This is initially a hard show to get into, in that one is uncertain where it is heading to from the outset. It came off as a war series, but evolved into some else, something different, something better, than merely watching a person trying to recover from the devastating effect of combat. “Violet Evergarden” (“Vaioretto Evāgāden”) follows the tale of our heroine up there.
She was a soldier for the Leidenschaftlich Army in the recently-concluded conflict. In her last battle, her commanding officer and the person who rescued her from abandonment, Major Gilbert Bougainvillea, is potentially killed and she is horribly injured. Both her arms were lost and have been replaced with cybernetic limbs. Here is where confusion comes into play. Is she a robot or just one tough customer? I mean, if you lost both arms, you would conceivably bleed to death. Even before the war, she was an emotional wreck and now she wants to put together the pieces of her life and do something more.
An old family friend, Colonel Hodgins, now merely civilian Hodgins, takes her to his business, a postal company. It is here that she learns about Auto Memory Dolls. These are real people who write letters for folks who either cannot write or have a hard time expressing themselves. Because of the confusing nature of Gilbert’s last order to her and his last words (nope, you find that one out on your own), Violet decides she wants to be one of these dolls. The series is about her coming to understand complex human emotions and the power of the words that she helps others to find.
First, the artwork. It is marvelous. You get the feeling of perhaps Europe in the 20s, after the war: great, grand dresses; a burgeoning city; the view of the world in other countries. It all works so well. The character design is good as well, especially when we see Violet’s robot arms (for want of a better term), as it puts off people initially. However, she can type like there is no tomorrow.
The story moves in fits and starts, but this is intentional, as we see Violet moving through fits and starts. And what happens when Violet is dragged back into armed conflict? How does she reconcile the past with the future? We also see that writing these letters is very difficult. Human emotions are vivid and complex and nuanced, things that Violet does not possess and understands even less. And even when she gets a grasp of it, the resonance, the connectivity of all of it, still washes over her. Not only is she a stranger in a strange land, she is a stranger to herself.
We are not made privy to all of her horrible past. We have a small indication, but not the full picture. Perhaps we never will get that, but we do see her at least making the conscious effort to move beyond. There is a longish OVA (about 35 minutes) that details one of her struggles in helping to compose the right letter for a woman whose betrothed has gone missing in the war. She wants to hold out hope, but it may be a lost cause. With the extra 10 minutes, it gives better details as to what struggles Violet goes through to compose these letters.
This is a much better series as it moves along. The discordant start reveals nothing as to what awaits us as we venture into the soul of this damaged person, who tries to help out other damaged persons. And do not assume that by series’ end, she has achieved her goals. Trips like this take much time, perhaps even a lifetime, and there is no guarantee of success, but if she is willing to see it through to the end, you should, too.
As to binging, this is a very thoughtful and methodical show and you may lose some overall flavor by rushing through it. I mean, it can be binged, but I feel the weekly approach helps as we try and understand the hesitant nature of Violet and how she tries to transition from a war mind to a peace mind
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 8 (Great detail on the atmosphere of things)
Plot 8 (Surprising directional shift)
Pacing 8 (Solid and deliberate)
Effectiveness 8 (Good use of flashbacks)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler point’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 2 (A similar show would be “Okamisan”)
Bingeability 8 (You can, but I wouldn’t)
Overall 8 (Emotional without being maudlin)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Where is he?