I have all the confidence that with a beginning like this, Violet Evergarden is definitely going to live up to its hype. I honestly haven’t seen so much hype for an anime in a significant duration of time. And – by the way – this review is 100% serious. I promise.
Recovery from trauma: with such a successful fantastical setting, it’s unusual that Violet Evergarden chooses loss and reconciliation after the war as its focus rather than have events build up to the great war itself. I think it shows us that no matter how it’s dressed up, trauma is still trauma, and no glorious war can justify the damage it creates. Violet herself is unaware of how the war has damaged her as a person, but through her emotionally-charged flashbacks and Colonel Hoggins’ sympathetic POV, we are made to feel a pang of pity for her. Thankfully, from the tone of the episode, I can say that this is not a “the world is horrible and people should all die” show (which describes all too many anime), but one focused on the idea of healing. It’s comparable to Mahoutsukai no Yome, but I find myself preferring Violet Evergarden‘s subtlety.
Distinguishing between human & machine: with the first episode featuring a protagonist with body parts replaced by machinery and introducing us to the position of “Auto Memory Dolls,” we can be sure that human vs. imitation of human is going to be central to the series. And then we have Violet struggling with the concepts of love and free will – things humans often associate themselves with. A character inexperienced with feelings trying to define love…it’s such an overused storyline, but with how impeccably Violet is characterized during the episode, I’m already compelled by her journey of discovery.
Past-driven narrative: this is my prediction anyways. Violet and Colonel Hoggins both appear to be heavily affected by guilt, among other complex feelings, from the past – Violet due to her being alive but being unable to serve Major Gilbert, and Colonel Hoggins due to his having turned a blind eye on Violet’s inhumane upbringing in the past. While eager to see Violet adjust to her new life with all these friendly people, it’s her past that I’m the most curious about after the episode. The anime can hurl flashbacks at you without warning, but takes special care in making sure that you still understand what’s happening by the end of the episode. I especially appreciate how the flashback with Major Gilbert being fatally wounded was repeated, each time with a bit more information so that it still feels gripping each time.
Endearing: By endearing, I’m obviously talking about Violet the most. She’s framed as a machine-like human in this episode, but falls more into the category of Wall-E than…I don’t know, some creepy android. She’s naive, brutally honest, and takes everything at a literal level (she doesn’t get similes either). Violet may be the waifu of the season.
Sweet cast: Everyone else named in the episode left a pleasant impression on me. Claudia/Colonel Hoggins, Benedict, Mrs. Evergarden… The friendly, understanding people are what shape the somewhat-iyashikei atmosphere, and are what make it possible for Violet to heal and grow as a human. Each of the characters interests me, and I would love to see a character arc on any of them. Oh, and I do hope to see more of Gilbert even if just in memories…he seems to be the key to understanding Violet as well as a whole lot of things.
Gorgeous designs: well, you can’t really expect less given the PV. I’m a huge sucker for 19th century/Victorian-esque fashion. I didn’t know low ponytails could be so charming until I saw Violet (I’m gonna wear my hair in a low and loose ponytail from now). Both the characters’ designs as well as the setting won me over as soon as that letter started magically drifting through the streets. One thing I did find odd was how the shots got blurry at random during the first few minutes. I’m not sure if it’s done for effect (Violet recovering her vision in the hospital?), but it’s a beautiful place and I want to see it in all its clarity!
Subtle: KyoAni sure takes little body movements seriously. No movement is mundane. The best example I can think of is how Colonel Hoggins’ slight twitch of the hand and how he puts them into his pockets altogether as he speaks shows us that he’s lying about Major Gilbert being alive and well. Despite dealing with harsh and potent issues, the anime doesn’t hammer anything into you.
Evocative music: It’s rare that I notice OSTs in anime (especially in first episodes), but the OST accompanying the fluttering letter left an impression on me. The composer is Evan Call, whom I haven’t actually heard of before but whom people seem to see lots of promise in. The OSTs are hopeful, light, and fairy tale-like. I am reminded a bit of Yuki Kajiura.
Kiki’s Delivery Service?: Because she delivers letters, right? Girl welcomed into a new world where she delivers packages of love from person to person, with self-discovery happening along the way. I enjoyed Kiki’s Delivery Service, so I wouldn’t mind seeing something like it again. I doubt it’ll go in that direction though – there seems to be a lot more underlying darkness in this anime.
Though I got a little skeptical when I saw people’s glowing praise towards the show before I actually watched it, this review marks that I have joined that side as well. Hmm…is it really alright to have such a positive review? Something about the idea of it feels wrong. Maybe I’ve been influenced by all the positive comments I’ve seen before starting the show, but nothing negative really stands out to me. Share your thoughts in the comments to see if you can change my mind!