The anime follows the titular character, Violet Evergarden, as she explores the world and learns how to live among civilians in a post-war society. She had been raised in the military since childhood, and knows almost nothing except for war. After participating in a four year war that cost Violet both of her arms and claimed the life of her beloved military superior, Major Gilbert, she is finally discharged from the military. With that, she is left with only the Major’s final wish and order: for her to live a life outside of the military. With little knowledge outside of the military, Violet has to find her way around a world that is unfamiliar to her. She is not without support though. Characters like the current President of the CH Postal Company, Claudia Hodgins, help Violet achieve her goal of becoming an Auto Memory Doll, one of a group of talented women who transcribe letters for those who are unable to write, but who also complete military-related tasks. For Violet, being an Auto Memory Doll is a step to helping her understand her feelings and emotions better.
Violet Evergarden’s backdrop harkens back to the European style from the 1800s-1900s, where typical attire includes boots and long day gowns. Additionally, the show includes one scene where a boat similar to the ill-fated Titanic sets sail while Violet was traveling from the hospital to Leiden. Aside from the historical references, the animation struck me as detailed and well-thought out; each character and scene seemed to be meticulously drawn, especially Gilbert’s and Violet’s eyes, which were the windows to their souls. Their eyes often displayed expressions that they rather not let their faces betray, and we have the animators to thank for breathing emotion into these characters.
What struck a chord in my heart was the relationship between Violet and Major Gilbert. She saw him not only as a mentor and military superior, but also as someone who she loved with all her heart, even though she did not know what the feeling of “love” was. She even stated in the first episode that she was willing to do almost anything and everything for him, and spoke of herself as the “Major’s device”. It was evident that Gilbert cared and possibly loved her as well; from hugs, to buying an emerald brooch for her, and even going so far as to say “aishiteru” to Violet during the war. “Aishiteru” itself is a very strong word, used to denote extremely deep love for someone in Japanese culture.
The thing that made me want to tear up was that Gilbert wanted Violet to live on even though he is no longer by her side. The special bond between them is shown most prominently in the flashbacks of the war, where a critically injured Gilbert tells Violet to “live freely, and run freely” in the world. He wants Violet to have a life outside of the military once the war is over, rather than she keep working in the military and completing missions until she is “discarded”. To make sure she had a smooth transition into society after the war, he meticulously planned for the best people to take care of Violet after she was discharged. It is evident that he wanted her to live on regardless of what happened to him. If they did not have that special bond, he probably would have treated her like any other soldier, and would not have showered so much care on her. All these show the deep, mutual, and unshakeable bond that both share.
Something notable was that Violet had little to no knowledge of many social norms, or life in general. She initially navigates her way around using what she had learnt from the military. When she is first accepted as an employee at Hodgins’s postal company and asked to change into the uniform, Violet immediately undresses in front of the postman in charge of her. The postman, Benedict, panics and screams at her but is too late with his warning, and shields his eyes instead. Violet, being in the military for most part of her life, most likely had no privacy among her comrades while changing clothes, which explains why she didn’t know better than to change in front of the opposite gender.
Another example of Violet’s lack of social norms knowledge is seen during the end of her first day of work. Imagine when someone tells you, a postman in training, to make deliveries to the people, but you do it at night anyway, presuming it has to be done immediately. That was what happened in the first episode! Benedict had expected Violet to do it the next day, but it turns out that Violet was doing the deliveries at night instead. Typically, mail is sent in the day as the working hours of a postman are in the day, while the resting hours are from the evening to the next morning. This points to the lack of general knowledge that Violet has of society, but it could also refer to Violet’s habit of finishing the job quickly and efficiently like she has been taught to do so in the military.
Despite her quirks, Violet is definitely a character that I admire. She steps out of her comfort zone and takes whatever life throws at her in her stride, despite being completely new to everything. She did not understand what “love” was, but she was willing to learn and become a more adept person in society. She also tried to complete tasks quickly and efficiently. This willingness to learn struck me as Violet being an extremely hardworking and eager- to-learn person, who tries to resolve her problems on her own. She is also an independent and determined person, as evidenced by the time that she was in hospital. Though she had little strength in her body, she tried to get out of bed to walk, despite knowing that she most likely will be unable to do so. It was refreshing to see a strong female character for a change, where she prides herself on her capability to work and being able to contribute, instead of relying on the male to help her all the time.
Violet Evergarden is airing on Netflix Japan and simulcasting on Netflix UK and Canada in January 2018. It would eventually air to the whole world in Spring 2018, and this anime will definitely not disappoint its fans. As a highly anticipated anime of 2018, Violet Evergarden has scores of fans waiting for its release and for good reason; it won me over with the war backstory, the bond between Gilbert and Violet, and the interactions between the various characters. It has kept me wanting to not only find out more about Violet’s past, but to also see how she progresses in a new society that she is suddenly thrown into without warning. Let us remember that sometimes we are the Violets of our own story, trying to navigate through this world and exploring our own identity outside of what we are familiar with; all while keeping the people who have had an unshakeable bond with us in our hearts.
Concept sketch and artwork from the Violet Evergarden exhibit at C3AFA 2017 in Singapore.