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Violet Evergarden(TV,2018) produced by Kyoto Animation, is as you would expect from KyoAni, an incredibly beautiful work in all its aspects. But beyond its physcal beauty, there is a beauty which lies deep in the story.
Violet Evergarden is ultimately about war, and what war does to human beings. Realism is not the point. That a 10 year old girl, Violet is found alone on a deserted island, and who then after the threat of rape, single handedly kills all the soldiers who land on the island leaving only Dietfried Bougainvillea alive, certainly is not “realistic”. Violet is almost a super-hero with super powers if taken literally, but of course that would be a serious mistake. There is nothing “realistic” about this setup. It is part of the “given” to establish the world of Evergarden, a garden in a very “realistic” sense.
Violet is all soldiers, in all wars throughout all of history. War is about killing large numbers of human beings because that is the only way to win a war.
Mother’s Basement review of Violet Evergarden
As Mother’s Basement makes clear in their review of Violet Evergarden, the whole training of a soldier is to destroy empathy for the enemy, otherwise a soldier would never be able to kill, if their human feelings were allowed to intrude.
Make no mistake. Violet Evergarden is all about war, and its aftermath. Violet herself stands in for the universal soldier who marches off to war with bangels and buttons, and loud Patriotic hurrahs, and if lucky perhaps some part of her/him returns home, damaged, neglected, and alone; traumatized and broken in some vital places.
But her Major, Gilbert Bougainvillea brings out the issue, “What is love?”, a very profound question, and if we as human beings fully knew the answer, it might revolutionize the Human Race.
And it is at this point that the artists behind Violet Evergarden, Director: Taichi Ishidate, Writer: Reiko Yoshida, and Original Story: Kana Akatsuki, now intend to stick the shiv into your heart, because at the core of the the story is a koan, an intricate puzzle. At his death, Major Gilbert, as his last will and testament tells Violet in EP 9 “I love you” (愛してる, Aishiteru), but Violet does not understand what that means.
The story of Violet Evergarden, is then the hero quest of Violet seeking to understand what that statement meant then, and means now. War, after all is said and done, is the absolute negation of love.
If one answers the question, “What is Love?”, then the urge to kill would disappear.
Violet like the girls in “Gunslinger Girl” kill without remorse or feelings of any kind. And this is used as shock value, because obviously in a realistic sense, little girls, women in general do not kill. World Wide murder rates by gender show that 96% of all murders are committed by males.
War is conducted and run, and participated in by males. Women in history have fought viciously in defense of home and children, but as military men remind, you cannot win a war by playing only defense. An army must attack with an ultimate, all encompassing force and power, if it is to win and end the war. Otherwise it bleeds on and on and on with no conclusive outcome, much like the American Civil War, or the Western Front of World War I, or the Eastern Front of World War II, consuming bodies of blood and tissue like a tank burns gasoline.
Then what is Violet Evergarden ultimately about?
Violet Evergarden is not an anti-war screed because its core is that of love, and finding that love, and coming to understand that love.
Love is the answer, surely, but we fail to know the exact question, for if we did, it would end all war.
Love depends upon empathy which is the organic connections humans make with other humans, and even non-humans and things. Generally speaking, the more empathy, the more love.
As Violet grows through the TV series, she gains some understanding of empathy, and these connections grow until they break like a wave on the beach in the magnificent EP10.
And in a slight of hand, Ms Yoshida, while telling a story of Violet gaining humanity, she is at the same time provoking the emphatic passion in her viewers, and hopefully creating an increase in feelings for others, by those touched by Violet’s Hero Quest. To be touched, is to feel, and is a door to open hearts.
While all of this is imaginary fantasy, the feelings that Violet provokes in her audience are certainly real, and if one feels a work of fiction, one feels in real life. If the story of Violet Evergarden lives on in your life, then there is at least the chance that love might be increased as the Sun rises in the East, The Horizon of Love.
The artistic structure of Violet Evergarden is two fold, first is the obvious that each EP is its own self-contained story, and that makes the series very episodic but there is also a larger story arc which is the character development of Violet herself. Each episode moves the larger story forward in the TV series as Violet struggles to understand “I love you.”
