Major Gilbert by visiting his mother’s grave, where she again comes face-to-face with the Major’s brother. With this meeting, Violet begins another journey – but this one all her own.
Writer Reiko Yoshida emotively presents the struggle with loss and how that affects someone who’s grown up with very little support. One of the series writers, she’s known for a number of additional works including K-On! (Crunchyroll), Bakuman (Hulu), as well as Blue Exorcist: The Movie and A Silent Voice (Netflix, Amazon), both of which illustrate characters outside of society.
Master of the pregnant pause, Kyoto Animation Director Taichi Ishidate is not afraid of a still or silent moment, artfully building the drama then letting it rest between moments, like a slow, deep breath.
In a news piece reported on Anime News Network (spoiler on linked story), Ishidate comments that he’d never intended to create a sequel to Violet Evergarden, believing that the story had run its course. But then he saw a script written by Reiko Yoshida and changed his thinking. Without spoilering, he became convinced that this movie could be about Violet’s road.
Massive kudos for this movie as while appreciating gorgeous landscapes and powerful moments, you completely forget it’s an anime. However, in thinking about it analytically, there’s a question around the great-granddaughter Daisy strand – though very nice – is it necessary?
It points out that even though the world moves on with telephones and radio towers, making Auto Memory Dolls redundant, Violet managed to find her place. It proves out through the Postal Museum on the site of the previous Post Office.
But it doesn’t stitch the present in often enough to make a solid link. One or perhaps even two more little weaves to the present could have made this story hang perfectly. So absorbing is Violet’s adventure that you forget the ‘present’ storyline and come back to it with a jolt.
While playing a piece in confirming the memory of Violet lives on, it doesn’t reveal exactly how things end. It elegantly leaves much to our imagination but reveals enough for us to feel satisfied and uplifted. The more vital part of the story – the focus on Violet – can certainly stand on its own. And, like she always has, she does it beautifully.
Catch this in theaters if you can, as it truly flourishes on the big screen.
Caught the movie or the series? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the it or feedback on this story in the comment section below!