It has been two years since the arson attack on Kyoto Animation, which tragically resulted in the deaths of 36 people — may those souls rest in peace. Through both domestic and international support, this animation studio continues to thrive with upcoming works through film and television. Although they are perhaps best known for 2016’s A Silent Voice, they have revisited one other creation that deserves as much as love if not more so: Violet Evergarden.
Originally a light novel series which was then adapted as an anime television series, Violet Evergarden follows the eponymous heroine on a journey to be reintegrated back into society after the war is over, and her search for her life’s purpose now that she is no longer a soldier who has lost her mentor and guardian. The show explores how Violet, through working among Auto Memory Dolls (an industry of writing letters for others), learned to find her humanity through the many stories of her clients.
Although there was a cinematic spin-off to the show — Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll — this latest feature serves as a sequel to the show that gives closure to Violet’s journey by telling not only one, but three interconnected tales. In the opening framing device to The Movie, a young woman, who is dealing with the loss of her grandmother, stumbles upon the letters sent to her grandmother during her birthday. She becomes curious about the legend of Violet Evergarden. More than half a century ago, whilst Violet received a request from a terminally ill boy to write letters for his family, the president of the CH Postal Company that Violet works for, finds a mail with a vague address on it and recognizes the handwriting to be from the presumably-dead soldier who took care of her.
Unlike the Demon Slayer movie that was aimed exclusively towards its own fanbase, you can approach Violet Evergarden: The Movie as a standalone piece as the filmmakers give you enough context for the world-building and Violet’s backstory without going into a full-blown recap of the show that came before it. However, those who are not previously acquainted with the world of Violet Evergarden should know that there is intense emotion in the stories, some of which is rooted from loss during wartime. Even Violet’s origin story, which the movie flashes back to, does not hold back on the brutality and tragedy that comes out of war.
With three interconnected narratives, all told within a running time of 140 minutes, the pacing can be slow and there will be something in all of these tales to pull the heart strings. Nonetheless, if you can get through the tragedy, you will also witness one of the uplifting movies to grace the silver screen. In the background the world is slowly becoming more technologically advanced with the expansion of the telephone and the profession of the Auto Memory Doll will become obsolete. Instead of the characters dreading some impending fate they have to embrace the here-and-now and bring out the best in themselves as well as others. That level of optimism ends up being a contributing factor to the central narratives in how the three protagonists, not just Violet, have to mature during their emotional turmoil.
Having produced a number of films since 2009, even the studio’s breathtaking animation on television has a cinematic quality that can rival the spectacle of most Disney animated flicks. Violet Evergarden’s visual storytelling is built on a slow-burning atmosphere; from the European-inspired architecture to the extensive green fields there is such attention to detail while the cinematography is done through a sunny haze. Despite the studio’s recent tragedy, the film itself feels like an artistic tribute to animators that we lost and to those who are present to continue the great work.
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