Violet Evergarden is a 2018 anime about a young woman recovering from the experience of being one of the best soldiers in a war that doesn’t matter any more, and finding ways to fill the hollowness that follows. Based on a set of light novels written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase, it was turned into an anime by Kyoto Animation, written by industry veteran and kind of titanic presence, Reiko Yoshida.
This is really wild, by the way – this is basically the main work done by Akatsuki and Takase, but Yoshida wrote the screenplay for The Cat Returns, Digimon The Movie, the OAV series Saiyuki, Scrapped Princess, School Rumble, Genshiken, A Silent Voice and she was the script supervisor for K-On! and this is just the stuff I think you’re most likely to recognise by name. Like, this is someone’s first-major-success light novel that got picked up by a big studio for a Netflix release with the writing being handled by a twenty-five year veteran of the anime industry.
What resulted was a visually sumptuous anime, with worldbuilding that sought to explain uneasy peace between city-states negotiationg the aftermath of a war, and how people in those places were both affected, and unaffected by it. I found it challenging to watch, and even more challenging to explain — you might notice, so far, I’ve mostly pointed out things that aren’t very difficult to justify (this is an anime that has a lot of pretty visual work in it), or is just accounting the vital statistics.
One of the easiest ways to talk about media, especially in the format churn this blog asks, is to speak about what other people think as a thing to disagree with. To let people voice their opinions (as I curate them) and then speak against them, or concur with their better, more well formed words. It is an act of synthesis; to listen and to restate, perhaps with subtly different words, perhaps with violently different. It lets me turn a consideration into an argument, or an exhortation. Not just ‘here’s what I think,’ but ‘here’s what I think about what this person thinks,’ as opposed to spending my energy on stating wholly and sincerely what I feel, and letting these words impart in your mind my feelings.
It seems churlish to do that when it comes to this anime about a woman whose job is to do exactly that.
I wish to speak of Violet Evergarden.
And importantly, I want you to understand how this anime made me feel; what I thought of it; why I love it, even with the unpleasantness.
Nonetheless, a content warning for the series;
- this is a series that overwhelmingly features grief and tragedy, in very personal ways.
- There is parental bereavement,
- dead children,
- suicide attempts,
- a number of episodes show clear violence with guns.
- There is also a theme of age differences in romantic relationships, which while never sexualised (it’s kind of a sexless series), is still present in the series at several points and not exactly handled in a way that I would trust.
- This is a series where people cry a lot.