TV Series(2018) Violet Evergarden (ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデン)
EP [1,2,3,4,14,5,6,] The Praeludium
[7,[8,9,]10,] The Core
[8,9,] The Heart of the Core
[11,12,13] The Coda
NOTE: EP 14 is an OVA made after the TV series, but in story time comes between 4 and 5. EP 14 is not absolutely necessary but if you intend to watch it, then it would be best to place it in its story time slot between 4 and 5
MOVIE 1: Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll(2019)
Transcription: “Eien To Jidō Shuki Ningyō” (永遠と自動手記人形)
MOVIE 2: Violet Evergarden: The Movie(2020)
Transcription: “Gekijō-ban Vaioretto Evāgāden” (劇場版 ヴァイオレット・エヴァーガーデ)
EP [1,2,3,4,14,5,6,] The Praeludium
The anime begins with a standard Praeludium much like a symphony or a Jazz piece, where the composer establishes all the elements of his/her story, the themes, the tropes, the very language of the piece.
These 7 episodes are the preparation work for Violet to gradually come to understand something of feelings, and she begins to write excellent, heartfelt letters as she realizes the necessity of human connections and their quality.
The Praeludium is all story prep work, establishing the world of Violet Evergarden, and her character.
We see clearly Violet slowly change.
[7,[8,9,]10,] The Core A Symphonic Arc in four movements
The core Symphonic usage of all the elements of the Praeludium takes place in 4 movements.
This is the core and central establishment of the Violet story arc. The Heart of the Core is 8 and 9, and 7 and 10 act as framing stories for that heart.
吉田 玲子 (Reiko Yoshida) wrote the core EP’s 7-10, as well as EP 1,2,4,13 and the two Evergarden movies. She has written some of the most famous stories in Anime,
- A Silent Voice
- Liz and the Blue Bird
- Maria-sama ga Miteru
- Non-non Biyori,
- Tamako Market
[EP 7 – A Father’s Love
7 – A Father’s Love, the first movement as Violet leaps the pond stepping on leaves with Olivia’s frilly umbrella, and in gratitude, the Father, Oscar Webster gives Violet, Olivia’s umbrella
“Incredible piece of emotional animation with every piece in the frame in total motion!”
As one wag in the youtube comment section said, “The water here is more real, than real water!”
EP 7 is the left frame story of a playwright, Oscar Webster, who is trying to write a new play. He hires Violet to help with the transcription to text, but she brings much more. After suggesting a change in the plot of the play, she finds the core trope in a beautiful, frilly Blue umbrella which triggers Oscar’s emotional outburst. So Violet suggests further that she act out the jumping of the pond, stepping on leaf to leaf in order to cross while holding Olivia’s umbrella. And so we have that magnificent scene from the first video link which we presented, of Violet flying across the pond, and then skipping across leaf by leaf, yet that is not the point.
This is the vision of Oscar Webster and this is what he sees in his emotional mind as Violet is using the pond as a key to unlock certain closely guarded memories within him. So we are seeing through his eyes, and then ultimately, through his emotions, and as the depth of his hidden memories are stroked forward into consciousness, the emotions like a flood sweep over his soul, and we feel exactly what he is feeling. Oscars’s grief has held him imprisoned within, but now he is able to finish his play. In thanking Violet, he gives her Olivia’s umbrella which becomes Violet’s signature.
This is brilliant story telling, and it is why most fans of Violet Evergarden are so in thrall to this series. The Auto Memory Doll remembers more than what was actually packed into the story.
[EP 8 and 9]
Violet’s Military backstory – Very intense war violence unedited and in your face.
A return to the war and Violet’s backstory. Ep 7 and 10 intentionally frame the 2 movements in 8 and 9 “What does “I love you” mean?”
And now with EP 8 and 9, we return in a backstory to the war, and to the relationship between Violet and her Major, Gilbert Bougainvillea. This is edge of your seats, violent warfare action, but it is where Violet loses her arms and her Major, with the parting confession of love, from the dying Major “I love You” to the injured and bloody Violet who violently tries to save him before losing consciousness. These two combined, drive a red hot poker through your heart. No one is saved, and all is lost!
“Arms” are also weapons, and in losing her “arms”, Violet loses the weapons necessary to kill, and then “arms” are replaced with art and heart. This then becomes Violet’s hero quest to find out what her Major meant in the words, “I love you”.
EP10] – A Mother’s Love
There are not enough tissue boxes in the world to sustain one individual through all 14 TV EPs of Violet Evergarden, and especially EP 10.
