originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/653628...
Ahoy there weeblets, it’s time for animation night!
Breaking for the usual ‘no context needed’ this time, because… last time I rather ambitiously tried to schedule half a cour of Violet Evergarden plus the movie alongside the K-On! movie, while starting over an hour late. Predictably, we made it all of four episodes. But oh boy, those four episodes!
Let’s fill in some details I neglected last time. Violet Evergarden was born a light novel series written by Kana Akatsuki and illustrated by Akiko Takase. KyoAni runs an annual fiction contest, which often leads to licensing as anime, and in 2014, it became the first and apparently so far only series to win a ‘grand prize’ in any category. As such, KyoAni first picked up the novel for publication, and then in 2018 created an anime adaptation.
And this anime adaptation is a sight to behold. I’m going to turn to good old kVin-senpai, who makes no secret of being a megafan of all things KyoAni, and has predictably done an excellent and very exhaustive job of writing up the major creative influences on the adaptation episode by episode (start here).
So: on a production level it stands out not just for beautiful colour and art direction but what must be some of the most overwhelmingly detailed animation ever produced for TV, apparently driven by series director Taichi Ishidate’s desire to carry over the rich Victorian detail of the light novel. The animators, led by first-time animation director (and apparently, total genius) Akiko Takase, don’t make life easy for themselves at all: usually this kind of hyper-detailed design would lead to a reduction in the drawing count but… this is KyoAni so it’s still rich in subtle motion. (Apparently they aspired to animate every mechanical detail of the typewriter on the same basis, and made a shot in the trailer on this basis that took a full month, before realising that even KyoAni’s douga artists have limits and switching to CGI).
Of course, as we’ve seen with films like Steamboy and Goemon’s Blood Spray, the best sakuga in the world can’t save a bad story… and luckily Violet Evergarden totally kills it here. It’s a premise that, to quote kVin again,
doesn’t hide how unashamedly corny the whole affair is, but it’s graced with the kind of nonchalant grandeur to pull it off.
So yeah, it hits all those emotional buttons like the keys of Violet’s typewriter, and I love that. Violet is an orphaned child adopted by the military, raised as a human ‘weapon’ and evidently terribly abused. But the war she fought is over, the officer who more or less adopted her is dead (though nobody is willing to tell her), and now she’s left to figure out what to do with civilian life without any understanding whatsoever of social mores…
She’s left to live with a ghostwriting company occupying a grand mansion: a business where clients explain their intentions to an ‘auto memoir doll’ (a well dressed typist), who reads between the lines and then writes a pitch-perfect letter to convey their sentiment to the intended recipient. It is hard to imagine work Violet is less suited to, even if she learns to type fast with her new prosthetic arms… but she signs on as an ‘auto memoir doll’ and dives into it anyway as a route to try and build an understanding of emotions - particularly her commander’s cryptic comment ‘I love you’ while they were both bleeding out at the end of the war.
The episodes since have so far followed a kind of pattern where Violet is caught up in a rough social situation - first at the memoir doll school, again while visiting the family of another doll - and has to figure out the social nuances and write a letter to say what her friend will not say themselves. Phrased like that, it risks being trite - but they commit so wholeheartedly, and Violet’s difficulties feel so painfully real, that it works exceptionally well at hitting all those emotional notes.
Then tragically in 2019, not long after the release of Violet Evergarden, an arsonist killed 36 members of KyoAni and injured 34 more. In the aftermath, there was a massive wave of support for the studio from across fans and the anime industry. I can’t imagine what kind of grief and trauma the survivors must still be going through, but they have continued to make films for Violet Evergarden: first the side story Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll in 2019, which takes place in parallel to the series, and then the sequel Violet Evergarden: The Movie in 2020. Squeezing both of those in alongside 8 episodes of TV series may be a tad unrealistic, but I should be able to get in at least one. (I’m also not sure the state of fansubs.)
So that’s the plan tonight: Violet Evergarden episodes 5-12, and then the Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll movie after! Hope to see you there - it’s a really beautiful anime, and while I’d heartily recommend the first four episodes, if you want to be caught up in chat just ask me and I’ll do my best!
We’ll be starting very promply around now, at the usual place of twitch.tv/canmom