Japanese animated tv series (2018). Kyoto Animation. Based on the Light Novel by Kana Akatsuki (author) and Akiko Takas (illustrator). Directed by Taichi Ishidate. Written by Reiko Yoshida. Voice cast includes Yui Ishikawa, Hidenobu Kiuchi, Takehito Koyasu, Daisuke Namikawa. Thirteen broadcast 24-minute episodes, plus one OVA. Colour.
Violet Evergarden (Ishikawa) was a teenaged soldier in a recently concluded War in which she lost her arms; they were replaced with adamant silver prosthetics (see Cyborgs). She is now an Auto Memory Doll, which entails ghostwriting letters for the illiterate and inarticulate: the job was provided by Claudia (his mother wanted a daughter) Hodgins (Koyasu), a friend of her commanding officer, Gilbert Bougainvillea (Namikawa), believed dead by all but Violet.
Violet does not understand emotions (though clearly experiencing them), is extremely literal, unable to grasp metaphors and without empathy ("crying gets in the way of our work, please stop crying immediately"). She hopes that articulating others' feelings will teach her to understand Gilbert's last words to her: "I love you". She still feels the need to have orders to follow.
Despite Violet's arm Technology, the world resembles an alternate history Europe of the early twentieth century (the combination providing a Steampunk element): however, the action takes place on a continent called Telesis, whose shape is unfamiliar.
In early episodes we see Violet at work: other people's emotional problems help clarify her own: not only her feelings for Gilbert but also with regard to others, including the realization that the relatives of people she killed would feel grief. Later episodes also provide some backstory: found in unspecified circumstances by Dietfried (Kiuchi), Gilbert's unsympathetic brother, Violet is passed onto him as a "tool", as she is a hugely effective killing machine. Gilbert is the first person to treat her with kindness and there is a growing (non-sexual) attachment between them.
The comparatively violent war episodes contrast with the contemporary ones, which pull at the heartstrings; some deal with the loss of family (though one involves copying decaying Astronomy books at an observatory, to prevent loss of a different type). The final episodes involve Violet and Dietfried combating an attempt to restart the war; despite Violet's decision not to kill, the rebels are defeated (and peace made with Dietfried). No longer seeking orders, Violet is now able to comprehend her emotions. The series ends on a possible cliffhanger with Violet meeting an unseen new client; perhaps not unconnected, the Light Novel has her reuniting with Gilbert.
The sf elements are the alternate Earth-setting (presumably a Parallel World or similar); Violet's artificial arms (which respond to the brain's commands); and her fighting skills, which are almost superhuman. As we know nothing of Violet's history prior to her being found by Dietfried, it is to be hoped the film planned for 2020 will go deeper into her backstory and perhaps explain the arm technology. Though the plotting is occasionally implausible, this is nonetheless a pleasing, beautiful-looking Anime. [SP]
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