During the war between the Gardarik Empire and his own country of Leidenschaftlich, Major Gilbert Bougainvillea has a feral young girl foisted on him by his older brother Dietfried, with the intention of using her as a "tool of war." But Gilbert humanizes her as well, giving her the name Violet, and treating her with great kindness.
Violet later finds herself in the hospital, now equipped with fully-functional mechanical arms and hands, and is taken under the wing of a man named Hodgins, who was a comrade of Gilbert's- and who is very evasive with Violet about the Major's current circumstances. Hodgins employs Violet as an "Auto Memory Doll" (professional ghostwriter/scribe-for-hire) for his firm, the CH Postal Company.
"Her letters allow people to be true to themselves"-Cattleya Baudelaire (a fellow Auto Memory Doll)
Considered logically, there are myriad details of this show I could pick apart, starting with those prosthetic arms of Violet's, and how something of such mechanical sophistication that it even permits the fine motor control required for high-speed typing could exist in a world where the typewriters are not only manual, but require the carriage return be performed by hand. (The overall technological sophistication of this show's world seems to be around the 1920's of our world.)
I was also a little confused about the "Auto Memory Doll" term as well; I thought it maybe referred to the typewriter itself- perhaps THAT was a recent innovation in this world as well?- but the Wiki article says the reference is to literal dolls created by a "Dr. Orland" to help his wife write. In any case, the function is apparently associated with human typists at the time of THIS story. (Wish I'd gotten to peruse the manga version first, to clear this up.) It is interesting that in THIS world, despite the weird "Doll" term, the women who do this are held in high esteem- a very different treatment than female "secretaries" are typically given in our world.
Violet, however, has some problems as a writer. No, not mechanical elements of composition or typing speed- she's frighteningly perfect there. It's just that she still acts like she's in the military, AND she has a LOT of trouble with empathy; she can't really put herself in others' shoes at all, and cannot grasp the subtleties of human emotion or desire; except where the Major was concerned, she's never felt anything at all, and she really doesn't, at least at first, understand her own feelings toward even HIM- or the ones he had toward HER, for that matter. So she bungles spectacularly some of the early letters she's commissioned to write. (Even if her customers couldn't read, you'd think they'd have the "Doll" read the letter back to them to see if it was what they wanted; this is not done in some critical cases. I'm adding it to my list of digs, though the digs will all get nullified later...as you'll see.)
What to do? The customer she did the worst job for wanted to be "coy", and Violet doesn't GET "coy." Violet DOES get "honest" however, so she tries encouraging the customers to be honest about their feelings.
And this actually begins to work. We then follow several of Violet's assignments where there are wonderful synergistic effects- Violet helps the customers move past whatever's been psychologically holding them back, while they help her discover feelings that she didn't even know she had. Some of their stories have aspects that dovetail with her own experience with the Major, which creates a path for her to understand their hearts. These episodes are lovely (and really even more so on a second viewing), but then we got to Episode 10- and I was completely blown away.
Episode 10. My God. I found ALL my logical objections to the show reduced to insignificance in the light of the pure emotion of its ending, and found myself in tears, and I don't regard myself as overly sentimental. If nothing else, this episode shows forcefully the power of permanent preservation of feeling that a REAL letter has which maybe human society is losing in favor of the instant gratification of first Email, then (heaven help us!) texting. (OK, maybe Grampa IS going all Luddite again...) At this point I completely surrendered to the show's emotional manipulation (it was just too GOOD at this!), and even resolved to throw away the nitpicks I already had, as well as all future one in advance. (Except that most of the complaints from the first part of the show ARE still at the beginning of this review; as for the later ones, they're mostly concerned with Violet's call back to duty, but I'll say no more 'cause I promised to forgive them.)
Needless to say, the character and background art are excellent- but anything less would hardly suit this show.
If the Bronte sisters had done anime, I think it would have looked a lot like this. I don't think I've ever so completely succumbed to the sort of show that puts you through an emotional wringer. I think I should be ashamed, somehow, yet ended up feeling wonderful. There must be something wrong with me. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: War violence. Netflix rates TV-14.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on Netflix
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Violet Evergarden © 2018 Kyoto Animation
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