Violet Evergarden is one of my favorite anime because of its brilliant storytelling and beautiful animation and art. It is one of Kyoto Animation’s (or KyoAni) best works of 2018, scoring awards from the Tokyo Anime Awards, Crunchyroll, and our own Anime Trending Awards. Both the series and spin-off movie were well-received by our writers as well. The show was a clear testament to Kyoto Animation’s animation skills, and the emotional yet touching stories gave Violet Evergarden a special place in my heart. It was with this love for the anime that I headed to the theater for Violet Evergarden: the Movie. Unlike other reviews, please note that this review will contain some spoilers.
The essence of Violet Evergarden has always been its plot, and the 2020 movie is no exception. The movie weaves the stories of three people together: Daisy, the granddaughter of Ann from the series’ highly emotional tenth episode, a terminally ill boy named Yurith, and Violet herself. Violet is an Auto Memory Doll who entered the profession after being discharged from the army and helps others write letters while trying to find out the meaning of “I love you.” Even though the movie is a sequel to the anime series, it does a good job of introducing the world of Violet Evergarden to first-time watchers. The movie briefly reviews the purpose and history of Auto Memory Dolls, and smoothly integrates scenes from the series to serve as effective flashbacks and background for the franchise.
While I enjoyed the trajectories of the characters’ respective journeys, the experience felt too lengthy and draggy at times, especially in comparison to the Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memories Doll spin-off movie. Violet Evergarden: the Movie’s choice to focus on three separate groups of characters and two-hour length made the characters’ emotions feel more diluted and less visceral than the spinoff, which had a 90-minute run and a tighter focus in contrast. Perhaps that is why I didn’t end up crying as much as I expected to.
However, I still found the three stories to be meaningful, as the movie showed the three characters healing in their various ways and ultimately making peace with themselves. For Violet, the movie concludes her healing process, where she was greatly saddened and hurt from losing Gilbert, her beloved army major and the only person who cared for her, at the start of the anime series. Throughout the franchise, we see how her determination to understand the words “I love you,” lead her to become an Auto Memory Doll, where she learns about emotions and its nuances as she aids others in expressing their feelings through letters. This not only made her mature emotionally, but it also helped her cope with the grief of losing Gilbert.
The culmination of this journey is laid out in Violet Evergarden: the Movie. Violet has clearly matured as an Auto Memory Doll, as she is now a confident lady who can openly express herself with jokes and sarcastic remarks. This is a strong contrast to her awkward, socially isolated self at the start of the anime series. Yet she still thinks about Gilbert because of how he was her sole support even while she was socially isolated by the military, and how she feels guilty for not being able to save him. Thus, when he is discovered to be alive, she insists on seeing him at least once, because she misses him that much.
Considering how Gilbert was a great influence to Violet and how much he meant to her, his return is something I appreciated as Violet could finally make peace with her past. However, Violet’s behavior in the 2020 movie contrasts with her portrayal in the spin-off movie, where she seemed to have moved on from Gilbert’s supposed death. I found this conflict as odd because this feels like a step back from Violet’s portrayal in the spin-off movie. It could be that the spinoff movie’s focus was more about the female lead that Violet was aiding, whereas in the 2020 movie the creators wanted to dive back into Violet and her inner turmoil. Nonetheless, the conclusion of the 2020 movie showcasing Violet’s happy ending made me enjoy the movie so much that I forgave that difference.
A KyoAni anime review would not be complete without mentioning its art or animation. True to KyoAni’s reputation, the movie is well-illustrated with gorgeous watercolor backgrounds and beautifully designed characters. For example, there was a scene showcasing numerous bougainvillea flowers that looked like they were straight out of a realistic painting of them. It looked so breathtaking that I would print and frame the scene up on my wall. While some of the character models seemed to have a drop in quality between frames and distracted me during those moments, it was overall an aesthetically pleasing animated movie. The animation too did a great job in conveying the characters’ emotions through hauntingly beautiful and emotional eyes.
The soundtracks in the Violet Evergarden series have always elevated the franchise. What hit me the most was the use of the series’ ending song “Michishirube” (literally translated as “Guidepost”) in the movie. Although it’s a familiar song, it still brought forth a powerful well of emotions due to its effective pairing with some of the most emotional scenes in the movie. The one translated line from “Michishirube” that really stuck in my mind was the line, “Your voice is my guiding light,” for Violet truly saw Gilbert as her guiding light even while he wasn’t beside her. This made for a layer of heart-wrenching emotion that caused me to tear up in the theater.
While I only teared up rather than outright bawled as I expected, I still loved the movie for how Violet’s journey turned out. Without giving too much away, the movie ties up much of the loose ends from the entire franchise. It warmed my heart to see how Violet has grown throughout the franchise, almost as if I’ve seen a child becoming comfortable with themselves. Considering how she was an unsure, awkward girl with little knowledge of societal norms and expectations at the start of the series, her confidence and ability to handle situations maturely in the 2020 movie is a testament to Violet’s journey of growth. If you want to experience Violet’s happiness, stick around for a satisfying pull at your heartstrings in the post-credits scene.
Note: Violet Evergarden the Movie is set to stream on Netflix from October 13, 2021. The author watched the movie in Southeast Asia in 2020.