The Winter 2018 Anime Preview Guide
Violet Evergarden is not yet available streaming in English-speaking territories, but our Tokyo correspondent was able to watch the first episode in Japan for preview guide. Ratings and more in-depth coverage will become available when the series hits Netflix.
What is this?
How was the first episode?
I'll let you in on a little secret: I don't like the Violet Evergarden light novel very much. It has some gorgeous flowery prose, but it also feels drawn out and overwrought at times, not always matching the emotional tenor of the actual story being told.
I'm glad that the anime departs from the light novel right away, presenting the core of Violet Evergarden's narrative in the very first episode. The story begins in a warzone, and then suddenly it is peacetime, and from there we see how Violet's memories of the war push her to become an Auto Memories Doll. The most impactful moment is the ending, when we finally hear the words that Violet has struggled to understand. But the buildup to that final moment is also excellent, slow and deliberate and occasionally funny, with a touch of melancholy in the background. This is a postwar story, complete with its typical themes of hope and coming to terms with loss.
All of these moments are heightened by the production values, which are the absolute pinnacle of what TV anime can currently offer. For this production, Kyoto Animation has gone above and beyond even their usual high-quality output. Violet Evergarden is filled with deliberately complex character designs and mechanical objects, which must have presented an extraordinary challenge for the staff. Some cuts are too overambitious—there's an early scene where a letter flutters around with a moving train in the background that has some awkward editing and compositing—but it is mind-blowing how consistently the animation keeps up with the complex designs and set pieces. This loving attention to detail makes every subtle character movement stand out, proving that for all the trouble Violet has with understanding emotions, she's just as human as the rest of us.
As a standalone episode, Violet Evergarden's first episode is beautifully crafted. Yet I can't help but feel that its narrative has already peaked. The episode sets up a straightforward structure for the rest of the series: Violet will meet various people, and through writing down their emotions, she will come to understand her own emotions better. It remains to be seen whether the anime can continue to transcend its source material, or if it will be caught by the novel's trappings. Regardless, there are enough truly great accomplishments in this episode to be confident that Violet Evergarden will be one of Kyoto Animation's finest productions ever.
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