A Mother’s Love, the final movement of the arc as Violet writes letters for Anna’s mother. This is the denouement of the Symphony where we see Violet come to terms and begin to understand the feelings of love. One of the most powerful, emotional 24 minutes in all story telling.
Number 10 is the right frame of an incredible single episode. If you read comments about this episode, you will see that it has reached epic, even legendary proportions. People who say that they have never cried in a movie before, breakdown in this one, and cry their eyes out. And we see what that experience of Anna and her mother, and of a Mother’s love for her daughter, has done to our Violet Evergarden. The very ending will gob-smack you. Not for the feint of heart. We have seen Anohana, Clannad Afterstory, Your Lie in April, Angel Beats, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Isshuukan Friends (One week friends), Nana, and even Kimi ni Todoke (From Me to You), but “Violet Evergarden” tops them all in the heart-feels department.
(You will need a couple of boxes of tissue for Episode 10
Loved Ones Will Always Watch Over You (愛する人はずっと見守っている) )
Anna comes to understand Mother Love, and in parallel, how Violet comes to understand the Horizon of Love through Anna’s heart. ((Mother Love X Anna) X Violet Evergarden)
[11,12,13] The Coda
The ending three episodes, form a coda or encore.
The story effectively ended with EP 10, but of course, we cannot end it there, as this would be much too abrupt. So we have a Coda, or Encore refrain of the war, only this time the violence is a Civil War between the War Faction and the Peace Faction. We clearly see in this Coda, how Violet has changed. Violet is instrumental in ending this Civil War through some non-violent methods, and we end the series with the signing of the Peace Treaty.
We are clearly shown that the answer to “What does “I love you” mean?” is not verbal, but must be lived out and applied in one’s day to day life.
And to celebrate, we have an Air Show, where letters are dropped from planes. Violet finally accepts that her Major is dead, and she writes him a letter. Violet now sees the Horizon. She has answered her question and by ending the Civil War, she shows clearly that she now has the answer.
In 10, we saw the emotions in their raw form, but in this ending, we see how those emotions have changed Violet forever. If you feel the Empathy of Love, if you see the Horizon, then you too can and will end all war and hatred forever.
There are of course, two Violet Evergarden movies which put the new Violet on full display, but strangely these are not necessary to the story arc of the TV series of 14 episodes, described above.
Both movies are nice, and satisfy, one’s hunger for more Violet, but are really just add-ons. Movie 1 is tangential to the story arc of Violet, while Movie 2 does add a new ending which puts the final closure on the Violet Evergarden story.
Being KyoAni, the quality is very high, but this reviewer found the movies to be unnecessary although many people like them. MAL ranks Movie 1 at 8.4 and Movie 2 at 8.66 where they ranked the TV series at 8.64
Movie 1: Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll(2019)
This first movie is not especially stellar. Violet Evergarden plays almost a supporting role in this story of Amy and Taylor Bartlett. Violet is present and she has an effect, but it is not really her story, and the movie does very little for her story arc.
Violet is employed as a live-in tutor for Isabella York to prepare for her presentation to society. This constitutes the first half of the story, and is rather moving and beautiful. Isabella is at first, put off by Violet, but warms to her over time, until there is considerable affection for Violet when Violet leaves after the Presentation Party and dance. Isabella used to be known as Amy Bartlett, living in dire poverty with an adopted sister, Taylor Bartlett. The York family removes Amy and renames her Isabella, but Taylor is sent to an orphanage. The second half of the movie is about Taylor, and this is where there is some considerable problems with the story of the Bartletts. Little Taylor is almost comical, and looks like a character straight out of a Ghibli film, plucky, unstoppable, determined, all the characteristics which Miyazaki likes in his female leads. But that is the problem. It is hard to take Taylor seriously because she does not feel tragic, and of course, the movie ends happy ever after.
Movie 2: Violet Evergarden: The Movie(2020)
Unseen by Pywackett Productions. Good, non-spoiler review at ANN
The bottom line is that “Violet Evergarden: The Movie” also ends happy ever after. And most people appear to very much enjoy this concluding chapter in Violet’s life. We have no criticism of that. Tastes in art are for each individual to enjoy as they see fit.
For a continued discussion of forms of love, please see
© 2021 Folcwine P. Pywackett (w159)