Violet Evergarden was originally a light novel series written by Kana Akatsuki with illustrations by Akiko Takase with two total volumes. For the Winter 2018 anime season, Kyoto Animation, along with Netflix, are bringing us the anime adaptation, which is directed by Taichi Ishidate. There has been an abundance of hype surrounding the show, and to be perfectly frank, after watching the first episode I can understand why.
The episode begins by showing us a young girl named Violet who is walking through a market with a young man. She comes across a jewel that matches the shade of his eyes. Then we flash to another scene where she awakes in hospital bed with bandaged hands. After a short while, Violet is desperately wanting to find Major Gilbert, who was her commanding officer in the army. Instead she meets Commander Claudia Hodgins, who claims he was sent by Major Gilbert to ensure that Violet is safe. The episode then unfolds after this encounter.
As I sit here trying to write up my first impressions, the main word within the walls of my brain is breath-taking. Everything about the first episode was utterly breath-taking, from the animation, to the musical score, the direction, the characters, the intensity—all of it. There were moments where I found myself holding my breath, and even an instant before the episode’s finale where I was startled to discover tears in my eyes.
The animation is definitely the very first thing that catches your attention. It is mind-blowingly sharp, precise, and exquisitely vibrant. The weaving of hand-drawn artwork and computer graphics is flawless, and creates such an immaculate viewing experience. The direction focuses on subtle details for a fleeting moment to create an engaging narrative that leaves titbits for the audience to infer. Now this can usually be a terrible thing if the implied emotion, or details are vague. But they are timed perfectly with the dialogue and music to make those elements very recognisable and moving.
As a huge junkie for instrumental music, and musical scores for most films and serials that I watch, this was my absolute favourite part of the entire episode. The composition is a brilliant concoction of the piano, wind, and string instruments that are, not only complementary to the atmosphere and overall nature of the story being told, but splendidly evocative.
The story itself offers a decent introduction of things to come. We see Violet and the commander in the aftermath of war, whose affects are artistically illustrated in many of the backdrops and minor characters. There are flashbacks that offer clues as to what happened prior to Violet awaking in the hospital, and hints in the dialogue as to her true nature. As she attempts to start a new life in the unfamiliar realm of peace (i.e.: outside of being in the army), we get to see her struggle to fit in. There is a great foundation, without being overtly equivocal, and one that provides us with just enough information to keep us from feeling lost, or confused, and still interested. It is enigmatically gripping and pleasantly original.
Violet Evergarden truly deserves all of the hype that it has been receiving thus far. It was one of my most-anticipated anime of the season, and now it is at the very top of my list of things I need to keep watching consistently. Consider me hooked.
You can watch Violet Evergarden on Netflix in select countries.