Blue eyes of the broken doll
Violet Evergarden is the name of a “doll”, a woman who exercises a profession close to the scribe. She is thus responsible for transcribing the emotions of the customers of the post office in letters often intended for their relatives. His work is regularly part of a family or private register, sometimes geopolitical. It is also common for her to write letters that will be read posthumously after the death of their sponsor.
Violet’s profession is counterintuitive, however, insofar as the young woman has become stoic following a chaotic life course. Sold by a slave trader, she joined Major Gilbert, an executive in the army, who taught her reading and writing before make her participate under his orders in a war where she will lose both arms, when he does not survive it.
It’s time to learn more about Major Gilbert
The mourning of Violet is one of the big issues of the series, the latter meeting as part of her work other characters, some of whom are sometimes also bereaved. These meetings are also intended to allow her to understand the last words she received from the Major when he was dying, “I love you”.
If the feature film Violet Evergarden is the direct sequel to his animated series, he incorporates many flashbacks into his narration that allow the viewer to understand its ins and outs without difficulty.
Series aficionados shouldn’t find them redundant, being one of the pillars of the show’s emotional charge as well. The latter thus retraced Violet’s beginnings as a doll and explained at greater length the liabilities of her relationship with Major Gilbert. Now Violet is an accomplished doll, not to say the best of her company.
Violet Evergarden manages to show all the folklore of a village in the early 20th century
The film also recovers from its original material one of the reasons for its fame: the quality of animation and artistic direction specific to Studio Kyoto’s productions. The character design is sober and efficient (if we appreciate the Ramona Flowers hairstyles), like the one present in the animated series. Their proportions are fair and elegant, and the broken mouths of war have never seemed so real despite their mutilated bodies.
The dubbing work is subtle and adapted to its melodramatic tone while restraint (Yui Ishikawa manages to give Violet a very fair presence), but it is especially in the costumes and the sets that the fiction largely stands out. The story draws on steampunk inspirations with its cities in the midst of the industrial revolution, and the fiction transports us to many different very successful landscapes.
2:20 is a long time, but when there are so many beautiful things to see …
Whether it takes us to a misty lighthouse, a coastal village or the battlefield, the immersion is total and very pleasant. The folkloric atmosphere of travel of a psychologically damaged character with a body made up of prostheses will also recall the atmosphere of Full Metal Alchemist, standard of the genre.
The costumes have received significant attention. The atmosphere of the 20e century is reproduced with care and one never doubts the coherence of the film’s diegesis. If some fictions have tried to reproduce the social dynamics of the past (for example to describe samurai not yet obsolete in the age of firearms) they rarely manage to avoid inconsistencies or anachronisms. Violet Evergarden instead manages to correctly represent characters from the past.
Speaking of artistic direction, here is the colorimetry that rocks
The music is also very well made, however, it suffers from its repetitive nature. Or rather, she suffers from the linear and monochrome character of her feature film which leaves very little the melodramatic tone. The power of a theme in a soundtrack is also its ability to complement the range of emotions present in the film. However, when the soundtrack is almost entirely poured into the melodrama, the latter only manages to be a homogeneous set of themes serving its melodramatic purpose, de facto diminishing its scope.
This reproach of constant melodrama is in fact characteristic of the film as a whole, which refuses to alternate tones. One of the springs most used in animation to provoke emotion is to break the rhythm, to break a joyful atmosphere with a tragic event, or on the contrary to punctuate a drama with comic breaths. In fact, the contrast between these two atmospheres amplifies their power. In The Grave of the Fireflies, the light and blundering character of the two children was a comic spring which amplified the violence of the tragic character of the war which overhung them.
The transmission of emotions impossible to share verbally is tackled brilliantly
Except that Violet Evergarden fails or almost fails to set a tone other than that of melodrama. And when everything is melodramatic, nothing is. This is all the more true when the drama is entertained by characters who could defuse it if they managed to communicate and get out of their silence.
In the case from the Tomb of the Fireflies, children are victims of the ravages of war, and we can only be sad about their fate insofar as they are just as spectators as we are. Here, the constant and maintained melodrama sometimes slaps aside, resulting in a certain annoyance in the face of characters who could talk to each other, forgive each other, understand each other and finally be happy.
Annoyance maintained by the fact that Violet Evergarden is a (very) feature film. 2h20 (credits included) is a very ambitious duration which falls to the work to have good arguments to retain the spectator. Unfortunately, his calm (not to say lazy) scenario fails to command attention during this astronomical length of time. The result is a soft stomach after the first half hour which persists until the last third of the film. The viewing then becomes trying, and this despite the rescue attempt orchestrated by the artistic direction which magnifies the whole.
More melodramatic than Angel Beats and Clannad put together
A twist, however, reshuffles the cards and calls into question a founding element of the film’s diegesis, interrupting a length with which the script seems to struggle and during which Violet wanders from one doll task to another. However, its resolution is very predictable, and the spectator a minimum informed will see the intensity defused..
Violet Evergarden is what we call a “glass cannon” in the world of video games. A glass cannon is a character entirely turned towards the offensive and capable of inflicting heavy damage, yet unable to protect himself. This is what the film is, a melodrama that will immediately convince fans of the genre and leave others cold in the face of its lack of versatility.
Except that even if the feature film seems redundant and too monochrome, it still manages to shoot a few arrows where it belongs. His emotional strength is so powerful that his many attempts to bring down a tear cannot all be unsuccessful.
A fiction that depicts the obsolescence of his story
And this is especially true in certain subplots which are minor on the whole scale and yet work.. The first tells the fate of a talkative child who calls on Violet to leave posthumous messages for his family after illness grabs him. The other encompasses the film and tells the story of a young girl curious to know the life of this doll now belonging to the past, and having written letters for her deceased grandmother.
And this sub-plot treated lightly, although it forms the framework of the story, could have been better put forward, a fortiori to enrich the narration. For example, the young girl makes the very correct observation that dolls are almost a relic of the past during their period of activity in the face of the advent of the telephone. Likewise, the memory of the war is omnipresent in the footage without ever being related to the result.
Violet Evergarden, the film is available in France on Netflix since November 19, 2021